Find Your Activist Focus
Not having a focus and clear strategy can lead to anxiety and distress. How can I possibly make a difference? Where do I put my energy?
I experience this on a daily basis. Every time I read about the mental health crisis among our young people I want to run out and start an emotional wellness program for kids. I learn about a new anti-abortion ban and feel compelled to sign a petition or join a protest.
Approaching this with mindfulness and intention is the first step. Take a deep breath and listen to what Omkari Williams, a speaker and coach for activists, has to say about narrowing your activist focus:
I know that this can be hard. We care about so many things and choosing feels like choosing a favorite child, or pet. I, myself, am a generalist. I'm interested in lots of things and would love to be able to make a difference in a broad way. But what I, and those I work with have found, is that because our resources of time and energy are limited, there is way more satisfaction in limiting our work (not our realm of interest) to one or two things. It's the difference between the sunlight that warms us all and the focused beam of the sun that starts a fire.
That makes sense. Why do 10 things with half your attention when you can do two with your full attention? So where do we start?
Again, here’s what Omkari has to say:
I think the best way to choose what your one or two things will be is to pay attention to the things that create the strongest visceral response in you, for me it's injustice. It's been the same since I was a kid, injustice infuriates me. Yes, I know that life isn't fair and yet I want it to be, I believe it should be. That doesn't mean I believe we should all have the same amount of everything, it means I believe we should have the same opportunities and then, what we choose to do with those opportunities is up to us; we aren't held back by racism, bigotry, or antiquated rules and ideas. We have the opportunity to fully express ourselves and create a life that feels rich and meaningful for us. Because that's my metric I let that guide me in what I choose to focus on.
Identify that thing that always gets you going, and I say, "identify" because it's there, you just have to recognize it, and see where it leads you. What cause is the one that you take notice of whenever it comes up? Start there. And, if you're feeling like focusing on one or two areas is too restrictive I suggest that you give it a shot. For one month focus your activist work in one area and see what progress you can make. And remember that small actions count and small wins accumulate.
Take some time to really absorb this advice. My initial reaction is to start making a list but this time I’m going to get curious and pay attention to what keeps coming up for me.
After you come up with your short list, it’s time to get into the nuts and bolts.
First, decide how much time you have each week to commit to your cause(s). Remember that we often underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete a task.
Next, think about your activism style. Do you want to lead a movement? Write postcards? Do you shine behind the scenes or behind a megaphone?
What are your strengths? Are you an excellent wordsmith? A top-notch organizer? Bring your skills to make the most impact.
A useful tool is Omarki William’s Activist Archetype quiz.
Now that you have your focus, time commitment and actions, it’s time to get to work!
Here's a challenge for you:
- Send us your two top causes that you want to lean into this year
- Pick two actions to do this week. Suggestions:
- Write postcards to voters
- Phone bank
- Have a conversation about this issue with a friend or family member
- Read an article about this issue
- Read an article about this issue from a viewpoint opposing your own
Let us know how it goes!
A final thought from Omkari:
Lastly, if you're feeling like there is so much work to be done (and there is) remember that there are around 8 billion people on the planet and there are people working on every possible activist cause. Have faith that someone else is doing the work on something you care about but don't have the bandwidth to take consistent action on.