I often asked myself, what would happen if I obtained all that I want? Of course most of us know the philosophically correct answer, but if we’re honest we’d probably say ”Life would be better!” while interjecting our desire for wealth, prosperity, cultural and/or religious dominance…etc. But I’m further curious, what about those of us who believe our goals to be more altruistic like solving world hunger, or poverty, or war, or environmental issues, or….etc?
For me it would be specifically asking what would happen if I did see people coming together with a real concern for one other and their community? What if I did see my neighbours inviting each other over for dinner instead of looking out their windows to see if their neighbours are doing something politically incorrect, or illegal, or even worse You-Tube worthy?
My friends, family, community members, and even my clients often proclaim my greatest strength is identifying personality characteristics and bringing people together toward a common goal. And yet, as I look at what society holds as the ”prizes of life” I still see many obsessed with the pursuit of wealth, power, and a fiercely guarded individualism. Many of these are the same individuals who champion my talents and encourage me to work in the lives of others hoping they will successfully integrate altruistic principles in their organizations, homes, and personal lives. We really are a funny species aren’t we?
So what would happen if one day I woke up to a whole new world? A world where people listened before they reacted. A world where people were ok with the diversity of society rather than allowing the media to turn us against each other. What if a Gay, Black, Muslim were as welcomed in a Chinese Christian church as a member from their own community? Would I be happy with these changes? Again, my initial reaction is like anyone else’s: ”Of course! It would be great if society were to improve that way!” Everything’s great right? ….but what about those things I didn’t expect. What if my daughter committed herself to the principles I teach others so readily? What if one day she decides the same faith, cultural values, and goals I’ve set for her don’t matter because she sees the greater purpose in connecting with the diversity of people in her life? Would I have an emotional flinch (coupled with a possible knee-jerk reaction)?
I stop and think of all the dreams I have of her marrying a devoted surgeon who donates his money to charitable causes, while maintaining savings for an average sized home, with an average sized family, and just enough money left over for my future grand kids. (Did I mention her husband should also be a Green Peace advocate, active community member, play sports, and be devoted to following his father-in-law during his spare time?) All of that down the drain because my daughter decided to listen and learn from me…unexpectedly to its fullest!
I’m coming to realize there’s a cost in every desire we have be it the desire for individual gain, or the desire to change society for the ”better”. Many have been taught the ”good things” in life (for us) don’t come at a cost to anyone, especially to ourselves. But that simply isn’t true. I was very intrigued to see this truth played out in a Canadian television series called ”Being Erica”. The premise of the show is following a woman (Erica) in her late 20’s (possibly early 30’s?) who feels that she doesn’t have much. Her friends have well developed careers and she doesn’t. Her friends are married and she just got dumped by her fiance. Her parents continue to interject and poke into her life as to why she isn’t more like ”other people” which only exasperates the tension. And finally she wonders, much like I do, why can’t other people just come to realize that if everyone was just like…. (insert rule here) …then everything would be better.
In the first episode of the series she happens to come across a therapist who has the ability to send her back in time and change any decision in her life or the lives of others. She of course leaps at the opportunity because she knows that if she could just make some changes, everything about her life would be better. Wouldn’t we do the same? So each episode is a new therapy session where she’s allowed to go back and make the changes she wants, (and no she doesn’t use any of those episodes to go back and buy stocks in Apple, Facebook, or Google). Her goals for the most part are altruistic and are believed to be for the better of everyone.
What’s interesting about this television series is we actually get to see the ”cost” of each change she has made. In most cases she actually achieves what she was hoping for, but it always comes at a cost of the things she could never have anticipated. She reclaims one friend only to lose two others. She saves one life, only to find out another life is lost. She stops one bad outcome for her family only to see a new issue arise…. No matter what she does, she finds herself back where she started – a life full of costs where nothing is perfect! Funny how we never hear that side of the equation from pundits like Oprah, Dr.Phil, and media moguls who are reliant on solving our problems (just tune in and/or buy their products is all they ask)! Again, it’s important to note there is no such thing as change without cost, not one single person on this earth can change it.
This is currently one of the things I stress to all my clients who are looking for me to ‘change’ their staff, their community, or their working environments. Furthermore, it remains a point in which I need to remind myself of: “Beware of what you wish for, because it must just come true, and in more ways than you could have imagined.”
Best wishes to all of you no matter where you find yourself at this moment in life…
To learn more about the fuel that drives me check out my company website: http://www.mattsilver.ca