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July 3, 2023

How To Find Your Why In Environmental Leadership

What inspires you to care deeply about the environment? What compels you to take action, make sacrifices, and overcome obstacles in the name of nature? What is your driving force behind advocating for the environment? What experiences in your own life and surroundings bring you a sense of fulfillment?

These are not easy questions to answer. For many people, environmental advocacy is not their primary career or identity. It's something they do on the side, out of passion or responsibility. They might recycle, participate in cleanups, sign petitions, or donate to causes, but they don't necessarily see themselves as environmental leaders.

If you care about the environment, then your life purpose is likely tied up in improving the world in which you live. You could be a scientist, an engineer, an activist, or any number of other roles. But regardless of your profession, you can still make a difference. All it takes is to find your why.

Your why statement is the answer to those big questions about environmental advocacy and personal purpose – what motivates you? What drives you? What fulfills you?

The Problem With Fuzzy Values

Sustaining long-term environmental advocacy becomes challenging without a clear sense of purpose. Setbacks can be discouraging, complexity overwhelming, and other priorities distracting. Your personal life gets in the way.

Money makes it hard to feel fulfilled. It's also tempting to conform to others' expectations instead of pursuing what truly matters to you. To maintain unwavering commitment, align your actions with your deepest values and passions.

Your Entire Life Rests On Your "Why" Statement

Discovering your why can be a game-changer. Your why represents your inner drive for environmental advocacy. It embodies the purpose behind your actions, the catalyst for your passion, and the guiding light for your choices. It's what grants your environmental journey a deep sense of significance, influence, and personal fulfillment.

Where it's a business idea or an expression of your core values, developing a "why" is not a privilege - it's a necessity. The vast majority of people report that finding their life's purpose results in more self awareness, more actionable ideas, and more happiness. It doesn't need to be your only reason, but a strong sense of purpose builds a better life.

Finding your why is not a one-time event. It's a continuous process of self-discovery, reflection, and alignment. It requires you to explore your personal values, strengths, interests, and experiences. You must connect them to the broader environmental issues and opportunities. It also requires you to challenge your assumptions, biases, and limiting beliefs, and expand your horizons and possibilities.

It's not enough to do your 9-5

If you're similar to the majority of individuals, your profession may not revolve around environmental advocacy or sustainability. You could be employed in various fields, such as finance, law, technology, or healthcare. It's possible that you feel as though you lack the time, resources, or expertise to make a substantial difference in environmental matters beyond your work obligations. But a person's life doesn't need to involve working in the environment to be a leader. You can inspire people on the weekends.

Merely depending on your 9-5 job to create a positive impact on the environment often falls short. You might find yourself unfulfilled by your current role, yet too exhausted to pursue other avenues. You're not alone in this predicament. Let's delve into the importance of prioritizing your passion for the environment and how it can foster the development of leadership skills.

Limitations of conventional career paths

The majority of traditional professions, even those with indirect ties to environmental concerns, are primarily focused on maximizing profits or efficiency, rather than prioritizing long-term sustainability or social and environmental justice. Even if you are employed by a company that proclaims its commitment to environmental responsibility, its primary objective may still prioritize short-term financial gains over enacting meaningful systemic change.

Let's be real: you're just not that involved in other people's lives when you're working a 9-5. That hurts when your life's purpose is to make a positive impact on the environment.

Us full-timers don't feel like we do enough, either.

As a full-time employee at an environmental nonprofit, I often feel exhausted by the end of the workday. The lack of energy discourages me from engaging in other activities. While being a leader in the environmental field might suffice for some, many individuals like myself strive to do even more.

One of my colleagues recently participated in a river clean-up, while others organize hiking and kayaking excursions. During my free time, I engage in art creation, with a recurring focus on environmental themes. It's safe to say that we are all deeply committed to the cause of environmental justice. It influences almost every aspect of my own life.

Volunteer activities complement and enhance core values

To truly make a lasting environmental impact through your job, it's crucial to go beyond the confines of your workplace. Engaging in extracurricular or volunteer activities is key to expanding your knowledge, skills, and connections in the environmental field. This broader engagement helps break down the silos and biases of your professional network, exposing you to diverse perspectives, strategies, and challenges. By embracing these opportunities, you'll be better equipped to drive meaningful change and make a difference in the world.

When we engage with our community, we have the opportunity to connect with new individuals and establish meaningful relationships. It serves as a platform for environmental advocacy, or at the very least, a chance to share our passion for our work and the organization we represent. While it may sometimes feel burdensome to dedicate our precious free time to other responsibilities, the long-term benefits often outweigh the initial effort. So even if it IS your career path - there is more you can do.

Pursuing environmental advocacy as a personal passion and mission

Engaging in environmental advocacy can provide a profound sense of purpose, fulfillment, and identity that surpasses mere professional roles or status. Advocacy helps you reaffirm your core values. It's one of the best self-help things you can do.

It also offers the opportunity to cultivate valuable transferable skills, including leadership, communication, and resilience, which can greatly enhance your professional growth and performance. Moreover, pursuing environmental advocacy as a personal passion and mission has the power to inspire and influence those around you - your family, friends, colleagues, and community.

As an environmental leader, things naturally fall into place. You may receive invitations to speak at public hearings or participate in in-depth interviews regarding the urgent need to clean up the creek behind your house. Your influence may even extend to getting your city council or county government to genuinely listen. After all, you have connections. You have the power to make things uncomfortable for them.

Environmental work complements other forms of social and justice endeavors. For longer than I've been involved in the environmental movement, I've nurtured animals and collaborated closely with animal rescues. Many individuals possess a fervor for vegetarianism, sustainable agriculture, and education, which harmonize beautifully with their environmental values. It's not a solitary pursuit, nor are you obligated to confine yourself to it. You're pursuing what brings you joy - doing good - and that's exceptional, no matter where it leads you.

Looking beyond your day job

Therefore, it's important to look beyond your 9-5 job and explore other ways to make a difference in the environment. This can include volunteering for environmental organizations, participating in community events and campaigns, pursuing environmental education and certifications, starting your own environmental projects or businesses, or engaging in advocacy and policy-making at the local or national level.

By doing so, you can leverage your personal passion and mission for environmental advocacy, and complement and enhance your professional work with a broader perspective and purpose. You can also connect with a diverse and supportive network of environmental leaders, and contribute to a collective vision and action for a sustainable future.

Growing In Environmental Leadership

Becoming an environmental leader helps you fulfill your purpose in life. It improves your well being and gives you a greater sense of meaningful work and intrinsic motivation.

The time has come to take your environmental leadership to the next level. I'm thrilled to announce that my upcoming book, "Every Wild Voice", will be released on January 4, 2024. This work is not just a book – it's a rallying cry, a beacon of hope, and a guide for those committed to making a meaningful difference in our world.

"Every Wild Voice" encapsulates years of my personal experiences, lessons, and perspectives as an environmental leader. It provides a roadmap for becoming a change maker in your own community and beyond, irrespective of your professional or personal background. This book is for anyone who yearns to make a difference, who believes in the power of change, and who isn't afraid to raise their voice for the sake of our planet.

Don't just wait for January 4th to roll around. Preorder your copy of "Every Wild Voice" today. By doing so, you're taking the first step on your journey to becoming an environmental leader. Remember, every wild voice counts – including yours. Let's make a difference, together.

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