“…love is a skill, not a feeling, and will require trust, vulnerability, generosity…” writes Alain de Botton, which means loving the planet is also a skill not a feeling, requiring the same trust, vulnerability and generosity.
As love sits at the heart of empathy, which triggers the cycle of invention and innovation, then I believe that there is hope for solutions which are unashamedly people and planet-centred.
I’ve been littering my articles with talk about love for some time now.
I see that some of you are also beginning to say the L-word too, which is excellent. Perhaps we can join forces and work together?
Somewhere along the way, you signed up to make good change happen in the world. In these unusual times, creating powerful solutions for the planet, means that you need to be more creative than ever.
The deal you make with the Universe, if you’re using the word ‘innovative’ anywhere in your lingo, is that you will need to step into the soupy mess for real and risk doing things differently.
And the moment you do is the time when revolutionary ideas will show up to challenge you on direction, choices, decisions…arriving unplanned and wilfully disrespectful of your status quo.
Often, our first reaction is to curate ourselves based on past hurts and seeming failures.
It plays out a little like the scene from Notting Hill, towards the end in the bookshop.
Your idea arrives and, like Anna, it says, “I was wondering whether you would let me see you a little…or a lot…”
Unnerved by the magnificent possibilities, you, like William, reply, “Can I just say No to your kind request? With you I’m in real danger…my relatively inexperienced heart, I fear, will not recover if I was once again cast aside…”
Startled by something that will take you out of your comfort zone, you haul out all of the old myths and stories to stay safe, all the reasons why not.
Both of these characters are you. Your unique blend of splendid creativity asks to be seen, inviting you to take the risk on something spectacular. The same you, who has chewed the dirt in the arena, as Brene Brown calls it, doesn’t want the agony of hitting the ground again.
And yet, revolutionary ideas are incorrigible in their persistence.
You may be tender-hearted but you are not faint-hearted; deep down you know that a seed of disruption has been planted that will change everything. After all, when you chose to play with the fire of walking the path less well travelled, you knew you were going to get at least a little singed.
What to do then?
As rule-breakers and change-makers advocating for people and planet, saying No to taking action makes us deeply unhappy. And yet, age and experience make us a little wiser than saying a ‘straight-over-the-cliff’ Yes.
What if you said, “Maybe!”
Allowing something extraordinary to unfold starts with, “Maybe…” so that time, tenderness and courage can work their magic, making space for the possibilities to be revealed and explored.
Letting go of past hurts, the fear of future failures and perhaps most of all, the terror that things might actually work out, means learning how to say Maybe.
This is the soupy space I like working with you in. It’s messy, human, real. It’s the necessary meeting point of love, wonder, joy which are essential for opening up your creativity to be innovative and entrepreneurial.
It’s where I get you to show up authentically, remembering how to take risks as unprecedented you, regardless of age or position.
You called yourself to action with your idea, I give you the tools to say Maybe so that you make massive positive impact in ways meaningful to you.
Get in touch. You can email me firstname.lastname@example.org and we can chat about how I can help you and your team with coaching and workshops.
Oh…and watch the whole film to know the whole story. Bring your own snack, I don’t share my popcorn!
#flowinaction #flow #wellbeing #creativity #love #innovation #entrepreneurship #socialinnovation #socialenterprise #socinn #socent #responsiblebusiness #purposedriven #climateaction #sustainability #sdgs
The tipping points we are at in climate chaos are calling on us to do things differently; to embrace being fully human.
As changemakers, if we are exhausted then we can’t arrive in each day with our problem-solving creativity to challenge the status quo of zero-sum economics. It is harder to show-up with fresh insights, innovative ideas and the capacity to take real climate action.
Thus, the burn-out of leaders, entrepreneurs, impact investors, educators - concerns me greatly. I've been part of this tribe for 25 years, so I know how many of you have experienced, or are, experiencing it.
It bothers me when you’re lonely, tired, heart-broken, lost, jaded, fearful. And, most especially when you settle for a half-way house in your “one, wild and precious life” as Mary Oliver calls it in her poem, The Summer Day.
We are being invited to be braver than ever, not by pushing harder but by walking back into ourselves to design solutions around flourishing, to create a different, better type of nudge.
And what of flourishing personally? It is in noticing and creating the profoundly loving and positive connections that go deep and broad in the micro-moments of our everyday lives. Practice it so that you can build it.
David M Carter, describes how cultivating these positive emotions inspires environmentally responsible behaviours, so actually there is an even higher, useful purpose to you doing this:
“First, positive emotions expand and deepen our awareness that we are each a connected part of a much larger living system; the Earth. With greater awareness of this interdependence, our values, intentions, and actions become transformed. Second, positive emotions broaden our vision, resourcefulness, and capacity to creatively and effectively address environmental problems. And third, positive emotions help us to authentically connect with the things in life that are most precious. This authentic connection leads to greater happiness and well-being, and reveals indubitably that consumption levels in excess of what we need serve no purpose toward our overall life satisfaction.” (Carter, D.M., (2009) Cultivated Positive Emotions Inspire Environmentally Responsible Behaviours. University of Pennsylvania.)
The planet needs you to do things differently. Greta and a whole host of other advocates made a stand this week.
And it needs us to do differently so that we generate this connection to the ecosystems that sustain us. Whatever tidy plans you might have, with your back to back busy, I can guarantee that the Universe will send a messenger first, who will invite you to slip headlong into flourishing (the Arhuaco tribe have spoken); and when you don’t listen, she will unravel you to make sure you do, as described beautifully by Brene Brown.
As changemakers, we are on this path of ‘wrestling with angels’, as Stephen Jenkinson calls it...
“If you wrestle an angel, you will grow muscle. There’s no doubt of that. You will also hurt in places that you didn’t know you had. There’s no doubt of that either. And you will lose, by the normal calculus of trying to engineer the life that you’re sure you deserve. It will not come out as you planned, wrestling angels. Your plans are usually the first casualty of the match. But here is that great secret of it: you will be able to boast of your defeat. You will be able to stand in the wreckage of what used to be your certainty, your creed, your way of doing life’s business, and you can tell wild, true stories about how it all came to ruin. Whatever is left standing - and there is always something left standing when you wrestle angels - is the thing that was true about you and your life all along, as faithful a companion as the Earth that will one day cradle you again.”
To take this path is to commit to the revolutionary act of loving, to live those positive emotions that David M Carter refers to; as a way of opening up your deepest creativity and contribution for the planet, to decrease the suffering of others. This is what is left standing after you have wrestled with angels. The sum total of light in the world that you, being unprecedented, contributed.
I’m also one of those messengers extending the invitation.
So, I’m asking, what if you did things differently? What if you broke the routines of a lifetime that have made you content with safe discomfort? What if you chose ‘more’…given it’s in the interests of saving the planet? What if you designed everything around flourishing?
The moment when someone allows an idea to form fascinates me.
It is like watching the Universe tenderly kiss them on the brow and encourage them out into the spotlight.
Whether a child or an adult, it’s a moment so pure in its vulnerability, a splitting of light refracted as they surrender to that unique expression of their unprecedented self.
It is a moment of great courage, suspended between two shores; a choice to step past fear and shame and doubt to take the risk on what may seem impossible.
The fact that I get to see and share this moment with people of all ages, like the start-up entrepreneurs working in Capacity Zurich’s amazing entrepreneurship programme for refugees and migrants, is a great honour; or the students from British School India in my workshop at the UN last week.
I am filled with an urgency to create these moments with you, because we need to imagine a different future than the trajectory that we are on. We need to imagine it in order to create it; and we need to create it by designing around happiness.
With that in mind, I am prescribing ‘wonder’ for everyone as a fast-track approach for inspiring incredible ideas for doing more good for people and planet.
Diane Ackerman wrote, “Wonder is the heaviest element on the periodic table. Even a tiny fleck of it stops time.”
I’ve been having some chats with Dr Vlad Glavneau, Director of the Webster Center for Creativity & Innovation Unit at Webster University in Geneva, and his working definition of wonder is: “Wonder and wondering deﬁne a particular type of experience whereby the person becomes (more or less suddenly) aware of an expanded ﬁeld of possibility for thought and/or action and engages (more or less actively) in exploring this ﬁeld.” (Glavneau, V.P., (2017) Creativity and Wonder. The Journal of Creative Behavior, Vol. 0, Iss. 0, pp. 1–7)
I love creating the spaces for wondering, as powerful, alchemic places of embedding wellbeing and resilience; as well as the tools for taking action.
Children and young people are so open and passionate in their creativity, it’s like watching a blizzard of butterflies emerge. As adults, you just take a bit longer to get to this place, because you’ve forgotten how to break your rules and take the risk on opening your hearts. Ah, but when you do, it’s a thing of great beauty.
We need more wonder and wondering. It is a reclaiming of being ‘fully human’ in our connection to the planet and each other which needs to happen rapidly. It is a groundswell of more love as a social mission, the start of change, the seed of incredible ideas. Me, I’m a Star Wars watching, wild mountain woman walking under the full moon, rebellious librarian-type of wonderer.
And you? What do you wonder? What do you find wondrous? Take a breath, open up to wondering today. Listen to the revolutionary response inside of you and roll with it.
I’ll wrap up with the wisdom of Alice Walker in The Color Purple, “I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering bout the big things and asking bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.”
After more than 24 years working in social change, I have a joyful longing which is bubbling over, a need to disrupt the status quo, a burning desire to do as Rumi suggested, “Run from what's comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now on I'll be mad.”
I want to talk about love. Love. Love as a social mission. Loving yourself. Love as the gateway to remembering you are ‘of’ the planet and that it breathes you, so your business solutions must be ‘for’ it too.
If we are going to win hearts and minds on taking action for the planet, we need to radically practice the compassion and collaboration that we preach. I think we are all exhausted by the toxic, non-collaborative environments and behaviours, which get disguised and excused under the urgency of an organisation’s compassionate vision and mission. A review into Amnesty International’s workplace culture published this week isn’t unique by any stretch of the imagination.
An economist I know, with his start-up business of delivering poetic messages of love to people, broke this wide open for me, astonishing me awake, giving voice to the very thing that I think I have always been burning to say, giving me the courage to finally say it out loud.
I want to smash numb hearts open with love and joy and awe and gratitude. Because what happens then is the dam-burst of your unique, incredible, exquisite, problem-solving creativity. Invention. Innovation.
Oh yes, also important to mention. I haven’t made this up, it is all backed by the science of wellbeing, particularly the work of Barbara Fredrickson. Positive emotions deepen your connection to your creativity, your resilience and your resources for taking action. More profoundly, they connect you to a sense of one-ness with the planet and those around you.
I have this crazy idea. It’s a bit like the Footloose moment we all dream of having…(a guilty pleasure, maybe just me then)…this delicious urge to dance into your organisations with their social missions, and start talking about love as a social mission, to see the jaws drop open, the wriggles of discomfort, the down-right irritation. I know when I get those moments of resistance that I have hit the nail on the head and dropped in the pebble of disruption.
With our social missions, we are a huge eco-system – from impact investors to solopreneurs and everything in between. If we really want value-added for people and planet, then love is our answer within our own organisations and partnerships.
In the words of Freddie and Bowie which never get old, “love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night and love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves.” © Under Pressure lyrics Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC.
Imagine achieving the Sustainable Development Goals before 2030. Do you want that for real? Do you dare to get there by being notorious? Will you take the risk on love?
If you answer yes, you need me to come dancing into your organisation. If you answer no to any of these questions, you definitely need me to come dancing into your organisation.
With processes and practices we’ll work on developing wellbeing and collaboration for you and your teams, so that you achieve your business goals for people and planet.
Why do I do what I do?
I don’t have a daughter, so instead for my niece and every girl and woman I work with, as the spoken word poet Sarah Kay says, “the first time she realises that Wonder Woman isn’t coming, I’ll make sure that she knows she doesn’t have to wear the cape all by herself…”
That is why I do what I do. Make the playing field level, where we look after each other.
Because I want her to know herself early in life, to know how to be independent and interdependent.
I want her to cherish and know and nurture her own heart and soul in the first instance, rather than seeking that affirmation from someone else who doesn’t know who they are, let alone her.
I want to make a space in the world for her to belong, not to fit in…
A space where she never has the wall beside her head punched by a man in a rage, or is bullied to breaking by a woman boss who is jealous of her untameable spirit.
A space, where she never is grabbed by the throat in a night club and held backwards over a balcony by a guy before he spits in her face, because she stepped on his foot by accident.
Where she gets given a job on her merits, not because the guy wants to find out if she is wearing stockings under her skirt; or doesn’t want to give her the job because she is too pretty and might distract the serious team players.
...and the worse things, I never, never want those to happen to her.
I never want her to settle for someone less than her equal because she doesn’t know herself. I want her to shine like an exploding comet, living full of open hearted delight, dancing everyday like she has tail feathers.
I do what I do, so that the world will be fairer, safer and she will know that all around her are people who are ‘for’ her and there for her.
When she falls, I want her to know it’s a moment in time and that she can pick herself up and move forward.
I want her to know how to trust herself, especially during these tender years ahead, when the voices around her will slice and dice with their judgements.
More than anything, I want her to know how to trust love as a power unequalled in measure by anything else in the Universe, so that when people look in her eyes they fall in when she smiles.
I want her to be all of exactly who she is.
This is on my mind this morning.
Globally, people of every race, gender and religion, are weary of opening their news feed to see terror and war. Manchester, Kabul, London, Syria, Yemen…we are all connected.
These are hijacking and politicising acts of violence. It makes a statement that I am increasingly struggling to understand. I do recognise that it relies on turning love into fear and into anger, to push us away from each other, to turn us against each other. Divide and rule.
When you are talking today, be specific about who ‘they’ are - the terrorists, because depending where you are geographically in the world, a lazy generalisation of ‘they’ might include you and maybe that is why we’re in the trouble that we’re in.
In every part of this beautiful planet, 7 billion people get up each day. A few have a lot, many have something and a lot have very little. 7 billion people of all ages simply want to fulfil their needs to feel safe, to love, to have opportunities and to be respected.
From that common point of empathy, step outside and shine light into your community today. Knowing that, remember that we all have more in common than not.
Light a candle, smile, lift your head out of your phone and make eye contact with someone, put divisions aside and make your own good news, plant something. Don’t play ‘their’ game of divide and rule. Don’t be addicted to fear, do something to inspire hope.
In the words of Carl Sagan, “We can judge our progress by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers, our willingness to embrace what is true rather than what feels good.”
Inspiration for opening up your unique blend of creativity to take action for people and planet