From deadly hurricanes brewing across the Atlantic Ocean to wildfires raging through the West Coast, to the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that ravaged Mexico, and the potential deportation of 800,000 young immigrants from the US, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with everything happening in the world from one day to the next. As we continue to grapple with the gross injustices directed towards communities of color in the U.S., we are faced with North Korean threats of nuclear war, mass exodus of Muslims from Myanmar, and any number of local daily headlines running across our news feeds.

You may feel compelled to do something, but what? What can you as an individual possibly do to help, or create change? Should you send postcards to your government officials? Should you protests and attend marches?

How do you know where to spend your time, money, and energy? Where can you have the most impact? It’s all so overwhelming.

It’s a familiar struggle Do I give $10 to every organization supporting flood victims or do I give $500 to one? Do I post important articles on climate change on social media or should I participate in the “March for Science” campaign in my hometown?  How do I decide which option works best for me?

Photo: CBC/Rachel Maclean

A good starting point in determining where to focus is to define your core values. Most of us do this on a daily basis as we filter decisions through our mental checklist. How do you decide on the best home for your family or the best school for your kids, or even the best restaurant for your anniversary dinner? It’s all based on what you value and what’s most important to you. That same logic can be applied when deciding how you want to be involved in social activism. You feel joy and contentment when your life is aligned with your values.

What Are Your Core Values?

Photo: Business Insider

Your core values are the lens through which you view life. They are your priorities. Think of a moment in your life when you felt the happiest. Visualize that time and ask yourself: What factors contributed to that? Who were you with and what were you doing? Think of another time when you felt the proudest or accomplished. Answer the same questions. And, lastly, think of a time when you felt most fulfilled or satisfied and answer the questions again. From these three experiences, you can come up with the top three values that resonate most for you.

One of my core values is equity. When I feel compelled to get involved in a cause, I find that equity always comes into play. The questions I ask myself are focused on whether or not all groups are getting a fair shake. Is everyone receiving the same aid? Is this legislation fair for all groups of people?  Another core value I have is around collaboration. I enjoy working as part of a team. For an activity to be a good fit for me, I have to ask myself: Do I get to participate in these activities in a collaborative way or will I just have to listen to one leader and follow directions? If I don’t get to collaborate, will it still feel good to me to participate? My primary core value is love.

It’s about the vibe I feel from the people involved at all levels of the event, activity, or organization.

Are people approaching the event from a place of love or fear? If it’s fear, I know that I can’t get involved because I won’t be productive and I could potentially succumb to that fear and anger. It will take me too long to recover afterward.

Photo: Pinterest/Iskcon Vaishnavi Ministry

Knowing my core values helps me to determine where to spend my energy. I now know that I am most satisfied in showing up to events, activities, or spaces that give everyone a voice, invites participation at all levels, and do those things in a genuine, heartfelt, and loving way. And, when I am most satisfied, I will keep going and keep doing those types of activities. It’s sustained and sustainable – I will keep feeling fulfilled and happy and impactful. And, I will inevitably be making an impact on my world and for my community.

You’ll notice that I haven’t gotten into specifics such as attending marches, writing postcards, making phone calls, posting on social media, or volunteering at a nearby nonprofit.

All activism is important and no matter how you choose to engage, you’re most effective when your efforts and your core values are aligned.

Ultimately, the key to understanding where you can have the most impact, is in understanding yourself.

For more in-depth coaching to help you determine your core values, check out these 7 Steps to Discover Your Personal Core Values.




Anita Dharapuram
Activist, nonprofit leader, lover of humanity