In the wake of some of the recent events in the world and in light of so much of what we’ve all been through the past few years, I’ve been finding it challenging to focus on the good stuff, even though this is at the core of my approach to life and what I teach.
As I’ve been looking at this more deeply, I realize that my commitment is not necessarily to be “positive,” but to be a force for good in the world, regardless of the circumstances.
When facing challenges, I think it’s important to ask ourselves, “who do I want to be in the face of these difficulties?”
Being a force for good doesn’t mean we have to be happy or always find the silver lining. It’s more about making a commitment to ourselves and to those around us that we’ll be part of the solution instead of simply commenting on or adding to the problems themselves.
Doing this allows us to overcome challenges and obstacles and turn problems into life lessons with positive outcomes.
When the issues we’re facing are geo-political, societal, or have to do with natural disasters (as has been the case in recent years), it can often seem overwhelming.
However, how we show up, communicate, and respond to what’s happening around us in the world can have a significant and positive impact when we commit to being a force for good.
How to be a Force for Good
Here are a few things we can do or think about in this regard right now:
1) Look for ways you can help.
Fred Rogers, one of my childhood heroes, famously said, “When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.”
He’s right – and I always try to remember this myself.
In addition to looking for the helpers (and appreciating and honoring them), we can all be helpers in both big and small ways.
Whether we donate money, make phone calls, post, or reach out and share our good thoughts and prayers, there are always ways to help.
And being of service not only helps those we assist directly, but it’s also a way to act as a force for good, no matter the situation.
2) Be proactive with your complaints.
There are two types of complaints – idle complaints (when we whine and moan about how bad things are) and proactive complaints (when we take issue with something and proactively bring it to the attention of those who can potentially do something about it).
An excellent example of this here in our country is contacting our elected representatives – at the national, state, and local level.
Whether we voted for them or not, they work for us. Picking up the phone, writing a letter, sending an email, or posting on social media directly to one of our elected representatives and letting them know how we feel about something specific is a way we can influence change and be proactive with our complaints.
Sitting around and talking about how awful something is, which is understandable and common, especially these days, doesn’t usually make things better. But proactive complaints can be the catalyst for positive and productive change in many situations.
3) Don’t get caught up in the drama.
Over the past few years, I’ve been getting caught up in the constant drama of the daily headlines and news. It’s easy to do, especially given all that has been happening in our country and our world.
However, this usually doesn’t feel great or allow us to be a real force for good. While I think many good journalists are doing essential and courageous work, the media as a whole is set up right now to get our attention and do whatever they can to have us watch, click, and then buy what they’re advertisers are selling.
The news often leads with shock, drama, fear, and outrage, since these things grab us emotionally and get our attention. We must be mindful of how we engage the news and the media.
This constant fear/drama cycle often leads us to feel upset, discouraged, or even depressed. Sometimes the best thing we can do is unplug and look for ways to help.
4) Speak up with authenticity.
There are lots of important things going on around us these days that are calling us to speak up.
Speaking up is an important thing to do. It takes a lot of courage and can be a specific way for us to be a force for good. However, we must be authentic when we speak up.
I define authenticity as honesty – self-righteousness + vulnerability.
It’s important to be honest, but we must also remove our self-righteousness and add vulnerability (emotional exposure, risk, and uncertainty).
We can have a real impact if we’re willing to speak up authentically.
5) Focus on gratitude.
During challenges and difficulties, it’s sometimes hard to focus on gratitude. But it’s also so essential for us to do.
When we see people suffering, we can honor and support them by both acknowledging their pain and at the same time being grateful for our own blessings.
Being grateful isn’t mutually exclusive with wanting to support and be of service to those who are in need. Even during challenging times, there is always so much we can appreciate.
Even though there have been a lot of challenges, pain, loss, and trauma in our country and our world recently, we always have a choice as to how we’re going to show up, what we’re going to do, and who we’re going to be in the face of all of this.
To paraphrase the Greek philosopher, Epictetus, “Circumstances don’t define us, they reveal us.”
Our friends, co-workers, teammates, family members, and the people in our communities benefit most when we show up as authentically as we possibly can and do our best to be a true force for good.
What can you do to be a force for good right now? Share your thoughts, feelings, and insights about this here below.
Mike Robbins is the author of five books, including his latest, We’re All in This Together: Creating a Team Culture of High Performance, Trust, and Belonging. He’s a thought leader and sought-after speaker whose clients include Google, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, Schwab, eBay, Genentech, the Oakland A’s, and many others.
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This article was published in 2017 and has been updated.