The new year will be upon us in 30 days. Some will reflect on the past. Sometimes such reflection helps us understand our present circumstances and may clarify next steps.
Still, those who understand human behavior warn against being endlessly mired in questions of why we are the way we are. It’s easy to get stuck and be unable to move forward. Engaging your own creativity is a positive action that keeps you forward-focused.
In the new year, we can’t repeat what we’ve always done and expect different outcomes. We need to strike a new path, look at old problems through a new lens. M.J. Ryan advises in her book, "This Year I Will … " that we switch from "why" thinking to "what could be possible" thinking. Indeed, we’re the change we want to see.
For most of us, life is hard in today’s nasty financial and economic situation. Yet, food is not lacking, materials remain abundant, technology continues to thrive and bring change — you can choose to ride, or not, in a vehicle that practically drives itself! There are people who live well; there are many who can’t make ends meet.
On the world stage, national governments continue to compete for power, influence and prestige. The perennial clash between democracy activists and autocratic regimes that trample rights and freedom in the name of political stability and economic development raises many moral questions.
Life is a constant struggle within ourselves and with pressures and temptations in the wider world.
Inwardly, the "I, me, mine" rule lives — a source of greedy consumption that Lord Buddha saw as a source of "suffering." Outwardly, the same "I, me, mine" gives rise to a need to control, intensifying the just-unjust conflict.
Yet, humans everywhere basically want similar things: To be in good health; to enjoy a level of contentment in life; to be able to meet the basic necessities of life.
A democracy seeks to ensure that people live well. An autocracy seeks to remain in power by beating its people to obey and submit.
Focus On Intelligence
Those who are schooled in the social sciences tell us it’s not how much we know, but how we think, that determines our future. Some, however, mistake their opinions for analytical thought and knowledge. Opinions are based in our emotions. Analytical thinking evolves from knowledge, from one’s capacity to observe, wonder, imagine, inquire, interpret, evaluate, compare, relate, analyze, calculate and innovate. Our brains can be trained and taught to think better.
According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 85 percent of Americans say they are happy. Yet, those millions who are happy want to be happier still. People want more.
But look around. People live longer, eat better, have more things, but still many are stressed and depressed. The traffic is heavy, grocery lines are long, services are slow, people are rude, etc.
Lord Buddha saw man’s insatiable consumption as a source of unhappiness and suffering that ends only through elimination of the need for more.
A person with a "can do" attitude sees difficulties as opportunities; his or her questioning mind produces a panorama of alternatives to choose from. A person with a "can’t do" attitude moves nowhere.
Whether in family life, at work, in the community, or in the world, positive thinking, backed by the power of one’s imagination, energizes a person to engage in sustained assaults on problems and predicaments. Problems can be solved; predicaments addressed. It’s about keeping things in perspective. Through sorrow we appreciate joy; through war we understand peace; through the negatives, we innovate and create new ways.
As we approach the new year, Khmer democrats should apply their capacity to imagine, relate and innovate to fight the dictatorship under which they live.
In earlier columns, I have connected several useful concepts. In traditional teaching, Khmer elders have urged us to waste nothing: curved wood can make a wheel, straight wood can make a spoke, and crooked wood can make firewood.
Psychologist-consultant Dr. Linda V. Berens identified four temperaments in humans: the theorist values competence, uses strategic analysis; the catalyst idealizes a vision, advocates, and brings people together toward self-actualization; the improviser seizes the moment and varies actions to get things done with what’s available; and the stabilizer maintains order and stability through structures, and prevents institutional fragmentation.
An education leader of one of America’s most successful public school systems, Jerry D. Weast, described as a leader’s "toughest job, … to move from strategy to execution." That requires the help of the "people who do the work" every day in their unsung roles in the office, the streets or field. They are the "heroes" moving the institution forward, he said.
A results-oriented human resources executive, Katharine Giacalone, says it’s important to know who is on your team in order to maximize its effectiveness — the peacemaker who wants every member to be included; the organizer, who wants everyone to line up and count off; the revolutionary who hates routine and prefers to adapt to the moment; or the smart and opinionated steamroller who handles opposite views and floats ideas at 30,000 feet.
Who is on your team and how can each member be most effective?