Check out this great clip.
The clever thing about it is that people can relate to both parts – the pessimistic, apathetic part, and the optimistic, hopeful part.
As human beings we all have those sides to us. Some days we couldn’t give a flying fig about things, other days we plug into what matters and get involved. But this clip made me think – what happens if these 2 sides are perfectly balanced, 50/50?
It means equilibrium.
It means that things won’t move forwards.
It means that we get in our own way.
So the elephant in the room is the fact that if Gen Y really wants to move the world forwards they need to shift that equilibrium. They need to shift the balance away from apathy and towards engagement.
The optimism, flexibility and ‘can-do’ attitude of Gen-Y is well documented, particularly with regard to changing the workplace, but I’ve seen indications in my own work and in the writing of others that Gen-Y isn’t quite so ‘can-do’ as they like to think they are. This makes me think that for all the talking up and hopeful interchange, much of Gen-Y will hit a wall where they discover that changing things is much more difficult than they thought.
There’s a big can of worms here, because I’m always coaching people on knowing the difference between the things in their life that they can change and influence and the things they can’t. I’ve seen clients bang their heads against brick walls trying to get things to happen, when it’s either completely out of their control or something that just isn’t ready to happen, so I let them know that it’s okay to stop bashing away against something they can’t change, and that that energy is better used elsewhere.
But maybe that’s missing an important point – that if everyone simply focused on the things that they can change and influence the equilibrium remains intact. Surely to move things forwards in line with the optimistic and hopeful side of us we need to engage with more than the things we can control. We need to engage with the things that seem to be out of control.
I honestly believe that everyone wants their life to matter; that everyone wants their contribution to the world to be greater than the sum of the parts. The problem, of course, is how that can happen in a world that seems to make that as difficult as possible, and how you can deal with the sometimes paralysing fear that what you do won’t matter.
Here’s what I think.
Changing the world, or at least your world, sounds like a mammoth, intimidating, confidence shredding task. But if you shift your own equilibrium, so that you’re spending more of your time engaging rather than not engaging, the rest will follow. Simple as.
It’s much easier to find the confidence and courage to plug into something that matters to you, as it means that you don’t have to worry about whether what you’re doing will matter to the world or contribute to a Big Picture. It just means that as long as what you’re plugged into means something to you, that’s all that really matters.
So by all means engage with something as big or complex as volunteering for a charity, standing on a political stage to make your viewpoint heard, taking part in a community project, working for an organisation with values you connect with or helping a friend in crisis. But it doesn’t have to be big, grand or life-changing. It could also be as simple or as small as engaging with a friendship, giving your barrista a smile, taking time to listen to a colleague’s point of view, making a suggestion instead of making a criticism, or any one of a million other things.
The point is this – if you can decide to spend more of your time plugged into things that mean something to you than not plugged into much at all, then you’ve got something special.
That’s how the equilibrium shifts, and that’s how things change.