How often do you talk about something, get all fired up and passionate and then do nothing? I bet if you are like most, your chatter meter is up high. In our intellectual and communication driven world it is easy to get caught up in the talk so much that we lose time taking the action. In fact some of you might even say reading this blog post is a distraction from action. Well, it will be if you are someone already taking action. I presume since you are reading you are still on the fence and mustering up motivation.
I know because I am like you. I talk a lot. I confess, with all intentions of being fully open and authentic, that I talk a lot. Some would say I rant, others might say I waffle. Then there are people who say I inspire, motivate and encourage. So upon reflection my talk sometimes does work and other times does not. Perhaps the first is my own inner critic and ego in battle with my higher self. Luckily that wiser more knowing part of me usually wins out.
The key here is to know when your talk is just that, all talk, hot air and leading to nowhere.
I write this post in the context of great changes happening around the world. Whether climatic, social or political the world is experiencing a shift. For many of us we have to go to history books to read about events of such life altering significance. I am not here to comment on these events. I will leave such dialogue to those on the ground, in the midst and fully briefed on such events. Instead I would like to comment on how we as a community respond to and handle our reactions.
So back to the fence.
Let’s start with how you got here. On a daily basis we are bombarded with information. Depending on which sources you tune into, you can read, listen, watch story after story about events. Some happen in real time, some are recounted. Either way we choose what we open our selves up to and how much we expose our self to.
In this context think about what this is like. You are one human being with a certain limited physical capacity. Your capacity is limited by your self primarily and then by other circumstances. This is you on your own. When you consider other parts of your being you may have greater capacity if you develop it.
Now take you on your own and add in others. You have an immediate connection with people such as your family, friends, work colleagues, neighbours, people in your community. Then there are people you become aware about but don’t know. Just open the newspaper or turn on the TV. There in front of you are millions of other people.
Go up another level and factor in social media, online communities, workplaces and related networks, other organizations.
In all cases you connect to a person and at some level exchange energetically. You may exchange equally or one sided. Your decision to tune into this person and connect brings you together. Now for some of us it is easy to stay objective, maintain our boundaries, not let the other affect us. And for others we end up captured, sucked in, almost taken hostage by the story and drama.
As we move from being objective we begin to experience events on a personal level.
It is in this context of being drawn into the happenings around us that we get perspective. When we choose to ignore or stay out of touch then of course we can remain ignorant of what is happening. Then on the other hand we can get too caught up and be overwhelmed, lost and drained. Either outcome is a disservice to our selves and community.
There is a place in the middle. This is actually far different from being the fence. Rather than being indecisive we are decisive about how far we go into a situation, connect, immerse ourselves in other people’s worlds.
I remember teaching communication skills for several years. The program I taught was not my own content but written by an expert in the field. The key take away from the material was this: to truly understand and connect to a person in a conversation you need to ‘get into the other person’s world’. This to me means 100% focus on the other person’s experience, verbal and non verbal signals and content. Following on from this logic you can then add in the wisdom of Norman Vincent Peale. Remember what he said in 'How to Win Friends and Influence People'? To get people to like you focus on the other person before your self. Talk about them. Evolve this angle further to pick up on the wisdom of Steven Covey in his classic book 'Seven Habits of Highly Effective People' and you get the famous law “Seek first to understand before being understood.”
Now take all these learning points and step back for a moment. What are we being told to do? Put aside our own needs and think about others. Isn’t this a basic tenet of humanity. On a large scale it means caring for others, thinking about our neighbours etc.
How does this relationship building relate to our need to take action?
In the context of great changes happening in the world now and likely in the future it is important that we help rather than hinder. This means simply stepping up our efforts to follow through on what we say we want to see changed in the world. Such follow through can be individual or collective. The commitment to what you do will depend entirely on you though.
People are people
And this is the crux of what I want to say. Only you know how much you can handle right now and how much you can give. We are all different in this sense. Each of us has up to this point in time experienced different life journeys, gained different knowledge, learned different skills, reinforced different values. Yet even though we are all so uniquely different we are so similar. We share our humanity.
What I hate to see though is how it takes major disasters or political upheaval for some of us to get it. Why can’t we just start today by feeling the humanity of the person next door or the man serving you your coffee at the local shop. There are so many ways to relate.
Ready, willing and able?
Another point that is important to note is that not all of us are capable or ready to lead change, take action at a level required. However we all can do something. It is again up to you to figure out what it is that you CAN do, not focus so much on what you can’t.
Here’s the rub. For many of us life is so much easier if we skim and pass over what is happening. It is easy for many to look the other way when you walk past a homeless person or hang up the phone after another charity calls asking for help. Perhaps it’s the news that can begin to be so overwhelming that it’s easier to block bits out than pay attention. Maybe it’s more a matter of ‘not in my backyard’ syndrome in that we figure someone else will sort the mess out or take care of the problems.
But will they? Will you see people taking care of the problems?
Not unless they care. Not unless they follow some of those rules above – ie get into the other person’s world by listening and seeking to understand. What if no one did this? What if no one bothered, could care less? It might be a pretty messed up place.
So let’s say you do care, and you are bothered. Now what?
This is where it gets tricky. This is where the talk starts. But what about the action?
Maybe this is the stuck part. Taking action when you are emotionally affected by a situation makes it tricky. The key here is to step back and get balanced. I am not saying be objective, just balanced. Unlike the advice above I actually believe you need to balance between how much you look after your self and how much you look after others. For if you do not look after self then you can not look after others. If you give too much of you away there will be no you left. We want you to be left.
In a Catch 22 kind of way I want to help you help yourself so you can help others. Does this make sense?
Balance your action
Well the key is balance in the flow of your energy and attention. To do this let’s play the 20 question game of impassioned action. Consider a situation that you are feeling strong about enough to get on your soap box. Then ask your self these questions:
- What am I being drawn into, caring about, getting worked up about?
- What happens inside of me as I connect into and tune into this situation?
- How do I feel about feeling this way? Is it constructive? Destructive? Supportive? Draining?
- What do I want to see change or happen?
- How much can I influence this change or happening?
- What is realistic? What is ideal?
- Working with the realistic what one thing can I do NOW?
- Working with the ideal how can the one thing I do NOW move me towards this ideal?
- How much capacity do I have to do this one thing?
- How much ability do I have to do this one thing?
- Given this capacity and ability can I do this one thing?
- If yes then what’s stopping me?
- If no then who can I influence to do this one thing and how do I start?
- If I do nothing how will I feel?
- If I do nothing now then what?
- If others do nothing then how will I feel?
- If others do nothing now then what?
- Given all the above what can and will I do right now?
- If I do this right now then what will I do next?
- So what are you waiting for? The time is now!
You can apply this series of questions to any situation-no matter the scale, significance. In fact it is best to remove the judgment and consider all situations relative to your view of the world. Be careful about inviting other people’s opinions and viewpoints before you are ready. Holding your self strong from the core when deciding what action you will take anchors the energy within you. Doing something because you think you should or someone else says so lessens the impact.
I do believe that there is no more time to make excuses. The time is now to take action, no matter what the scale. Reflective, considered and heartfelt action will make the difference. Be balanced at all time and you will grow in confidence, progress towards a better outcome for all.
Maybe, just maybe, you will no longer be a fence sitter but a person walking a balanced yet forward moving path of positive change.