Today at the first day of the Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit there was a common theme shared by all the speakers: “Get up, go out, and make changes to the world around you!” It’s a compelling imperative from anyone – especially from today’s most progressive and action-oriented leaders. So why don’t we do it?
If you’re anything like me then you have a constant see-saw at work in your mind in hearing an inspirational and challenging speaker. On the one hand I am filled with excitement. I want to get up, run out the doors, and change the world. If I’m not careful to take personal inventory though I can tip to the other side of the scale and feel fear or maybe even shame at not having done something stupendous with my own life. I can end up more stuck than when I first walked in.
So what exactly tips that scale into the negative direction that keeps us stuck and immobile? Checking in with myself throughout the sessions today, here’s what I’ve come up with.
1.) Fear - Not fear itself, but our relationship with fear. Lots of people have lots of different kinds of relationships with fear. But at the end of the day it’s going to send you one clear message that will either equate to “move forward” or “run away”. It’s sort of like fight or flight. Personally I have a tendency towards flight – I think to myself “I’ll just get away for a bit, collect my thoughts, and be more able to handle the situation”. At the Summit today, Len Schleschinger told the crowd that “if failure is not an option, then neither is success”. Think about it: The only way to ensure that you’re not going to get hurt sharply is to never try anything that is important to you. Extreme risk-aversion atrophies your ability to be yourself.
2.) Selective negative attention – By this I mean selectively paying attention to problems and barriers rather than possibilities and opportunities. Sure, at the surface level this seems like being “shrewd as a snake” and that’s in the Bible so it must be a good way to go, right? The fact of the matter is that it’s just too easy to see barriers because the potential payoff is on the other side of those barriers. We’re not going to know just how rewarding the end result is until we’re actually there. But just think – the bigger the barriers are, the bigger the potential rewards are hiding right behind them.
3.) Assumption - Assumption happens when I “know” what would happen if I did something. Think of the 15-year-old getting ready for homecoming – “oh she’ll never say yes”. Don’t you just want to scream, “Ask her anyway!” Assumption, just like selective negative attention, kills imagination. There’s no space to dream up what might happen – no space for hope – when we’re busy paying attention to all the potential issues getting in the way. This is what happens when people get stuck in their self-created dogma.
4.) Our motivation – What motivates your desire for change? Of course if you’re motivated by money or prestige you’re only going to have so much steam before you realize it’s a never-ending battle. But wanting to make big moves “to change the world for the better” is also a way to knock yourself down before even starting. Things I’ve done in my life for all the “right” reasons have been complete flops. Why? Because it wasn’t me that was invested in them, but it was the me I want to magically turn into. The truth is that until we put our efforts into something that is a natural extension of our individuality, we’re not going to get too far. You’ll run out of steam, because you’re driving a car with the wrong fuel!