Stop Complaining and Do Something

There’s a guy who posts #noconversion on every Opportunity International Australia Facebook post that mentions India.

I don’t know why. I guess it is his way of taking a stand against Opportunity converting people in India. From what to what, I couldn’t tell you. If he would take a moment and look at what we do then he would realise that we convert people from poverty to not-poverty and if he is against that, well, he can bite me.

But, regardless of that, he still posts his protest.

I saw a picture of women in Indonesia recently who were working through the challenges of COVID and the obstacles that they faced, all whilst wearing t-shirts that said “Stop complaining and do something”. Immediately this made me think of the Facebook guy.

Social media is not the real world. It is not even a proper representation of the real world. It’s a façade, built around a ruse, pretending to be a thing. It can be useful but it is limited. To make actual change requires the courage to articulate what you are for (I care very little for what you are against), and to put your time and money into that. I would suggest that 99% of that activity would happen in person. Being on social media is not ‘doing something’.

Also, in case you were wondering, neither is complaining.

Words Matter

What we say matters. How we say it also matters. There is something powerful about the words we use and how we choose to use them. What we speak over our children has a significant impact on their lives. What we speak over ourselves does also (which can sometimes be an echo of the words that were spoken over us by a parent or care giver).

How we respond to someone else’s words is entirely up to us. We choose to take offence or not, we choose to react or not.

I have often said that a great act of generosity is assuming the best of someone, no matter how their words or actions might appear to us. I find it is also one of the hardest acts of generosity to participate in.

To physically harm someone because they have offended us is wrong. Most would agree on that straight up. But our viewing preferences would suggest otherwise…

90% of the top grossing Hollywood films each year over the last decade are violence based (although I don’t think “Frozen” is entirely in the clear). Either a war, or something is being avenged or some sort of ‘man’ is fighting an evil oppressor to become the victor…with physical violence.

The world was offended when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock in the face at the Oscars. Then we all sat down, grabbed our popcorn and waited for The Batman to beat up the Riddler.

It’s not so easy to rid ourselves of violence.

Generosity in Action

Thoughts are incredibly important. What and how we think create the foundations of how we see and approach the world. Our thoughts shape the way we live. So, positive thoughts are much better than negative thoughts because they have the power to create positive experiences.

Generous thoughts are amazing. Thinking about someone through a framework of generosity is one of the most positive things we can do with our mind.

But only if it leads to action.

Generous thoughts are not generosity. Generosity can only be achieved through actions.

A great theologian once said,

Suppose you see someone who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

A generous person is not generous by their thinking alone, but ultimately by their actions.

How can you tell if you are being generous? Your behaviour will show you.

Changing The World

I think we all want to matter. We all want our efforts to make a difference in the world, however small. Having a sense of purpose and accomplishment is connected to wellbeing.

But when we are faced with the enormity of events that are happening on a global or national scale, it can be disheartening. It doesn’t seem to matter what we do we won’t be able to change the world, right?

Whether you are facing a global pandemic, or the leader of your country is a raving lunatic (as a random example), there is always something that you can do. The challenge is not getting too far ahead of yourself and thinking that what you are doing today won’t really change anything.

There is an ancient military methodology of spreading leadership responsibility around in an efficient manner and training future leaders at the same time. There were commanders of one thousand, commanders of one hundred and commanders of ten. It may sound simple to us today, but it made great numbers of soldiers manageable and created a clear reporting structure.  The commanders of ten reported to the commander of one hundred who reported to the commander of one thousand. Any form of structural hierarchy we have today can be traced back to this line of thinking.

What has that got to do with making a difference? Well, to become a commander of one thousand, you first needed to prove yourself as a commander of one hundred, after proving yourself as a commander of ten, after proving yourself as a soldier.  You couldn’t just jump to being a leader of thousands of people without first being one of the people.

In the same way, to change the world, you need to change your country, after changing your city, after changing your community, after changing your household, after changing yourself.

If you want to make a difference in the world, choose to act in a way that will change the lives of those in your household.

They don’t have to be large, outrageous actions, but little things – maybe one per day, and build on it. Over time it creates momentum. Have you ever heard of a pilot with thousands of flight hours and wondered how they could possibly have flown that much? Well, one hour at a time. Or an author who has written numerous books? They did that by writing one word at a time. In fact, anyone who has ever done anything great, performed small actions, consistently and well, over time.

Making a difference in the world, changing it for the better, requires small things done today, and then every day, and in the future you will be amazed at the world you are living in.

Not That Kind of Locust

“Our experience shapes the way we see the world and how we see the world shapes our experience.”

“Sometimes stuff happens to you and sometimes you happen to stuff.”

I find it fascinating to watch how people respond to life circumstances. And let’s face it, there has been a lot of ‘life circumstances’ happening this year. It’s got me thinking a great deal about what responses are appropriate and what it takes to control our response to those things which are outside of our control.

I decided to do some reading on the psychological concept of locus of control thinking that it would help me break down people into two groups.

  1. Those that have an external locus of control being people who sees the events of their life and the world around them as happening to them, without having any control over.
  2. Those with an internal locus of control being those that can control their response to external events and recognize that they can always do something.

It turns out locus of control is more about people’s view of how success is achieved – whether it is completely within their control (internal locus) or success comes from luck or fate alone (external locus). As you could imagine, most people fall somewhere in between.

Regardless of that, this frame of thinking can be the springboard for how we approach the world. Generally, people will either lean more towards action or reaction. Action, being more in line with an internal locus of control, someone who creates the world that they want. And reaction being more about an external locus of control, someone who responds to the world as it happens to them.

This year has seen a great deal of things ‘happen to us’ and I am in awe of those who are creating the experiences they want, the life that they want and the cities that they want to live in. They are the people who are not overwhelmed by challenging circumstances and are creating positive outcomes where others only see tragedy.

As Hamlet put it, ‘nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’