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Give Yourself a Hygge

Homer Simpson is just a big, toasty cinnamon bunHoo-gah. Unless you’re well-versed in Danish culture, that may not sound like anything other than an old-timey car horn. But this word, spelled “hygge,” represents a mindset and lifestyle that is spreading far beyond its Danish origins. Hygge is a quality of ultimate comfort, coziness, and well-being. Imagine that feeling you get when snuggled in a blanket, sipping a hot beverage near a fireplace. Or sitting down to a candlelit dinner with your closest friends. Or, in my case, lying in a cuddle heap of puppies. Hygge is the name for that feeling.

As with many other cultural phenomena to hit the U.S., the hygge trend has worked its way into the mainstream, appearing in everything from self-help manifestos to cookbooks, even hair color trends. After stumbling upon this concept online, and going on to read Louisa Thomsen Brits’ The Book of Hygge, I thought about the other aspects of life where these teachings could apply. See, I will be the first to admit that I am one of the many nonprofit professionals that gets very emotionally invested in their work--sometimes to their own detriment. Being deeply committed can be great, but, especially for the more anxious among us, it can also mean you end up in situations where even small problems can put a huge damper on your happiness. Happening upon hygge after a particularly tough week at work, I had a very uncharacteristic thought...what would it feel like to take things just a little less seriously? What would it look like to cultivate a hygge-like sense of well-being in my professional life? Here are three learnings of hygge to help you bring emotional coziness to your cubicle.

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For those times you feel like a fraud

Recently, someone requested a meeting with me to chat about many things—from the nonprofit sector in general, to what the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits does, to ideas he had for the sector that he wanted to run by me. As I sat and waited for him to arrive at our meeting, one thought kept going through my head: ‘He is expecting to meet with an adult, but he’ll get here and see me – a kid (even though I’m 27). What business do I have being here?’ It’s a feeling I know all too well – imposter syndrome.   

According to The American Psychological Association, imposter syndrome “occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success.”  People will often think their accomplishments are the result of luck – not ability, and often worry that others will expose them as a fraud.

I always assumed these worries I was having were because a) my anxiety gets the best of me or, worse, b) because they were all true. I had no idea this was a legitimate thing. When I realized that these thoughts I was having weren’t actually true, I started to wonder what I could do to shut that voice up. It’s a work in progress, but here are some things I’ve learned that might help you if you’re going through this as well.

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Why I fail loudly and you can, too

Assorted lemons some cut in half and some wholeTo be a young nonprofit professional in the Twin Cities is to be surrounded by peers who are doing interesting, relevant, and impactful work. We can point to thriving nonprofits and a vibrant arts community as evidence that we’re part of something big and good – and that is usually true! But with such a lively nonprofit ecosystem comes the reality that there are plenty of people angling for the same opportunities you are. And chances are, you’ll fail. At least, I do! Rather than focusing on how to minimize my risk of failure, I’m more interested in openly sharing the risks I take (and the failures I experience) with others and suggest you give it a shot.

As part of a healthy nonprofit ecosystem, opportunities for personal and professional growth surround us; however, there’s understandably a limit to the number of individuals who can take advantage of them. To be clear, I have read 380,000 thinkpieces where Silicon Valley-types talk about failing, and I’m cool with that—but it’s not exactly what I mean.

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7 things I’m afraid to tell you

I’ve noticed a theme of authenticity in all the lessons I’ve been learning lately, both personally and professionally. For this blog post, I felt inspired to practice being authentic by sharing things I’m afraid to tell you (my peers and professional connections). I invite you to do the same, with whoever your “you” might be. It feels good to know you’re being true to yourself!

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Forget plans, try planning

A pile of post it notes, everyone's favorite Strategic Planning Tool"Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential." - Winston Churchill

It's time for a new Strategic Plan!

For those of you who just groaned out loud, know that I am actually a huge fan of Strategic Plans...or rather, of Strategic Planning. The process of taking a detailed look at the organization and creating a path towards a more successful future is one that every nonprofit organization should approach with excitement. While it’s possible to get trapped in the process of developing the absolutely perfect strategic plan, it’s better to forget the drive towards perfection and word-smithing. Instead, push forward into the toughest of questions and let your MVV (Mission, Vision, and Values) be your guide to determine the best path towards the future.

YNPN-TC is currently on its last six months of the previous Strategic Plan (more on that below), so we are in the process of developing our newest plan that will be launched for 2018. This new multi-year plan will be developed over the course of the next six months, and it will be published for our members to see once it’s complete.

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Letting the soft animal of my body love what it loves

Friends,

It has been a doozy of a year. I feel spent. A lot has happened on a personal level. I labored for 34 hours and experienced a traumatic birth during a nursing strike. A friend overdosed and died. A beloved family member fought a very scary illness. It only crescendoed from there.

And yet. I met my son for the first time. I got a promotion at work. My badass book club and family showed up in every way possible. In a time of accelerated pain, there seems to be inversely proportional joy sprouting up.

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What the nonprofit sector can learn from commencement speeches

A crowd of graduates throw their graduation caps into the airEvery year around this time, I tune into YouTube to listen to smart and talented actors, politicians, and comedians share stories and give advice to the graduating class of the year. Even before I graduated from high school, I’ve been watching commencement addresses. Yes, I’m kind of a commencement geek who loves to get goose bumps during these inspiring speeches!   

Hillary Clinton, Will Ferrell, Robert De Niro, Octavia Spencer, and Helen Mirren have given some of the strongest commencement speeches so far this year.

So what binds a moving and insightful commencement speech, a college graduate, and a young nonprofit professional together? I believe it’s the quest to figure out how to lend one’s skills, passions, and interests to build a more just and equitable world. In other words, what can we do do to make a difference in a deeply divided and broken world—or as Robert Di Niro put it in his speech at NYU, “a tragic dumbass comedy.” 

Whether you’re a recent college graduate or work at a nonprofit, times of uncertainty, vast change, and great stress can be common. So pep talks, jokes, and advice from a diverse set of successful individuals can be just the pick-me-up that’s needed to build strong bridges into the future.

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4 things Ramadan teaches me about winning at work

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"Ramadan Mubarak" means "Congratulations on the start of Ramadan!"

I always wish I could use a different tone to raise awareness about what Ramadan is. For practicing Muslims, Ramadan embodies the epic challenge of controlling your body’s physical demands so that you can focus on inner, spiritual rejuvenation. I usually turn this into a gripe about how we can’t drink or eat anything from sunrise to sunset and how the summer days are long and make for challenging fasts.*

While those things are true, they don’t capture the essence of Muslim reverence toward Ramadan. It’s a month that many Muslims look forward to. In the realm of the unseen, (bear with me non-religious folks) Muslims believe that the gates of heaven are open, the gates of hell are closed, and the devils are chained up during the month so that people’s ability to do good is maximized.

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Announcing the DIA Action Force

As part of our strategic work and dedication to all young professionals in the Twin Cities, we are launching the DIA Action Force!

What’s an Action Force you might ask? Well, we’re not 100% sure. And we need folks dedicated to Diversity, Inclusion, and Access to help us shape it. What we do know is that, while helpful, discussions and conversations about Equity can only take an organization so far, and they just scratch the surface of dismantling oppressive institutions. We want to take action, we want to shape the sector, and we want to start immediately.

We're currently looking for a leader for this new DIA Action Force. If you are interested in this position, click here to learn more about the committee’s work, and to read a position description for the leader we're seeking. The person taking on this leadership role won't be going at it alone! They will have the support of the YNPN-TC board, and we're also currently recruiting volunteers for the action force. If you know someone who would be a great fit for this leader position, please share this email with them.

If you're interested in getting involved more in YNPN-TC and in this capacity, please contact Cara Luebke at caraluebke@gmail.com by Friday, June 23.

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Can talking work?

Author’s Note: I want to be clear that nothing in this blog is meant to imply that anyone (liberal or conservative) should feel forced to participate in the conversations that I propose here. It is up to each person and organization to decide if these types of conversations are appropriate for their cause, and they should consider what they will do to create an expectation of respect for and from all participants. This decision should be made only after organizations have conversations with their members and/or those in the communities they serve.

I recently watched President Barack Obama's panel with young leaders in Chicago. It was a 90-minute discussion with a tone of hope that has been missing from the news lately (if you haven't, watch it now).

When I said in 2004 that there were no red states or blue states, they're the United States of America, that was an aspirational comment. But I think it's ― and it's one thing... that I still believe [you see] when you talk to individuals one-on-one — there's a lot more that people have in common than divides them.

I, feeling inspired, volunteered to write my first YNPN-TC blog on an issue I've been thinking about a lot since the election: the need for people of different political ideologies to talk with each other and the role that nonprofits can play in purposely making spaces for these conversations. I was pretty nervous to write it given today’s heated political climate, but I strongly feel we must find ways to get out of "own little bubbles" and create meaningful dialogues through which we can recognize that the "other side" is human and not, just, a faceless enemy.

Then Heineken released its "Worlds Apart" ad (and its related "Open Your World" campaign). 

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