Making the world a better place shouldn’t require sacrificing your mental and physical health. And yet, too often, that’s exactly what happens to those on the front lines of social change. And that’s why I’m delighted to announce that Thrive Global has partnered with The Wellbeing Project on a special section, launching today, called Wellbeing and Social Change. It will include stories and videos from social change leaders sharing personal narratives, tips, expertise and the latest science on how change-makers can prioritize their own well-being even as they work so hard to improve the lives of others. And we couldn’t have picked a better partner. Co-created with Ashoka, the Esalen Institute, the Fetzer Institute, Impact Hub, the Skoll Foundation and the Synergos Institute, the Wellbeing Project is focused on “shifting the culture of the social change field to one oriented towards inner wellbeing and catalysing an infrastructure of support for everyone in the field.”
This culture shift has never been more important. Our world is facing huge challenges and crises on multiple fronts. And meeting those challenges and crises is going to require all the creativity, empathy, resilience, and wisdom we can muster. Those are important qualities for all of us, but they’re especially vital in the world of social change. When you’re devoting your life to a cause or mission greater than yourself, it’s very easy to allow your own individual well-being to take a back seat to the greater good.
And we can see the consequences of this all around us. Anxiety, depression and burnout are rampant among social activists. In a piece on the topic in The New York Times in March, John Eligon noted that in the last two years, two Black Lives Matter activists committed suicide and another, Erica Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner, died of a heart attack at age 27. “I’m struggling right now with the stress and everything,” said Garner shortly before she died. “Because this thing, it beats you down. The system beats you down.”
That’s why the mission of The WellBeing Project is so important. And why the Thrive Global Foundation offers free trainings to civic and nonprofit leaders who are on the front lines of giving and serving, including the two-day training we did with Global Citizen, which is dedicated to ending extreme poverty. Because when we are able to find the eye in the hurricane, and act from that place of inner strength, that’s when we’re able to give ourselves most fully and do justice to the causes that matter most. Though today’s activists and change-makers are confronting new, very modern challenges, this is a truth that long predates us. It’s what Archimedes was describing when he said “give me a place to stand and I shall move the world.”
And we can nurture that place by, as they tell us on airplanes, securing our own oxygen mask first before helping others. So if you’re involved in social change, if you know someone who is, or you’re simply interested in how you can be at your most effective in meeting your responsibilities to others in your daily life, please visit Wellbeing and Social Change. We can create the world we want to live in, but only if we safeguard and nurture our most important human qualities along the way. And please share your stories — both of burnout and of changes you’ve made — to support and encourage others.