This year, 2016, is a Leap Year, which means an additional 24 hours will find its way into our calendars.

Because the Earth revolves around the sun in 365 and one quarter days and not exactly 365 days, every four years we add these 24 hours so that we don’t experience “calendar drift.” We thus keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical year. In other words, by inserting an additional day into the year every four years, our human calendar stays aligned with that of the universe.

When you think about it, it’s pretty extraordinary: an extra day to do whatever we want.

Except of course we don't. We treat February 29 like just another day. In our world, where it is common to hear, “I never have enough time,” or “If I only had an extra few hours in my day,” we treat all these extra hours with indifference.

Our Alignment Stories

Both of our own leadership development organizations, iLEAP and Amani Institute, focus strongly on the personal dimension of social impact careers. We know that the challenge of making a difference in the world calls for a clear understanding of who we are, what drives us, and how we take care of ourselves.

For both of us, it has played a prominent role in our work with social leaders and entrepreneurs around the world. As leaders of fast-moving, entrepreneurial, global organizations, we have countless and competing tasks to manage and balls to juggle.

For me (Roshan), alignment came dramatically and unexpectedly one spring morning in 2011, when a wise elder half-interrogated, half-guided me through a conversation around what I planned to do after achieving my current goals. When you know how you’d like to end, it becomes easier to design the beginning. After this conversation, I felt an almost physical sensation from my thoughts and desires for Amani Institute falling into place in my head—and the result wasn’t what I expected. Rather than a school for peacebuilders (our original intention), Amani Institute would become a place where anyone interested in social impact careers could transcend the boundaries of their lives to build such a career.

For me (Britt), the importance of alignment crept in slowly, insidiously. In the early years of iLEAP, with the thrill of growth and creativity fueling an unending list of to-dos, time with family and for personal growth diminished. What I assumed was temporary soon turned into a pattern of behavior that upended my priorities, and pushed me further and further away from the relationships and personal practices that led me to create iLEAP in the first place. I began cultivating a personal practice to help to maintain greater connection to the things that I hold most dear. Importantly, this awareness enabled me to show up more authentically as someone who struggles with leadership and the many challenges social change leaders face in the world.

Ways to Build Alignment

In our work with changemakers and grassroots leaders, we’ve seen over and over the importance of aligning what you actually do and what you want to be doing; it gives us the strength of purpose and resilience to overcome tough career moments.

In thinking about how this leap year could be a special opportunity for everyone to think about the alignment between our careers and lives—about the connection between who we are and what we do—we came up with the “24more” campaign, which invites you to explore questions around who you are, what keeps you grounded, and why you do what you do. (We encourage you to share a video, a short paragraph, or even a tweet.)

A few other platforms have also inspired us:

  1. Conscious Company: Conscious Company magazine aims to leverage storytelling and design to shine a spotlight on the generational shift toward values-driven business. Check out its Sum + Substance issue.
  2. Imperative. The folks at Imperative identified the lack of purpose-driven employees as a major vulnerability of companies today. Only 28 percent of the American workforce is purpose-driven, according to Imperative, and they are out to change this. Check out these suggestions from Imperative founder Aaron Hurst.
  3. TED: Not surprisingly, the TED collection has several talks about aligning yourself toward happiness at work. We especially love talks from Shawn Anchor and Barry Schwartz. TED also has a great playlist called Seven Talks to Help You Find Your Purpose.

You Can Try This at Home

These three steps can also help you start moving toward alignment and purpose:

  1. See what other social impact innovators and leaders are saying about how they do it.
  2. Reflect on the following questions, and write down what comes up for you:
    • What makes you jump out of bed excited to swing into action?
    • In a world that’s changing so fast, what part of you might be constant 15 years from now?
    • Why do you do what you do?
  3. Ask a close friend or confidante when they’ve seen you most happy or fulfilled. This is great data for you to consider.

In our busy lives, it can be helpful to have reminders about the importance of grounding ourselves with what’s truly important to us. So how will you use your extra 24 hours in 2016?

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