Today, more than ever, the fighters among us are wondering what they can do to make a difference. Among the things I have learned from my work is what work is worth doing, and how to get that work done. Never one to just listen and believe, I have tested these learnings in my own life and in the work of the organizations I’ve worked with and have found they work. Here, then, is one thing I have learned.
Step 1: GET MOTIVATED.
- Start by figuring out what reality you want to change. Do that by asking yourself what matters to you in your life and why that matters. Wonder out loud or write privately, but whittle your concerns down to a tangible, real issue that you can see. Check out this list on The Freechild Project website if you want inspiration.
- Ask yourself why you want to change that reality. Develop a clear picture of what is wrong, what should be different, and what makes you think that it needs to be different. If you can’t figure out those points, you might not have the right issue in mind. If you are positive you do, then keep digging. The Community Toolbox offers a useful writeup of the SWOT Analysis tool.
Step 2: INCREASE YOUR KNOWLEDGE.
- Begin by getting educated. If you think you already know a lot about an issue, dig deeper and learn even more. If you know nothing, begin slowly. Use free tools like Wikipedia, and ask your friends, family, and neighbors what they think. The Freechild Project provides a useful resource section.
- Get different view points. No situation is exactly what it appears to be; there are layers to peel back and opportunities to examine. Ask tough questions of anyone who agrees with you. Have one-minded conversations with people you totally disagree with. The PEW Research Center for the People and the Press has a nice online tool for learning about different social perspectives, and Tom Hayden wrote a great summary of how radicals and idealists become co-opted by opportunists.
- Get real. Figure out what you’re capable of doing right now, and what you are not capable of doing right now. You must have the ability or be willing to develop the ability to affect the world around you.
- Get uncomfortable, NOW. Challenge yourself to do uncomfortable things in uncomfortable settings, and if you don’t know how to do a thing, figure it out. If you can’t figure it out, ask someone. If you can’t find someone to ask, look further.
Step 4: TAKE ACTION.
- Action requires… acting. Without spending too much time planning, launch into employing the knowledge and skills you have and have acquired. Sometimes, the best way to move things forward is to simply get moving, deliberately and with intention. Learn about the good work of Take Part.
- Do not accept the way things are. Anytime you face a roadblock, name it, walk to it, and confront it. If that is another person, if that is an organization, if that is a situation, it doesn’t matter: work to change it. Do not take “No.” for an answer, do not settle for complacency, and whatever happens, never say “never”. Here’s an introduction to “Stimulants and Barriers to Social Change” that I found useful.
Step 5: LOOK BACK TO GO FORWARD.
- Look in the mirror to see the world around you. Whenever you think you’re complete, take a moment to recognize what you’ve done. Accomplishments, barriers, things you’ve overcome, and places you’ve made a difference should all come out in your reflection. After spending time doing that accounting, celebrate what you’ve done. There’s a useful introduction with some nice personal reflection activities on eHow.
- Don’t quit – you’re never really done. Don’t rest, please. Don’t just get back to your regular job. Please don’t ever do things the ways we’ve always done them ever again – please. There is a reason why things are the way they are, and while we may not be directly responsible for those realities, we are not not responsible, either. There are so many books that inspire action- if you’re looking for inspiration right now, I suggest the Tao Te Ching.
CommonAction is available to work with your organization, community, or agency right now. Contact Adam Fletcher to learn more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (360) 489-9680.