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If there is a single word that is overused these days, it is awareness.
I am just as guilty as the next person of paying a significant amount of lip service in the name of “raising awareness.”
And I will concede that raising awareness is an excellent start no matter what the cause is. From the dangers of alcohol use to global warming to political issues, and so on—raising awareness is great as a first step.
The issue is that often we do not think past our goal of raising awareness. There is no plan for what happens next.
So, we’ve made people aware that an issue exists. What tangible and realistic steps can they take now? What can someone actually do with the knowledge they have gained to exact change in a way that feels good to them?
The challenge is you can’t offer one-size-fits-all solutions to the issue. These issues and the way people will address them are unique to each individual. As such, resolutions must also be able to adapt to them and their needs.
Quite a conundrum, right?
I know I can’t offer solutions for every problem that faces society today, but I can do my best to not just raise awareness but also provide steps to take action for the causes I am most passionate about.
In my case, that is talking about alcohol and just how truly problematic it has become in our culture. I don’t want people to just know that it is a danger when it comes to our physical health, our careers, relationships, parenting, productivity, mental health, and so on. I want people to have that realization and wonder, “What can I do to change that? What steps can I take to change the role alcohol plays in my life?” and for them to have options so they can take action in the way that works best for them at that point in time.
Raising awareness without providing multiple options for taking action is just wasted time and energy. We take that knowledge and awareness and we file it away in the recesses of our brain. It merely becomes something we can pull out and talk about when the subject comes up. In fact, we feel almost righteous that we’ve “done our research” and we can talk about the problem.
We all know talk is cheap. You can talk about pollution but walk right past the trash on the ground. Action is where change happens. Yet we’re loathsome to put the work in to give people options to become part of the solution.
It’s funny because I was reactionary when I first started my journey of raising awareness around alcohol. My motivation was simply to change the role alcohol played in my life. I wanted it to be small and insignificant. So I dove into over a year of research on not just alcohol, but neuroscience, brain chemistry, human behavior, mindset, and so much more. That turned into a book I offered free to whomever wanted to download it. Someone mentioned that I should publish it, so I did! Someone mentioned an audiobook, so I recorded one! Each suggestion that came my way—from the people who needed it—I acted on and created all these tools to help others.
Some worked, some didn’t, but even now—almost seven years later—I’m still listening to those voices saying, “This is what I need to even consider taking action.”
I could have written a book and left it at that. Sure, some people would read it and maybe that would be enough for them. Most likely, if I didn’t offer help beyond the book, it would end up serving as a coaster on someone’s table for the very beverages I’m trying to help them gain control of. I mean, at least they are now more aware of what alcohol is doing to them.
That will never be enough for me in my passion, and it shouldn’t be enough for you in yours. We all have something we are passionate about and on which we could be an expert. Yet if we don’t take that passion—that awareness we’re trying to get other people to act on—then nothing ever happens.
Moving from awareness to action begins by doing nothing. The first step is to raise awareness. Then, sit back and listen. What stood out to people? What tools are they asking for in order to take the next step? How can you help them?
Often, the idea of spearheading action can seem overwhelming, but the truth is that once we share our passion with others, the next logical steps will often reveal themselves. Not only that, but the right people will also reveal themselves. We all have so much incredible power to not just raise awareness but to also be the catalyst for action. Take your passion, find your people, and you’ll be amazed at what can happen.
I began with a completely amateur PDF that contained all my research and all of my knowledge. I just wanted people to know. When that stopped being enough, and I wanted people to be able to change, The Alcohol Experiment was born. Over 250,000 people have changed their relationship with alcohol by taking part in this completely free 30-day break from alcohol.
Yes, it raises awareness but it also meets people where they are in their journey and gives them tools and resources to take action.
I don’t know what step will come next, but I can promise you one thing, I’m listening and I’m ready. Can you say the same?