It is part of our nature to filter out wavelengths that are uncomfortable. When we perceive a problem we can’t or won’t fix, we stop thinking about it. The problem is our ability to discern “can’t” isn’t perfect, and our skill at choosing “won’t” is growing in popularity.
Before I go another paragraph, I need to acknowledge all the good in this country that is being done. There are mountains of goodness going on. Organizations large and small that are lifting burdens. Amazing! As a nation, we give billions of dollars in aid to other countries. And that doesn’t even touch the donations to private organizations who are doing good internationally. We have lots of good on our side.
Those behaviors aren’t the target of this post, though now that I write it, it might be the target of a future one.
This post is aimed at us all acknowledging at least one problem, personal or public, that we have ignored. The reason for this is both simple and critical:
You cannot change a problem you deny exists.
To lift our personal world and the greater world, we must first inventory the problems. In order to begin, an exhaustive list isn’t necessarily required. Identifying one problem that has been ignored is all that’s needed to get started making the world better.
So how do we decide which one to work on? This is a critical question, and I will offer you a tool that has been given to me. I am not the author of the following matrix:
This matrix is a simple and effective way to prioritize pretty much anything. We want to focus on the urgent and important square first. In this instance, we can focus on problems, obstacles, anything we’d like to change. Hopefully, this exercise will crystallize some concepts for you and allow you to begin giving attention to a problem that truly needs it.
I recommend that self-sufficiency needs come first. It is difficult to lift others until we are standing on our own two feet. With this suggestion, I offer the following caution: A premium cable package or large beer budget are not needs. They are comfort or pleasure.
One of the problems we must face a society is that we, as a whole, are too selfish. It is simple to see based on how we spend our money. We make millionaires out of entertainers and athletes while too many in our country go hungry. And we do this because we want to. We like it. We spend that money for us.
We are not spending the money as well as we could. Pleasure is expensive and fleeting. Therefore, the value received for the dollar spent is quite low.
A great secret that some already know is :
Happiness is more powerful than pleasure.
Sacrificing to help another person will fill our emotional needs much more effectively than entertainment. Here is a matrix I authored to help identify some of these concepts. You’ll notice that Hard-Best can make us the happiest, while pleasure seeking won’t. Hedonists are always emotionally bankrupt, and tireless volunteers in a worthy cause can hardly stop smiling.
The list above is not exhaustive. You are encouraged to make your own matrix and decide what is best.
If we want to make a difference in the world, I mean lasting change, we can’t be afraid to do hard things. That’s why hard things don’t change in the first place. When I say we should do hard things, I don’t mean run marathons, though marathons for charity works for me. I mean getting outside our comfort zone.
Our comfort zone is a barrier to positive change. It is a barrier to change at all.
The comfort zone is only a function of familiarity, not merit.
All of the most admirable people making a difference in our world put personal comfort somewhere below first on their lists. Filling others’ needs, accomplishing objectives (and writing this post!) all come first. We can sacrifice for the greater good. And we must.
One sacrifice I am making: I have committed to building a “community” wherever I am standing. This means saying hi to the people around me, and initiating positive conversation with the intent of making the other person smile. It’s small, but important. I can only change the world if I talk to people. Hiding on my phone won’t cut it.
By the way, this activity is now moving into my comfort zone. It didn’t happen overnight, but my commitment kept me trying until I realized it isn’t scary at all. Everyone I have talked to has been nice. I know that won’t always be the case, but I’m batting a thousand so far.
Writing this blog is a also a sacrifice, but an easy one because I am highly motivated.
If you haven’t already, get involved with a selfless cause. Really commit, and find out how much it feeds your soul. By the way, I count good parenting as a selfless activity, so don’t count yourself out if you are a conscientious parent.
So, hard things include overcoming personal fears in order to help another.
One of the great gifts we need to get better at giving each other is compassion. If someone is hurting:
Listen, perform first aid, get them to help or get help for them.
When we let ourselves feel for another person, compassion becomes easy. And you will quickly find, if you haven’t already, that you like it. You will feel better about yourself and your world, and feel less need to drown your feelings in some pleasure-seeking activity.
We can change the world by identifying an unmet need and working to fill it. Doing so is more than good, it’s an invitation for others to do good.
Today’s invite: Identify and proactively work on at least one important and urgent problem you now see. Lead the fight from where you are. Comment below on how it went.