Do you feel your life and career are within your control? Do you accept accountability for your actions and your inactions? Are you doing your part to better your workplace and community in which you work and live? Or do you feel that you’re a victim without agency, and complain about how bad things are while failing to take responsibility?
It’s all too easy to make snarky comments on social media then stand back and complain about how the world is going to hell. Harder is when you take responsibility for yourself, and actively get involved to be part of a solution. This is when you are more likely to bring about change and feel better about your life.
Many people refuse to take responsibility for their own situation and/or take part in helping to improve our communities. Both are important and necessary and it’s not about which side of the political spectrum you’re on.
In the workplace, this means doing your job. Say what you will do and do what you say you will do. Assume positive intent. Respond rather than react. Remember that you are entitled to your feelings, and you are responsible for your behavior.
To be personally accountable means to get your vaccines and booster shot. It means wearing a mask and practice social distancing to protect yourself. This is not a political decision. It’s a health decision and it can be one with life-or-death consequences. Choose to read and listen to factual information from reliable sources rather than mere opinions from unreliable ones.
In the workplace, social responsibility is about encouraging trust, respect, and collaboration. Innovation and efficiency will not happen without these, and you can’t operate independently from others.
Like it or not, your freedom is not about doing whatever you want wherever you want. You can’t shout “fire” in a crowded theatre when there’s no valid reason to do so. Wear a mask to protect your family, friends, neighbors, and the surrounding community. Public health is about all of us, and it requires each of us doing our part. This doesn’t diminish your freedom. In fact, it helps ensure it.
Tufts political science professor, Eitan Hersh, in his 2020 book Politics is for Power, wrote that many Americans participate in “political hobbyism” as a national pastime.
“A third of Americans say they spend two hours or more each day on politics,” Hersh writes. “Of these people, four out of five say that not one minute of that time is spent on any kind of real political work. It’s all TV news and podcasts and radio shows and social media and cheering and booing and complaining to friends and family.”
For Hersh, real political work is the intentional, strategic accumulation of power in service of a defined end. It is action in service of change, not information in service of outrage.
Action in service of change, not information in service of outrage. I encounter so many who complain about their lives: at work, at home, with politicians, and with the state of our government. They so often complain via social media where “likes,” memes, snarky comments, and trolling is all too easy and has become all too socially acceptable.
In the past two months alone, I’ve encountered several people who complained to me about different situations that I am directly helping to resolve and asked for their commitment to join me to help fix. In every case they either declined or simply went silent on me.
Be the Change You Want to See
I know it’s not easy for people to find the time and energy to devote to a cause outside of paying rent and putting food on the table, but I suspect just about all of us could make time and put forth effort towards improving something in our communities. Whether it’s simply volunteering at your children’s school, a local foodbank, or any number of other valuable organizations, you can make a difference and gain a more optimism in your own life.
Personally, when I reflect on my adult years, I feel my time and energy as a community volunteer, PTSA president, Big Brother, adult literacy tutor, and Braver Angels workshop facilitator, have improved my perspective on life. I feel that I am part of something bigger than myself and this has had a positive impact on both me and on my community.
Just this month I joined an advisory board to help steward a nearby community forest. For too long I found myself complaining about things related to this. After attending a virtual board meeting and found they were looking for new members, I put my name forward and will soon begin helping to balance various constituencies to help solve big and challenging issues.
The fact is you do have enough time. Just become aware of the time you spend on activities that don’t bring you joy or can make you feel worse. By reducing the amount of time spent staring at a screen can free up time. This doesn’t mean working less, but reducing the time spent on social media, streaming movies and series, and especially doom scrolling. Continual rumination is a cause for deep concern and should be a wakeup call.
To feel better about yourself and your community requires that you take control of your time and your energy. It means taking accountability for yourself and responsibility for our shared community. The sooner we all do this, the sooner we will reach the change we wish to see.