Be the change you want to see in the world- Gandhi.
Sometime in the initial phase of my management career I realised that I was a person with tunnel vision who was slavishly addicted to my personal and professional to-do lists. My entire focus was on achieving targets and maintaining a high level of personal productivity. For sure, these are important and are necessary if we are to avoid drift in our lives. But what if our entire focus is solely on our own targets, goals and productivity and we neglect others in our lives? What if we our work is all-consuming and our only priority is our own career advancement?
In life we all need life plans but we also need to have some equilibrium and balance in our lives. We can become addicted to work as easily as we can to all other addictions. By locking our entire focus onto something like our work we lock others out of our lives.
Michelle Obama once famously said; Success isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives. Life has to be about more than the concerns of the individual self. Equally important are relationships and a sense of belonging. Developing good relationships and a sense of community can enhance our wellbeing and to achieve that we need to take positive action in our own lives.
I was lucky that I eventually realised my work addiction could become a problem for me and others. Once, when I was reading a short biography of William Penn, I can across one of his statements which got me thinking ;
I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow human being, let me do it now, or not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.
The last six words of this quotation particularly impressed me I shall not pass this way again and I began to think how important it is to have some positive influence in my world and with those around me. I realised that my actions could impact positively or negatively on others in my life. It was time to broaden my focus and to try to be more inclusive of others. In doing so, I needed to try as much as possible to be a positive influence for change. I needed to broaden my focus outwards from”me” to “us”.
We live in communities- a community in our homes, a community at work, a social community and suchlike. if we actively engage in such communities we can choose to share positive energy or negative energy. How we act will always impact on others and we can and should opt to be a positive influence in our world.
Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle-Buddha. Real change starts with the individual and the most important step of all is the first step . Having the right attitude and positive mindset is your first step in having a positive influence on others. Positive energy can be communicated as easily as negative energy so be sure always to feed your mind positive thoughts so that your attitude and outlook is usually positive and upbeat.
I often have to check myself when I realise I am adopting a negative mindset. Now I realise that there is no point in being negative when I can deliberately choose to be positive. I now regard negativity as being entirely pointless. Having that self-realisation is key to understanding that you can control your attitude if you have the will to do so. Positive anything is better than negative nothing – Elbert Hubbard.
Thinking less about myself and more about my family and community was a defining moment of change in my life. I took time out from my to-do list, my goals and strategies to pause and adjust myself to a happier lifestyle, which included time for others in my family, my community and my colleagues at work. In my book, Every Leader’s Reality Guide, I show how I became very involved in a range of community activities, yet still successfully managed a senior leadership role at work.
Nobody can do everything,but everybody can do something (Author unknown) is a saying which can inspire us to engage in acts of kindness or support towards others. In St. Mark’s Gospel 10:45 he says ; For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve. There is therefore a challenge for each of us to make some positive meaningful contribution to the world around us. Seek less to be served than to serve.
One of the most inspiring styles of leadership is Servant Leadership which prioritises supporting and serving the needs of others. Early in my own leadership career I realised that while bosses may have authority it is leaders who have influence. Remember the words of Martin Luther King; Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. It is true to say that by serving others you learn to lead others.
Anne Frank was one of the most famous victims of the Holocaust. She was a Jewish teenager whose diary, The Diary of a Young Girl, is world famous. Anne and her family were discovered by the nazis in Amsterdam after two years in hiding and were sent to concentration camps. Anne and all her family members died, except her father Otto.
Despite the hardships she endured she sustained her positive outlook on life; I don’t think about all the misery, but about the beauty that still remains, she has written. She died in captivity, shortly before her sixteenth birthday, but still remains a powerfully inspiring role model whose wisdom was exceptional for such a young person. In spite of everything, she wrote in her diary, I still believe that people are really good at heart. Her hardships did not break her powerful, enduring sense of optimism.
Another of her inspiring diary quotes, at a time of immense hardship, should equally inspire us to action; How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. Each of us can contribute to the wellbeing and happiness of others. The best time to start is now and every contribution counts. A good example has twice the value as good advice (Unknown author).
( Photo by Austin Chan, Unsplash)
We should realise that optimism can be contagious and can be a force for change. People gravitate towards a positive person because positivity makes them feel good. Each of us has what is known as affective presence. Your affective presence is how you make other people feel just by being around you. Your presence can generate positive or negative feelings and emotions so take care to remain positive and supportive to others.
Being genuinely aware of others, being appreciative of their efforts and being emotionally supportive to those who need support is one way to make a difference and have a positive influence. When people feel supported they can become happier. You can help by listening to others in need, by being a good neighbour and by using your skills for the benefit of others. Even doing a little with a lot of heart can be beneficial to you and others. Any positive contribution which enhances the lives of others can never be too small.
Optimism is contagious and has proven to be a powerful force for change. Many of the great world leaders, many of the powerful and influential role models we admire all displayed and use their infectious positive attitude to effect change. There are no shortage of such role models-Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Anne Frank, Helen Keller,Mother Teresa, Malala Yousafzai, Martin Luther King and many more. All were ordinary people who used their unwavering positivity for the betterment of mankind.
In less dramatic fashion in our own daily lives we can spend some time operating with our hearts. You can choose to be an inspirational influence on others By changing yourself you can change your attitude and life. Do what feels right and make your time count. Someone once said that our two best gifts are our abilities to give love and inspire happiness. At work we can empower others by our support and praise; Abilities wither under criticism, they blossom under encouragement-Dale Carnegie.
Being a mentor, a good listener, being emotionally supportive to others , by going that extra mile can bring about sustainable change in others and in how others see us. Sharing positivity and acting out of concern and compassion does make a difference to those with whom we engage but also to ourselves. Researchers have found a strong connection between kindness and happiness. Helping others gives us a real sense of connectedness, fulfillment and happiness.
It is often said that the more you give, the more you get. No one has ever become poor by giving – Anne Frank. By transforming lives around you, you bring about transformation in your own life through enhanced wellbeing. Positive energy enhances and enriches our own lives and the lives of others.
The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, rightly advised; The only constant in life is change. By changing our own attitudes and behaviour we change ourselves. Change is the law of life. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek- Barack Obama.
I once heard that it is easier to be a workaholic than to have a balanced life. Some of us who have made that transformation can testify to the veracity of that statement. It took me a long time to do so; it took me a long time to realise than investing in others can be more rewarding than investing in myself. Yes, we must try to be the best version of ourselves but not at the expense of investing time and effort in others. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others- Mahatma Gandhi.
We can all be of service by adding value to people’s lives. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give-Winston Churchill. Giving is about making a difference to the lives of others. Lifting our gaze outwards from self to others is what makes us great. At the end, it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who’ve you made better. It’s about what you’ve given back- Denzel Washington.
( Feature photo by Peter Thomas, Unsplash)