Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Forming an Advocacy Habit

I have a confession to make. When I woke up this morning I thought to myself “yeah, I should go vote in the DC Primary today, but I don’t really want to. It’s not an important election and I’m really busy.” In my defense, there are only a few contested races for positions that I, frankly, know little about. It just doesn’t feel like a good use of time. Anyone else feel that way occasionally?

See, even the Advocacy Guru has those days when she’s not all about civic participation and democracy. That said, though, I will go vote, mainly because I like the little “I Voted” stickers. OK, that’s not the only reason. In fact, I do make myself participate in these “they don’t really matter” elections because I think they are essential to forming a positive advocacy habit. What’s an advocacy habit? I’m glad you asked.

If you think about it, many of the things that are good for our health, our family and our community aren’t necessarily things that many of us just love to do everyday. Think exercise. Or flossing. Or putting money into a 401K instead of a new sports car (maybe that’s just me). Yet we do these things because we know they’re beneficial (umm, except maybe the exercising…) -- and the tool we use to get ourselves to do these things is the process of forming habits.

When you form an advocacy habit you don’t have to think about whether you’ll vote or send a letter to an elected official or attend a townhall meeting. You just do it. Over time, the benefits of “just doing it” compound. You may be asked to make a statement at a local hearing. Your state and federal legislators reach out to ask your opinion. You may even be asked to run for office. In short, your decision to “just do some advocacy” today will reap amazing benefits for the future by giving you the power to influence the issues you care most passionately about.

So how do you form an advocacy habit? Just follow these three simple steps:

Step One -- Commitment: Say it loud and say it proud “I will form an advocacy habit.” Really, I mean it. E-mail your spouse, post a blog entry, call your friends or reach out to your local or national association and tell them that are forming an advocacy habit. Add a comment on your Facebook page, drop me an e-mail or post a notice on our social networking site. Studies show that a public commitment is essential to forming any good (or eliminating any bad) habit.

Step Two -- Take Daily Action: Yes, that’s right. I said daily. To successful form a new habit you’ll need to keep it “top of mind” every day for several weeks. But I don’t mean you should contact your elected officials every day or vote more than the appropriate number of times during an election (just once, for anyone doing the math on that). Just find 5, 10 or 15 minutes everyday that you can use to feed that habit.

Step #3 – Persistence: This is the one I have trouble with, especially when it comes to the aforementioned exercising. I am really good at my habit forming efforts for about a week and then, well, I slack off. I’m not the only one with this problem, am I?

So, to help my tipsheet readers with their advocacy habits, I’m offering two FREE options for getting a daily “nudge” about advocacy:

An e-mail autoresponder program. All you need to do is send an e-mail to habit@advocacyguru.com and I will send you a new advocacy habit forming activity EVERY DAY through the end of September (the first one starts today!).

Or you can follow me on Twitter (User ID: AdvocacyGuru). I’ll be sending out daily “tweets.”

That should give you plenty of time to get on the advocacy bandwagon. Each tip is short (one or two sentences) and designed to be completed in no more than 15 minutes.

Through commitment, daily action and persistence in no time you’ll be an advocacy superstar. In fact, you might get to the point where you’re jonesing for some advocacy whenever you’re away from the democratic process.

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