Doing the good that's in front of you
What's in your sphere of influence?
I’m wrestling with these questions right now:
How do I encourage my young adults to keep showing up at school and work, keep connecting with their people, keep going, without glossing over their fear and cynicism about the future?
How do I fortify myself so I can function and engage instead of retreating into self-protective paralysis?
How do I keep from being swept away by world events without turning away from the news completely?
Heavy questions, I know, even though my day-to-day life is humming along more easily than it has in years.
This paradox comes with a tug of something akin to survivor’s guilt; an “embarrassment of riches” feeling that’s tempting to wallow in. Guilt over one’s good fortune is understandable — it comes from a place of empathy for those who suffer. But it can all too easily become another ticket to avoidance and paralysis.
The question becomes: how do we use what little energy we have to create light for ourselves and others when there’s so much that’s wrong in the world?
From 2016-2021, I co-hosted the Edit Your Life podcast with my dear friend and Minimalist Parenting co-author,1. Our premise was that lasting change happens in small steps.
I believe in that premise as much today as I did when we launched the show. But small steps feel so small when so much is urgently wrong in the world.
Can small steps really make a significant difference?
Well, yes, when we take those small steps inside our spheres of influence.
(If you’ve never heard that phrase before, your sphere of influence is comprised of all the people, groups and organizations you have the power to affect or nudge in a positive direction. Think: your family, your friends, your co-workers, your workplace, your classmates, your city council… the list goes on, but not indefinitely.)
Here’s a good example of operating inside one’s sphere of influence.
In her, articulated the horrendous disconnect of witnessing terrible world events while continuing on with the banalities of life. But instead of wasting her energy flailing in emotional quicksand, Claire redirected that energy toward something she could do by inviting her readers to help raise money for Democratic state candidates in Virginia.
I’m one of those readers. I was so grateful for a simple way to address my own feelings of powerlessness that I couldn’t donate fast enough. It felt GREAT.
If you want to donate, too, November 3 is the last day to do it. Here’s why it’s important + a little incentive, via Evil Witches:
Here’s a recent article on why the upcoming elections in Virginia are such a BFD. Even if you don’t live in Virginia, these state elections affect us all. This is the last week to chip into the Evil Witches Giving Circle to benefit Democratic candidates in Virginia. If you make a donation of any amount and email the receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org I’ll either comp you three months of the paid version of the newsletter, add three months to your existing subscription, or give three months of the paid version to a pal.
That’s nice enough, you might think. But how will donating in Virginia help the people in Israel or Gaza or Maine or …?
Well, it won’t, not directly. And that’s the hardest part about operating inside your sphere of influence:
You must accept that your influence — and therefore your impact — is limited.
…and the further out from your sphere of influence you go, the more limited your impact will be.
For anyone feeling the weight of the world’s suffering, this is a bitter pill to swallow.
And yet, focusing on your sphere of influence is the key to maximizing your impact, maintaining your energy, and having a practical hand in creating the world you want to live in.
This is Parent of Adults by Asha Dornfest, a newsletter & mellow community for parents of young adults. Become a free or paid subscriber:
So much is beyond our influence, even more beyond our control. But we can have a real impact in our social circles, campus communities, towns, and states.
“Real impact” doesn’t have to be huge, nor does it have to involve politics. You could forward a thought-provoking article to friends and agree to discuss it over dinner. Or donate to a local organization doing good work in your community. Or reach out to a friend who’s hurting, even if you’re not sure what to say.
In The Lightmaker’s Manifesto: How to Work for Change Without Losing Your Joy (affiliate link2), Karen Walrond3 broadens the definition of “activist” to include anyone who takes deliberate steps toward positive change, no matter how small.
We often forget the people who quietly and diligently work behind those turbulent scenes for good and justice — those who daily activate their own gifts and talents and determination as part of a larger cause.
If the world must change (and it must, it must), this is how it happens.
What or who is keeping you afloat right now? Who’s doing good work you’d like to highlight?
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