1. Answer Each Question as Thoroughly as Possible
It’s important to answer each question as thoroughly as possible because your answers will serve as the raw material for your Personal Mission Statement (see Chapter 17), a statement of values and purpose that you can use to plan and organize your life, and the more you write, the more you will have to work with. (If you don’t like to write, the next tip may help you get over that hurdle.)
2. Format Doesn’t Matter
It doesn’t matter if your answers are in paragraph, list, narrative or some other format. Just get the information down as easily as possible. And don’t worry about grammar or spelling; you’re not showing your Activist Project Histories to anyone. (See #6, below.)
3. Don’t Rush It
Take as much time as you need to complete your Activist Project Histories. At the same time, don’t obsess over details or aim for perfection. As you will learn in Part III, perfectionism is always the enemy, so just write as much as you can easily in response to each question before moving on to the next.
It’s a good idea, after you’ve finished writing, to set aside your Activist Project Histories for a week or two. Then return to them and look at them with fresh eyes. See if you can add to, or clarify, what you have written.
4. Get Specific
Don’t just say a project was successful or unsuccessful: write down why, and what exactly was and was not accomplished. If you can quantify any “successes” or “failures,” so much the better.
Don’t just say a project used a certain skill of yours: give an example of how the skill was used. And don’t just say you screwed something up: write down how. Whenever possible, your points should be substantiated with a specific example.
5. Ask Others for Their Input—But Only After You’ve Finished Writing
It’s great to get input from mentors, colleagues, family and friends; and what they say may pleasantly surprise you, since others often rate our achievements higher than we ourselves do. But only approach them after you’ve finished getting your own thoughts down on paper. You don’t want their thoughts to prematurely influence your own.
6. Don’t Show Your Activist Project Histories to Anyone Else
It’s hard to be completely honest if there’s even the slightest chance someone else will see your Activist Project Histories, so make a pledge to yourself that you won’t show them to anyone.
And, finally, the most important instruction of all:
7. Be Honest and Objective
Honesty and objectivity are key, because only honesty will lead you to a valid Personal Mission Statement. Being honest is also harder to do than it sounds, since most of us have trouble being objective about our own life story and the situations we find ourselves in.
Chapters 4, 5 and 6 will tell you how to do it.