Years ago, when I was secretly dreaming about someday becoming an author and a speaker who would (hopefully) change lives, I pulled a bestselling motivational book off the shelf at my neighborhood library.
Turning it over in my hands, I discovered from the bio on the back that the author lived 20 minutes down the highway from me. I didn't do anything about it at the time, but it seemed magical that someone like this was living that close by. Somehow, the idea itself was inspiring enough on its own.
A couple of years ago, I had the experience of sharing the stage with John Izzo, the author of that book, at a local fundraiser for a project in Uganda. I could barely contain my enthusiasm when we shook hands—not only was I finally meeting him in person, but it also signified that I, now an author and speaker myself, had somehow managed to get to a place in my career where my book and his were displayed on tables side by side. Incredible! And we've been friends ever since.
You may be familiar with Izzo's internationally bestselling book, The Five Secrets You Must Discover before You Die, (this wasn't the one I pulled from the shelf that day, but it's the one he's best known for) as well as his popular PBS series by the same name. As I write this he's just released his latest book, Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything.
In the book, Izzo writes:
My definition of stepping up is simple: Stepping up is seeing a need and deciding YOU are the right person to do something about it. It is about not looking to anyone else to create change but to do what you can in your sphere of influence. The responsibility I speak of is not a wagging finger telling you to step up, but an empowering message of what happens when we stop worrying about what anyone else is doing and choose to do what we can do. Whether trying to change our family, our company or the world, we are only powerful when we focus on what WE can do.
I had a chance to read the book before it came out, and was so inspired by the spirit of empowerment, responsibility and hope contained within. Here are some of my favorite concepts (accompanied by my own thoughts on them) which I hope will incite you to think differently about your life today, and the power you have to make a real difference within your sphere of influence:
1) Encourage tolerance and kindness
In a world shaken by financial chaos and instability, with more and more people needing a piece of the communal pie to survive, it's easy to fall into an "every man for himself" kind of survival mentality. Frequently, this will start to manifest itself by resenting those who are different or who have it "easier."
I've caught myself a few times this month making comments that weren't cool, which reflected my own unease about the changing circumstances around me. Have you noticed yourself doing the same?
From now on, whenever you or someone else is being intolerant or unkind—no matter how subtle or socially acceptable it might be—decide that you'll step up and show up differently, and encourage others to do the same.
2) Lose attitudes that make you miserable and less successful
I love that a commitment to a different attitude can be a significant way of "stepping up." This is something that anyone can do instantly. Of course, you might slip into old ways after promising yourself not to, messing up is a normal part of the process of positive change. When you've really committed yourself to change you'll feel how unappealing your old way is, especially if you fall back into it, and you'll be far less likely to repeat the old habit the next time.
In the book, Izzo focuses on two of the most troubling attitudes: "It's not my job!" and "It's not my fault!"
In a blog post he wrote on the topic, he noted:
How many times in an average week will you hear someone utter these sentiments: It's not my job! It was not my fault. What can I do about it? It is bigger than me. I wish someone would do something about that.
My belief is that the more a person or organization focuses on the external environment rather than how they respond to it-the less happy and successful they will be.
In the section of the book devoted to this issue, he further states that "There are two kinds of people in the world, those who make things happen and those who complain about what's happening."
Ouch. Which one are you?
If you don't like the answer, it's very easy to change which one you are.
3) The Responsibility Ripple
Many of us feel disempowered in our work and our lives, because we don't think that we do matters. It does.
In another excerpt from the book, Izzo writes:
Human behavior is contagious, good and bad. All of us have had the experience of entering a break room at work when one person starts complaining about how bad things are around here and before you know it everyone has joined in the whining feast. We have also had the opposite experience, that when a few people start talking about how we can fix things instead of how broken things are, suddenly the energy shifts. Responsibility is contagious. I call this the Responsibility Ripple. When someone steps up to change things, others step up and find courage they had not previously found.
Though I'm far from perfect, I decided years ago to stay away from whine fests. When I'm in a work or social environment, I deliberately avoid the people who engage in this, especially if they've demonstrated on previous occasions that they refuse to talk about, or listen to, a more positive spin on things.
How might you be able to infect those around you with a healthier, happier spirit? If you're stuck in a plane on a runway for hours, that's a perfect time to practice. (Izzo's book has a cute story about that, which developed into a theory he calls "The Five Rows of Responsibility.")
You can find more information about Stepping Up, as well as many moving and inspiring personal stories, at the book's website www.steppingupforchange.com.
My website: www.susanbiali.com
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Copyright Dr. Susan Biali 2012