Let’s say you’ve got a cause you care deeply about, and you want to move it forward. It may be an initiative at work, a political issue, a community concern, or something else that matters. You may be at the beginning, in the middle, or tantalizingly close to success.
I deliberately gave this post a somewhat breezy title, but you’ll see my intent is to be more “big picture” as opposed to “checklist” or “plug-and-play.” What follows are hardly the first or last words about making a difference, but perhaps you’ll find them useful. In no particular order:
1. Be responsibly bold — I’ve been using this phrase a lot in talking about social change. Real change is neither reckless nor timid.
2. Take a next step — If you’re stuck, take a next step. It doesn’t have to be the next step, but it should be an affirmative one. It may lead you to something significant.
3. Put it on paper — Writing out your ideas pushes you to think logically about your passion. Let your right brain inspire your left brain, and vice versa.
4. Persevere – Sounds obvious, right? Well, if you’ve ever seen the resume of a very smart, able individual whose work record is a long list of short gigs, you know what I mean. Or maybe it’s someone who cares deeply about a cause but keeps addressing it in stops and starts or by constantly switching gears. Chances are they’ve never stuck with something long enough to make a deeper impact.
5. Learn — Change agents are lifelong learners. Pick up a book, talk to people (and listen!), dig into that website, read that journal article, scan the paper, watch a documentary, just keeping learning. A key to your initiative may be in the next study you read.
6. Affiliate and organize – Individuals can make a difference, but it’s awfully hard to effect change as a lone wolf. The right affiliations with other individuals and organizations can have a tremendously galvanizing effect and bring together complementary skill sets. (And if you find that there’s no core group of people addressing your cause, start one!)
7. Take a break — Burnout is real. Sometimes the best step forward is to step out for a bit.
8. Plan, do, evaluate, repeat — A good mantra to follow.
9. Celebrate victories, then get back to work — If you celebrate too long, you risk deluding yourself that the task is over. If you don’t celebrate at all, you’ll be pretty glum and miss a chance to recharge your spirit. So, take occasional bows, and then ask what comes next.
10. When despairing, dig deep — Changing some small part of the world for the better can be challenging, frustrating, and difficult work. Setbacks are almost inevitable. When they occur, dig deep . . . perhaps into your devotion to the cause, your faith or spirituality, or your connection with others who share your commitment.