Just as yours, my heart goes out to the innocent and suffering people of Ukraine and Russia at this time… and to the other wars around the globe that are underreported.
And yet, you might have noticed that I rarely post anything about it, nor about the many important societal or political issues in the past few years.
I wish to be an example of someone who does not post social/political stuff — for all of you out there who might sometimes feel guilty about not posting about such things.
It’s so easy to get caught up with the energy of the news. It’s worth taking a step back, and reflecting on this question — where do your energies really make the most difference?
For those who follow the news and feel pained by the suffering we see, or worried for what the future may hold — imagine taking that same energy and time we gave to the news, and instead, applying it to improve our personal relationships, and our professional skills. Truly, we’d probably make a far bigger difference.
And by extension, with the ripple effects, we’d be making a positive impact in the world just beyond our own, the countless others who are touched by our friends and family who have been impacted positively by us.
By keeping good boundaries with the news and focusing our energies on what personal impact we can each make, we’ll also feel more fulfilled, and empowered.
As we diligently work on organizing our own lives and improving our relationships and professional skills, we naturally grow the influence we have with our network. We’ll grow our audience, and our business. With that greater reach and influence, we will then be able to have greater impact when we occasionally decide to champion a social cause.
When I was in college, I saw myself as an activist. I was in the Green Party, as I thought that was the way to truly activate compassion in the world. I attended their meetings. I evangelized their politics. I gave my time and energy to multiple protests and boycotts.
In the following years, I was also active in supporting several elections. Most of those campaigns lost. As I look back now, I feel like all my activism had made very little difference, while consuming enormous amounts of my energy.
If I had taken all that effort and instead invested it into my professional skills and network (instead of building some politician’s audience), I would have much greater reach and impact today. I could then be even more useful when I occasionally and carefully wish to lend my weight to a certain social issue.
I urge us to focus first on the success of our own personal career, relationships, and most importantly, health. We’ll be far happier and be in a better position to contribute meaningfully to social causes. As we become more influential, we’ll naturally be urged by our audience to support certain causes. We can then decide and choose carefully where to lend our support.
Let’s apply this virtuous circle: stronger boundaries of attention and focus. It models mindfulness for others, as you focus on first shoring up your personal and professional strengths.
In contrast, focusing on global/social issues where you’re making a tiny difference can put you into a vicious cycle of having the news suck time, energy — and then falling behind in your personal/professional life.
We all want to look compassionate, wise, and caring about society, so we feel pressured (or guilty) about getting on top of social issues and posting about them.
It’s an illusion of impact, compared to the kind of positive difference you can make today with the people you already know, by putting that same effort to helping them.
Let’s be rebels. Let’s consciously turn our energies away from the loud global/social issues, and focus instead on benefitting our family, friends, clients, and fans… as well as our own growth in skills and mindfulness that, in turn, helps everyone too.
Truthfully, the more I learn about politics, the more confused I am. It seems patently obvious to me that one side is “right”. Yet I have smart friends who completely stand with the “other” side.
Whatever news outlets we consume tend to reinforce each other, and be our source of “obviously” important facts. The same is true on the opposite side from you.
So either I need to spend a lot more time consuming news from multiple points of view… to be able to make a tiny impact on social issues… or I spend that same amount of time improving my skills and ability to help the people who are most directly in my impact sphere — my family, friends, clients, and fans.
Whenever I post about social/global issues, I sow division among my network… again, because people’s news sources are so divergent. What’s obvious-truth to one person is propaganda to another. If I post social stuff, I put my audience’s energies & focus towards division and discord.
The more I put my passion into politics the more my relationships are strained. The more I focus on personal/professional growth, the stronger my connection to my network.
I’d rather post things that help people focus on their personal/professional growth.
This also means I practice being OK with people thinking of me as tone-deaf, callous, or disconnected from what’s “really happening”. Again, I think it’s an illusion. I believe what’s “really happening” is right around us, in our own life, where we make more impact if we take our focus away from the news and invest it in our personal growth.
I see it as a spiritual practice: gently focusing again on doing what I believe makes the most impact.
Could I do better with at least acknowledging key social issues? Probably. Thanks to Tim Gray who gently challenged me, I did finally make a quick post asking my network how we might best help the suffering going on in Ukraine (and Russia). That is the kind of activism I can agree with: non-controversial ways to help those that everyone in my network agrees deserve help.
Even when I don’t post about it, I see and care. As true for everyone else on social media: we see and care, even if we stay silent. You can judge us, fine, but know that, just as you, we are spending our energies on what we feel makes the most difference.
News is exciting to consume, and easy to rant about (well, if you have the guts for it) but we must also question whether it’s an escape from the truly risky work or our own purposeful work.
So, rather than spend much time on news, I try to just spend a little time on it, just enough to know what global help is needed, then doing just a bit to support that global/social cause in a non-controversial way, so that I can get back to the areas where I truly have the most impact.
One practical thing I do — whenever I’m tempted to surf the news, I take a gentle deep breath, and instead, focus for 1 minute on something of more direct impact, such as reading a book that grows my skills, or thinking about an upcoming task and how I can do it better.