Stop feeling overwhelmed by the news and do this instead: 7 empowering questions that will transform your response to the world right now
There are a lot of words thrown around lately like, “take action,” “do something,” and “organize” -- but what do they actually mean?
How do you know what to do? Where to focus? How to get started? And how do you know when you've done enough?
Amidst all the push towards effort and action, it’s easy to feel stuck.
After all, the amount of news and information thrown at us is absolutely overwhelming. It can feel hopeless and disheartening. (And you know, I’m all about the heart.)
Where to start?
I’ve found that any major effort, project or change starts with me, in my own journal.
I take a storytelling approach. I think about the story I want to be able to tell later on, and then I work backwards, filling in the pieces I’ll need to write that story.
This approach has allowed me to live the story I want to tell. It’s helped me turn around some of my darkest times and move towards something far more rewarding and fulfilling. Right now, it’s giving me a sense of clarity, focus and purpose amid all the topsy-turvy news.
So, I decided to share my method. I turned it into a creative template you can use.
This is your storytelling roadmap to positive action!
**Take the 7 questions listed here and answer them in your own journal.**
You may find they take some time to answer. If you don’t have a lot of time to devote, see if you can answer one question per day, for 7 days.
And if you are only going to answer one question, make it the first one.
1) What will I want to say I did during this time, when I look back years later?
If you’re going to answer just one question, make it this one. This is the call to action.
This is the question that pushes me to take action; to create the things I want to create; to do the things I want to do.
This is the get-yourself-out-of-bed-in-the-morning question.
Put another way, this question asks: what is the story you want to tell about this time in your life?
What do you want to say you did? What actions did you take? What was your attitude? And so on.
I can honestly say that decisions I’ve made based on this question (not just now, but as a routine practice) have gotten me through some challenging times and made me a much happier person.
2) What’s my vision?
This question addresses why you want to do the above things in the first place. It also adds colour and clarity to your efforts, helping you to move forward despite obstacles.
Great leaders tend to attribute their success to having a clear vision of what they want to create. And that tends to be something better, not just a reaction against something bad. (There’s a reason why we remember Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech.)
Take this time to give thought to what your actions are for.
In your vision, what do you want to happen? What kind of a world is it? What will make it better than before?
Write down any and all details that come to mind.
3) When facing a crossroads, what will I choose?
The key moments of any story usually have to do with turning points. It is the fork in the road. The moment the hero had to make a decision about which way they would go.
Any journey is going to have bumps. Think about how you will handle these moments, whether they are standing up even though it’s uncomfortable, speaking up even when you feel afraid, or staying the course even when you feel disheartened.
Envisioning yourself as the hero in the story can help you make an advance decision. When the moment comes, it rarely feels comfortable. But if you remember your answer to this question, you are more likely to do the thing you really want to do when the chips are down.
Write out your declarations now.
4) Where will I focus?
No one person can do it all.
Activists, leaders, and changemakers know this. So do storytellers. Any story has to have a focus: with clearly defined characters, challenges and destinations.
That's not to say you have to limit yourself (after all, we all have more than one story to tell). But if you try to do absolutely everything, and solve every problem, you will end up overwhelmed, burned out, and distracted.
That's a recipe for stuckness.
So, where will you area of focus be?
Put another way, what are the causes you are going to concentrate the bulk of your effort on? Pick 1-3 and write them down.
5) What are my superpowers?
You are the hero of your own story. Think about what positive attributes your hero has -- skills, traits, talents, knowledge etc. What assets will serve you on your quest?
This may be anything from writing to researching to making art to financial generosity to an infectious optimistic attitude.
Write down some of the traits and talents you will concentrate on using in these efforts.
6) Who are my supporting characters?
You can’t do it alone. This story is not just about you, fighting the battle solo. Other people are here too.
Make a list: Who are the people who are going to be with you in these efforts? How will you work together?
And if you don’t know them yet, where might you find them? How can you go about expanding your community, or finding your tribe?
7) What positive benefits will I seek out of my efforts?
When embarking on a serious project or undertaking activist efforts, it can be easy to feel like you have to take on the weight of the world. It can all feel very serious.
When I first started getting involved in activism, at about age 15, I did exactly that, and in turn spent quite a bit of time feeling depressed and hopeless. But as time went on, my approach shifted and activism became a joyful experience.
I found a strong community of people, many of whom became lifelong friends and one of them, eventually, my husband. I loved the creativity of running an organization, staging benefit concerts, holding marches and protests, and making stuff like zines, posters and pamphlets. It was one of the most creative, interesting, and rewarding times of my life. In fact, it was really, really fun.
So go ahead and look for perks in your efforts. This is not selfish - the perks are all part of the experience. Are you looking for a greater sense of community? Personal growth? Fun and creativity? Career expansion or experience?
Write out what you want to get out of it.
Then go ahead -- make it happen. And make it good. For you, and the world.
“What we have to figure out is how to disconnect ourselves from the circle of fear and from the circle of contempt and even panic, and make something that matters instead.” -- Seth Godin