Finding Your Inner Activist at 50
Making a difference in your community, in a way that works for you
Everyone has an inner activist, and yours is just waiting for the perfect match between what you care about and what you have to offer. You can make a difference in your community. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that marching is the only way to make a difference in the world.
When Karyl Chastain Beal lost her daughter to suicide, her life changed profoundly. From her grief emerged a mission to help others who have lost loved ones to suicide. From the myriad of ways she could make a difference, she chose quilting because she loves it.
Karyl makes memorial quilts, with each square representing a person lost to suicide. Her project started locally but has expanded nationwide and educates the public that people who die by suicide are not just statistics.
By matching a passion for suicide prevention with her love of quilting, Karyl found her perfect activism opportunity.
Finding your inner activist means getting clear about the cause closest to your heart and matching it to your skills. This focus results in passion and effectiveness.
Why find your inner activist?
Ponder this: only two percent of people who start with a volunteer opportunity stay with it long-term.
When I first started in activism, I marched and worked on committees and lobbied my elected representatives, and … well, you get the picture. I was overwhelmed.
I decided to step back and find out how I could be an effective activist. So I did my research and created my own path, which led me to my inner activist at age 55.
You can find your inner activist, too.
How to find your inner activist.
Step 1: Find the cause closest to your heart.
We care about many issues. To be effective, concentrate on the one that tugs at your heart the most.
Okay, if your granddaughter stops by to sell you Girl Scout cookies or a friend asks you to help out with her fundraising event, support them. But for your activism, your focus will keep you engaged.
Step 2: Inventory your skills.
Now, clarify what you do well and enjoy. This list might include things like cooking, teaching, or writing. Are you the person who always organizes gatherings? You are skilled at planning. Do you make beautiful jewelry? Put that on your list.
Step 3: Match your skills to your passion.
Match your skills to your chosen cause. The result: doing something you love for those you love. Teach yoga to first responders. Bake cakes for fundraisers. Write a memoir about dealing with chronic pain.
Step 4: Make an impact.
For most people, checking effectiveness is the hardest step, but impact matters. Ask yourself: Is my idea for activism being done by many others, or is it unique to me? Will this activism make a difference for a large number of people or a very few? Is my idea one that will catch fire for my cause?
Your answers will help you narrow your ideas.
Step 5: Stay motivated.
Activism can be challenging. One way to be effective is to set goals that keep you focused and energized and tell you whether you are meeting your milestones.
Another way to stay motivated is to monitor your stress levels and be ready with coping strategies. Yoga, exercise, meditation, and journaling are all effective stress relievers.
Remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself.
Everyone is an activist.
Yes, everyone is an activist. Find your inner activist and discover joyful ways to make a difference.
Terri Lyon is a licensed psychologist and the co-author of Make a Difference With Mental Health Activism and What’s On Your Sign? How to focus your passion and change the world. Through her website, Life at the Intersection, she spotlights the unique, creative, and sometimes surprising ways people make change happen through their activism. Make a Difference with Mental Health Activism is available to buy as a Kindle e-book or in print from Amazon or through Dr. Lyon’s store.
Lyon’s co-author for Make a Difference with Mental Health Activism, Trish Lockard, is passionate about mental health care. Mental health disorders (and one incident of suicide) are a reality in four generations of her family. She has been a volunteer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Tennessee since 2014. She has served as her local affiliate’s board chair, family support group facilitator, and certified classroom instructor. She is a freelance editor and writing coach. Contact Lockard at email@example.com.