Lately, probably like you, I overhear a lot of complaining about politics. At the grocery store, the post office… in absolutely any kind of gathering. And understandably. But I wonder: How much time and energy gets funneled into this discontent and fear? And what could be accomplished if we were to harness that time and energy effectively?
Who will dictate your thoughts, your mood, your time, your actions?
Look, I get it. It appears to some of us that we’ve elected someone who could not care less about protecting our collective home, the environment. Someone who seems to turn a blind eye to compassion for women and can’t comprehend the vast wealth that is diversity. In no way am I implying I think this is okay, or a great thing, or that head-in-sandness should ensue on any level. No way. But the reality of this person being in office (time will tell) and the ensuing policies and appointments may simply be what is (a shout-out to Byron Katie here). If we accept reality, that acceptance powerfully frees up our time and energy and allows us to move forward into effective action.
Alan Watts points out that a stream of water running down a hillside doesn’t stop and cry (though I’m all for crying to release resistance!) when it comes upon a rock in its path; it flows around it and moves on.
Resistance to what is (worry, complaining, catastrophizing) keeps us stuck and spinning our wheels in the mud and renders us unable (or at least greatly weakens our ability) to affect change. Resistance actually hands our power over to the perceived oppressor.
Perhaps taking a deeper look at what worrying about all this is costing (on a personal and national level), and taking stock of the effectiveness of this activity might be worth a few moments of our time. Stick with me here—let’s take a peek.
If the Current State of Things is bothering you, I suggest posing the following simple questions to yourself and answering them as honestly as possible:
- What is my circle of influence when it comes to the politics/policies that gall me?
- What is my role?
- What can I do?
If, in response to question #1, you answered, “I’m a politician; I have access to other politicians and policy”, you responded to #2 with, “I create policy” and #3 is something to the effect of, “I can write a new bill today” then perfect. You’re absolutely spot-on to be considering the issues you can directly influence politically and doing that. However, if your answers are basically anything else, then let’s look at the efficacy of time spent bemoaning current or possible future politicians and/or policies. Again, I’m certainly not saying don’t be aware or act–there is voting, picketing, influencing in other ways when you’re not directly able to introduce policy–I’m saying let’s take a look at what might be the most effective use of our limited time so that we can actually help to bring about the changes we feel are imperative.
When I went back to school for a degree in Environmental Studies, it was partly out of desperation. It had seemed to me for a long time that the world was falling apart and that no one cared or was doing much about protecting the environment; I couldn’t just stand by and watch anymore. To my relief (and maybe also to the dismay of my ego), what I quickly discovered when I was accepted into the program was that in reality there are many, many, many highly trained scientists, activists and people of all kinds involved in political policy out there spending every moment of their waking lives passionately working to ensure that animals are safe and that the environment is protected (this is true for almost every issue). I also discovered that my general anxiety about all of degradation I was witnessing was not only completely unhelpful, but served only to paralyze me out of taking any effective action I could actually engage in.
True, one person can only do so much, but if each person works passionately in an area where they are skilled and influential, and works in unison with others doing the same, this is by far the most effective use of our time.
Case in point: one of the primary influencers in my decision to go back to school for my Environmental Studies degree was…Michael Jackson! Is he a politician? No. Did he wield massive impact in my decision to become someone in the world who could effect change rather than just worry? Absolutely. He lived HIS passion, wrote and performed a song called “Earth Song” (with a short film), which, coupled with my vexation about environmental concerns and concurrent confusion about how I could help, inspired me into a course of action that better educated me to help inspire others through MY passion. Every link in the chain is critical, and inspiration–which is all we need to become agents of transformation–can come from anyone and anywhere and anything. So rock your thing. No one can ever predict what the effect of one person’s passionate voice in any medium will affect the world as a whole. We just know with certainty that it will.
Hand-wringing is time-wasting. It’s ineffective. Grieve, yes, and then let’s get going.
So this is what I propose: If we each look at what we’re passionate about (for me it’s obviously animals and the environment and writing, just to name a few examples), examine what our role is and what we can actually do, working together with others, we can exponentially increase the chances of setting in motion or at least adding momentum to movements for change. And always always follow inspiration when it shows up!
Let’s use me as an example. Here are my answers to the above questions:
- Q: What is my circle of influence when it comes to politics/policies that gall me?
A: I can vote, I can educate myself on the issues I feel passionate about, I could go to demonstrations, I could get involved in organizations already doing work on this cause.
2. Q: What is my role?
A: I write books, I blog, I write guest articles, I sometimes teach, I’m a relatively intelligent human being with friends and family.
3. Q: What can I do?
A: I can write about issues that I’d like to change to educate myself and others, I can write in a way that empowers others to take compassionate action on what they feel passionate about, I can engage with animal and/or environmental organizations (I can use my writing skills here as well). I can be the example. I can be a mother who lives and thus teaches her children passion and care and compassionate action (is there any more profound influence than that??)
If we each take this approach, the effect will be nothing but profound. Not to mention that as individuals, when we’re taking action in ways that are effective, we not only often gain momentum with the issues we’re working towards, but we also feel aligned and good about our lives and we empower and encourage others to take their own inspired actions. The cumulative effect has to be astronomical.
I like to do this: find out what’s bothering me about someone else and then ask where I’m actually contributing to that in my own life.
This exploration provides me with my next actions to take. If I’m afraid the environment is not being protected by the current administration, I ask myself: Where am I not protecting the environment, and what actions can I take to do that in my own life? Perhaps I’m not bringing re-usable bags to the grocery store. Maybe I’m wasting gas by not combining errands. Maybe I’m purchasing overpackaged foods. I can make small but important tweaks that bring me into alignment with the issues that are important to me. If I empower me, I can’t help but empower others. Maybe I feel inspired to take it further and write a blog about one of those actions. Maybe I give reusable bags as holiday gifts. Perhaps I form or join a coalition and we storm Washington and get media attention, educating and inspiring others on a bigger scale. Maybe I invent a recycling system for animal shelters. And on and on. Right now, all kinds of people are working on all kinds of solutions that help. The point is, I can be effective and take it as far as I’m inspired to in whatever sphere I’m in, and so can you.
I encourage myself and you to take back our time, our energy and our power in our lives and spend it the way we feel inspired to, creating a space for positive change.
We can never actually see the entire ripple effect and the true impact aligned, inspired actions make as a whole, but I guarantee you, it is bigger than taking no action at all. It’s grander than complaining, than spinning our wheels in despair. We can choose to let our fears and triggers lead us to the places in our own lives where we are not in alignment, bring ourselves into alignment and then take inspired, compassionate action using our talents, our skills, our passions and our creativity within our circle of influence, no matter how large or small that is. To risk the super-cheese factor, I’ll even say we can all truly make a difference. I’m serious, people. We need each other’s inspiration right now. And when the going gets tough, friends, the tough get going. Let’s get going. Dictate Your Own Life, starting now. LiveLove&BU
Image credit avail leadership.com