At the core of many of my conversations with individuals and groups lately, stands a basic question of “belief.” Will we believe that we as individuals, and together, have the ability to affect change? Wavering on this question leaves us wondering whether we can step forward and truly make a difference. Here are three ways to restore and deepen your own sense of belief in these politically toxic and divisive times. The importance of this topic was only reinforced for me this past week when I was in Orlando serving as the opening keynote speaker for the United Way Worldwide annual Staff Leaders Conference. During my time there, I heard many people talk about their own feelings of inadequacy in creating change in their communities, within their organization, and within themselves. I viewed these individuals as being brave, not weak – brave enough to voice what so many of us feel but often are unwilling to say ourselves.
The restoration of belief in ourselves and in one another is pivotal to all our efforts to make a difference in communities. Without such belief, we may hold back from doing what we know is required to bring about change; we may choose not to reach out and forge key relationships with others; we may step back just when we need to step forward.
At issue is our sense of possibility. In question is how to build up our confidence. Here are three steps you can take to deepen your own sense of belief and to engage others:
- We must stand up and grab hold of emerging stories of self-trust and hope. It is easy to go around and tell negative stories about how bad things have become, to continually reinforce an ingrained, negative narrative. Instead, we must search for and tell stories of self-trust and hope – those stories that help us see how change did come about, how people forged ahead even amid falling down, and how people came together to make a difference.
- We must be courageous enough to ask a basic question to others: “What story do you have?” and then once someone has told it, to ask, “What story are you going to tell, now?” I urge you to try this, because in taking this step you will experience its power and you will begin to see the seeds of change.
- We must be willing to actively support others who tell stories of self-trust and hope. That is, we must publicly stand by those who tell such a story as opposed to looking down or away or to someone else. People must know that they are not standing alone – that we are with them.
The key challenge here rests within each of us. It is whether we will stand up and declare our intentions. Whether we believe in ourselves enough to move forward? Whether we choose to believe in the goodness and motivations of other people? Whether we believe that individuals and communities can change?
There is no magic solution to restoring people’s belief – there is no public relations campaign, “best practice,” or new fad one can adopt to do this trick. Nor can we rely on mere “feel good” stories that provide empty promises and ring hollow. Instead, what we need, what we require already exists within us. We must tap and tell genuine stories of self-trust and hope. Start with small steps and you will see the power you hold to deepen your own sense of belief in your individual and our collective ability to create change and make a difference.
For more on this topic, you may want to take a look at a speech I gave some years ago, entitled: Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: Creating a New Public Story.