Never before humanity has faced bigger challenges than today. Fortunately, at the individual level, there are plenty of actions to be taken that can help make a big difference. But where to begin?
Here are 7 easy steps to help you get started:
1. Think about the big challenge you feel most passionate about and make it your focus.
We are only humans, and sometimes seeing all the hurt and bad that goes on in the world can feel overwhelming. Detach yourself from trying to solve it all (and not doing anything) and choose one topic you are specifically compelled to address. Is it Climate Change that you are more troubled about? Or Social Unrest? Animal Welfare? All topics are valid. Whatever it is, decide today that you will act towards bettering one specific goal of yours. You can start with one, and add more over time.
2. You have your bigger cause(s), now what’s your superpower?
Think about what you can bring to the table. What are you able to do to contribute to this cause that is not too difficult for you to offer. Is it investing? Volunteering? Lobbying? Managing projects? Donating? You have plenty of ways you can help, and once you select your tool, your daily and weekly actions will be easier to determine.
3. Purpose, means… scale?
Time to narrow it down to a location where you will actually see the results of your involvement.
Let’s say in point 1, you’ve chosen Climate Change as your area of focus. This is great. There are so many fantastic and impactful actions to be taken to further the mitigation of Climate Change. It might be saving sea turtles from dying from plastic poisoning or reforesting part of DRC. Or it is educating younger generations on recycling at your local high school. Investing in your friend’s EnergyTech startup.
Whatever it may be, where do you want it to happen? Keep in mind that the further away from you the project you may choose is, the less tangible it will feel to you, and the higher the risk to flake on your commitment after a while. Your impact is bigger when it can be consistent and measurable.
4. Relate to the cause
The cause you embrace, and the impact you are going to generate through a collection of actions, are going to be meaningful to the world, and that is obviously rewarding. But how is it going to benefit you? How do you relate to the cause you are contributing to solving? Make your commitment a personal crusade. Your passion will show and your outcomes will be even more impressive if you are 100% committed to your involvement on an issue.
5. Always be learning, do your homework
Let’s say you decided that you want to combat loneliness in urban areas, because you feel that our modern day societies would benefit from more solidarity and connection between people. As it happens, you have experienced it first hand as a single professional in a big city.
Do your research, talk to people, go “window shopping” by going to events thrown by charities or other organisations active on the topic you want to commit to. You just might discover that there is an App that will help you connect to that lovely old lady you see sometimes at your local grocery store. Or that your bank offers savings accounts that match 10% of the amount saved in donations to Community Centers all over America.
And if you don’t see any project that resonates, why not think about creating your own?
6. Know thyself, know your limits and make a conscious choice
Don’t bite off too much. Be wary of your time limitation and the energy (and resources) you can actually allocate to a project. It is better to start small and grow your involvement progressively when and if it makes sense. That way, you’ll generate your impact consistently and systematically.
7. Regenerate, add value to living systems, collaborate, find your peers
Don’t forget to talk about your good deeds! Not in a “look at me I am so nice and kind” way but rather a way that sheds light on the issues you feel strongly about. Try and engage your entourage in meaningful conversations, and why not involve them in your actions? You might discover that your friend from work had the same passion about locally grown organic products as you, and the urban garden/education project you wanted to create could become a fun – and impactful – work project you start together.
As a way to share personal experience, here is one cause I felt strongly about and how I made it happen:
I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by fantastic women growing up but none of them were active in the “traditional” professional world. They were wonderful staying-at-home women (my mom and her mom!) and military wives (my grandmother!), but as amazing and strong as they were/are in life, they could not always assist me in my professional leadership challenges.
Overall, I did not have female professionals as mentors ( nor did my girl friends). I know how powerful women can be when they get the right support. So I decided to offer my modest experience and knowledge as a mentor to an amazing young woman, through the WEDU mentorship program. I was able to see positive tangible results in my mentee’s actions after our different conversations: she got the internship she wanted, after fearing to apply. She is on her way to becoming a doctor and the first educated woman in her family, when everybody around her thought she would fail. She decided to help her brother find a job in their village near Siem Reap. Most importantly, I learnt a lot from our relationship during the process and can’t wait to go visit her in Cambodia (or Thailand where she studies) soon.