Everyone has different ideas about what can create the biggest change for a positive environmental impact. Some people see politics as the ultimate race for change; some see carbon sequestration or reforestation as their dream profession; and for some, family planning is the pinnacle of vocational pursuits for positive planetary impact. We can fix our eyes on that one mission and we can feel oppressed if we are not in that field.
Personally, I recognize that politics is an extremely important lever for change and an area where it could probably make a big positive difference to energy systems or animal welfare. However, I did not go to law school and am so out of my element in that field. The time it would take me to become sufficiently trained to influence politics as a profession is time the world does not have. Also, I don’t know if practicing law would bring me joy or if I would be good at it.
As Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says in “The Joyful Vegan” (highly recommended), “You will be more effective if the work or advocacy you do comes from a place that is truthful, authentic, and joyful.” My personal journey has been a process of understanding and acting on my “Venn Purpose Diagram” to find that place. I found the Venn Purpose Diagram exercise, commonly found online in self-help articles, to be extremely helpful in planning my career.
The Venn Purpose Diagram consists of four concentric circles: What I love; what are my strengths; what the world needs; and what they can pay me. The theory (which I buy) is that finding the confluence of these circles is where you personally can be most effective.
This is what my Venn diagram looks like:
With this diagram in mind, I was able to propose a new program at Microsoft that was a convergence of these aspects. The program involves working directly with local groups in the communities where Microsoft hosts data centers and supporting locally relevant sustainability projects in carbon, water, waste and ecosystem focus areas. Working directly with people in communities across Microsoft’s global data center footprint, I bring organizations together to develop locally relevant sustainability programs and support strong community leadership. From urban forest programs to community solar installations and plastic recovery infrastructure, these varied programs aim to support partnership building, sustainability workforce development, volunteer support, community engagement, addressing equity and environmental justice, incorporating education and contributing to Microsoft’s corporate and data center. sustainability focus areas.
In this role, I get to spend my time doing what I love, what I’m doing, and what the world needs, and get paid for it. Like everyone else, I sometimes think “What if?” and wondering about other impacts it could have or other areas of focus where it could make a bigger difference. But when I go back to my Venn Diagram, I take comfort in knowing that the best way to avoid burnout and be my most effective and influential self is to come from a place of authenticity.
It is unrealistic to think that everyone can be exactly in the center of your Venn Diagram. But understanding the different components and doing the exercise can certainly help with choice paralysis, as well as improve feelings of discouragement about not being in the role you’ve felt has the most positive impact, because it’s personal based on your individual traits. . ! And for action at any point in the journey, people can always contribute to those established areas through volunteerism, activism, or financial contributions.