Reading a newsfeed on my iPad last month, a headline captured my attention. “The World Took a Negative Turn in 2017.” The news story? The Gallup organization measures the emotional state of most countries in the world each year. The 2017 survey results show a sharp increase in negative emotions – stress, anxiety, and sadness to name a few. The people of the world are feeling negative.
News like this can overwhelm us. What can you and I really do about all this misery in the world?
I’d like to offer a way to think about this information in a constructive and actionable way. I got this idea from a great communicator and pastor, Andy Stanley. He says two things that have framed up my thinking when I’m overwhelmed by the condition of the world – and my limited ability to change things. He says:
- Work on something that breaks your heart.
- Do for one person what you wish you could do for many.
For me personally, I have been heartbroken about terrible work environments that crush the talent, spirit, and performance of human beings. Toxic workplaces have the same debilitating impact on the human psyche as toxic chemicals have on the brain. Yet many days, it seems like everyone in the world is working on reducing toxins in the environment – and no one is working on removing toxins from the workplace. That has become my passion as a leader and developer of future leaders: To create workplaces where people thrive and perform.
Do for One
But I have learned to have realistic expectations. The world is a mighty big place, and I certainly won’t be able to change all the toxic workplaces in my lifetime. I am just one person. And as such, I can probably only impact one place – one company, one organization, or one work group. And that will be my focus. When given a leadership opportunity, I will make sure I do everything in my power to create a workplace where people thrive and perform. And if given an opportunity to share that experience with others, I will give freely of my time and learning – to advance the cause.
A Positive Work Experience
I was encouraged recently by a quote by the American author, James Michener, who wrote:
“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.”
What if we took this view of our leadership in the workplace? What if we worked to make work purposeful, meaningful, excellent – even fun? What if the workplace felt like “life,” not “work?” How would that contribute to the emotional health of our little piece of the world? Would it reduce stress, anxiety, and misery for the people in our care?
I believe we can make a difference is small ways – starting with the people that are right in front of us today – at work – at home – and in our communities. When we work together, we can fall victim to the negative experience around us – or we can lead them to a positive experience with our attitude and our actions.
Let’s reverse the statistics wherever you have influence. This is how we dare to serve.