Monday, January 9, 2012

Why Change the World in 2012?

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Thanks to Elizabeth Engel for tagging me in the meme started by Maddie Grant about what people are planning to do to change the world in 2012. It's been fun noodling on the idea and thinking about how to respond.

But I have to be honest. When I first saw Maddie's post and realized what she was doing--calling out certain bloggers to respond to her challenge--my first reaction was anxiety. Oh no, I thought. Please don't tag me! And when I got to the bottom of her post and saw that I had escaped her attention, I felt a calming sense of relief.

This was the year, you see, that I gave up on New Year's Resolutions, frustrated as I have been with this traditional exercise in self-reflection and goal-setting. It comes only once a year--at one of the busiest times, no less--and it consistently leads to overreach and failure. It's not just me, right? There has to be a better way to grow and make conscious improvements in your life.

So in response, I consciously decided to forego the capital R Resolutions this year in favor of selecting just one small behavior change to stick with for the month of January. If, at month's end, it has become a sustainable habit, then great, I'll select another small change for February. But if I'm still struggling with it, then I'll re-evaluate the change and decide if I should give it another try in February, or seek change elsewhere. In other words, I will add a pattern of periodic self-reflection to my life, and create the change I seek one small step at a time.

But that's me. And none of that is going to change the world. At least not in 2012. So, now that I've been tagged with this meme, what can I realistically say?

First, I'll admit that I haven't read any of the other posts, so I don't know what level of change people are aiming at. Ending world hunger is probably a bigger problem than I can solve this year (especially with that pesky board meeting coming up), so any effect I think I can have on the world around me should probably be focused on the people and organizations I already interact with. And in that department, I do have one idea.

Elevate the conversation.

Across the board--whether it's an interaction in the association that employs me, in one of my growing list of volunteer commitments, in my relationship with my family, or even in the activities I choose to fill my reflective time with--I can more consciously be the agent that elevates the conversation one level above where everyone else is focused.

Too much of the time, you see, in all of the circles I've described above, we seem so consumed by what needs to be done that we consistently lose sight of why we're doing them in the first place. And yet the why has to inform the what, or the what begins to lose its meaning.

In my many roles--association CEO, volunteer board member, role-modelling father, personal change agent--it's becoming more and more apparent to me that it's my job to have a very clear handle on the why. My job is to inspire people, to lead them in the work that they do, to help them understand the why so they can make better decisions on the what that otherwise consumes their attention.

So throughout 2012 (or maybe starting in February?), I'm going start asking why more regularly. Why are we doing this? Why are we doing it this way? What are we trying to achieve and are we sure this activity and this action is helping us get there?

In some cases, I'll know the answers to these questions, and then it'll be my job to take action--reinforcing the why when there is alignment and making changes when there isn't. In other cases, I won't know the answers, and it'll be my job to work with others to discover them, to define and shape what we do so it resonates with a why that is meaningful and necessary.

In the end, I don't know if any of that will change the world, but it might heighten my ability to do so.

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