In the wake of some of the recent events in our country and our world, I’ve been finding it challenging to focus on the good stuff, which is something I’ve been both teaching and practicing in my life over the past almost two decades. As I’ve been looking at this more deeply, I realize that my own commitment is not necessarily to “be positive,” it’s actually to be a force for good in the world, regardless of the circumstances.
When we’re facing challenges which are global, national, or right in our own company or family, it’s important for us to ask ourselves “who do I want to be in the face of these circumstances?” Being a force for good doesn’t mean we have to be happy all the time, think what’s happening is wonderful, or even to find the silver lining in the difficulty, it’s more about making a commitment to ourselves and to those around us that we’re going to be part of the solution, not simply comment on or add to the problems themselves.
When the issues we’re facing are geo-political, societal, and/or have to do with natural disasters (as has been the case in recent weeks), it can often seem overwhelming to me and many of us. However, how we show up, communicate, and respond to what’s happening around us in the world and in our direct environment, can have a significant and positive impact when we make a commitment to being a force for good.
Here are a few things we can do or think about in this regard right now:
1) Look for ways you can help. The amazing Fred Rogers, one of my childhood heroes, famously said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.” He’s right and I always try to remember this myself. In addition to looking for the helpers (and appreciating and honoring them), we can all be helpers in both big and small ways. Whether we donate money, make phone calls, or simply reach out and share our good thoughts and prayers, there are always ways to help. And, being of service not only helps those we assist directly, it’s a way to act as a force for good, not matter what the situation may be.
2) Be pro-active with your complaints. There are two types of complaints – idle complaints (when we whine and moan about how bad things are) and pro-active complaints (when we take issue with something and pro-actively bring it to the attention of those who can potentially do something about it). A great example of this here in our country is contacting our elected representatives – at the national, state, and local level. Whether we voted for them or not, they work for us. And, picking up the phone, writing a letter, sending an email, or posting on social media directly to one of our elected representatives and letting them know how we feel about something specific is a way we can influence change and be pro-active with our complaints. Sitting around and talking about how awful something is, which we all do and is easy to do, doesn’t usually make things better. But, pro-active complaints can be the catalyst for positive and productive change in many situations.
3) Don’t get caught up in the drama. Over the past few months, I’ve found myself, at times, getting caught up in the constant drama of the daily headlines and news. It’s easy to do, especially these days. However, it doesn’t usually feel very good and doesn’t often cause us to be a force for good. While I do think there are a lot of good journalists, doing important and courageous work, sadly the media is set up to get our attention and get us to watch, click, or buy what they are selling. Because of this, they often lead with drama, since it’s what gets the most attention. We have to be mindful with how we engage the news and the media. I do believe it’s important to be informed and to know what’s happening. And, at the same time, I’ve found myself falling into the drama trap many times – both in recent months and over the past number of decades – and this doesn’t usually empower me in a positive way. Most often, it gets me upset, discouraged, or depressed. Sometimes the best thing we can do is unplug and look for ways to actually help.
4) Speak up with authenticity. There are lots of important things going on around us these days that are calling us to speak up – even and especially if we’re scared to do so. Speaking up is an important thing to do, takes a lot of courage, and can definitely be a way for us to be a force for good. However, it’s essential for us to be truly authentic when we speak up. I define authenticity as honesty – self-righteousness + vulnerability. Yes, it’s important for us to be honest. But, we must remove our self-righteousness (the idea that I’m “Right” with a capital “R” and those who see things differently than I do are “wrong”). And, we must add vulnerability (emotional exposure, risk, and uncertainty). If we’re willing to speak up in this authentic way, we can have real impact. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so beautifully said, “We have very little morally persuasive impact with those who can feel our underlying contempt for them.”
5) Focus on gratitude. In the midst of challenge and difficulty it’s sometimes hard to focus on gratitude, but it’s also so important for us to do. I recently listened to an interview with Dr. Brene Brown and Sheryl Sandberg in which Brene talked about some research she did with parents who lost children. She said, “the research showed that people who have suffered this intense of a loss want those around them to appreciate what they have…and doing so honors their loss.” Hearing this made me realize that when we see people suffering, one way we can honor and support them best by being grateful for what we have. Being grateful for our lives and our blessings isn’t mutually exclusive for wanting to support and be of service to those who are in need. Even in the midst of challenging times in our own lives and in the world, there is always so much to we can celebrate and appreciate.
Even though there has been a lot of challenge, pain, loss, and intensity in our country and our world recently, we always have a choice as to how we’re going to show up, what we’re going to do, and who we’re going to be in the face of the circumstances. As much as any time in recent years that I can remember, what our friends, co-workers, teams, and people around us need is for us to show up as authentically as we possibly can, and to be a true force for good in our lives and the world around us. You up for that?
What can you do to be a force for good right now? Share your thoughts, feelings, and insights about this here on my blog (https://mike-robbins.com/be-a-force-for-good/).