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Leadership Thought #372 – Focus on What You Can Control

June 20, 2012

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There are many things in life beyond our ability to control.  All you need to do is read, watch, or listen to the news and you will be exposed to a litany of troubling issues confronting the world.  In addition, even our local media regularly highlights things that are broken in our communities.  It can all feel a bit overwhelming.  The key is not to get too upset or distracted by what you cannot control. Realistically there are four areas where we can proactively make a difference:

  • Political activism
  • Community engagement
  • Business/Organizational leadership
  • Personal Life

There are many ways to participate in the political process and push to have your voice heard.  First, you should vote.  If you don’t exercise this basic and fundamental right, how can you complain about the state of government and politics?  I also encourage people to focus on a specific issue that is important to them and actively advocate for their position.  However, if you get caught up in every issue that captures your attention, you will find yourself increasingly frustrated by your inability to truly make a difference.  As with all things, focus matters.  It is also much easier to affect political change on a local grassroots level by working with people you know who share a common point of view.

A proven method to increase your levels of personal happiness is volunteering for a charitable organization.  It is important to recognize that there are others less fortunate than you are.  It doesn’t matter where you sit on the social scale.  Small acts of human kindness and compassion matter.  Moreover, community engagement at any level strengthens your connection to that community.  Too many people get too caught with themselves and ignore the reality around them.  The secret of life is in giving not getting.

If you are a business owner/leader, you have the laboratory of your own organization to affect positive change.  The work you do, how you do it, the people you do it for, the employees you hire to make it happen, the work culture you create, the economic contribution you make to the local economy, and the importance you place on community participation/involvement are all positive change levers at your disposal.  Success should always be about more than just money.   Healthy and vibrant communities always have an active and engaged entrepreneurial class.

In your personal life, you should strive to be the best spouse, parent, son/daughter, sibling, and friend you can be.  Our overall happiness is a direct reflection of the quality of our closest relationships.  Model the behavior you would like to receive from others.  No one expects you to be perfect (or at least I hope not), but they do want to be a priority if they are part of your inner circle.  I come across far too many people who focus on everything but what is most important.  In fact, many of us take those closest to us for granted.   Don’t let your ego about how you want to be perceived by others outside of your family circle and close friends inhibit your ability to do right by those who are an integral part of your human journey.