Last month, we talked about how to articulate and express your values as a way to engage in political discussions with family. While discussing new or changing values with your family can often be a source of conflict, it can also be an opportunity to explore and clarify what is important to you. Being home over the holidays creates space where the worldview of your childhood meets everything new that you’ve learned at school. That tension can be stressful, but also helpful.
The end of the year is the perfect time to reflect on that tension and really understand how your views have changed, and which old values you actually want to keep. But what comes after that process? How you might act on your values in the new year?
Put your values into daily life. It’s not always easy to know how to do this, but it often happens in very small ways. It usually starts with just paying attention to how you speak to others. For example, if LGBTQ rights are important to you, start checking your language for homophobic or transphobic terms and quit using them, and start asking new people you meet what their preferred pronouns are.
Make a donation to a cause that matters to you. This can be a tough one, especially for college students on a budget. But a donation doesn’t have to be big to make an impact. Giving even $1 makes a difference because it is an expression of support – it lets the organization know that you believe in their work and you are behind them.
Volunteer your time. This can be too big a time commitment for many, especially those who work and go to school full time. But if one of your classes requires community service or volunteer hours, it can be a great opportunity. Rather than just getting the requirement over with, use it as a chance to learn more about an issue that interests you, or to contribute to a movement you feel strongly about.
Learn more. Odds are, you’ll have at least a few essays and research papers to do in the spring semester. Can you use any of them to further explore an issue that is important to you? Any time you have the opportunity to choose your own topic for an assignment, think about how you can use that project to really focus on something that interests you. It’s a way to keep learning about and enacting your values, and hopefully it will make your homework that much more interesting and engaging.
Get involved on campus. Most schools hold some sort of engagement fair at the start of each semester where students can learn about the many student clubs and organizations that are active on campus. If you’ve skipped this in previous semesters, consider attending the next one when you get back after winter break. You might find a student group that focuses on a cause or movement that really matters to you, and get the chance to both take action on your values and meet like-minded people.
Talk about it. Talk to your friends and classmates about how your values are changing, and how you might be acting on them. Sharing these changes can help you better understand them for yourself, find common ground with others, and receive support when things feel confusing.
Share what you’ve learned. Sharing posts on social media isn’t activism in and of itself. But it can be a really accessible first step for people who haven’t really been engaged in their communities before. So go ahead and start small; share an article that you found meaningful. After that, maybe strike up an in-person conversation with a friend or classmate.
How ever your choose to act on your values, remember that you get to go at your own pace. You never have to feel ashamed about where you are in your process of learning or growing or getting engaged.
This website is funded by the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health through Grant Number #5UF2CE002430-02 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).