12/21/2012 09:52 am ET Updated Feb 20, 2013

The World Has Ended, As We Know It - NOW WHAT?

If you are reading this that means we are still here, and yet the old world has faded away and the remnants that are left are dysfunctional. We are at the dawn of a new era. A dear friend of mine put it beautifully when he said, "The past has relinquished its hold on our future."

So what are we going to do now? What am I going to do? What are you going to do? The time for hopelessness and helplessness is over. The future depends on us -- all of us working together to transform our civilization from the painful, unnatural, conflict-filled, destructive world it has been for centuries, into the loving, inclusive, sustainable, flourishing civilization it can be. It is time for us to put our highest aspirations to work to co-create a brave new world. We are the pioneers, explorers, and the inventors of our time. Our journey is like no others before us, for there are no blueprints, maps, or precedents for us to follow. There are no experts, no great leaders, no hero's to save us -- there is just us! The old days of looking for someone outside ourselves to save us is over. It is time for us to look within to discover and unleash our individual and collective power to co-create a beautiful world.

Are we capable of this daunting task? I believe we can achieve our greatest hopes and dreams. Reflect on a time in your life when you felt free; you felt loved; when your spirit soared and your joy overflowed. Remember that moment when your creativity ran wild and you were filled with hopes and dreams for your future. It may have been a moment in your youth when you felt anything is possible. It may have been that day, that moment when you fell in love or maybe that magical day that you just took a walk in the park and flirted with butterflies. I believe these joyful, wondrous moments give us a glimpse into our potential.

The real question is do we have the courage to dream and envision a brave new world? If we tap into our highest aspirations of the world we want to live in -- what would it look and feel like? When I pose these questions people often get overwhelmed - changing the world is a daunting task. But what if we followed the late, great tennis player Arthur Ashe advises -- Start where you are!

If we ask ourselves, What is my greatest, grandest vision for my life? What would my ideal world look and feel like...:
• For my family?
• For my community?
• For the organization I belong to?
• How would I be using my talents and gifts?

What is the one action, the most powerful thing I can do today, the first day of the new world, to advance my vision of my ideal world for the benefit everyone I care about.

Opportunities today are endless. How amazing it would be if we could see our dreams as possibilities and our possibilities as pathways to creating our brave new wonderful world?
It is time to revisit our definition of success. If we asked ourselves "What matters to me most in life?" and designed our lives from that perspective -- what would our world be like? David Cooperrider, the co-founder of Appreciative Inquiry asked me a very interesting question -- What would you dare to try if you knew you would succeed?

I heard a wonderful story that was attributed to a Hoopoe Indian elder. The Hoopoes and many indigenous peoples across the globe have "tribal stories" and metaphors to help explain our times, some call our era "the Quickening," referring to the pace and depth of change we are all experiencing. The metaphor this Hoopoe elder used is a river moving swiftly down a mountain and we are swept up into the current. Many of us panic and try to hold on to the side of the bank, but by holding on we are bruised and battered by the current and debris in the river. However, when we learn to let go and move with the natural flow of the river, we float buoyantly along, discovering new and wondrous sights, sounds and experiences. Our vision and values become our guide to an otherwise uncharted frontier. They show us the way to the future.

Our greatest obstacle is our self. When we find the courage to overcome our fears and envision a positive future, we liberate ourselves to soar. We have been taught to doubt and limit ourselves and to question the potential of others. We give the cynics and the pessimist of our world too much of a platform to tear down our hopes and dreams. There will always be cynics and pessimist. The danger comes when cynicism becomes the norm. In recent years our societies have come very close to that collective consciousness. Pessimism is the greatest obstacle to creating our dreams. It is often clothed in what people call "realistic" or "practical". Have you ever had a great idea you were excited about and when you shared it with a friend, a "boss" or a family member, they burst your enthusiasm with a series of: "Yeah Buts"-- ""Yeah but that's not realistic", "Yeah but, where are you going to get the resources?"or "Yeah but will they will never let you do it..." By the time they finish with their "yeah buts" you are filled with doubts, your energy has waned and you feel defeated. It is important to dream big and it is equally important to surround yourself with people who will support your dreams no matter how big your dream is or how often you change it. Remember this powerful quote by Helen Keller, a blind, deaf, author, teacher and self proclaimed political activist:

"Believe, no pessimist ever discovered the secrets
of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land,
or opened a new heaven to the human spirit".

Overcoming obstacles is a part of the process of achieving our dreams -- it is a critical part. The greater our purpose the greater our apprehension -- that is exactly when we know we are dreaming big, bold and audacious enough. Fear will always raise its ugly head; our job is to wrestle it to the ground, moment by moment. Once we realize that that obstacles, setbacks and false starts are all a part of the journey, we can approach our dreams without fear, shame or guilt. When we learn a new sport, a new dance, or rehearse a play, we rarely get it right the first time. We know it is a learning process so we keep tying until we get it right. How we feel about our "failures" is what really matters. Although society has conditioned us to fear only we can free ourself from fear.

I use to think that the issues in our world are of such enormous magnitude that only the most optimistic and visionary leaders could even dream of tackling them. Issues like grinding poverty, hate, prejudice, environmental degradation and pervasive conflicts. But the "pockets of hope" that I have witnessed and written about, have taught me a great deal about what is possible. One young man in a Puerto Rico community in Chicago expressed his view of the future.

" There are all of these pockets of hope
developing all over the world. Pretty soon
there will be so many pockets of hope,
that there will no longer be pockets
it will just be"

Our time requires we find the courage to come together and use our collective strengths, perspectives, talents and experiences to create the world we desire.

I believe in the power of stories and this fable tells the story about a time when the survivors of the great flood came together and made a plan to renew civilization. They decided to separate into four groups and set out in four directions to rediscover the world. The goal was for each group to bring their rich discoveries back for the benefit of all. One group went east, another west, one group went north and the other south. The group that traveled north learned to be highly efficient, resourceful, organized, highly analytical and conservative -- the practical side of life. They developed the skills and perspectives they needed to navigate through their bitter cold environment and limited resources. Those who went east discovered the challenges and beauty of the dramatic topography, from the enormous mountain ranges to the vast deserts in the east. They learned to work in sync with the ominous topography that overshadowed them, which invoked the mystical side of life. The group that went west faced seemingly endless bodies of water. They learned courage, perseverance and independence for they had to navigate through the unpredictable oceans with no assurance they would find land on the other side. The group that went south developed the art of celebration, dance and song. Family and community became the center of their life. Theirs was a world of vast resources, beauty and warmth. All of these discoveries, perspectives and skills were gifts that was meant to benefit the evryone when they reunited -- but something went horribly wrong.

As time went by, each group forgot that their mission was to explore their part of the world to bring their beautiful discoveries and the learning's back for the good of the whole community. Each group began to form their separate culture and norms. Soon their norms became their beliefs, and their beliefs became their truth. They began to judge the other groups, and soon their judgments turned into hate and hate solidified their separation from one another. Eventually they began to venture out into the other groups territories. They fought and killed one another for their version of the truth; each group believing their truth was the truth. The community mission was long forgotten and prejudice, war and conflict became the way of life.

We have spent thousands of years learning to separate ourselves from one another and from our planet. We are only now beginning to understand that we are deeply and inextricably connected, interdependent and part of a greater whole. I am beginning to understand that the way out of my problems is the same way out of yours. I was talking with my dear friend Peter Senge and he made a statement that rings true "start anywhere and you will end up everywhere" - everything and everyone is connected on a deep level. The ripple effect our actions: how we treat people; our economic decisions; how we use energy; what we spew into the air and water; are more visible, occurs quicker, and a has greater impact than ever before. What happens in Newtown, London, Damascus, Tehran, Gaza, Paris, Mumbai, Detroit, or Rio de Janeiro or anywhere in our world fundamentally affects all of us.

"A human being is a part of a whole, called by us the universe,
apart limited in time and space.
He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest,
a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.

This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires
and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.

Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison
by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures
and the whole of nature in its beauty."

Albert Einstein

The good news is hope is starting to emerge, person by person, in groups and communities around the world. A shift in consciousness is rippling across our world is creating new visions and new archetypes of how we can live, learn and prosper together - and it is unstoppable! Unprecedented numbers of people are banning together to address the global issues and problems with people in communities they have never met; issues like grinding poverty, AIDS, clean water, education. The rapidly evolving social networking technology has become a powerful tool for social, environmental and political transformation. This culture of hope and courage is most evident in our young people. They are fundamentally different than past generations. Technology has given them access to a plethora of information, the opportunity to learn and grow unfiltered and unencumbered by gatekeepers and boundaries. They have the ability to connect and communicate with people around the world numerous times in a day. They understand the power of connections and they are connecting with likeminded people, making change happen. They are not seeking or following the norm, they are creating it. They share a "can do" attitude and are not afraid to take risk. Most important they are hopeful DreamMakers.

In the mist of all the chaos conflict and confusion in our world, there is a rapidly growing mindset that seems to be rooted in transcendent positive values that most people treasure regardless of culture, religion or circumstance -- love, compassion, a sense of belonging, and the opportunity to learn and grow. People want to contribute their gifts towards things that matter to them most. There seems to be a growing desire or need to live with a sense of purpose - to be deliberate about how we shape and live in our communities, our organizations and our institutions. We are developing whole new level of accountability and responsibility.

I often think of the caterpillar as it goes through its journey to become a butterfly. It serves as a useful metaphor for me during these times. Before it goes through its transformation, the butterfly lives in a cocoon of it's own making. Things must look very scary to the caterpillar - its world is dark, deteriorating, messy, ugly and even life threatening. Soon, however, a butterfly emerges, but only when the caterpillar has learned to release itself from what it was, so it can become what it is meant to be. When I walk through a field in the springtime I see some cocoons that have turned into coffins, but mostly I see beautiful, colorful, graceful butterflies enjoying the next stage of their lives.

My dream is that we discover and release the phenomenal power that lies within each of us, and individually and collectively put our creative energy to work to develop the lives, families, organizations, communities and the world we desire. If we choose to use this powerful force, we can make expediential leaps in the development of humankind. We have the means to become powerful DreamMakers and leave a beautiful legacy for our children, our grandchildren and future generations. This is our right and our responsibility. It is the beginning of a brand new world - What it becomes is up to us.