4. Self-Actualize to Become a Better Activist

Self-actualizing will help you to become a better activist, for these reasons:

• Self-actualizing people don’t just have a clearer sense of their Mission, but are also able to use their time better. They also tend to suffer less from fear, including the fear-based habits of perfectionism, negativity, hypersensitivity and panic, and to form more effective personal and professional relationships. These relationships not only provide them with needed support and resources, but also allow them to expand their “circle of influence,” as Stephen Covey puts it. In other words, self-actualization lets you leverage your strengths and talents to the greatest extent possible.

• A self-actualizing activist is a happier activist, and a happier activist is usually a much more effective advocate for his values. See Part V, Chapter 30, for more on this topic, but the simple explanation is that people who are happy, upbeat and enthusiastic tend to attract others to themselves and their way of thinking, while those who are unhappy, bitter or unmotivated tend to repel others.

• Self-actualizing people also tend to be emotionally stronger and more resilient than non-self-actualizing ones. Strength and resilience are great qualities for anyone to have, but are especially useful for activists who work on stressful projects or lead stressful lives.

• Because of their emotional strength, self-actualizing people also tend to be less egocentric than non-self-actualizing people, meaning that they are better able to accept others on their own terms. This is also an extremely valuable quality for any activist to possess, as it aids you in relating to, and influencing, diverse audiences. An activist who isn’t self-actualizing is more likely to react with confusion, contempt or even hatred to someone who thinks differently than she does, while a self-actualizing activist is more likely to stay in control of her emotions and also retain the compassionate view that is the foundation of effective activism. See Part V, Chapter 10, for more on this point.

As discussed in Part I, your self-actualization work may result in your temporarily or permanently doing less, or even no, activism. If this turns out to be the case, be true to your Mission and do not feel bad about your choice. There is an excellent chance that you’ll one day return to activism, and that when you do you’ll make a far more valuable contribution than if you had spent years doing half-hearted activism that conflicted with your true values and needs.

Mission for Activist Organizations

One of the top goals of any activist organization should be to help its employees, volunteers and other participants self-actualize. If you belong to such an organization, encourage it to do so by:

• Providing tools, training and other support for participants who wish to do Mission, Time, Fear and Relationship Management.

• Actively encouraging mentor relationships. These can be between people working within your organization, or between your organization’s members and outsiders. See Part III, Chapter 26, and www.lifelongactivist.com/mentoring.

• Establishing a lending library of books listed in the Bibliography, and sponsoring a book group or discussion group on issues related to self-actualization.

• Setting up a Lifelong Activist Workgroup. See page 385 and www.lifelongactivist.com/workgroups for more information.

An organization consisting of happy and effective self-actualizing activists will probably attract much more attention and support—including financial support—than one consisting of miserable, depressed and ineffectual non-self-actualizing ones. It is also likely to be much more successful at its goals of influencing people to effect positive social change.

The more activists who self-actualize, the better off we will all be.