Archive for the 'Motivation/creating energy' Category

3 predictable responses to serious problems

1. Deny: There is no problem.

2. Minimize/deflect: There is a problem, but it isn’t serious and will take care of itself, or, it is a different problem than the one you think it is.

3. Give up/resignation: There is a problem, but the problem is too big or it is too late for us to do anything about it.

Given that climate change is arguably the most significant problem facing our planet, it provides an outstanding example of these responses. 

Denial: Climate change doesn’t exist.

Minimize/deflect: Okay, there may be climate change, but it isn’t due to human activity. Or, it is a hoax created by the Chinese.

Give up/resignation: There is climate change, humans have caused or at least exacerbated it, but it is too late to do anything about it.

Then what happens?

Delaying prompt, serious, and sustained international action on climate change will produce increasing levels of drought, flooding, and other weather-related calamities.

Those events will cause untold numbers of refugees both within and between countries, most of whom will be very poor.

Mass migrations of people will intensify the xenophobia, anger, and fear that we are now experiencing and lead to small and large-scale wars.

Scapegoating, publicly-sanctioned discrimination, and other acts that were once unthinkable become common.

The very rich and the otherwise powerful protect and perhaps even expand what is theirs by inexplicably convincing the have nots that it will be in their best interests for the haves to have even more.

All of this is predictable.

What is required are prompt, well-focused actions by individuals and governments to address an impending crisis of unprecedented proportions.

What will you do (and perhaps sacrifice today) to help create a sustainable, stable, and peaceful world for your children and grandchildren?

Our words matter…

As this political season has taught us, the feelings that words evoke are contagious. They can uplift and unite us or create hatred and division.

Likewise, particular words have a unique emotional resonance to each of us because of the meaning they possess in our life experience.

Here a few words that have such resonance for me:

Empower, as in enabling others by delegating authority and responsibility

Voice, as in “expressing our uniqueness” or enabling others to express their uniqueness (see “empower”)

Conversation, as in thinking deeply with others about important topics with an openness to learning

Learn, as in changing what we belief, understand, and/or do

Teach, as in promoting the intellectual, emotional, and physical growth and well being of others

Witness, as in “bearing witness to” the life circumstances of others.

What words most resonate with you?

Everyone has an important story to tell

Everyone has a story to tell, and, given an opportunity, we all want to tell the important stories of our lives— stories that explain who we are and where we came from, stories that prove we existed and mattered, stories about the people and events that affected our lives. And we can all learn from one another’s stories.

There is no day more appropriate to invite that storytelling than today, which is the 5th anniversary of the “National Day of Listening.”

“On the day after Thanksgiving, StoryCorps asks everyone to take a few minutes to record an interview with a loved one,” the web site of the National Day of Listening recommends.

“You can use recording equipment that is readily available to you, such as computers, iPhones, and tape recorders, along with StoryCorps’ free Do It-Yourself Instruction Guide.”

The lesson that everyone has an important story to tell has been reinforced time and again for me as a hospice volunteer who is privileged to videotape hospice patients talking about their lives in conversation with family members.

All that is required of us is to extend the invitation and to listen deeply without interruption to those stories. Once the conversation begins, it’s likely to proceed almost effortlessly, at least in my experience.

Some possible questions include:

  • What elders or events influenced the person you’ve become?
  • How would you like to be remembered?
  • What advice would you like to pass along to your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, or others in your life?

There’s no gift more important and precious that human beings can give one another than our undivided attention and genuine interest in the stories we all have to tell. When that attention promotes storytelling across generations, it is a gift that benefits its recipients for decades to come, particularly when those stories are preserved on video or with voice recordings.

What’s on your mind?

• How have stories and storytelling shaped your life?

• To whom would you like to reach out—an elder, a family member or friend, a veteran or active duty military (a special StoryCorps focus this year), a colleague, or a neighbor, for example—to invite his or her storytelling?

[While this post was first published at Thanksgiving 2012, its content is as important and relevant today as it did then. I have updated the links.]

Doing good rather than doing nothing

“’Always go to the funeral’ means that I have to do the right thing when I really, really don’t feel like it. I have to remind myself of it when I could make some small gesture, but I don’t really have to and I definitely don’t want to. I’m talking about those things that represent only inconvenience to me, but the world to the other guy…. In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn’t been good versus evil. It’s hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.”” —James Surwilo

Sometimes the most important things we can do are the simplest.

But doing those things requires overcoming the very human desire to avoid uncomfortable situations like, as in this example, attending a funeral.

What “doing good” things have you avoided because it is easier not to do them, and how do you overcome that avoidance?

You can’t boss me…

“[T]he latest research shows that terminally ill patients who seek aid in dying aren’t primarily concerned about pain. Those who have actually used these laws have been far more concerned about controlling the way they exit the world than about controlling pain… “It’s almost never about pain,” said Lonny Shavelson, a Berkeley, Calif., physician who specializes in the care of the terminally ill and who began writing prescriptions for lethal doses of medication in June, when California’s law took effect. “It’s about dignity and control.”” – Washington Post

The Washington Post article reminded me of a conversation I had with an elderly woman about the dissatisfaction she felt with her diminished life in a long-term care facility. She knew she would be happy, she said, if she could only have an apartment of her own.

I pointed out her children’s concerns about her safety, and she said she would rather die sooner living in an apartment than live longer in her current residence.

Most of us crave autonomy and respect, and we can tolerate many difficulties when those qualities are present.

We want to feel in control of our lives, to make decisions large and small whose sum total makes up the substance of our days.

I have worked at jobs where all the important decisions were made for me. My circle of influence was very small, and I often found myself feeling frustrated and unhappy.

A child says, “You are not my boss.” A dissatisfied worker says, “Trust my ability to make more decisions about my work.” An elderly woman says, “I would rather die than not be able to do the simple tasks of life that give me purpose and responsibility.”

The desire for self-determination is deeply embedded in the human psyche. People have been willing to give up their lives on its behalf.

What are the implications for leaders and parents of this universal desire for self-determination?

It means that we do everything in our power to give others as much decision-making authority and responsibility as possible and provide the learning and other supports required to enable success.

Do you agree: Is the desire for self-determination universal, and what can we do to meaningfully support individuals of all ages in its realization?

Bullies …

Dennis

If not now, when? If not you, who?” ―Hillel the Elder

Bullies come in all sizes and exist in all occupations. There are playground bullies, cyber bullies, bullies in the workplace, and even bullies who run for president.

Bullies may be famous and powerful, or they may be virtually unknown except to those they bully.

When I was young an adult told me that the best way to deal with bullies was to stand up to them.

Such a stand against bullying, of course, requires courage.

One or more people standing up to him or her—one-to-one or in group settings—is often all that’s required to end the bullying or at least blunt its effects.

Given that courage doesn’t mean acting in the absence of fear, but rather acting in spite of it, the presence of fear is not a sufficient reason to allow bullies to destroy what others have created or want to create.

stop-bull

Sometimes standing up to bullies is no more complicated than that – it literally involves standing and looking the bully in the eye because deep down many bullies are very afraid.

One of my favorite moments in the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was when moderator Lester Holt asked Trump to explain to Clinton why she didn’t have “a presidential look,” given his public statements on that subject. Trump, not surprisingly, tried to change the subject.

At other times standing up to bullies may require clarifying one’s principles and perhaps even rehearsing a confrontation with a trusted colleague or friend.

In 1954 Joseph Welch’s, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” was a turning point in the history of McCarthyism.

Many of us have one or more bullies in our lives.

Sometimes it is no more complicated than thinking deeply about your response to this question: If not now, when? If not you, who?

Being old is like that…

Dennis

“If you continue to work and to absorb the beauty of the world around you, you will find that age does not necessarily mean getting old…. The man who works and is never bored is never old. Work and interest in worthwhile things are the best remedy for age…. —Pablo Casals

A few years ago I was teaching a leadership course in an Asian country to educators with administrative responsibilities.

At the end of our 3-day program two 20-something year-old participants approached me to ask if they could have their picture taken with me.

“We want to show this photo to our students to demonstrate to them that old people can still be useful,” they explained.

I had two immediate thoughts:

“Old person!”

Followed quickly by: I thought this was a part of the world where older people were revered.

Here’s a question: What if you woke up one day to discover that you were old?

Being “old” is sort of like that. You are young and then you’re not. Middle-age seems to be something that occurred between college and this moment and of which you have only a vague recollection.

To some degree that feeling exists throughout life, but it certainly is more pronounced as the decades pile upon one another.

But years aren’t exact equivalents of age, as Pablo Casals reminds us,

So, if on occasion, you fear growing old, which is a common and understandable fear, I encourage you to find work in its broadest sense that interests you and engages both your mind and your heart and to do such work for a lifetime.


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