Whether you are aware of it or not, you spend the majority of your time preparing for a future not yet written. You worry about not living up to someone else’s expectations and worst of all, you stress over situations you feel you have no control over.
As you go about your daily business you see injustice all around you, from pensioners being hassled on the street, to children bullying their classmates on the bus. You shake your head and turn back to your phone.
You read the headlines about corrupt politicians and a failing healthcare system and complain that the world is an unfair place and that one day someone is going to come along and make the world a better place for everyone.
Why not you?
That somebody could be you if you adopted a transformational mind-set…
‘’The story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short.” – Abraham Maslow, creator of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Great minds such as Abraham Maslow would have you believe that if you’re struggling to live a fulfilling life where your own fundamental needs are not being met, then you could find it difficult to reach a state of mind where you can think about helping others.
There is truth to it, only this year the Mental Health Foundation (www.mentalhealth.org.uk) published an in-depth report that showed there was a clear correlation between those that are socioeconomically deprived and those suffering from poor mental health (depression, anxiety). If you know anyone suffering from such illnesses, they will tell you, it’s hard to focus on a better future when they’re stuck in the fog fighting a monster nobody can see.
Yet I’m still left scratching my head. I can’t help but feel as individuals we are motivated by something more than our desire to have our own needs fulfilled; that we are driven by something outside of ourselves. We can see this every day as we watch individuals instinctively forego their own safety to help others.
Such example is Matias Ferreira, a Marine Veteran that lost both his legs in Afghanistan. Despite his disabilities he recently saved a baby from a burning car. http://www.reallifeheroes.co.uk/marine-who-lost-his-legs-in-afghanistan-explosion-saves-baby-from-car-crash/
What about the homeless man that died saving the life of a woman being held hostage by a gunman in Brazil? http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/8112826
How about the group of 200+ Japanese pensioners that volunteered to tackle the nuclear crisis so the young would not be exposed to deadly radiation? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13598607
The world is full of unsung heroes we forget about, people in service, carers, teachers and every parent that soothed a child to sleep at night. All these people instinctively put the need of others first without a thought of themselves. So what motivates them? What motivates you?
Do you have the sixth sense?
In this world, we are born with 5 senses to help us perceive the world around us. As we grow we use these senses to understand the world; these are the senses that help us fulfil our primal needs. But do any of these senses motivate us to help others to ensure as a species we excel?
After reading many stories about selfless acts and random acts of kindness, it became quite clear to me that we are not born with 5 senses; we are actually born with 6.
The sixth sense that links us all together is Empathy.
Every joy, every tragedy, every experience you’ve had in your life is what connects you to everyone else. When you come across another that is going through the same experience, you empathize and connect with them. Even when we haven’t gone through such experiences, we have learnt to respond compassionately. This is not a social need that we are trying to fulfil, it’s an instinct.
So if we’re hardwired to instinctively help our fellow human for the sake of our collective survival, why do we fail to speak up when something is wrong?
Our biggest enemy
About 9 months ago I invited a range of people to partake in a survey about control; one of the questions I asked was if they had witnessed control being taken away from another (e.g. bullying) and failed to act, what were the reasons. The majority of people said;-
FEAR of being ridiculed.
FEAR of being targeted.
FEAR of being ignored.
Fear is singularly the biggest challenge we face when we are trying to achieve a transformational mind-set and as it is a natural response to feeling threatened, how do we overcome it?
First you have to understand the meaning of fear. Fear is an emotion that is induced when confronted by impending danger, real or imaginary. Fear is an emotion based on something that may or may not happen to you.
On December 1st 1955 a young women called Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat because of the colour of her skin. That small action led not only to her arrest but also ignited one of the largest civil right movement in modern history. When she was asked if she was frightened, she replied…
‘No, actually I had no fear at that particular time. I was determined to let it be known how it felt to be treated in that manner-discriminated against.’
In 2012 a 15 year old girl was shot in the head because she wanted an education. Her name was Malala Yousafzia. Nine months after the attack she defied those that would oppress her as she stood up in the UN headquarters and addressed millions around the world with these words.
‘So here I stand, one girl among many. I speak not for myself, but so those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights. Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated.’
Their conviction was strong enough to overcome their fear. They weren’t fighting for the right to have their fundamental needs to be met, but for the right of all others just like them.
Those that shaped the world before us
When you look throughout history at all the people that adopted a transformational mind-set to petition for change they all shared the same traits.
- They had absolute conviction about the change they were fighting for; to the point they forego their own survival.
- They had great self-awareness and understood how people could perceive them through their actions. They took responsibility.
- They lived in the moment. They didn’t worry about what might be and daydream about the future. They stayed focused on the moment, understanding every action took them one step closer to their goal.
Ready to adopt a transformational mind-set?
To develop a transformational mind-set is not the same as having a positive mind-set. It cannot be faked and it can be a lonely path to travel, but changing the world isn’t for the fainthearted.
I don’t have all the answers; instead I’d like you to consider these three questions…
Can you be honest with yourself?
‘’If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And whenever the answer has been NO for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.’
Many of us stay so focused on a future vision that very often we don’t realise we’ve actually stopped moving. It’s easy to stay in that toxic relationship, job or situation for far longer than you need to because of your empathic nature. I want you to remember this quote from Steve Jobs, let it guide you when you start to doubt yourself and remember life is a process not a destination.
Are you the change you wish to see?
If you stood in a room full of mirrors, what would your world look like?
The concept of being the change you wish to see in the world isn’t a new one, but often the message is lost in translation as people associate it with action rather than mind-set.
Recently I posed two simple questions to people from different demographics;
– What qualities are you best known for?
– What qualities do you hold in high esteem in others?
If you want people to follow your lead you have to sure about who you are. What qualities are you known for? Do you hold people to the same values you pride yourself on? Can these be seen in your every action? Are you always honest? Are you always kind? It’s harder than you think…
Why do you want to change the world?
Is it to suit your own needs or to fulfil the needs of others? When you can think beyond your own needs and what you have to gain/ lose, you know you’re on the right track.
When Abraham Maslow shared his hierarchy of needs he may have made a mistake to think that a person would have to fulfil a certain set of needs before being able to ‘self-transcend’ to help others.
Maybe he was on the right track but somehow couldn’t grasp the fact that we’re all interlinked by our basic instinct to survive/evolve as a species. Perhaps that ‘self-transcending need’ is actually the driving force that enables us to fulfil the needs of all humanity? Maybe we’re all hardwired to have a transformational mind-set and we didn’t even know it?
If we were to consider his hierarchy more like a DNA strand and that each need is an element within that structure that connects us as individuals to the collective; you would see that to fulfil a need of another would effectively fulfil a need (not necessary the same need) within yourself and vice versa.
So the question is, are you ready to change the world?
Look in your mirror, what do you see? Don’t like what you see? Then do the work and change it. Afraid of change? Remember you’re doing it not just for yourself but for all mankind.
*Originally this post was written to reach out to those struggling to be heard. I had written a nice introduction using all the right terminologies and passionately typed away about the importance of personal branding to those needing to strengthen their core. After all, how can you attempt to change the world around you without having certain amount of self-awareness and confidence?
It was only the next day when I was discussing with a local business owner the importance of supporting her passion in regards to a local charity that I realised that all my fancy words would fall deaf on her ears. Why would she care about personal branding? She knows who she is, the values she holds dear and what drives her to be successful.
What she wanted was someone to illuminate her enough to get started. And isn’t that the point? That we all want to do ‘good’ in our community but sometimes we don’t feel enough to be able to make a difference?
So I went back to the drawing board and scrapped the article all together. What you have now is something not so polished but far more authentic.