Book Review: The Lifelong Activist by Hillary Rettig (2006)

December 14th, 2006 6:00 pm by Kelly Garbato

Wow, has it been a month already?

Awhile back, you may remember, Lantern Books sent me my very first package of swag, which consisted of Dr. Michael Greger’s newest book, Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching, as well as Hillary Rettig’s recent release, The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way.

After a long delay, here’s my Amazon review of The Lifelong Activist.

And then ‘scuse me while I go get moving on Bird Flu – which, I might add, is available in full online (!). How cool is that?

The Lifelong Activist by Hillary Rettig

Combat burnout and flex your activist muscles

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(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review at the publisher’s invitation.)

As a fellow activist, author Hillary Rettig knows how grinding and stressful activism can be; those who devote their time and energy (indeed, much of their lives) to correcting the many injustices in the world are subject to stress, exhaustion, and even burnout. Luckily, Ms. Rettig – who is or has been active in a number of progressive issues, including feminism, labor, animal rights, and vegetarianism – is also a business coach. In THE LIFELONG ACTIVIST, she shares some of her insight with fellow activists and do-gooders.

Ms. Rettig aims to help the you, the reader, maximize your effectiveness in your advocacy endeavors (whether in a volunteer or work capacity) by tackling five life areas: your mission, your time, your fears, your relationship with yourself, and your relationship with others. The author takes the approach that you can have a fun, successful, and lengthy activist career – but only if you live a balanced life. While your activism can (indeed, should!) be one aspect of your life that defines you, by no means should it dominate your life. In order to avoid burnout, you must also nurture yourself and your relationships.

In order to help readers strike the appropriate balance – which, it should be noted, differs from person to person – Ms. Rettig leads you through a series of activities to help you clarify and delineate your goals, priorities, and missions. Oftentimes, sacrifices and compromises must be made between these; for example, many activists are torn between material wants and needs and their advocacy work. Ms. Rettig assures us that occasionally choosing to meet one’s own wants and needs over those of “the movement” doesn’t make us bad activists; rather, by nurturing ourselves, we’re also nurturing our creativity, our motivation, and our capacity to effect change – all of which will serve our activism well in the long run. Ms. Rettig also emphasizes the need to focus on one specific cause or area of activism, so that we can develop our talents and actually see the outcomes of our hard work.

Additionally, it’s important to recognize and embrace our unique talents. By fostering that which we delight in and excel at, activism becomes less of a chore and more of a joy. For instance, if you loathe public speaking, then representing your organization at a local conference is not the job for you – no matter how much your colleagues press you. Offer instead to help cater the event (if you love cooking) or design the campaign materials (if you’re the artsy type). Forcing yourself to take on jobs that you hate will only lead to burnout, especially if it’s a constant occurrence.

Of course, this is only a small sampling of the advice offered up in THE LIFELONG ACTIVIST. Among other things, you’ll also learn how to: budget your time and money; combat perfectionism, negativism, and hypersensitivity; mentor and be mentored; self-actualize; deal with guilt and anxiety; delegate; and set boundaries. If you’re feeling stressed out or anxious in your role as an activist, advocate, or agitator, there’s plenty of helpful information to be had in THE LIFELONG ACTIVIST.

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This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined.

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3 Responses to “Book Review: The Lifelong Activist by Hillary Rettig (2006)”

  1. easyVegan.info » Blog Archive » One for the “Animal rights activists don’t care about people!” crowd. Says:

    […] blog, I learned that author/activist Hillary Rettig – whose book, The Lifelong Activist, I had the pleasure of reviewing a few years back – donated a kidney, unbidden, to a complete […]

  2. Smite Me! [.net] » Blog Archive » One for the “Animal rights activists don’t care about people!” crowd. Says:

    […] blog, I learned that author/activist Hillary Rettig – whose book, The Lifelong Activist, I had the pleasure of reviewing a few years back – donated a kidney, unbidden, to a complete […]

  3. Sarah Says:

    Fantastic! I have been looking for something like this for quite some time. It’s so easy to get caught up in the frustration and anxiety when you become aware of the horrific state of the planet. This really helps put everything into perspective and presents a productive approach.

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