On Idealists in Action, we love to tackle your biggest obstacles to doing good. One we hear a lot is, “I don’t have the skills or knowledge to start something.” This week, we’re taking that behemoth down.
“In 2010 I was in the middle of a failing sabbatical,” begins Derick Tsai, founder and creative director of hip content development studio Magnus Rex.
“The brutal truth was I had bumped up against the limits of my abilities. I was going to have to drastically up my game if I had any hope of realizing my projects. In an unfamiliar space and out of my depth, I was reduced to moping around in sweats all day and constantly stressing about running out of money.”
“Then something woke me up and put everything into perspective.”
How did this visionary artist rise from the depths of not knowing to a new pinnacle of creativity? Read his story on GOOD.
Tell us about a time you didn’t know what to do, but turned rock bottom into your launch pad.
Do you want to help make a difference, but find yourself surrendering even before you begin because you don’t know where to start? Do you keep shaping an idea in your head but not taking any action?
You’re not alone. There are many reasons we can end up feeling lost when we want to change the world. Maybe…
The list could stretch to infinity. But whatever the reason, if you’re just standing by, paralyzed by procrastination and toying with excuses, fears, and doubts, you won’t ever start.
Luckily, there’s one simple key that can get any project going. It’s called: Just start somewhere.
It doesn’t really matter where. Your first step will dictate where your next one should be, and the dominoes will fall from there. You just have to get started.
Step by step
Here are some ways to take that first good step. Try them, and your project will begin to take shape.
In short, if you don’t know where to start, just start by completing a first step as soon as possible. As Anne Frank wrote, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
What project would you love to work on this year? What first step are you taking to start it?
When we move from ideas to action, we run the risk of making decisions we regret.
Sometimes regret might seem unavoidable, but it doesn’t have to drag us down. Here’s why regret happens, how to overcome it, and how to make better decisions in the future.
Why we feel we’ve made a bad decision
When it comes to decisions that truly have no right or wrong answer—and there are many in the world of doing good—there are three rationales that can cause us to think we’ve made a wrong choice.
Myopic view of the world
We are all just one piece of a much larger puzzle, but it’s easy to lose that perspective when we’re each responsible for so much in our daily lives. When we think of ourselves as more crucial to a situation than we actually are, the weight of regret stemming from a bad decision can grow.
In a world of seemingly endless opportunities, it’s easy to build up our expectations. We might want to come up with a genius idea for a life-saving tool, be influential in advocating for a cause, or leave a helpful legacy to an organization we love. Expectations like these can be motivating, but they also greatly raise the stakes to do well—or risk feeling profound regret if we don’t.
Getting stuck on “what if?”
Even after we’ve made a choice we think is good, part of us can still be tempted to dwell on what we didn’t do: “What if I had gone the other way?” Thinking about the routes we didn’t take can easily lead to making us dissatisfied with the ones we did.
How to overcome regret
We all feel regret about a decision from time to time, but if your sadness and guilt are outstaying their welcome, here are some ways to hit “refresh” and redeem yourself.
Put things in perspective
Make it a goal to come to peace with the fact that you can’t change your past decision. To do this, it can be very helpful to focus on the things you learned as a result of your choice, and how you can use those lessons going forward.
Talk it out
Ask for the ear of a friend, family member, or someone else you trust. Speaking to them about your decision and rationales can create a catharsis that will allow you emotional release from your feelings of regret. Also, explaining the details of your choice aloud to someone may help you clarify and better understand why you did what you did.
Think positive thoughts
Norman Vincent Peale’s classic book The Power of Positive Thinking, first published in 1952, isn’t on the bestseller list anymore, but its central idea remains a powerful tool for determining how we feel. Even if you think you have a real reason to be unhappy, you can still choose to be happy.
How to make good decisions
After making a “bad” decision and experiencing regret, it’s time to get back on the horse. Here are some steps you can take to help ensure you feel more confident in your decision-making going forward.
Yes, it’s good to take time and think thoroughly about your options, but don’t let that be an excuse to not make a decision.
Imagine yourself in each scenario
If you’re deciding between two options, try them both on for a minute. Imagine you’ve chosen option A: what does the result look like? How do you feel in the position it brought you to? Which additional doors did it open, and which did it close? Do the same for option B, and compare the results.
Create a pro and con list to help you evaluate
Write out the benefits and liabilities you can foresee with each option. Then tell family, friends, and mentors about your situation and see if they have any experience or pros and cons to add—they might reveal insights you never would have thought of. (Of course, take any advice as only one slice of your decision-making pie. Don’t let anyone pressure you into a decision you’re uncomfortable with!)
Be confident (or act like it if you aren’t)
Once you make a decision, don’t allow yourself to entertain distracting thoughts of how life might have been if you had gone a different way. Learn to love your choices, and you’ll love your life!
Alicia Lawrence is a content coordinator for WebpageFX and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land. Her work has been published by the Association for Business Communication, Business Insider, and Ask Miss A. You can find her on Twitter (@Alicia_Lw) and Google+.
Stuck? Feeling hopeless? Unsure of your next step? For the almost two decades Idealist has been around, we’ve been asking you—our community—to tell us about the obstacles you face when trying to turn your good intentions into action. We’ve compiled a short list of the top-reported obstacles, and now we’re blogging about them one by one.
This week we present: money.
Trying to change the world can be expensive work! So this Money Week, we’re sharing some ideas and opportunities to help you secure the cheddar you need to turn your awesome ideas into real-world action.
Nothing attracts a crowd like crowdfunding
This buzzword has become annoying to some (check out this amusing McSweeney’s send-up), but it’s been more than a flash in the pan for a reason.
In the past five years, Kickstarter alone has been the conduit for raising $918 million to help fund 53,000 creative projects. And now they’re far from the only game in town: Indiegogo, AngelList, and Crowdfunder are just a few of the other major players on the scene.
Interested in learning more about your crowdfunding options?
Show me the money
If you want to try from the reverse angle and go for funding that’s already been allotted for specific purposes, here are a few current opportunities:
Pick up some knowledge
Or maybe the time is right for you to hit the (proverbial) books and read a little more about different funding options. Here are a few ideas:
Party with a purpose
From the “mixing business with pleasure” file, here’s With Love… The New Generation of Party People—a new book and accompanying website geared toward helping you put on great fundraising parties. Find ten complete party plans with everything from invitations to music playlists to help you show your friends a good time while bringing in some cash for your cause.
Have you had a good fundraising experience recently (or a not-so-good one)? Share your story in the comments.
This week’s spotlight: all things death.
“We spend most of our lives avoiding thoughts of mortality, which means that when we have to talk about illness and death, we’re unprepared,” say the folks at The Action Mill, a design firm who recently produced a conversation game that encourages people to talk about end-of-life issues. Called My Gift of Grace, it’s part of the firm’s “contribution to the growing movement to unhide death.”
So how does this game ‘unhide’ death and how could doing that benefit us?
My Gift of Grace is a set of cards that come in three categories: Questions (“If you could plan three things about your own funeral, what would they be?”), Statements (“The worst part about being at the end of my life would be…”), and Activities (“Visit your local cemetery. If you see an employee, ask them what it’s like to work there.”).
Players use the cards to start short discussions with others in the group and to keep notes on; when the game is over, participants are encouraged to keep the cards handy as reminders of the conversations they had.
As for the benefits, the designers cite encouraging giving, better focus on the present, and increasing understanding, for starters:
Anyone can get the game and play it, but we’re designing My Gift of Grace to be given as a gift. Giving is good for us. Generosity makes us happier and healthier and creates social connections.
The game itself is just one part of the social support network we’re designing to help people get unstuck and have important conversations that can help us get perspective and focus on the things that are most important to us in the here and now.
Sharing how you think about the end of your life is also one of the most important gifts you can give to the people who are close to you. Letting them know how you feel about end-of-life issues can save them from a lot of guilt, trauma, and expense down the road in the event they need to make decisions for you.
Read more about the purposes behind and development of My Gift of Grace on The Action Mill’s Kickstarter page. For info about ordering the game when it becomes commercially available (hopefully this month), see MyGiftOfGrace.com.
Have you opened conversations about end-of-life issues with your community? Did the experience help get you unstuck?
This week’s spotlight: all things death.
When you think about why you’re having trouble getting started on or continuing with a project, do the reasons ever sound like, “I just don’t have any good ideas,” “No one will believe this is going to work,” or “I’ll never be able to see this through.” If so, you may have some self-doubt dragons to slay!
Check out these ideas and tips from Authentic Coach Samuel Collier on how to boost self-confidence and turn obstacles into stepping stones.
While some of us are already living a life filled with confidence, many of us only ever fantasize about being sure of ourselves. More often than not, we are plagued by an annoying, nagging voice inside our heads telling us we aren’t capable of or worthy enough to do the things we want to do.
So how do we get over our self-doubt and claim the life we’ve always dreamed of?
The answer is by “growing up.” This is not the same type of growing up we all went through during childhood where our parents and schools raised us, taught us how to survive, and how to be good people.
This growing up is about reclaiming our childhood and our natural birthright of confidence and curiosity. It’s also about redefining our relationship to fear through the choices we make.
Growing up is a process. It takes time to transform from being a person who doubts him or herself into a self-realized person of courage, curiosity, and confidence. But this journey is possible, and it’s all about the choices you make.
Courage may come easy for some, but both courage and confidence can be generated in everyone. All it takes is the commitment to begin changing with small steps towards the life you want and building a state of mind that will sustain it.
We should first recognize that fear is a survival mechanism, not a character flaw. Most anxiety and belief systems are an adaptation to stressful situations we learned in childhood. So we just need to upgrade our systems. How do we do that?
1. Redefine all fear as positive.
Courage does not mean the absence of fear. Courage means being afraid, but doing it anyway. Without fear, life would be dull, drab, and static. Fear is a core emotion for a reason and it gives life much of its color. If we had no fear, there would be no potential for growth.
2. Remember that real fear has a purpose.
Ninety nine percent of the time the fear you’re feeling is a false fear, meaning one that is not based on any immediate physical danger. When you are feeling afraid you should gauge the likelihood of your worst fear coming true. Most of the time, you will see that it is unlikely ever to happen.
3. Face fears gradually and gently.
Break down insurmountable tasks so they become manageable. Use baby steps and follow a schedule that isn’t overwhelming. A more gradual process will strengthen your resolve and I guarantee the sense of power you begin to feel will be enough to keep you going.
4. Become friends with failure.
You alone have the capability to start facing your fears, so don’t give up when you fail. Recognize that when you fail, it’s not permanent—it’s part of the process of learning how to do better.
Befriend your failures, your fears, and the process and you will be rewarded!
This week’s spotlight: all things death.
Death Cafe is not the title of a new heavy metal LP, nor is it the name of a restaurant where skeletons are served. (Well, maybe it is, but that’s not what we’re writing about today!)
Death Cafe is an idea, a movement, and a series of meetings where, according to its hub website, “people—often strangers—drink tea, eat cake, and discuss death. Our aim is to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives.”
Jon Underwood of London got the idea when he read a 2010 newspaper article that mentioned Swiss sociologist and anthropologist Bernard Crettaz, who started hosting the first “cafe mortals” in Switzerland in 2004.
He’d already been at work on a series of projects about death, and decided to try organizing his own “death cafe” with the help of his mother, Sue Barsky Reid. It was a great success. The mother-and-son team began hosting more events and in 2012 published the guide “Holding Your Own Death Cafe“, which quickly spread around the world.
To date, over 3,000 participants have discussed end-of-life issues at 396 Death Cafes in Europe, North America, and Australasia.
How it works
The meetings are run on a purely voluntary basis, with each led by different facilitators and attended by groups of different sizes. Most meetings begin with a facilitator sharing what led them to the group and asking others to share their reasons.
The group might then split into smaller chunks to answer more conversation-starting questions like: What do you want your funeral to be like? Is there such a thing as living too long? What do you most want to accomplish before you die?
And there are a few ground rules that hold the concept together:
As for what the experience is like, a few Death Cafe leaders and participants sound off:
Is this piquing your interest? Look for an upcoming cafe taking place near you.
Also, it doesn’t take much to try hosting your own event. DeathCafe.com offers information, instructions, and support for new facilitators, and hosts a a “Death Conversation” section where participants can share experiences and info.
Sue and Jon claim “organising a Death Cafe is enjoyable, easy and life-enhancing.” Who knew death could have such an upside?
Have you hosted or attended a Death Cafe? Did the experience help you deal with your fears?