How do we make things happen? What does it take to create real change in this world? Who gets to leave a legacy behind? These are the questions that I have pondered through many of my Quarter Life Crises. (You can check out more at: Writing of a Quarter Life Crisis.) And I couldn’t quite explain this for myself until the phrase – “it’s easier to lead with a pull than a push” – was mentioned to me earlier this year.
I’ve been an “activist” for a long time. When you read that word, what do you think? Often, it conjures up images of rallies, and large signs; sounds of people yelling from soap boxes and angry chants from mobs taking over the streets. For me, though, it means that I have studied the status quo, compared it to my personal ethics, and realized that I have to do something to make the world more into the ethical place I want to live in. I actively challenge the status quo through my individual behaviour.
There are several ways to change the world; and I’ve been a part of quite a few. I have a confession to make, though: I have never been to a rally. I heard about a lot of them in university, and my interest was peaked a few times, but I was never convinced that it was the right way for me to change the world. I know several activists who regularly attend, participate in, and even organize rallies for change – and I commend them for the hard work they are doing. But, this is not how I am changing the world Mostly this comes from my realization early on that, well, you see…I hate conflict!
This idea – to pull rather than push – resonated with me deeply when I first heard it. It came in response to my question to a group, “What qualities make for a great leader?” The responder pulled it from a quote that “it is easier to lead by pulling rather than pushing others to follow you.” Yes!
I want you to think of a leader that was appointed to their position of supervisor, manager, or something else along the lines. Perhaps there was no other qualified person around, or they had the potential but lacked the training of how to lead. Do they encourage, motivate or pull their employees or followers to get the work done? Or, instead, do they demand, instruct, or push their employees to do what they say? I know which type of leader I would much rather follow. I follow the leaders that lead by example, encourage me when I’m not quite sure what to do, or motivate me to pull myself up to their level. I prefer leaders who pull me rather than push me.
When I apply this thought to my own life, and my biggest commitment to a cause, I think of my fiancé and my vegan lifestyle. My fiancé and I were friends for years before we started dating. A few months into the new relationship, a mutual friend of ours commented to me that she never imagined us together because I was a very opinionated vegan and my fiancé – at that time – loved eating meat. I love remembering this impression of our lives, and it serves as a benchmark for how much we have influenced one another. I have never even asked my fiancé to stop eating meat or consuming animal products; instead, I cooked many of our early meals and shared a cookbook with him that teaches him easy substitutes and – as he remarks – inspires him to be more creative. When he first asked if he could bring a non-vegan treat into our home, I was a bit taken aback – because it was his house, too – and so much more flattered that he cared that much about my values to ask permission. Soon enough, he had reduced his consumption of animal products even outside of our house to the point where he is now a pescatarian, but not for the same reasons I am. How did this happen? Well, I calmly shared my reasons for making this change to my lifestyle, and he was inspired by some of the minor reasons I provided. My fiancé is also a very compassionate, respectful, and open-minded individual. Those were three of the values that led me to choosing a plant-based diet and vegan lifestyle. Through his acceptance and respect of my choices, I have become even more compassionate towards people that don’t always agree with my choices, and he has illustrated how you don’t have to be extremely passionate about something (such as the end of factory farming) to contribute to its success.
What about your activism? What inspired you to be a part a movement you care about, such as veganism, the end of poverty or feminism? How do you show up as an activist leader? Do you pull people into your cause, or push them? Are you getting frustrated with the level of engagement? If so, I would love to talk! Contact me below to set up a free Activist-Engagement Session.