Are you a political activist, volunteer, leader, candidate, or concerned citizen? Do you hope that your vote and other efforts will help to create positive change? Are you seeking to balance personal quality of life and impact during turbulent political times?
Whenever elections approach, the tension builds. Not much time is left, and various media messages shower down upon us. The schedules of activists, leaders, and candidates go into overdrive.
However, while your attention is largely focused on external factors like how many people you’re reaching, how many people you’re getting involved in the political process, and what candidates are saying, it is vital to look inward.
If you wish to be as effective as possible, and if you wish to obtain the long-term results you truly want, keeping yourself grounded during turbulent times is key. This requires courageous self-honesty in several areas.
Have you identified and prioritized what you really value the most in your life?
This enables you to select the career and volunteer activities that will bring you happiness and positive influence. It enables you to discuss social and political issues on a deeper level, beyond labels like political party. You’ll be less likely to face burnout, and you’ll learn more from others as you relate to them. Your values also guide you in creating powerful visions, discussed next.
Have you defined visions, or vivid descriptions of end results you wish to create in your life and in the world?
Knowing your destination helps you determine whether you’re taking the proper actions and heading in the desired direction. Visions help you to attract other people and resources to your cause, by enabling you to communicate something more concrete that excites them. Visions also help to clarify how your personal ambitions mesh with the world you wish to create. This reduces the sense that you always need to sacrifice your personal happiness for the well-being of the larger world, or vice-versa.
Are you in touch with your strengths, and are you engaging yourself (or others) in a way that leverages them?
Your strengths help you determine how you may most effectively work toward your visions for a better world. They help you to determine which activities you should be focusing your energy upon. For example, if you’re a gifted public speaker, you’re probably not having maximum impact if you spend most of your volunteer time stuffing envelopes. You’re probably better suited for energizing audiences at rallies.
Are you reacting from a place of fear, or are you proactively driven by a vision of the world you want?
If acting out of fear, you may be manipulated easily, and you’ll simply create drama for others. If you’re entirely focused upon running from the world that you don’t want, you may settle for mediocrity and never gather the resources to pursue the world that you really do want.
If you’ve taken the time to clarify the results you wish to help achieve, you’ll have an easier time focusing on what’s important and generating alternate strategies during adversity. For example, would you allow short-term reactions to rising gas prices to completely distract from a longer-term focus on environmental sustainability?
Are you in touch with your prejudices?
If not, unaddressed attitudes and fears can distract you from the values and issues that are really important to you. Prejudices can keep you detached from people who look, think or act differently than you do, and disconnected from diverse ideas that could increase your effectiveness. The world is very diverse, and the more your own social circles reflect that, the more effective you may be.
Are you aware of your own “holier than thou” attitudes and needs to appear politically correct?
I’ve observed these common issues among well-intentioned groups of people who are passionately driven by strong values and causes. If you’re not careful, you may reactively divide from others over relatively small differences. A previous article covers this in much greater depth, as do Naked Idealism segments such as the controversial “PC Shoulds” quiz.
Are you really, truly listening to other people, treating them as equal human beings and meeting them where they are?
Or are you just trying to get your own point across and viewing others as objects – mere obstacles to the world that you want? If you put people on the defensive, they have little incentive to hear anything that you’re saying.
Are you carving out time amidst the hustle and bustle to recharge and have fun?
As is often said, we have much more to give others when our own cups are full. You can’t totally forget about the people, places, and activities that help you to recharge, reground, and recenter. This includes hobbies and leisure activities. You can’t forget that a large world exists outside the social and geographic circles of your work and volunteer activities.
While others may demand great things of you, it’s your own responsibility to give yourself the occasional much-needed break. Nobody else is going to do this for you. In taking the initiative to do this, you may give others permission to do the same, and you will likely return with renewed energy and perspective.
Best wishes in your efforts to create positive change in the world!
Please see free excerpts from Naked Idealism, which addresses the above topics in greater depth and includes a range of exercises and tools.
Featured photo by flickr Maryland GovPics, protest photo by flickr Global Justice. Size and resolution adjusted. License.