MILES PARKS, HOST:
We all have different causes that call us to action. These days, there are a lot of choices – whether it’s gun rights, the abortion debate, or even war in Ukraine. But with so many big problems, the thought of working to bring about real change can be daunting, or it can seem futile – or both. Andee Tagle of Life Kit offers a different take on what it means to be an activist.
ANDEE TAGLE, BYLINE: There’s no one way to change the world. That’s what leadership coach and speaker Karen Walrond realized when she wrote her book, “The Lightmaker’s Manifesto: How To Work For Change Without Losing Your Joy.”
KAREN WALROND: In my mind, activism was something you did and got arrested for — that it was something you did and you got tear gassed, and the police dogs swooped down. take it out on you.
TAGLE: Yes, activism can look like big, bright, vigorous action, like chaining yourself to a tree, climbing to the top of a pipeline, or walking by the thousands.
WALROND: And if that’s your jam, then keep doing it. What if activism didn’t have to be 100% sacrificial? We are all different people, and we have different ways of hanging on to activism in a way that really enriches us.
TAGLE: She calls this idea lightmaking, a broader view of activism that includes…
WALROND: Whenever you are driven by your values to take determined action in hopes of making the world a brighter place for others.
TAGLE: In this framework, no action for the greater good is too small, and there are endless ways to get started. Lightmaking can be like speaking on behalf of a teammate at a work meeting, translating your passion for cupcakes for a charity bake sale, or using your social media reach to raise the profile of a cause. Becoming a lightmaker is similar to building a campfire, says Walrond.
WALROND: And so the first thing is you have to find a clearing.
TAGLE: It feels like throwing away your notions of what activism should look like and focusing first on defining the time and space you have in your life to offer. Next, think about the gifts and skills you bring to the table. What enlightens you? What activities do you like the most? It’s your tinder.
WALROND: Even – don’t think about it because, well, it’s not an activist thing. That’s not the point. It’s kind of like taking inventory in your own life of the things that you already love to do and would do anyway and figuring out – how can I use that to serve you?
TAGLE: Bring your interior design skills to your local women’s shelter. Offer your mastery of the Rubik’s Cube to the kindergarten around the corner. Don’t underestimate yourself.
From there, you need to find your spark – your core beliefs and the causes that fuel you.
WALROND: What are our values? What are some of the things that keep us whole that we always want to keep in mind? And also, what are some of the causes that make us angry or break our hearts or make us think something has to change, right?
TAGLE: Once you’ve lit your campfire, you have to deal with the flames.
WALROND: Let’s face it, we don’t get into activism because things are going well. For example, we are usually angry, upset, or sad about something. Joy is how we gather the energy to get back to doing the work. Joy is how we remember why we fight.
TAGLE: Often the ills of the world can seem too big to be solved by one person or one group. It’s OK, said Walrond. Change takes time, but everyone can make a difference in their own way. It’s about the longevity of the job, not the finish line.
WALROND: Our job is to take over from people who came before us and then pass it on to people. And the way we do that is we focus on progress rather than actual eradication or complete success.
TAGLE: Because ultimately…
WALROND: All activism is good activism.
TAGLE: For NPR’s Life Kit, I’m Andee Tagle.
PARKS: You can find more tips and tricks on NPR’s Life Kit. Just go to npr.org/lifekit.
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