Obstacles


It’s not your lack of skill, it’s your lack of confidence… stupid!

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.

Another way you can defeat the obstacles in your path is by joining the Idealist Network—a new online and on-the-ground platform we’re designing to help people everywhere connect and take action on any issue that concerns them, locally or globally. Sign up to attend our online launch on March 11 and see what it’s all about.

The following post was translated from Elena Martín’s original on Idealist’s Spanish language site, Idealistas.

 

Much of your ability to do something is not dependent on whether or not you can actually do it, but whether or not you think you can do it. Someone with all the skills in the world but little confidence in himself will not get very far, while someone with less skills but true belief in himself will usually find a way to meet his goals.

Psychologists call this phenomenon “self-efficacy”—our belief in our capabilities to do what is required to achieve a given goal. Think about yourself: do you more often have the attitude: “I can get this project to work,” or “I can get this job,” or the opposite: “I don’t think I can do this,” or “I’m not going to get a call back”?

If you fall in the first camp, bravo! But if you tend to think more like the latter, don’t despair—for one thing, you’re not alone. Overriding self-confidence doesn’t come easily to everyone. You might be thinking, “Sure, I’d love to have more faith that I can do the things I want, but it’s not like I can just flip a switch. What can I do?”

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Who you gonna call? 3 online tools to connect you with experts

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.

Another way you can defeat the obstacles in your path is by joining the Idealist Network—a new online and on-the-ground platform we’re designing to help people everywhere connect and take action on any issue that concerns them, locally or globally. Sign up to attend our online launch on March 11 and see what it’s all about.

Sometimes you need to bring in the professionals. Image via IMDB.

Sometimes you need to bring in the professionals.
(image via IMDB)

Here at Idealist, we’ve written many times about harnessing the power of community to get things done. We can do more together, and tapping into the skills and knowledge of other people is a big part of why.

While finding collaborators with mad skills can be relatively easy if you’re already integrated into a niche community or have buckets of money, it’s harder when geography, time constraints, or lack of funding eat into your ability to find that special someone you just know is out there.

Fortunately, there are a lot of resources online that can connect you with talented people whether you’re looking for pro bono consultants, mentors, board members, volunteers, or creative partners.

We have to say, Idealist is a good place to start. By searching the profiles of other Idealists like you, you can find and connect with like-minded do-gooders in your area (and around the world).

Here are a few other options we think are especially handy-dandy:

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Book review: What Makes a Hero? The Surprising Science of Selflessness

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.

Another way you can defeat the obstacles in your path is by joining the Idealist Network—a new online and on-the-ground platform we’re designing to help people everywhere connect and take action on any issue that concerns them, locally or globally. Sign up to attend our online launch on March 11 and see what it’s all about.

HERO-REVISEI’m kinda over the hero thing.

In contrast to their ancient origins in epic poetry and lofty myths, heroes and heroism today seem to have gotten wrapped up in our cultural view of altruism.

Although the meaning of “hero” is in that delicious group of highly subjective nouns that people love to debate, I tend to think it’s a bad idea to call those who engage in good and generous acts “heroes.”

Adorable child superheroes aside, when we conflate superhero stories with commonplace altruism, it implies that acts of goodness and giving are somehow extraordinary and outside the range of normal behavior.

In Elizabeth Svoboda’s new book What Makes a Hero? The Surprising Science of Selflessness, the author tries to get to the bottom of whether or not this is true. Is it normal for humans to be generous? What would possess someone to rush into a burning building to save another person? Why would someone who lives in poverty donate money to a charity?

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How this creative director turned “no skills” into “no problem”

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.

Another way you can defeat the obstacles in your path is by joining the Idealist Network—a new online and on-the-ground platform we’re designing to help people everywhere connect and take action on any issue that concerns them, locally or globally. Sign up to attend our online launch on March 11 and see what it’s all about.

“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.

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Not sure how to get moving on a project? Stop cryin’ and start taking baby steps

Happy January! Welcome to Clean Start week.

The following post was translated from Elena Martín’s original on Idealist’s Spanish language site, Idealistas.

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…

  • You feel overwhelmed by all the elements you think it will take to make your dream a reality.
  • You believe you don’t have the time or energy to commit to a long-term project.
  • You’re not willing to pick just one of your good ideas to focus on.

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.

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Don’t know where you’re going? That’s okay. Just take the first step.
(photo courtesy Shutterstock)

Step by step

Here are some ways to take that first good step. Try them, and your project will begin to take shape.

  • Verbalize your idea. Share it with your friends and peers; speak it out loud. Talking about your project will generate a stronger commitment to yourself to take action. You even stand a good chance of finding allies among your listeners who will want to help so you don’t have to act alone.
  • Focus your magnitude. If you’re thinking of an idea so big that you can’t imagine how to address it, scale it back and start with something smaller. For example, if you want to fight hunger, don’t start with a goal to end hunger all over the world. Instead, begin by learning how to help those suffering from hunger in your own community and scale your efforts up from there.
  • Find a similar project. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Do some research and see if you can find a person or organization doing the same type of work you want to do. If you can identify a few, you can ask for their advice or see if they’re interested in joining your project—or you might find that you want to join theirs! This practice will save you time and enrich your perspective.
  • Divide and conquer. Define the main things you need to accomplish in order to reach your goal and write them out in chronological order as best you can. Then set time limits to meet each of the steps (you’ll have to estimate; just try to be realistic). Your goals and the timeline are likely to change as you progress, so modify the list as you go. But if you stay committed to it, you’ll keep your focus and avoid getting distracted.
  • Just take action, here and now. Think: what’s one step I can commit to right now? What’s one step I can take today? Don’t think about it too much; it doesn’t have to be anything big. In fact, at the beginning, it should be just enough to give you the feeling that you’ve taken action and gotten the ball rolling. This will motivate you to do more!

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?

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Make a bad decision last year? Here’s how to cope

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.

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Bad decisions always have an opposite angle.
(photo courtesy Shutterstock)

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.

High expectations

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.

Don’t procrastinate

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 + PageAlicia 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+.

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Money week roundup: Opportunities & ideas

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.

InfoG

Crowdfunding infographic by Anna Vital and Vlad Shyshov,
fundersandfounders.com

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?

  • This good Forbes article breaks down what different sites offer and how to find the one that’s best for you.
  • See our recent guest post by the heads at CauseVox to get ideas for a workable crowdfunding strategy.

Show me the money

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These opportunities will have you feeling like this guy.
(photo courtesy Shutterstock)

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:

  • Presidio Graduate School’s Big Idea Prize “awards a full-ride scholarship to a Presidio degree program for the best ‘Big Idea’ to move the needle in sustainability.” The deadline for admission in fall 2014 is May 15 of next year.
  • You don’t necessarily have to be a 501(c)(3) to apply for grants. DoSomething.org hosts a database of grants available to entrepreneurs.
  • If you’re part of a nonprofit and want to get your website in order, apply for Elevation’s $1-for-$1 match program. For every dollar you spend on design, programming, and related work, the web solution company will chip in a dollar of their own. Last year they gave about $500,000 to 150 organizations.

Pick up some knowledge

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Restock your brain library.
(photo courtesy Shutterstock)

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:

  • Don’t be afraid of corporate fundraising—there are dollars and non-monetary support to be found in the business community. For some tips on how to break in, read this DoSomething.org Q & A.
  • Online fundraising (and fabulously-named) gurus Stay Classy have a whole section on their blog dedicated to helping you get money. Check out guides such as “Growing a Community of Fundraisers,” “The 4 Phases of an Effective Peer-to-Peer Campaign,” and “Avoid the Big Mistake.”
  •  If you’re in a position to make grants, we know that giving money away (or doing it well, anyway) is seldom a walk in the park either: it can be tough to decide who gets funding, especially as strategies change. “Storytelling & Social Change: A Strategy Guide for Grantmakers” is a free-to-download publication that aims to “serve grantmakers interested in so-called ‘narrative strategies’ for their funding and communications programs.”

Party with a purpose

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Break out the costume box.
(photo courtesy Shutterstock)

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.

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New card game brings death to the table

This week’s spotlight: all things death.

 

Can’t make it to a Death Cafe? Try talking about end-of-life issues in the comfort of your home with My Gift of Grace.

“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?

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How to slay your self-doubt

This week’s spotlight: all things death.

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Illustration by Jan Hyrman

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.

3Face 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!

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Samuel Collier is the Authentic Coach, helping people awaken to their self-confidence and activate their hidden potential. Visit his blog and website, or email him at samuelbcollier@gmail.com.

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Try this! Devour your fear of dying at a Death Cafe

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.

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Death Cafes help participants explore all the faces of this universal event.
(photo courtesy Shutterstock)

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:

  • No one should try to lead participants to any particular conclusion, product, or course of action.
  • Death Cafe should not be treated as a bereavement support or grief counseling setting.
  • The meetings should happen “alongside refreshing drinks and nourishing food—and cake!”

As for what the experience is like, a few Death Cafe leaders and participants sound off:

  • “There was a sense of something profound being shared. A woman living with a life limiting illness who was quite ill but looked very well said, quite firmly and calmly, in response to one comment: ‘I am not JUST going to die! I am going to DIE!’ For her, dying was not a far off theory. It was much closer to home.”  —Josefine, London, UK
  • “Our last Death Cafe was wonderful. We even had a couple who didn’t plan to attend but joined us anyway. The man remained standing the whole time because he ‘wasn’t really interested in the topic’ but he ended up talking the most!”  —Merilynne, Ann Arbor, MI
  • “We often end up with a group interested in discussing more practical things like funeral planning or completing advance directive forms, while other table participants might be dialoguing about the spiritual aspects of death. Every month brings new people and new topics of conversation. There are small cards scattered about on tables and face down just in case the attendees need a question to boost their conversation. Did I mention we had not one, but two cakes?”  —Jo, Austin, TX

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?

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