Are you part of the solution or part of problem to what currently ails our nation?
Arianna Huffington posed this challenge at two different events this past weekend that I was fortunate enough to attend. On Friday night, I heard her speak at a book party in celebration of her latest thought provoking book, Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream. On Saturday, she spoke via Skype to 370 current and aspiring authors each of whom has something to offer on creating positive change.
Arianna's message was clear and consistent: we need real, grass roots workarounds to our current situation and that effective workarounds are going to be personal, active and highly engaging right where you live. Relying solely on political change is unlikely to produce the meaningful change we need right now.
Clearly, anger abounds across the nation over what has become of our political process, not to mention the ethics and integrity of how we conduct business. Arianna points out that this anger is found not just within the Tea Party, but across virtually all walks of life. While anger seethes across widely different groups, it would seem that most people spend more time pointing fingers and placing blame than they do figuring out what they can actually do about the situation.
Sure, voting someone out of office may seem like active engagement, and if that's where your passion lies, go for it. But, could relying on a different set of politicians and party slogans wind up producing more of the same? Is changing who holds political power and hoping they do something better really an effective workaround? Is changing political office holders just another form of rearranging the deck chairs as the Titanic sinks? Could relying on someone else to do something just be another form of personal abdication?
I heard something in Arianna's messages over the weekend that resonated with themes I have been exploring here over the past many months: is it not time to look at your own self in the mirror and ask what can you do to work around the predicaments in which you might find yourself?
Arianna offered some wonderful examples of people in varying circumstances who have taken on a personal role in creating change. She tells of the guy in the Pacific Northwest who started a website aimed at helping others in predicaments similar to which he found himself -- unemployed but with skills. While trying to find a job of his own, he reasoned he still might be able to use his skills to help others and so launched a site offering his services to those in need. Not only has he been besieged with positive responses, but the idea has taken off in numerous other parts of the country. What a concept -- people helping people even in the time of their own need.
On the other end of the spectrum is the New York based world class interior designer who is donating his services along with some supplies to help brighten homeless shelters and provide a more uplifting environment for those currently in need.
Whether or not you resonate with either of these approaches, consider the fact that in each instance, one individual chose to stop thinking or griping about the problem and got engaged in creating small workarounds that could be acted on personally, locally and right now. That is a central theme in Arianna's message which she is carrying to the nation and around the world: it's time to move from complaining about things to becoming personally involved in creating some part of a solution.
In many ways, this is the message I have been extolling in these articles over the past two years. In the past couple of weeks, I have been arguing that "the universe rewards action, not thought" and that many of us are sitting around avoiding life rather than taking active response-ability for the change we want. In articles going back many months, I have raised issues and offered thoughts on improvement ranging from how some people seem to be trying to change the world through anger (Are You Trying To Change The World Through Anger?) , how we have become a nation of victims (When Did We Become A Nation Of Victims?) and how changing your mindset can change your life (How You Frame The Problem Is The Problem).
These are but a few articles all addressing the same issue: it's time to stop complaining and criticizing everyone else, and get off your "buts" (but I can't, but they won't let me, but someone else is in charge) and start doing something right where you are, right now. You all know that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. This and many other bits of wisdom have become modern day clichés; however it could be that these clichés are really just common sense not so commonly applied.
For those on one side of the political spectrum, Barack Obama promised hope and the prospect of meaningful change. Whether you agreed with the promise or not, it's pretty easy to see the dysfunctional fighting we call a political process. Many people have dropped the ball, hoping that real change would take place through the ballot box. Rather than taking the message of personal response-ability and becoming personally engaged in the change, many of us have relied on hoping someone in Washington would do it for us.
Now is the time for each of us to become more personally engaged and to do what we can to make a difference. You may not have the power or ability to change the whole system; however, you can contribute to making a difference, even if that difference appears to be small and only in your own backyard.
What do you think? What could you do to become more personally engaged? What small step could you take to help move things forward?
I would love to hear from you about your ideas, about what you have done to work around the challenges you are facing, or about what you have seen a friend or neighbor do that has been effective.
Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email and let me know your experience.
Russell Bishop is an Educational Psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant, based in Santa Barbara California. Watch for my new book coming out in January, 2011 Workarounds That Work: How to Conquer Anything That Stands in Your Way at Work. You can find out more about Russell at http://www.lessonsinthekeyoflife.com. Contact Russell by email at: Russell (at) lessonsinthekeyoflife.com
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