“If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving. You lose the courage to be, that quality that helps you go on despite it all. And so today I still have a dream.” Martin Luther King
I have talked to hundreds of people this year from multiple political persuasions who are in despair over the future of the United States. This article will provide very specific actions individuals can take to help overcome the sense of helplessness and hopelessness that is threatening the future of our great country. The process outlined in this article is also relevant for individuals who are looking to create any kind of positive change.
The two most important determining factors regarding how much of a positive impact you will have is how self-aware and focused you are. This article includes dozens of links and suggestions about how to gain increased self-awareness and focus and where to put your energy in service to helping our country.
Identify What You Have to Offer
“You are the storyteller of your own life and you can create your own legend or not.” Isabel Allende
I wrote an article on September 13, 2017 titled Looking at Career Options? What’s Your Anchor? In that article I introduced John Holland’s Career Anchor methodology, one aspect of it being an identification of your competencies. I suggest going back to that article if you are looking to gain additional insight into what skills you have to offer.
Another resource that provides very specific lists of skills you might possess is located at www.onetonline.org/skills/ This very practical resource helps you identify the skills you have to offer in the following skill groups:
- Basic Skills – Developed capacities that facilitate learning or the more rapid acquisition of knowledge.
- Complex Problem-Solving skills – Developed capacities used to solve novel, ill-defined problems in complex, real-world settings.
- Resource Management Skills – Developed capacities used to allocate resources efficiently.
- –Social Skills – Developed capacities used to work with people to achieve goals.
- System Skills – Developed capacities used to understand, monitor, and improve socio-technical systems.
- Technical Skills – Developed capacities used to design, set-up, operate, and correct malfunctions involving application of machines or technological system.
As you go through these exercises list those skills that you possess and those you might want to develop. Knowing what you do well is obviously a powerful foundation as you determine how you can help our country heal.
As you identify what you do well beware of your killer skills. Killer skills are those you possess that you really do not want to use as you move forward. You might be burnt out using them, might not have ever enjoyed using skills that have come very easily to you, or you might have been in a position where you kept being asked to do a function because it helped your employer while frustrating you. You will obviously be most impactful regarding helping your country thrive if you are energized about the skills and competencies that you bring to what you are attempting to do.
It might also be helpful for you to think of what you have to offer other than your skills and competencies. Those ways of helping include and are not limited to:
- having disposable income that you would be willing to donate to groups that support others
- being very well respected where your support of a positive initiative would help it move forward
- being well linked to a powerful network of individuals and organizations that you could approach for support regarding your idea(s) of how to help our country.
Identify How You Want to Help
“It is never too late to become what you might have been.” George Eliot
The second question to answer in creating your strategy is how you want to help? Here is a selection of options:
Improving the quality of your relationships with people with whom you interact. I wrote an article on September 3, 2017 titled Your Ten Second Moment of Positive Impact that describes how random acts of kindness can positively impact individuals and the people who notice the act of kindness. Performing specific acts that positively impact other people without looking for any kind of reward is one way to improve the mood in our fractured country.
A second powerful way to improve your relationships with people is by applying the principles created by Daniel Goleman PhD in his books Emotional Intelligence and Working with Emotional Intelligence. In the free power point deck and program guide available here titled How to Live, Work, and Lead for the Common Good, I show how the Goleman/Korn Ferry Hay Group model of emotionally intelligent behavior can have a positive impact on one’s personal and professional relationships. Self-Awareness is the key starting point in this process followed by possessing Self-Management, Social Awareness and finally Relationship Management competencies.
If you are in a management position and are looking to improve your relationships with those you lead, that same free power point deck and participant guide mentioned in the previous paragraph describes the Level 5 Leadership model created by Jim Collins – www.jimcollins.com The Collins model of leadership shows the power of demonstrating the qualities of personal humility and professional will. These behaviors create relationships that produce success. His best-selling book Good to Great and his monograph Good to Great and the Social Sectorsboth outline how the quality of humility can heal troubled organizations. This kind of behavior can also be a focus of your efforts to help heal our troubled country.
A final resource for improving how to have a positive impact on people with whom you interact is a section of free self-assessment instruments that have been used to help millions of people around the world make decisions about how to successfully take positive actions. These assessments are found in the Why You and Why the Common Good section. I caution readers in this article and on the website to be aware of your personal situation as you consider taking online assessments of any kind. If you are having a particularly tough time emotionally it is often better to avoid receiving any kind of online feedback that might add in a negative way to the challenging time with which you are dealing. Receiving the kind of feedback available in these assessments might be better received through interaction with a trained professional if you are having a tough time emotionally.
The DISC Inventory measures:
Dominance – Describes the way you deal with problems, assert yourself and control situations.
Influence – Describes the way you deal with people, the way you communicate and relate to others.
Steadiness – Describes your temperament-patience, persistence, and thoughtfulness.
Compliance – Describes how you approach and organize your activity, procedures and responsibilities.
The Big Five Factors of Personality measures:
Openness – People who like to learn new things and enjoy new experiences usually score high in openness.
Conscientiousness – People who have a high degree of conscientiousness are reliable and prompt.
Extraversion – Extraverts get their energy from interacting with others.
Agreeableness – These individuals are friendly, cooperative, and compassionate.
Emotional Stability/Neuroticism – This dimension relates to one’s emotional stability and degree of negative emotions.
Taking these and other assessments can be very helpful with the two key components I mentioned earlier as critical to having a successful positive impact – self-awareness and focus.
Working for Pay, Volunteering or Contributing to a cause/initiative that you believe has a positive impact on our country.
Many of the individuals I have talked to from both sides of the aisle politically who are sincerely concerned about our country have decided to help repair our country by volunteering and/or contributing financially to organizations and causes that they believe are helping people and the common good. Many of you who are reading this know what those causes are and might already have chosen to provide your time and money to these organizations. In the last two months I have spoken to dozens of individuals who have decided to contribute their time or money to organizations involved with cancer research, animal rights, the homeless, higher education, improving the safety of children in their town and many other causes about which they felt passionate.
If you are looking for ideas about where you might contribute your time and money, the section of my website titled Resources for Finding Jobs in Specific Common Good Sectors provides thirty-six links to organizations in nine educational, arts and service oriented sectors.
In addition, there is an additional section in Resources for Finding Jobs in Specific Common Good Sectors that identifies organizations that are described as best places to work. Many of these organizations treat their employees with respect, dignity and fairness. I certainly do not expect you to agree with all the choices on these sites while hoping that they are resources that generate some ideas that are useful. These sites are in the same section of my website and include:
www.glassdoor.com – This site lists the 25 Highest Rated Companies for Vacation and Paid Time off, The Best Places to Work, and Ten Amazing Companies Hiring Now.
www.fortune.com – Fortune magazines 100 Best Companies to Work Foris published yearly.
www.greatplacestowork.com – Great Places to Work Institute produces the Fortune listing as well as The Best Small and Medium Workplaces, The Best Workplaces for Diversity, and The Best Places for Parents.
Identify What Would Keep You From Taking Positive Action
“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.” -Leo Tolstoy
In my experience, the primary reason that people do not follow through on a commitment to act is that they do not change habits that in many cases have been part of their normal behavior for years.
In these fractious times in our country, a habit that is causing many people to feel overwhelmed and depressed, for example, is continuing to watch and read the news as often as in the past. There is even a name for this illness – headline distress disorder.
Two of the best books available regarding how to change habits are the best sellers The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Peopleby Stephen Covey and The Power of Habitby Charles Duhigg. Covey’s seven habits are divided into Private Victories – be proactive, begin with the end in mind, and put first things first; Public Victories – think win/win, seek first to understand, then to be understood and synergize through creative cooperation; and Balanced Self-Renewal. His chapter on putting first things first is a model of time management that I have referred to hundreds of individuals who did not think they had time to make the positive change that they desired.
Part One of Charles Duhigg’s book explains how habits work, how to create new habits and the golden rule of habit change. In Part Two he expands the importance of understanding of habits to organizations and in Section Three the importance of understanding habits to the larger society, which is particularly relevant regarding the focus of this article.
Both books ask the reader to address the two key factors I have mentioned earlier that impact the ability of individuals to make positive change happen – self-awareness and focus.
Identify How to Sustain Momentum
“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
Most efforts to cause positive change involve setbacks. Because of that fact it is important to give thought to how you have dealt with setbacks in the past and whether you have created a resilience pattern that will work for you moving ahead. If you are naturally resilient and have been moving forward without significant issues when you were confronted with obstacles, congratulations.
If you have not developed that pattern I suggest looking at what your resilience pattern is and creating a successful resilience strategy. Al Siebert, PhD, is the author of The Resilience Advantage: Master Change, Thrive Under Pressure, and Bounce Back from Setbacks. This very powerful and practical book provides several quizzes that you can take to better understand how to be more resilient while offering resiliency development activities at the end of every chapter. The website www.resiliencycenter.com has a Resiliency Quiz you can take and receive your score in minutes.
Siebert, who passed away in 2009, developed a five-level resiliency model beginning with Optimizing Your Health and concluding with level 5 which involves understanding Serendipity, Extreme Challenges, and Transformational Breakthroughs.
I wrote an article on October 22, 2017 titled Solving Very, Very Difficult Problems. In it I mention two important books, Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activistsby Courtney E. Martin and Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Change: Courageous Actions Around the World by Garth Sundem. I mention those books at this time because the dozens of individuals who are mentioned in those books decided to make positive change in their countries and showed self-awareness, focus, the use of multiple personal skills and impressive resilience that helped make change occur that many said was impossible. Many of the changes in those books were made by young people.
Identify the Best Way to Engage Your Network
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
The individuals I just mentioned usually engaged a group of people who supported their positive change efforts. I want to stress that I am not stating that you need to engage anyone other than yourself if that is what you prefer to do. The examples I gave earlier of performing random acts of kindness or donating money to an organization that is creating the kind of positive change that you support are some of many acts that you can do alone.
What follows are four steps to take to engage your network if you know that you cannot do it on your own from the start or get to a stage in the evolution of your change efforts where you need to get others involved.
First, create a list of everyone you know. This activity has become a lot easier because of the lists of contacts that you have on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sources. You might also add to the list from a contact list, excel spreadsheet or personalized phone directory you have created.
Second, identify how members of your network might be able to help you with your positive change initiative. This could be as simple as getting one person who you trust to react to a specific technical question that relates to their background. It could be as difficult as gathering a large group of people together to push a municipal agency to change a current rule.
Third, approach the individual(s) in a personal manner. I say this because I have heard many stories of how individuals in their haste did an outreach to their network that was impersonal and insulting since some of the members of the outreach group had been very close friends for years and should have been approached individually and personally.
Fourth, follow-up and thank your contact for connecting with you.
I mention the importance of step number three because social media has made it very easy to get a message out to many people and it is imperative that you evaluate every outreach to your network regarding whether it is personal, appropriate, focused, and clearly communicated.
Identify the Most Effective Way to Have Difficult Conversations
“There is no such thing as a diplomatic hand grenade.”
Stone, Patton and Heen, Difficult Conversations
Having a positive impact in any situation often requires having difficult conversations with individuals who are getting in the way of the successful changes you are trying to make. These difficult conversations can be with loved ones, colleagues, friends and total strangers. It is important to prepare for these conversations in anticipation of them happening in unexpected moments.
There are two books I have used with many individuals that provide valuable information about how to have these conversations. Both were written by members of the Harvard Negotiation Project. Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury was first published in 1981. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen was published in 1999.
Both have stood the test of time and been helpful to individuals preparing for difficult conversations. In Getting to Yes, the method involves separating the people from the problem, focusing on interests and not positions, inventing options for mutual gain and insisting on using objective criteria. In Difficult Conversations, the authors suggest shifting to a learning stance and being aware that you might be having a “What Happened” conversation, a “Feelings” conversation or an “Identity” conversation.
The differences in these books by individuals affiliated with the same Harvard Negotiation Project suggest the complexity that exists when having difficult conversations and therefore the importance of preparation.
I hope this article has provided a framework and/or idea that will help you continue the positive efforts you are already making or energize you to try to create even the smallest change that would help others. I wish you the best in your efforts to improve our wonderful country and the lives of all the people who live here. – Peter