What Is The Most Powerful Social Asset In Your Organisation?

And have you cared for it or crushed it?

What if I told you that Highly Sensitive People (HSP) were the most powerful social machines on the planet[1] and thus represent a significant asset for your organisation?  They have the ability to connect, understand and empathise with people who influence your success.  They have access to deep intelligence about how decisions are being made by your stakeholders. And what if I told you that approximately 20% of your workforce has the power of high sensitivity? Now think –  is sensitivity a trait that you have cared for or sought to crush in your workplace?

I Have Decided Sensitivity Is A Superpower

If you are an HSP, this may be the first time you have heard the trait of sensitivity described positively. It is usually used in very derogatory terms, sometimes along with the advice you need to toughen up.  If you are not an HSP,  then you may read this with a fair amount of cynicism and even derision.  As a manager or leader, you may have decided, either consciously or subconsciously, that highly sensitive people don’t belong in business and are just trouble.  They should be working in the world of the arts or caring professions, not in the world of politics or commerce.  This article will show you how denial or rejection of highly sensitive people is ignorant and harmful to your employees and your organisational performance.

How many times you have thought or heard that either you or someone you know was too sensitive for their own good or the benefit of the team.   I have heard it directed at me in different forms, including being told that I was “too soft” and being instructed that “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” I naturally felt that I was faulty, broken and not tough enough.  Understandably I felt that my sensitivity was a weakness that needed to be hidden away.  So I tried this for a few decades, and honestly, this approach brought nothing but pain.  It served no purpose to me or those around me, and in fact prevented me from making my unique and meaningful contribution to this world.

So here I am, taking a very different approach.  I have decided that my sensitivity is a superpower, and I will respect and embrace it.  And if anyone else doesn’t like it, well either they:

  • don’t understand the power inherent in this trait and/or
  • don’t care about the 20% of their employees that have this skill to share. 

This article exists to address the former issue of ignorance. I can’t do anything for those people and organisations that don’t care, except to stay well clear of them!

I am taking my inspiration for this view from my many hours of watching Marvel and DC movies, courtesy of my children.  Inevitably there are heroes in the movies that have super speed, super strength, x-ray vision, who can fly and turn invisible.  But there is also usually what is known as an empath or a sensate.  In the Marvel world you have Empath and Jean Grey fulfilling this function.  In DC it is Raven who is a prime example of this power at work.  So why is it only in the fantasy world is high sensitivity seen as a superpower? 

From Alternate World Comics

What is High Sensitivity?

What does being highly sensitive mean?  We may all have our definitions, but thanks to the work of psychologist and researcher Elaine Aron, we have a clearer picture of the characteristics of highly sensitive people (HSP).  Her research has now been supported with neurological imaging showing the traits are not made up but are embedded in the unique ways brains of HSP’s function.

There are four key traits being:

  1. Deep processing – highly sensitive people both feel and think deeply about things.  This trait has to do with the differences in responses to dopamine in their brain.  The ‘feel good’ dopamine is activated at a much greater rate in HSP’s for internal rewards rather than external one.  The result of this is that HSP’s are driven more by gaining personal understanding and meaning than external praise or adulation.
  2. Sensitivity to external stimuli – because HSP’s process things so deeply, the environment around them can be a great source of support or a great source of stress.  HSP’s get very little reward from external stimuli. In fact, it is the opposite. Things such as noise, lights, crowds and imposing conversations can all be viewed as a threat rather than a pleasure.  In this kind of environment, it may not be long before HSP’s become stressed, tense and anxious.
  3. A finely tuned people radar – HSP’s brains light up when they are around other people.  The centres related to consciousness and awareness become extremely excited when in the presence of people and it appears everything in the HSP brain is wired to notice and interpret other people. This means that without even trying, HSP’s are engaged with those around them. 
  4. Deep empathy – we already understand that HSP’s process things deeply.  In addition to this, though, it has been found that HSP’s have more advanced mirror neurons.  This means that they are incredibly adept at reading, understanding and feeling the emotions that other people are experiencing.   In this way, HSP’s have access to profound intelligence about what is happening for the people around them.

If you would like to see if you meet some of these traits, you can take the validated HSP Self Test.

These characteristics, in combination, therefore, make HSP’s an incredibly powerful social asset.  They can intuit how the other person on the side of the table is feeling, take it to heart, and let their heart guide the most caring and careful response. They can read a room and attend to the smallest of joys and fears.  This is emotional intelligence at its best.  Many leaders may be seeking to grow their own emotional intelligence level. However, they may unknowingly have people right beside them that can bring this acumen to the table right now.

Why Does Sensitivity Matter?

But why does this matter?  What is the advantage of having sensitivity? It comes down to how people make decisions and is best shown by the theory of cognitive behaviour.

The Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Model

As the CBT model shows, every action we take is driven by feelings.  Yes, they are preceded by thoughts, but we will only take action because we feel something.  Perhaps we are excited by the potential results. Maybe we are scared of retribution if we go against expected behaviour.  Even without our knowing, every action, every decision first passes through some emotional check.  The action is either taken because it is supported by a ‘positive’ emotion such as confidence, safety, comfort, happiness or inspiration, or it is driven by a ‘negative’ emotion such as fear, anger or sadness.

Now, tell me, how much of your business, how much or your ability to get something done today relies on other people making decisions?  How many stakeholders could make or break your project, proposal or productivity? Stakeholder analyses are common tools these days to maximise the success of our work.  But these only deal with superficial elements such as level of power and influence and business-related needs.  They don’t generally contemplate the core emotions that are actually driving their behaviour.  But as shown by the CBT model, if they don’t, they are only at best an academic exercise. Surely, deep empathy would come in handy to provide your stakeholders with the utmost respect and consideration?

As I mentioned in a previous article (Why Being Data-Driven Should Scare You), the transition to bringing the heart into business is inevitable.  The question is whether you are brave enough to lead the charge or whether your organisation will be the losing laggard on the path to holistic and exceptional decision making.

“In the past, jobs were about muscles, now they are about brains, but in the future, they’ll be about the heart.”[2]

The Abuse of HSP’s

Like any superpower, there are drawbacks of high sensitivity that must be managed.  I know this all too clearly.  I have seen so many beautiful HSP’s beaten to a pulp by others too willing to find scapegoats for their own insecurity.  Power is often used against sensitivity which is seen as a weakness and a threat to achieving personal and professional goals. When an insecure person realises that the person next to them does feel deeply and takes things to heart, it is easy to engineer situations, consciously or subconsciously, to intimidate and maim to secure their own power.  It breaks my heart to think how many people I have seen abused like this.  Anyone who is not an HSP would not understand how much cruelty hurts and how deep it goes.  Because believe me, if they were aware, then their behaviour would be nothing short of violence and abuse.

What Are Your Responsibilities?

Like any other personal trait, though, there are responsibilities on both sides of the fence for HSP’s. 

From the management perspective

Managers of HSP’s have a duty to understand the nature of their employees and a duty of care to ensure their physical and psychological safety. The awareness of a team member with high sensitivity behoves the manager to acknowledge how the other person may feel their words and actions.  In addition, high sensitivity should be acknowledged as an incredible strength and ways found for this person to employ it to make a meaningful contribution.  It would take a very enlightened leader to facilitate this process and encourage an HSP to bring their full and authentic selves to work!

One key element that may not be considered adequately by employers is the role the work environment can play on the HSP’s level of stress and, thus, productivity.  Given the HSP’s sensitivity to external stimuli, noisy open-plan offices can become like torture.  While others may thrive on the activity and interaction, it is incredibly exhausting for HSP’s to manage the emotional responses to all of the stimuli.  Let me give you a personal example. When I hear someone in a phone conversation behind me, I don’t just hear the words.  I am conscious of the tone, the choice of words being used, and the space or lack of space between interactions.  If I detect defensiveness or even a hint of aggression, my alarm bells start going off.  And there goes maybe half an hour, or even an hour working that one through.  All up, it may have been a 5-minute conversation, but I am still working it through long after the call has been ended.  The impact on my attention and productivity is significant.

The HSP’s responsibilities

The HSP, however, also has very clear responsibilities.  In superhero movies, there is always a period of training where the hero learns how to master their power.  It is no different for HSP’s.  If you had the gift for public speaking, then it would be your duty to learn this craft and use it to make this world a better place.  If you are an HSP, then the onus is on you to understand and hone your gift of sensitivity. While your employer does have a duty of care for your health at work, it is ultimately your responsibility to put in place those routines and arrangements that provide the downtime you need to process and recover from heightened emotional responses to stressful situations.

If the work environment is too overwhelming, than addressing this with your manager is important. Perhaps working from home, a quieter office or organising noise cancelling ear phones could be of assistance.

It is not unusual for me to leave an office environment after a full day and feel like I have been hit by a truck.  I used to think there was something wrong with me, and tell myself to ‘get over it and ‘toughen up.  Now I realise the best response is self-compassion and self-care.  I do need quiet time, transition time, soothing sounds and smells around me to help me process the emotional turmoil of the day.

Can A Person Be Too Sensitive?

The simple answer to this question is yes.  They can be too sensitive – for the context they are working within. 

Suppose the culture you are operating within sees sensitivity as a weakness and a fault. In that case, you are too sensitive for this context.  In contrast, if you are working in a nurturing environment that cares for you as a whole person, recognises your strengths and contribution to complete decision-making, you are not too sensitive. 

Unfortunately, decisions about whether HSP’s are too sensitive for the context are made in isolation by managers and teammates who are either ignorant or uncaring about the amazing power of sensitivity.  The person is ignored, ostracised and deemed too hard to deal with.  Or alternatively, the person shuts down, puts up the walls, and only brings part of themselves to work.  In either way, the person, the immediate team and the organisation as a whole loses out.

You don’t hear superheroes being described as too strong, too fast, too smart.  Their skills are recognised and adapted to the needs of the situation.  I don’t see it any different for the skill of sensitivity.  What matters is how much this trait is recognised, respected and harnessed to deliver great outcomes for the HSP and the team. 

What if HSP was recognised as a skill on employee development agreements and fostered and nurtured?  Can you imagine a world where sensates and empaths were embraced and valued?  What a very different world it would be!  It would be much more like those superhero worlds whose values we admire.  It would be one step closer to bringing an ideal fantasy world into the reality of our everyday lives.

With Awareness Comes Responsibility

At the outset of this article, I stated my purpose was to bring awareness to the power that resides within high sensitivity.  I can only hope that if you have made it to this point, you now have a clearer understanding of HSP’s and their very special gift.  They say that with awareness comes responsibility, and in writing this article, I have done my part.  Now it is up to you – the ball is in your court.  Now that you know about 20% of your workforce may hold the power of sensitivity, what will you do about it?  Will you still choose to ignore it, reject it, or will you seek to harness the unique traits held not just HSP’s but every individual you have employed?

This article is dedicated to Penny – may you come to know just how special and beautiful you are, and may you find a workplace full of people who see this in you too!


If you would like to know more about high sensitivity, here are some fantastic resources:

Psychology Today – https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/basics/highly-sensitive-person

The Highly Sensitive Person Website – https://hsperson.com/

European Centre for High Sensitivity – http://www.hsp-eu.com/

Books –


How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You

by Elaine N. Aron, PhD.

ISBN: 0-553-06218-2

[1] Psychology Today. 2021. 4 Brain Differences of Highly Sensitive People. [online] Available at: <https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/highly-sensitive-refuge/201901/4-brain-differences-highly-sensitive-people&gt; [Accessed 11 June 2021].

[2] Minouche Shafik, director of The London School of Economics as quoted in Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, 2019, Vermillion

Quotas Are Only Half Of The Answer

Quotas for female representation in parliament are a very popular notion at the moment.  They are being touted as a means to greater respect for women and more balanced consideration of women’s issues in policy development.  I agree that increasing the number of women in decision-making roles can redress the gender imbalance over time.  However, there is a greater issue at play here. One can corrupt any good intentions and subvert the desired outcomes.  It is the issue of power.

Photo by Aditya Joshi on Unsplash

Power – the possession of control, authority, or influence over others.

Let me explain by providing two opposing notions of power, which I add are not new concepts.  They were developed by Mary Parker Follett way back in the 1930s[1] and are the ideas of:

  1. Power Over versus
  2. Power With.

Power Over

This is probably the most familiar version of power we see playing out in our parliament and more broadly in society.  It is where one person or group uses the other’s vulnerability as a source of dominance.  Power Over is a stance of opposites, where one party is right, the other is wrong.  One is the hero, and the other the villain, where one party is not to be trusted and must be treated with contempt.

In Power Over, influence is gained through coercion in its many forms (physical, emotional or reputational). I have very little experience in our government system. Still, I have watched enough question time to see this is exactly the model being used on the parliament floor, and I also suspect behind party room doors.  Here are two distinct and very recent examples I have seen of Power Over being used by our own Prime Minister:

  • In response to a journalist’s difficult question, Scott Morrison mentioned a supposed sexual abuse allegation in the journalists own organisation.  This was a blatant attempt to put the journalist in his place, subtly pressure the questioner to back off, and therefore to maintain the power balance between him and the media.[2]
  • Scott Morrison’s ‘statement’ in response to the March 4 Justice protests, that protesters in other parts of the world were being “met with bullets”, was on the surface a statement of fact.  But read between the lines, and it appears more like a veiled threat.  It makes it clear that the government of the day decides how citizens are to be treated. Therefore, by inference, being the head of the government that day, he also has the power to decide how the protesters outside were to be treated.[3]

The way that I see it, using the Power Over approach is a loud and clear signal of insecurity and a reaction to fear. 

Insecurity: the state of being open to threat.

Just like our animal ancestors, when we feel like we are under attack, we have three possible responses: freeze, flight or fight.  The statements above, while they may have been subconscious, are in the nature of an attack.  They are intended to put the opposition on the back foot and to assert authority. In my mind, they show fear of losing status, power and position.  They are a reaction that aims to force the other party to concede.

Photo by Photoholgic on Unsplash

Note though that the Power Over approach is not confined to politics, business, or cyber-space relations.  Look at how our western civilisation treats our environment.  We dig, dam, and destroy Mother Nature.  Why?  Because we can, and ultimately we must consider our comfort and advancement more important than the trees, the koalas and the fish.  We have the power over our environment, so why shouldn’t we use it to make our lives better?

Power With

The opposite to Power Over, as suggested by Mary Parker Follet, is Power With.  In this relationship, each party’s intrinsic power is used to co-create and make each other and the community as a whole stronger.  It is not a forced relationship but evolves from a deep respect for the gifts that the other brings.  Instead of insecurity, Power With comes from a place of courage. It is born of open collaboration and honest compassion for the plight of the other.

Courage –  “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.”

Power With does not seek to use or abuse vulnerability for righteous and selfish aims but seeks to care for it.  Where Power Over relies on brute force and duress to maintain its position, Power With is self-sustaining. It grows stronger the more it is used.  As both parties build upon each other’s strengths and care for each other’s weaknesses, trust is formed. And from this trust, a space for real communication and change is created.

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” ~ Stephen Covey

It is interesting to note that the lack of trust in government is at an all-time low.  In every four people, three expressed no confidence in their political leaders and institutions.  I do wonder whether this is a function of the proliferation of Power Over politics?

Concerning the environment, Power With looks like renewable energy sources and calling on our First Nation’s people’s wisdom. It does not seek to coerce the land but to work with it, care for it, and to appreciate the spiritual nature of the land we inhabit.

Gender vs Culture

So, here’s the thing.  The choice to use either Power Over or Power With is not gender-specific.  While you could argue that females’ more nurturing, altruistic characteristics would lend them to Power With principles, it is not a given.  In my working life, I have seen so many women use power to harm, destroy, subjugate and scar other women and men.  Do the words uttered by Minister Linda Reynolds –  “she’s a lying cow” – reinforce this point? And I have seen men do the same amount of damage to both genders. 

However, I have also seen men care for and foster their people in a spirit of growth and love.  And I have seen women allow their motherly instincts to shine through and create a workplace that feels like a family. It is not the person that necessarily decides which model they will use.  It is the context and culture in which they operate that dictates convention.  And it is the leaders that are both responsible and accountable for the creation of an organisation’s culture.

“There’s really no such thing as internal culture any more. Your culture is always public, and it’s your most powerful, public-facing asset or liability.” ~ David Mattin, TrendWatching

Yes, we can have many more women in parliament.  We can legislate for equal participation on private sector boards and public sector leadership roles.  BUT if the women are forced to operate from Power Over, what is the use?  We will just reinforce a culture of winners and losers, of those who have and those who have not.  We will just be solidifying the view that to have the privilege of shaping this nation, you must oppose, argue, protect and attack. We will continue to proliferate leadership that is closed-minded and cold-hearted. 

All that will be achieved is the transformation of more women into the likeness of men.

In this way, it is no different if we were to impose quotas for our First Nations people.  Shrouding the ancient wisdom, the spirituality, and the deep grief in superficial party politics would be a similar insult and an intense disrespect to the qualities we should be seeking to treasure.

Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

The Risk – Adding Insult to Injury

There is a real risk in moving forward with quotas, and this is if the bigger picture of the Power Over culture is not also addressed.  The great potential for bringing an understanding, respect and care between the genders would be lost in need to maintain power positions.  Women’s ability to express their true nature and therefore make a real impact in the lives of many would-be subverted by the structures and behaviours expected by their parties and, dare I say it, also by the media. 

After centuries of subjugation, being put in positions of power but not being able to act freely, and feel empowered to be women, would be a perverse and perhaps the cruellest of insults.

While respect and decency are always required, we do need to understand and allow men to be men and women to be women and to celebrate the amazing and different qualities that each brings to the table.  Our societies will not be served by one seeking to overwhelm the other, to blame, demeanour to prove superiority over the other.  Our communities and our environment will only be healed when we decide to be courageous enough to love each other for what we are and deeply respect each other’s characteristics.

The Catch

So, how do you create a parliament that has at its heart ultimate and equal respect for both genders?  How do you establish a government that has compassion and co-creation at its core?    It sounds so easy.  But there is a catch.

If we take the notion of Power With to its fullest expression, then we would also be challenging the nature of party politics.  Just as Power With enables deep respect for each gender, it will also facilitate deep respect for the other political parties.  It would open the doors for collaboration across the parties for the benefit of the nation.  It would allow recognition of positive policies no matter who the instigator is and potentially blur party lines.  Operating from the Power With approach would slowly dilute the rules of the political game. The identities of the political parties could be lost.  What would they stand for?  How would they differentiate themselves if they were working ‘with’ instead of ‘against the other party? How would they ‘win’ the next election and retain power if they could not prove they were better than the other parties? 

Is Now The Time?

I want to think that Alfred Deakin was just a man ahead of his time.  Deakin did not care for the party brand but only in building consensus to deliver beneficial policy outcomes.  He put the interests of the nation before the interests of the party. I want to think that now is the time for such courage and true, selfless leadership. However, the cynical side of me says that any Prime Minister seeking consensus and collaboration across party lines would still today be accused of being a weak leader and ousted pretty quickly. 

That’s right, the roots of the Power Over model go deep and cannot be extricated easily.  They have grown over many centuries, and now, realistically, they may take many centuries and much commitment to dissolve.  The good news is that this feat is possible if our leaders, both men and women, have the courage and skill to achieve Power With (instead of over) each other. 

“The skilful leader . . . does not rely on personal force; he controls his group not by dominating but by expressing it. He stimulates what is best in us; he unifies and concentrates what we feel only gropingly and scatteringly, but he never gets away from the current of which we and he are both an integral part.” ~ Mary Parker Follett

Despite all I have seen, I remain optimistic.

But cautiously so until I see discussions address not only quotas but also the role of power and how it is used in politics.

For I believe Power Over does us all a disservice.

Power With is the door to true equity.

Photo by Hannes Richter on Unsplash

If you have enjoyed this article you may also like: Why Are We Surrounded By Underwhelming Politicians?

[1] Mary P. Follett. “Dynamic Administration: The Collected Papers of Mary Parker Follett”, ed. by E. M. Fox and L. Urwick (London: Pitman Publishing, 1940)

[2] https://www.9news.com.au/national/news-corp-denies-prime-minister-scott-morrisons-harassment-complaint-claim/a9d8fc44-467a-4054-badf-24d203bd0cf5

[3] https://www.9news.com.au/national/scott-morrison-march-4-justice-pm-heckled-as-he-addresses-womens-protests/103ffc53-a91c-4e8a-bb70-24bac3ae9ec3

Are You Acting From Love Or Fear?

Love and Fear Are Opposites

Someone once told me that everything we do is done either out of love or fear.  I wish I could remember who told me this so that I can thank them for this insight.  It has helped me understand so much of what I see in this world.  More importantly, it has given me a simple and powerful way to reflect on my motivations.   I only need to stop and ask myself:

“Am I doing this out of love or fear?”

So, when I came to write this article, I thought I better find out where the quote came from.  The earliest reference I can find came from Seneca the Younger (4BC – 65AD). He said:

“True love can fear no-one.”

This statement suggests that there can be no fear when there is true love present, and in the opposite, where there is fear, there is not true love.  Here we see the certain proposition that love and fear are opposites and cannot exist together.

With further research, I have found that this assertion was also made by two amazing modern and open-hearted thinkers – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and John Lennon.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a revolutionary in how we care for the dying and how we deal with death. She certainly would have seen the extreme of perspectives in those facing their last days and the family and friends who were preparing themselves for a life without their loved one.  Here’s what Elisabeth said:

“There is only love or fear, for we cannot feel these two emotions together, at exactly the same time. They’re opposites. If we’re in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we’re in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.” ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

John Lennon was, in my opinion, one of history’s greatest poets, philosophers and protagonists.  During his days in the Beatles, he passionately professed that “all you need is love” (1967).  His solo song ‘Imagine’ (1971) was a testament to the vision he had of a world founded upon love, where there is no fear, and all the people are “living a life of peace”.  John has been recorded as saying:

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love.” ~ John Lennon

So why is this important?  Why should we care about which one, love or fear, we are motivated by?  To answer this question, let’s look at the outcomes of each scenario.

What Does Acting From Love Look Like?

Looking at the descriptions provided by Kubler-Ross and Lennon, it appears that when you are acting from a place of love, you will see a flow of positive emotions.  Happiness, contentment, peace and joy will be felt by the person acting from love.  Moreover, they will share this peace and joy with all around them.  Lennon believed that acting from a place of love was the vital ingredient to authentic creativity.  He saw that when you are working from love, you are open to life’s reality but have the passion and excitement to contribute and bring positive change.

These views are very similar to the work done by Dr David Hawkins in exploring the levels of consciousness.  As shown in summary below, the positive ‘Power’ emotions lead to happiness, productivity, optimal performance and extraordinary outcomes.  You can find out more about the Map of Consciousness here.

Force vs Power Emotions

It appears then that operating from a perspective of love is beneficial not only for the person undertaking the activity but also for the good of the communities they are serving.

What do we mean by love, though?  I like to think of acting from love as being motivated by deep and honest care for your well-being, spirit, future self, and care for the world around you.  It means being vulnerable enough to show your true self and be brave enough to commit to something bigger than yourself.

Photo by BERTRAND MORITZ on Unsplash

What Does Acting From Fear Look Like?

Being the opposite of love, it is obvious that from fear comes a flow of negative emotions.  These can be seen as the ‘Force’ emotions on Dr David Hawkins’ Map of Consciousness and include pride, anger, desire, apathy, guilt and shame. These emotions are rooted in the prime concern for what other’s think of us, rather than being true to ourselves.  When we act from fear, we hand our power over to others and allow them to define our sense of self-worth.

Spending our days in fear is nothing short of destructive – for the person living in fear and the world around them.  Because as Lennon so wisely perceived:

“When we are afraid, we pull back from life.”

Fear closes us down to others and our potential.  We mistrust ourselves and sacrifice our ability to make a positive contribution to this world.  When we are scared about how others may react, we do not give all of ourselves.  We are not honestly and fully ourselves.  The result is that we live in a state of conflict – there is a war between who we know we truly are and that which we display to others.   Care, creativity and contribution are stifled.  Gandhi recognised this when he said:

“Fear kills the soul.”

Photo by Malicki M Beser on Unsplash

Why Do We Act Out Of Fear?

It sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it – just be yourself!  So why are so many of us trapped in fear and conflict with our spirits?  There are two possible answers to this question:

  1. We allow others to tell us what we should be.  The fear we have here is one of rejection, of looking stupid and not being accepted.  It is the ultimate fear of being an outcast and lonely.  We choose the comfort of the tribe over the courage of living a unique and full life.
  2. We are afraid of what we could be.  I believe that inherently each one of us knows what we are capable of.  It is grand, beautiful and brave.  And yet, it is risky to shine.  What would happen if I release what is within and live a life that is big and bold? What would happen if I loved myself enough to let myself live freely and fully in this world?  This deep fear of succeeding, of our power, is captured succinctly by Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us”.


How Do you Move From Fear To Love?

In so many ways, this world is geared to keep us in a state of fear.  Our legal and judicial systems are founded upon punishments and penalties.  Marketers rely on FOMO to keep us spending our money on status symbols.  In either case, we are defined by others as either good or bad, rich or poor, successful or a loser, a member of the tribe or an outsider. 

In this context, how do you move from a place of fear where your awesome spirit is stifled to a life of freedom and authenticity?  How do you begin operating from a place of care for yourself and your true well-being?  As shown in the diagram above, there is one initial step: finding the courage to be yourself and accept yourself.  But how the hell do you become courageous? 

If you look the word courage up in the dictionary, you will see that the definition of courage is:

“The ability to do something that frightens one.”[1].

This definition holds the key to what courage is all about.  Courage does not mean that you don’t feel afraid.  In fact, it is the exact opposite.  Fear is an inherent part. Without fear, bravery does not exist.  Dr Hawkins’ confirms this in his Map of Consciousness, asserting that one must work through the ‘Force’ emotions before one can rise above and operate from power.  I remember reading an interview with Paul McCartney when he discussed the insecurity that John Lennon had about how we would remember him.  Despite this concern, Lennon kept going.  He kept pushing the boundaries and expressing himself in and outside his music.

This is because courage is choosing to move beyond fear.  It is the choice to sit with the discomfort of the unknown because of something more important.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

Courage is about making the decision that being true to your amazing spirit is more important than allowing fear to keep you stuck in conformity. It is about deciding that stepping into your power is more valuable than giving in to your anxiety.

But more than just coming from a cognitive exercise, courage comes from action.

It is about trying new activities, meeting new people, finding those things that give you energy, fueling your passions, and making your heart sing.

As this definition suggests, courage is not a quality endowed at birth or something our Fairy Godmother gives us with a wave of a wand.  It is an ability, a skill that is developed over time and with dedicated practice.

Courage Is a Skill

So, courage is not just something you are granted. Just like reading, driving a car or playing an instrument, it is a skill that you learn over time.  You will be pleased to know that thanks to enormous research undertaken into how people learn, there are a clear set of steps to take to build your courage muscle.  Dr Russ Harris outlines these steps in his model called The Confidence Cycle.[2]:

The Confidence Cycle

Working through these steps will build confidence in whatever new endeavour you embark upon.  More than this, though, engaging the Confidence Cycle in your daily life will build faith and trust in yourself that you can learn new things – that you can change and grow into the person you truly want to be.

Lennon learnt the ropes of the music industry in the Beatles.  He worked hard to make great music and also learned about what his spirit was calling him to do.  He took the lessons from his ten years as part of the Fab Four and used them to create his individual path.  He built the courage to be his true self through action.  He was able to love himself and forge his way because of the many years he spent doing hard work and self-reflection. 

The Lennon we know and love was not born fearless, nor did he die fearless.  But somewhere along the way, he chose that love for himself, and the world in which he lived was more important than his insecurities.  He chose to step out of the room of fear and into the room of love, and in doing so, brought inspiration to so many. 

“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”~ Marianne Williamson

Calling On Your Courage

It takes bravery to start doing things that you love and to do them in a way that resonates and supports your spirit.  It takes guts not to play the game everyone else is, to put yourself out there, to use your voice and to forge your unique path.  It takes a great deal of nerve to question why things are done a certain way and decide for yourself that you will do things differently.  It takes even more valour to actually take action to help your spirit shine and make the biggest and best contribution you can make in this world.

While you would think it may come naturally to act from love, it appears to take a great deal of courage to love yourself. And yet, loving yourself, in all your glory, and all your imperfections is the most courageous thing you may ever do.

This world has enough fear, and it is creating so much suffering.  We need your courage, and we need your acts of love!

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

May today, you move one step further away from fear and one step closer to love!

[1] https://www.lexico.com/definition/courage

[2] Harris, R., 2011. The Confidence Gap. Boston: Trumpeter.

Do You Really Value Your Employees?

Talk is Cheap – If You Don’t Have a Compliment Management System, Then I Doubt You Truly Do!

Concentrating on Complaints Is Cruel

If you have read my previous article – The Untold Cruelty Happening In Your Organization Right Now, you will understand that a sole focus on complaints management can punish the employees you declare you care for.  Would you set out to consciously crush your most important asset?  I suspect not, but by an unbalanced preoccupation on complaints (compared to compliments), this is exactly what you are doing.

 A compliment is an expression of praise or admiration. It can also be known as congratulations, commendation, an accolade, kudos or more informally as a ‘pat on the back’. It is the direct opposite of a complaint which is an expression of dissatisfaction, or a criticism of the policies, products or services experienced.

As the research clearly shows, an uneven focus on complaints means that you are not only hurting your staff, you are sacrificing organisational performance in the process. Sure, some focus on customer complaints is required to ensure the best possible products and service is delivered to customers.  However, concentrating solely on complaints creates a disturbing downward spiral of detachment, disconnection, reduced individual performance, reduced organisational performance and ultimately organisational exhaustion.[1].

The Downward Spiral of Negative Feedback

The Untapped Power of Compliments

On the flipside, compliments have an incredible power to uplift the whole organisation and excite and energise your people and processes.  those organisations who make a concerted effort to balance the management of compliments and complaints are more likely to meet their objectives, thrive and grow, and have greater employee satisfaction, safety[2] and engagement. In fact, those businesses proactively sharing compliments are almost twice as likely to be successful. On an individual level, the effect of positive feedback on people is quite substantial, affecting both their lives at work and their broader sense of wellbeing. It has been shown that just one piece of positive feedback directly contributes to improving a person’s skill or performance, not just on that specific task but also on other similar tasks.

The Uplifting Cycle of Positive Feedback

Why Isn’t There A Better Balance?

Given this evidence, why aren’t more organisations seeking to bring more balanced attention between compliments and complaints?  Perhaps it is because there are many formal expectations around complaints management.  Government agencies must meet legislative obligations around the development of complaints management systems. Compliance with the Australian Standard for Complaints Management (AS/NZS 10002:2014) is also seen as an important measure of an organisation’s dedication to their customers.

But what about the dedication to your staff?  If anyone remembers the good old Balanced Scorecard, it is obvious that the skills, capabilities, culture and energy of your staff are the direct contributor to the success of your business. There is no way of sustainably satisfying customers without having a strong, positive and supported base of employees. If you think good old Kaplan and Norton are a bit dated, then perhaps you may prefer to hear what Richard Branson has to say on the issue.

The problem is thought, that is easy to declare that you are committed to your employees. It takes no effort to state that you value your employees and that they are your greatest asset. But do you put your money where your mouth is?  What action are you taking to build a key pillar of their wellbeing – positive feedback?

It is time to shift away from this concentration on compliance and move forward into a culture of compassion, care and performance! Just because there are no external expectations around compliment management systems, does that mean you should not be building them? 

Perhaps what is missing is a standard, a how-to-guide for how to go about building your Compliment Management System.  Well thanks to the ground-breaking research conducted by Kipfelsber, Bruch and Herhausen (2015)[3], we have such a process[1], and here it is.

The 3-Step Process of Compliment Management

There are certainly pros and cons of compliment management not being regulated.  One great benefit is that without specific practices being dictated you don’t have to over think it.  And because ‘doing’ compliment management is not expected, it is less likely to fall into the trap of being seen purely as a compliance exercise.  When it does not have to be done, it shows a true commitment, care and support for your staff.

Compliment management is at its heart a very simple process, comprising three stages.  Proactive action is taken in each stage to meet organisational objectives for individual staff engagement, performance and overall organisational health.

The three stages of compliment management are:

  1. Stimulation – how customers are encouraged or supported to identify things they appreciate.
  2. Systemisation – the clear and formal responsibilities, policies, and systems to stimulate and disseminate positive customer feedback.
  3. Distribution – how positive feedback is shared with the relevant staff and amplified across the organisation more broadly.


The stimulation of positive customer feedback serves two important purposes:

  1. getting customers to identify the things they like will reinforce their positive impression of and therefore make them more likely to provide constructive feedback in the future on areas that require improvement
  2. it provides examples of things that are currently being done well that can boost employee morale, performance and organisational health and indicate those things that should not change.

The concern with the stimulation stage of the process is that customers do become weary quickly of providing feedback.  And so too much ‘push’ to elicit positive feedback may work to annoy rather than excite the customers.

The emphasis here is not so much about prompting for positive feedback at the end of transactions or interactions but about making it as easy as possible for the customer to provide feedback if they want to give it.  There are several methods for stimulating positive feedback from customers, ranging from personal approaches to automated prompts.  Examples of these methods to stimulate positive feedback include:

Renaming the feedback management system: the name of the organisation’s feedback management system can create an important mental barrier or enabler to the way customers feel enabled and supported to share positive feedback.  When the feedback system is predominantly named in terms of ‘complaints’, there is very little indication for customers to know where to share their compliments.  So one of the primary things that an organisation can do to stimulate compliments is renaming their feedback system either the ‘compliments or complaints management system’ or even use more neutral terms such as the ‘customer feedback’ system. 

Supporting this, the organisation can ensure that whatever channels are used to collect feedback, clear prompts and sufficient guidance for customers about how customers can provide their positive feedback and how it will be used. 

Some organisations employ a very personal approach to eliciting positive feedback.  Customer Feedback Managers are appointed in front-line areas, and it is the role of these managers to take and respond to all customer feedback, positive and negative.   Other organisations rely on automated channels to gather positive feedback, such as recorded feedback surveys at the end of a phone call, or satisfaction rating screens on exit from service centres.

Whatever method is used, it comes with a clear understanding that there will be customers who want to share their positive feedback, and our role is to make it easy as possible for them to do it and make them feel supported in the process.


The policies, processes and roles of an organisation are the key planks available to systemise positive feedback.

By ingraining the importance of compliments in policies, it shows management commitment to the proactive and effective management of positive feedback and permitting staff across the organisation to focus on positive feedback. Including positive feedback prominently in existing feedback policies also creates a better balance between the focus on positive and negative feedback and empowers business areas to engage in their active management of compliments for the benefit of their units and the organisation as a whole.

Creating clear and simple processes for receiving and managing compliments enables staff to collect and store positive feedback, which is an important part of the organisation’s success story and provides the foundation for further dissemination to improve organisational health.

Having assigned roles and responsibilities for oversight and management of positive feedback provides resources to enable the organisation to turn individual compliments into strategic assets of the organisation.  It empowers staff to know where to go to for help to ensure continual improvement of the organisation’s compliment management processes.

Whatever method is used for systemising positive feedback, it is founded on the understanding that positive feedback forms a really important part of the organisation’s story at the moment and can play a significant role in its future success.  It is based on the belief that compliments are an important business asset to build customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and optimise organisational performance.


Distribution includes the processes and channels used to communicate compliments to the relevant staff and amplify them across the entire organisation.  In most organisations, while there is a concentrated effort to gather and report on complaints, there is very little proactive action taken to communicate compliments.  Most organisations’ have processes to investigate and trace back the complaint’s source and take action to rectify or improve the associated action or behaviour.  However, this does not occur for compliments.  Hardly in organisations do you see people taking the time to find the source of the compliment and analyse the actions and behaviours that led to the compliment and that the organisation should seek to reinforce.

At its simplest, dissemination can occur at the local level, with the compliment being shared with the immediate staff involved, or the related team.  Compliments, though, can be disseminated much wider to leverage the benefits across the whole organisation.  Leaders can do this through:

  • leadership mentioning compliments in staff presentations and meetings
  • compliments published online on staff sites, in employee brochures and induction materials
  • positive feedback place on posters around the workplace
  • inclusion of compliments in publications such as annual reports and public performance reports

Whatever method is used for disseminating positive feedback, it is founded on the following premises:

  • that disseminating compliments ingrains the positive behaviour in the mind of the employee and the history of the organisation
  • that customer feedback, whatever the form, affects all employees
  • that the organisation places importance valuing and supporting its people
  • The organisation is concerned with identifying great performance as an indicator of what behaviours they should keep doing.

Start Where You Are

There is no doubt that I can help your organisation develop a Compliments Management System that is fit-for-purpose and delivers great results for your people, your company and your customers.  But realistically, you have everything you need right here and now to get started on the journey.  Here are a few ideas of things you could begin with nothing more than leadership commitment and communication:

  • Send this article around to those people who you think would support development of a compliment management system in your organisation
  • Ask around your organisation about how positive feedback is gathered, shared and used currently
  • in the spirit of positive feedback, identify and congratulate those areas already proactively and effectively managing compliments. Recognising the great work already being done to value and support staff would be a significant and meaningful first step.
  • Perhaps you could establish a network of positive feedback champions be created. 
  • All existing feedback policies, processes and forms are reviewed to ensure that they encourage and support both customers and staff from recording and submitting compliments.
  • positive feedback posters can be created and placed around the offices and on websites to uplift the energy across the whole organisation
  • Review key reports and publications and identify opportunities to include positive feedback

What Will You Choose?

The effectiveness of your leadership is determined by the choices you make.  The most important choice available to you is how you use your time.  You have an incredible opportunity right now to use your time to brighten the lives of your people, invigorate and strengthen your whole organisation.  Or you can continue to choose to focus solely on complaints and ignore the chance to help your people and your organisation be the best it can be. It is your call.

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples ~ Mother Teresa.

[1] Kipfelsber P., Bruch H. and Herhausen D. 2015. Energising Companies through Customer Compliments. Marketing Review St Gallen. Vol 1.

[2] Rath, T. and Clifton, D. The Power of Praise and Recognition. Gallup. 2004.

[3] Kipfelsber P., Bruch H. and Herhausen D. 2015. Energising Companies through Customer Compliments.  Marketing Review St Gallen. Vol 1.

Why Being Data-Driven Should Scare You!

If I had a dollar for every time I have heard the phrase ‘data-driven’ lately, right now I would be cruising happily along in a Tesla headed towards my early retirement home by the beach.  And without being rude, I am sure that is exactly what a whole host of consultants are hoping will be their reality soon, funded by the recent preoccupation with data analytics and business intelligence. 

Before I dive in though with why I think we should all be very concerned with being data-driven, first let me clarify that I am a performance management professional and believe wholeheartedly in the importance of meaningful measures and decisions founded on evidence.  I am also passionate about understanding correlations and causations discovered by bringing a scientific approach to data.  This is truly exciting work, and I completely understand why there is so much invested effort in this area.

However, if you have read any of my previous articles in The 3rd Edge, you know my greatest concern is when there is a sole focus and short-sighted preoccupation with activities on one side of the coin.  There are always consequences for ignoring the opposite perspective and becoming unbalanced. I fear that businesses solely focusing on being data-driven is one of these situations and that the risks may be dire for all the people they seek to serve.

First, let’s reflect on what the words data-driven driven means. At their most basic, data is facts and statistics.  They are tangible and verifiable numbers representing the way people think or behave.  The definition of driven means to be:

operated, moved, or controlled by a specified source of power.

Driven | Definition of Driven by Oxford Dictionary on Lexico.com also meaning of Driven

And this definition is the source of my discomfort.  By being data-driven, companies are declaring that they are handing decision-making control to facts and statistics.  They are relinquishing power to figures and analytics.  It is verifiable data, tangible ‘truth’ or reliable projections that move the company, determining the direction, intensity and speed of action.  It is the data that determines how best to serve the employees, customers and stakeholders.

For me, this is incredibly scary, because decisions on service and value are being made using only one half of the intelligence that humans have been endowed with.  With its extensive cognitive capabilities, our brain is truly awesome and combined with thorough statistical analysis we have at our fingertips a powerhouse of logic that can be applied to solve the worlds greatest problems.  However, our brain is only one half of the picture.  We have another magnificent seat of intelligence whose power is being ignored and wasted – that is the intelligence of the heart. I am not alone in this view.  Here is Jim Hemerling (BCG Managing Director & Senior Partner) last year expressing his concern over the neglect of the heart in business:

“People, working as individuals or as teams, are the lifeblood, literally the heart [of an organisation], and yet we’ve seen that the heart is most often neglected.”[1].

Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

When Jim speaks of the heart, he refers to practices that create an environment of psychological safety (driven by compassion and empathy) and those that inspire people, create and encourage the sharing of joy.  He discusses how to foster feelings that benefit both the wellbeing of individuals and the performance of the organisation. He is hinting at employing the wisdom and the gift that are our emotions.

But wait I hear you say, our emotions are not to be trusted.  They are the antithesis of logical, tangible and evidence-based data.  I hear you mounting the argument that emotions are for the HR department to deal with.  My next question to you then is, why do emotions scare you?  What is it about emotions that you are afraid of?

Because by dismissing the power of emotions, you may have just used fear to decide what you will do in the future.  And therefore you have just confirmed my next point.  Emotions are used in decisions whether you like it or not.  Wouldn’t it be smarter to be aware of them and how they may be impacting upon you?

Research has found that up to 95% of all of our actions throughout the day are subconscious.[2].  That is astounding!  We are completely unaware of what is coming into play in our decision-making process. We like to think it all logical and reasonable and mechanical, but what we see occurring is just the tip of the iceberg of our thought and behavioural processes.  Moreover, it is our emotions that are the direct mediator between our thoughts and our actions.  How emotions are the driver of behaviour is made clear in the model of cognitive behaviour shown below. 

The Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Model

Therefore even without our knowing, every action, every decision first passes through some emotional check.  The action is either taken because it is supported by a ‘positive’ emotion such as confidence, safety, comfort, happiness or inspiration or it is driven by a ‘negative’ emotion such as fear, anger or sadness.

In reality, though, each of these emotions, be it ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ hold great wisdom for us.  They provide crucial information and invaluable messages about where we need to learn and grow.  Our emotional response to the data provides the second half of the picture about how it can provide real business intelligence.  Here is the list of basic emotions and what they can teach us as proposed by another Jim, this time Jim Dethmer, as outlined in his book The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership.

EmotionMessageAction to Grow
AngerSomething is no longer of service and must be changed to make way for something better.Elimination of the old belief, behaviour, or relationship to make way for new and better ways. Boundaries need to be established or enforced. Without giving an explanation, learn just to say “no.”
FearSomething important needs to be faced or learnt.Become fully present and aware of what is going on for you.  You will need to pay full attention and learn a new skill or behaviour.
SadnessSomething needs to be let go of. Something meaningful is going away. You need to stop denying reality.Let go of a role, dream, behaviour or relationship that is no longer helpful for you.
HappinessSomething or someone needs to be celebrated or appreciated.Take time to celebrate yourself, others or something that you have witnessed. Allow yourself to experience full internal wellbeing.
Sexual FeelingsIt is time for new ideas, creativity and innovation.Build upon your ideas and put them into action.  Create something unique to you.

Let’s work through an example of how emotions help improve our intelligence.  Say you are presented with the latest sales projections for your new product line.  They are far from the great results you were hoping for and seem to confirm the likelihood that this new project will be a flop.  Immediately you feel anger arising.  You feel like yelling at someone and blaming every other department for their failings.  You are ropable!  You scour through the data looking for answers – is there a segment that may show some hope and that you can target better?  Is there one segment that brings the others down and that you can jettison from the marketing program?  You pivot the data every which way and decide to up the marketing budget on a few promising segments and cut back on others.    

Sure, you can react to the data, but what is going on here?  If you would stop and listen, your anger is giving you a really important message.  Depending on the context, it may be telling you that your old ways of product development are no longer effective and need to be reviewed.  Maybe it is telling you that the old belief you had that you were the ‘golden boy (or girl)’ of product development is not sustainable.  Maybe it tells you that clearer boundaries or gates in the development process need to be established so this failure does not happen again.

Here is another example, close to our current reality, thanks to Covid-19. The team’s latest progress reports show that productivity has increased with the work-from-home arrangements and that the vast majority of team members want these arrangements to continue.  Despite the data suggesting this initiative is a great success, you can’t help but notice feelings of both fear and sadness. You are afraid that the team will lose cohesion and fall apart.  And you are sad because you enjoy the social aspect of work and the clear identify you have standing in front of a team of people.

The fear could be alerting you that you need to learn how to manage hybrid teams and be alert to the greater attention you will need to pay to build cohesion.  Your managerial role will not be the same, and so you need to be present with your anxiety and step up to the mark to support the new working arrangements. Your sadness may be calling you to face the reality that the work environment is insufficient to meet your social needs. Perhaps the sadness is showing you that you need to let go of the role of being a helicopter manager, in touch with and top of your teams every action.

Only relying on the data means you would miss the wisdom that resides in your own heart. Depending only on the information outside of you robs you of the insight that is within you. While you may or may not present your emotions and meaning to the Chairman, you would be foolish to ignore this intelligence that you hold within your heart. 

Photo by Alexander Sinn on Unsplash

To engage this wisdom, perhaps when reviewing any data, there could be two questions you can ask:

  1. What is this data telling me?
  2. How do I feel about this data?

I truly believe that we have so much power and wisdom within us, but we have forgone the intangible, meaningful and mysterious for the safety and security of data.  While I would not want any business to run solely on the heart’s intelligence, I am dismayed with how many businesses and their leaders choose to ignore it.

What would your CEO or Director-General say if they knew that you had only used half of the information available to you to make the decision you are asking them to ratify?  By being data-driven and ignoring the wisdom of the heart, that is exactly what you are doing.

Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

And if you believe Minouche Shafik, director of The London School of Economics, the transition to bringing the heart into business is inevitable.  The question is whether you are brave enough to lead the charge, or whether your organisation will be the losing laggard on the path to exceptional decision making.

“In the past jobs were about muscles, now they are about brains, but in the future, they’ll be about the heart.”[3]

Like any technology, the development of business analytics and AI tools provide a spectacular opportunity.  They free our time from the head work of data processing and analysis so we can more deeply engage with the heart. They deliver the opportunity for us to become more, and not less, human.  I truly believe that bringing together the head and the heart is also how we can deliver exceptional value to those we serve.  It is the third way that joins the strengths of the opposites so that we can fully and holistically care for ourselves and all those around us.  Seeing the data through our emotions’ lens creates a beautiful meeting ground of our head and our heart.  It is the combined and ultimate power of the head and the heart that I would love businesses to be driven by!

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” ~Jung

[1] https://www.bcg.com/publications/2020/leadership-post-covid-19?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=esp&utm_campaign=covid&utm_description=leadership_by_design&utm_topic=none&utm_geo=global&utm_content=202101&utm_usertoken=CRM_3d13a71e4c27d3f0828019c04868b73d6d34ae52

[2] US News & World Report presented a special issue February 28, 2005, entitled, The Secret Mind, featuring an article, How Your Unconscious Really Shapes Your Decisions.

[3] As quoted in Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, 2019, Vermillion

The Prince Charles Earth Charter: A Testament to Ignorance

Prince Charles has recently released the Terra Carta (The Earth Charter), which calls upon private business to fund a £7billion recovery program for the planet.  It aims to widen the contribution being made into sustainability by getting big businesses to invest in Earth’s health.  The Earth Charter’s intention is admirable, and any moves to repair and care for our home, the Earth, are to be applauded.  However, I call The Earth Charter ignorant for one simple reason – it shows no regard for the natural laws upon which our existence is founded.

Prince Charles, using the term Terra Carta is drawing upon the significance of the Magna Carta, also known as The Great Charter.  This document signed by King John in 1215 is lauded as one of the monarchies great successes. It proclaims that everyone (even the kings themselves) was subject to the laws of the land.  What its more recent relative fails to consider, however, is how everyone, including the monarchy itself, is subject to the laws of nature.

There are three laws specifically applicable to our planetary crisis that the Earth Charter ignores:

  1. The Law of Correspondence – As above, so below; as below, so above. As within, so without; as without, so within.
  2. The Law of Cause and Effect – Every cause has its effect; Every effect has its cause.
  3. The Law of Polarity. Everything is dual; Everything has poles; Everything has its pair of opposites.

The Law Of Correspondence

Late last year, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, called upon humans to make peace with nature.[1].  There was no missing the analogy he was using – that humans are at war with the Earth, and as a result of our willful and violent actions towards is, nature is reacting, with “growing force and fury”. 

The Law of Correspondence tells us that whatever is happening outside of us, is also happening within us.  It calls on us to remember that the outer world is merely a reflection of what is happening in our internal worlds.  So, suppose our relationship with the planet is one of conflict and destruction. It suggests then, that also within the human race, an internal war is raging and that there are many casualties.  But what is the conflict occurring within us? And what is being harmed along the way?

Dr James Hollis puts it perfectly when he states that we have

“sacrificed meaning for power.”~ Dr James Hollis[2]

When was the last time you contemplated why you are here?  When was the last time you thought about the purpose of your life?  When was the last time you stopped to listen to your spirit and checked in on the relationship you have with your values and calling? When was the last time you remember feeling a sense of faith and peace in something larger than yourself?

For our modern-day ‘civilised’ citizens, the relationship we have with ourselves and our sense of purpose is snubbed in favour of the bright and shiny distractions of the outer world.  The questions it raises are all too hard, and why should we bother – science has figured most things out for us anyway. It is easier to do stuff, buy stuff, and watch stuff; then it is to listen to our hearts’ discontent.  We have prioritised our tangible, external world and the sense of achievement, action and entertainment it offers, over the intangible treasures of belonging, connection and sense of meaning.

“Humans are nourished by the invisible.  We are nourished by that which is beyond the personal.  We die by preferring its opposite.”  ~ Lucien Jacque (French poet)

The problem is though, just because we ignore the conflict within us, it does not mean this call for something greater goes away.  Denial and suppression are never good strategies, and inevitably build up greater pressure and larger consequences. The growing force and fury we see from the planet is a sure indicator of the growing intensity and anger festering within ourselves.  It is a sign that we are ignoring a key part of our human nature – spirituality. To find evidence of this internal conflict, you only have to look at some of the key wellbeing statistics.  The extent of harm occurring across the human race is alarming and distressing:

  • Depression.  The World Health Organization reports that Australia has the second-highest prevalence of depressive disorders globally (with prevalence rates of 5.9 per cent)[3].  Also, antidepressant drug consumption rose by 8.6% per year between 2000-2015[4].
  • Loneliness.  The Australian Psychological Society (2018) reports that over half (51%) of Australians report they feel lonely for at least one day each week and 25% of Australians report they are currently experiencing an episode of loneliness. 
  • Psychological Distress. In 2017–18, an estimated 13% or 2.4 million Australians aged 18 and over reported high or very high levels of psychological distress.  This is an increase of 12% from 2014–15 (11.7% or 2.1 million Australians)[5].
  • Addiction. Around one in 20 Australians has an addiction or substance use problem. One in six  Australians (17%) consume alcohol at levels that put them at risk of an alcohol-related disease or injury. Nearly 6,000 people die from alcohol-related diseases every year in Australia. That is one person every 90 minutes[6]. And between 2007 to 2016 the rate of opioid deaths increased by 62%, from 2.9 to 4.7 deaths per 100,000 population[7]
  • Suicide[8]. Suicide is the leading cause of death in Australia for people aged 15-44.  More than 65,000 people attempt suicide every year, and in 2017 over 3,000 Australians died from suicide.  That is eight people every day[9]!

You can find more on these indicators at my article: The Economic Policy Is Killing Us.

Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

To make peace with nature, then we need to make peace with ourselves.  We need to acknowledge and care for that ‘invisible’ part of ourselves, our purpose and our meaning.  It means becoming brave enough to ask the questions that may never be answered but call us to explore and express them in our lives.

The Law Of Cause and Effect

We are all aware of the negative effects of human activity on the Earth’s climate, flora and fauna.  But what is the cause of this devastation? Inspired by the amazing work of Warren Berger, I am compelled to ask one simple question – why?

Why is our planet in crisis?

Because humans have destroyed the natural balance

Why have humans destroyed the natural balance?

Because they were selfish and short-sighted

Why are they selfish and short-sighted?

Because they are only seeking some immediate pleasure

Why are they seeking pleasure?

Because they have lost touch with their spirit – the source of comfort within

Why have they lost touch with their spirit?

The call to conformity is too strong.

Now, that is only my simple view of the vast and complex causes for our Earth crisis.  But it would be a wonderful exercise if you were to play this out for yourself and see what you believe to be the cause of our current planetary predicament. 

Before the industrial revolution, the major dilemma was how to produce enough goods to supply the market with life-improving products.  Now we have developed all manner of technologies that makes production a no-brainer. So, businesses are facing a different dilemma: how do we sell all that we can make?  Commercialism and The Economy have become the gods we now worship, and we hand over our individual lives to them to be one of the crowd.  The marketers target our basic emotions such as pride, fear, anger, shame, and guilt to get us to buy more stuff and fit in.  Uplifting pursuits such as living your best and most authentic life succumb to the fear of missing out.  Self-worth is defined by the number of followers you have and your level of ‘influence’ over others’ purchasing decisions. The politicians focus our attention on jobs and economic growth as the key indicators of success.  We have become pack animals, herded into suburbs and hypnotised by modern comforts and external trinkets. 

“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice – it is conformity.” ~ Rollo May

Using the Law of Cause and Effect, let’s see what might happen if people were encouraged to nourish their spirits, to find their individual place in this world, and a sense of meaning beyond their suburbs or employment status:

Cause: People are nourished by their spirits and driven by their own sense of meaning

Effect: There would be fewer psychological and emotional gaps to fill with material objects

Effect: people would buy less of the modern comforts and modern trinkets

Effect: companies would produce less

Effect: there would be less pillaging of natural resources and pollution

Effect: the Earth may begin to heal and restore balance

This law shows us that if the effect we are seeking is to heal and restore balance in our planet, then we first need to heal and nourish the relationship we have with our spirituality, whatever that may look like.

The Law Of Polarity

The Earth is out of balance, and as I have suggested above, so is the human race. The Law of Polarity tells us that when we choose one action, we are at the same time, not choosing its opposite.  The extent to which we keep the poles in balance is the key to wellbeing. 

However, the human race is consistently undertaking actions at one end of the spectrum and creating an imbalance in our lives and our home, the Earth.  Let me provide some examples:

The priority is given to:Over
Control of our external world be it through force or intellect.Submission to the calling within us – our spirit
Satisfaction of our individual needsContribution to something bigger than us – the community of Mother Earth
Manufacture of tangible commodities and the pursuit of ‘evidence.’Existing comfortably within the invisible and mysterious
Seeking acceptance and approval from others (for example, through social media)Building the skill of self-compassion and the relationship with the self
The masculine qualities of progress, assertion and power based on forceThe feminine qualities of nurturing, stability and power based on love
Photo by Alexandra K on Unsplash

These opposites are neither good nor bad.  They are just opposites.  When you become aware of how the choices you are making sit on the spectrum, you can also understand the likely consequences.  If you choose to take actions solely at one pole, then you lose the blessings that are inherent in its opposite.  We like to think as humans we are pretty darn smart – that we have it all figured out.  But the state of our planet says otherwise.  We need to grow up and out of our narcissism and become truly conscious of the choices we are making.  As Jung says, only then can we look to forge a new path:

“Becoming conscious reconciles the opposites and thus creates a higher third”. ~ Carl Jung.

The Terra Carta – A Band-Aid Over A Festering Wound

I do truly thank Prince Charles for the Band-Aid and hope that it may prevent further injury.  But like any dressing, its effect is only superficial.  To cure the infection, we need to get below the surface and find the real cause.  We need to treat the source and not just the symptom of the wound.  As I have argued in this article, this means to heal the Earth; we must also heal ourselves.  We have been so busy seeking domination of, and gratification from the external world that we have lost the most treasured relationship – that with our spirit and purpose.  Only when we begin to care for the life within each of us deeply, will we reconnect with the power we have to bring real change to our environment.

Sure, we can always have a Plan B – run away to the Moon or Mars.  But we forget that we will still take the same problems with us.  If not resolved here and now, they will haunt us and continue to manifest in the destruction of wherever we are living. As Dr James Hollis so very wisely declares:

“What I am unwilling to face in myself will always be carried by someone else.” ~ Dr James Hollis[10]

In this case, if we do not have the courage to face ourselves and the natural laws of Correspondence, Cause and Effect, and Polarity, it will be our children and grandchildren who will have to do this work for us.   For our children,  whom we profess to love and treasure, this is an incredibly cruel and unusual punishment.

[1] Climate Action: It’s time to make peace with nature, UN chief urges | | UN News

[2] Living Between Worlds. Dr James Hollis. 2020. Sounds True, Inc.

[3] https://www.who.int/news/item/30-03-2017–depression-let-s-talk-says-who-as-depression-tops-list-of-causes-of-ill-health

[4] https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/health_glance-2017-graph181-en

[5] https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/stress-and-trauma

[6] https://www.addictioncenter.com/addiction/addiction-in-australia/

[7] https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/opioid-harm-in-australia/contents/summary

[8] https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/09/27/australias-suicide-crisis-has-peaked-to-a-terrifying-new-height_a_21480647/

[9] https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/resources-support/suicide-self-harm/facts-about-suicide-in-australia/

[10] Living Between Worlds. Dr James Hollis. 2020. Sounds True, Inc.

What Is Better Than Being A Social Media Influencer?

Being a Social Media Influencer is a second-rate game.

When I first sat down and watched YouTube with my kids, I was really distressed by the amount of sneaky marketing being done. Everything from McDonalds, Crayola, Gucci, iPhones, Lego, Coke, James Charles makeup and Tesla cars were all being portrayed as ‘must have’ items. The scarier thing is that it actually works. I never could have believed my 10-year-old daughter would be drooling over Gucci and having fits of excitement when she sees a Tesla in the street.

When we saw a man wearing a Gucci shirt, she pointed it out — “look Mum, that guy has a Gucci shirt on.” So, I asked her why that was significant. What did that mean for her? Her answer — he must be rich. So, there you go, all of these things being marketed to my kids are there to make them want to not only be rich, but to show everyone else that they are as well.

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

The projections for social media marketing show that this practice is only going to become more prevalent over the next few years. Current estimates for the amount of spend on influencer marketing is $10 billion. However, as reported in Business Insider, brands are set to increase this by another half over the next few years and spend $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022[1].

So, using the philosophy that knowledge is power, in my house we have turned social media marketing into a game. We play ‘spot the sell-out’ and take dibs on a product being mentioned. For every time the product is mentioned that person gets $1 to donate to a charity. Hey, if you can’t beat them, you may as well get in on the fun!

On the surface, these social media influencers seem to have it made. They get paid for doing things they enjoy and subsidised on their path to stardom. But scratch away at the façade and you come to realise that, just like the products they sell, they are a commodity. They will be used as long as they provide the audience and engagement that the big brands require. And when they no longer deliver, they will be thrown away in the scrap heap of social media marketing. Then the next new bright shiny star will come along, and the process will be repeated. This process makes it clear that:

Influencer ≠ Indispensable

Can you imagine the pressure that this would place on the current influencers? The first million subscribers might give them a bit of a buzz, but like the stuff they are selling, it is only ever short-term. They need to get more followers, continually prove their social equity, and sell more stuff to get the same level of satisfaction. They are beholden to people deciding to follow them for their sense of identity and self-worth. It is this reliance on other people that makes being a social media influencer a second-rate game.

However, there is a deeper and more disturbing reason why being a social media influencer is not as glamourous as it seems. By definition, a social media influencer is:

a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.

So, when you break it down, the job of influencers is to make people continually seek external sources of happiness. In this way, they are working actively to keep their followers at lower levels of consciousness and maturity. Let’s see how.

Here is a diagram showing the combination of the Levels of Consciousness by Dr Hawkins[2], and the Levels of Adult Development by Dr Keegan[3].

As shown by this model, social influencers largely use force upon their followers to get them to purchase what they are promoting. This takes the form of instigating fear (FOMO), desire and pride. Invoking these emotions in their followers pushes them into the Socialised Mind stage of adult development, which is demonstrated by a greater concern for what others think of you, then your own opinion of yourself. Interestingly the majority of adults (around 64%) are still operating within the Socialised Mind stage of development. I do wonder what role social media plays in maintaining this large percentage.

So, by their very nature as influencers, they work through the use of force on their followers.

Then what is better than being an influencer? What will be the next ‘big thing’ to be?

What about being an inspiration?

Imagine what it would be like to know that you have not only entertained someone, but empowered them to be the best person they can be? What if you could say that you just don’t sell things to people, you actually stir their soul to follow their own passions and gifts. Contemplate the satisfaction that would be gained knowing you are not pushing people towards external sources of happiness but helping them connect with their own unique and powerful spirit.

The models of influencing and inspiration are very different, and one wonders how you may measure success against the latter. In influencing, the key KPI are engagement and sales. Companies can track how much product is sold through their social media channels and put a dollar figure on the benefit. However, when you inspire others to live their fullest and best life, to share their true spirit with the world, the benefit is immeasurable and sends ripples out across the world for eternity.

Photo by Ave Calvar on Unsplash

The other difference is that influencing comes from a place of Ego — having the status and power to made someone do what you want. Inspiring comes from a place of honest care for the other person’s great potential. It comes from a place of love, which in itself, in this materialistic world, takes great courage.

It is said that everything that is done in this world is driven by either fear or love. It is clear that largely social media influencers use the force of fear. It concentrates the follower’s attention on what they have or don’t have. Those who choose instead to be inspirations must work with courage for their own self-acceptance and compassion and share this vulnerability with the world. They choose to create visions of what can be.

Now there are two more questions I discuss with my kids while watching YouTube:

1. What is this person trying to influence me to buy?

2. How is this person inspiring me to live my best life?

Most frequently the answer to the second question is that they are not. But that’s ok, at least it was asked. At least my kids are now beginning to question whether they are the subject of someone else’s attempt at force and expectations of success, or if they are being cared for and empowered to live their best and most authentic lives.

Being a social media influencer is a short-term success. When you are inspiration you create life-long change. What are you aiming for?

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/influencer-marketing-report?r=AU&IR=T

[2] Hawkins, D., 2014. Power Vs. Force. Hay House Inc.

[3] https://tomprof.stanford.edu/posting/1110

A Blessing Disguised As A Book

Review of Active Hope — Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone

“Some books present ideas. Some books go further to invoke feelings. While there are others, a rare few that, if you enter them with an open heart can deliver a life-changing blessing.”

Active Hope is one of these rare books. I will admit when I first saw the book, I immediately judged it by it’s cover. The good old bird flying over the sunrise made me think it was just going another attempt to make people feel good and learn to accept our current crises (read more on these here). Even the subtitle ‘How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy’ made me think that this was going to be some Pollyanna view of the sadness and danger we are facing every day, and which we are passing on to our children.

I was so very wrong. Joanna and Chris weave wisdom from the ancients with today’s dilemmas to forge a path of understanding and action. It is true to its title — it provides more than superficial short-term consolation. It provides the motivation and method for a life-time (or many life-times) of contribution.

Joanna and Chris give you a huge ‘wake-up’ slap in the face but do it with such pragmatism and compassion that you very soon feel you are amongst people that you can trust with your vulnerability and who truly care. In the first chapter I was elated by the understanding I gained of how all of the crises fit together. Half-way through I was empowered to bring about the change I would like to see in this world.

By the end of the book I was seeing hope all around me. They have helped me see that there is a Great Turning already occurring that warrants great celebration, but also dedicated support from each of us to sustain it.

Now, when I listen to the songs of Ziggy Alberts, Archie Roach, Yothu Yindi or Midnight Oil I hear the Great Turning in action.

When I watch shows such as Wild Australia: After the Fires, War on Waste, Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds, Addicted Australia and In My Blood It Runs, I see faith in action creating a deeper understanding and a new conversation about what sustains life.

The extensive experience and wisdom of both authors is evident as they connect so many elements into a perspective that I had not seen before. The ideas in Active Hope provided the missing pieces of the puzzle I needed to confirm for me what I need to do make a treaty a reality (read more at Bringing Active Hope For A Treaty), and that it is actually community, at all of its different levels, that is suffering under the government focus on the economy (read more at The Economic Policy Is Killing Us).

And it is the new perspective that the authors bring which make this book such a gift, such a blessing. You will not only see things differently after reading this book, you will be different. You will see that you are part of something so much larger than yourself and you will learn how to tap into this infinite energy to drive your journey forward.

No matter how big, how small, or in whatever field, if you are looking to make any difference in this world then you need to read this book.

For more information go to: https://www.activehope.info/

The Symbolism of ScoMo in Shorts

AKA — Time To Get Your Big Boy Pants On!

Like most of you I saw the picture of ScoMo half-suit, half-shorts on the weekend. Hey, no judgement here! How anyone wants to dress in their own home is completely up to them. Here’s the kicker for me though — this picture was taken by a professional photographer and I guess used to promote the fact that ScoMo is a down to earth, every day friendly fella who gets around the house in his shorts.

That is all well and good. However, HE IS NOT an everyday guy. He is the leader of Australia. He is the leader of my country, and the more I dwelled on this photo, the more it disturbed me. Ok, so there is no denying that I overthink things, but when I dug deeper, I found my concern stemmed from something I learnt in dream therapy. Have I lost you yet ? Please bear with me.

You see many years ago I did some dream therapy work with the most awesome and wise lady — Jane Teresa Anderson. Her work is truly life-changing! But one thing I remember from these sessions is the symbolism of clothes, more specifically what you are wearing on the top half versus what you are wearing on the bottom half of your body in the dream. The top half represents the way you portray yourself to others — your external persona. The bottom half of your attire portrays your internal persona, the real you.

So on the surface the picture sends the message that yes, ScoMo is presenting a professional, serious image to those around him, but underneath he is pretty casual about it all. The problem is Australia is in crisis! Actually, as outlined in my article The Economic Policy Is Killing Us we are facing numerous crises — climate, mental health, community health, economic inequity, global tensions. But there is ScoMo in his boardies casually playing about on his phone!

Using the symbolism of dream therapy this suggests that ScoMo is putting on a show of seriousness and action. While in reality he is just happily going with the flow. While he may project the appearance of dedicated action, in reality he has not committed to this fully. The mixed messages contained within the outfit provide very little comfort that he understands or is willing to address the health and wellbeing of our country and its people. It suggests that he will sit around the table and say what needs to be said. And then walk out thinking ‘she’ll be right mate.’

I guess this is understandable. ScoMo, like many politicians has no personal investment, no ‘skin in the game’ on many of the big issues facing Australia. He, like many other politicians have nothing to gain from change — just a lot of hard work and a lot of potential backlash. We all know how that bodes for longevity in politics (see my article Why Are We Surrounded By Underwhelming Politicians)

While I may be overthinking this image, I don’t think ScoMo’s PR people thought it through well enough. After all, would you want your leader showing how clever he is getting away with being casual about things. Or would you want your leader to be seen with his big boy pants on and dealing with the tough issues that threaten our daily lives and our children’s future? This picture has given me no faith that ScoMo is serious about dealing with the crises, but gosh we will see a good show to make us think he is.

This picture makes me think we will just continue to see superficial band-aid responses to mental health, climate change and social inequity. We will continue to hear a lot of announcements and see lots of ribbon cutting. We will continue to see time being wasted with Dorothy Dixer’s during question time. But ultimately, we will not see anything that causes discomfort in his ‘privates’ or those in the Liberal league.

C’mon ScoMo if you are truly dedicated to the health and prosperity of this nation, it is time to get your big boy pants on, get uncomfortable and commit personally and professionally to the big issues!

The Economic Policy Is Killing Us!

This is a difficult article to write, because I know so many people are struggling from job loss and cutbacks due to the pandemic. There is no doubt that this is traumatic, and my heart goes out to all the individuals and businesses who are trying to pick up the pieces through a recession. However, while we manage this short-term crisis a longer term and more deadly one is looming. While we may all be focused on slowing the train to take a sharp curve, the current economic policy has us heading of the tracks all together.

What Is The Opposite of The Economy?

Almost every single interview with political leaders is used to advertise the work being done to create ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’, and to build the economy. My greatest wish for everyone is that they have full and meaningful employment. However this singular focus got me thinking — if the priority is on jobs and the economy, what is missing out? There is only one pot of funds and always another side of the coin. So, whatever the opposite of The Economy is will be taking a back seat.

My theory is that the opposite of The Economy is The Community. First let me explain what I mean by The Community. In fact, I am referring to the four levels of community as outlined by Macy and Johnstone in their book ‘Active Hope.’ I have created the diagram below to present a summary of their concept.

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Here is how I see the preoccupation with The Economy impacting on each level of The Community:

· Where We Feel At Home. By concentrating on building the economy you are building an individualistic society. People become concerned with getting and keeping their job, being able to rent or buy a house and protecting their possessions. Their own financial wellbeing becomes the key motivator and they become more insular and independent.

· Our Neighbourhoods. The increased level of employment, and the fact that many jobs are further away from our homes means there is less ‘slack’ in the system to enable community participation. The less involvement there is in community events, the more that people feel their neighbourhood is threatening or unsafe. This only reinforces the withdrawal from community and increasing isolation of families. People withdraw into their own little bubbles and then you are left with neighbours who have never met each other.

· The Global Community. By focusing on economic growth you quickly create a division between the have and the have not’s — the winners and the losers. There will be those that gain from the growth, and those that don’t. Resources are pulled from poorer nations to sell to richer nations. Income inequality creates further division and instead of collaboration and community, you get competition. This occurs both within Australia and across the globe as the amount of resources decline. Everything from oil, fish and water become sources of conflict.

· The Earth Community. Selling the message that The Economy is the most important thing places the greatest priority on those things that we can buy. It is fuelling a preoccupation with spending and seeking external sources of happiness. Ultimately though these external sources of happiness are not sustainable and instead the community is crippled by depression and loneliness, only fuelling the withdrawal from community even more. We lose touch with our sense of place in this world and the amazing gifts that it provides, and we begin to see the Earth as a commodity to use for our own short-term pleasure.

I have asked a number of my peers what they think the opposite of The Economy is, and it is interesting how many come up with the same conclusion. It appears that there is an inherent understanding of the damage that an economic focus is doing on our sense of community, and yet, no sense of urgency that anything should be done about it.

The Economy Is Doing Great!

Well, with all of the attention it gets, you would be very worried if The Economy was not in good shape. While the pandemic has put a significant dip in the statistics, up until then it all seemed to be really rosy. Just have a look at these results:

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But The Community Is Suffering

At the same time however, we are seeing an increase in suffering and negative consequences at all levels of The Community. At an individual level we have seen an increase in mental illness and psychological issues including:

· Depression. The World Health Organization reports that Australia has the second highest prevalence of depressive disorders globally (with prevalence rates of 5.9 per cent)[1]. In addition antidepressant drug consumption rose by 8.6% per year between 2000–2015[2].

· Loneliness. The Australian Psychological Society (2018) reports that over half (51%) of Australians report they feel lonely for at least 1 day each week and 25% of Australians report they are currently experiencing an episode of loneliness.

· Psychological Distress. In 2017–18 there were an estimated 13% or 2.4 million Australians aged 18 and over reported high or very high levels of psychological distress. This is an increase of 12% from 2014–15 (11.7% or 2.1 million Australians)[3].

· Addiction. Around one in 20 Australians has an addiction or substance use problem, One in six Australians (17%) consume alcohol at levels that put them at risk of an alcohol-related disease or injury. Nearly 6,000 people die from alcohol-related diseases every year in Australia. That is one person every 90 minutes[4]. And between 2007 to 2016 the rate of opioid deaths increased by 62%, from 2.9 to 4.7 deaths per 100,000 population[5].

· Suicide[6]. Suicide is the leading cause of death in Australia for people aged 15–44. More than 65,000 people attempt suicide every year, and in 2017 over 3,000 Australians died from suicide. That is 8 people every day[7]!

At the neighbourhood level we see that[8]:

· 77% of Australians never talk to the people next door and know little about them.

· More than half don’t know their neighbours name and 25 per cent wouldn’t recognise their neighbours faces

· 56 per cent of people actively avoid their neighbours

· Two-thirds of people believe that crime is one the rise despite the actual statistics shown a decrease in crime over time[9]

· In addition, 9.5% of Australians or around 2.37 million people aged 15 and over report lacking social support (Relationships Australia 2018). This disconnection from the community is not only a result of the individual isolation noted above, but also is a key risk factor for developing loneliness.

Within and across nations we are seeing income disparity and poverty increase. We are seeing the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. It suggests that those in power are making decisions which improve their position rather than that of the most vulnerable.

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There are also an increasing number of conflicts occurring over natural resources. For example over the last years there were 172 conflicts across the world where water was the trigger[10]. These ‘water wars’ are being fought in every corner of the earth, with one each year being recorded in North America. The wars include everything from outright violence to active protest, arrests and legal action. In the developing countries they are more likely to be physical battles over access to wells. While in the richer countries they take the form of protests and legal action against oil , dams and diversions which have the potential to impact on the quantity and quality of water supplies. While we have not yet seen any physical battles over water in Australia, there sure has been an ongoing war of words over the Murray-Darling Basin[11]. Accusations are made regularly of one state ‘stealing’ water from another.

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Our Earth Community is also suffering. Humans have driven almost 700 vertebrate species to extinction already. It is reported that another 25 percent of mammals, 40 percent of amphibian species, 33 percent of sharks and 25 percent of plant groups are now threatened with extinction. Based on these proportions, the researchers estimated that approximately 1 million animal and plant species could die out, many “within decades.”[12]

Global warming is also wreaking havoc and has the potential to redraw the world map. Scientists at the non-profit organisation Climate Central estimate that 275 million people worldwide live in areas that will eventually be flooded at 3C of global warming, with 80% of those affected being in Asia.

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What Will Save The Train Wreck?

I am certainly no policy expert and have no real understanding of the complexity involved in changing policy direction. However, just looking at the above evidence it does appear that the only thing that will save the train wreck is if we begin to place just as much emphasis on Community Growth as we do on Economic Growth.

Of course, the two do go hand in hand, but it is obvious that the focus on the latter is destroying our communities at all levels. There is a crisis of mental health, community disconnect, global conflict and destruction of our Earth. This is occurring as an inevitable consequence on concentrating on the individual prosperity at the sake of our shared homes.

We hear our political leaders speaking every day about the economic crisis we face and the efforts they are putting into economic recovery. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we also heard about their commitment to balancing economic growth with community growth. Yes, it would be distressing, but what if the leaders also told us about the crisis we are facing in our community and what they were doing from a policy perspective to address it.

As you can see, additional spending on mental health is just a band-aid solution to one part of the crisis. A better balance of economic and community policy is required to address the crisis at all levels. And if the pandemic has shown us anything it is that we can pull together in crisis. It is through a shared problem we come together with a sense of meaning and purpose. People have done it during COVID-19 and a new sense of community and shared responsibility has been fostered. Let’s build on this to bring a renewed dedication to community while we also rebuild the economy.

Because the two are not mutually exclusive. While we avoid our neighbours, it is reported that 90 per cent of us would feel happier if we did know and spend time with our neighbours. What local government initiatives could be enacted to bring this about?

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Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash

Economists have put price tags on our social relationships and found the happiness delivered in volunteering is equivalent to adding $50,000 to your balance and seeing a friend ‘most days’ is equivalent to adding $100,000 to your balance[13]. What policy incentives could be created to encourage the building of stronger social relationships?

A balanced perspective between Community Growth and Economic Growth also requires courageous leadership. There may be hard decisions made about where money is being spent, for example more coal mines to deliver jobs or community initiatives that will restore and build relationships in our neighbourhoods and with the Earth. There is no doubt it will be difficult as the balance is found between the wants of the individual and the needs of the community.

As outlined in my previous article, the current dearth of political leadership does make this seem unlikely. But if they choose, the political leaders can do their job and pull people together and get us back on track for the long term.

They have shown us how they can change the nature of our lives overnight to battle a pandemic. Now, to avoid the train wreck they need us to show how they can change the nature of their policies to save our lives!

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Only a balanced focus on the economy and our communities can save the train wreck

[1] https://www.who.int/news/item/30-03-2017–depression-let-s-talk-says-who-as-depression-tops-list-of-causes-of-ill-health

[2] https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/health_glance-2017-graph181-en

[3] https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/stress-and-trauma

[4] https://www.addictioncenter.com/addiction/addiction-in-australia/

[5] https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/opioid-harm-in-australia/contents/summary

[6] https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/09/27/australias-suicide-crisis-has-peaked-to-a-terrifying-new-height_a_21480647/

[7] https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/resources-support/suicide-self-harm/facts-about-suicide-in-australia/

[8] https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/relationships/family-friends/backyard-fences-in-a-melbourne-street-removed-and-replaced-with-tennis-nets/news-story/c00ede9c61f8e6cc6998c60d4c0778cb

[9] https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/aug/04/public-perception-crime-higher

[10] http://www.worldwater.org/conflict/list/

[11] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-02-07/murray-darling-basin-dispute-over-northern-irrigators-flood-flow/11942610

[12] https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/1-million-species-under-threat-extinction-because-humans-report-finds-ncna1002046

[13] https://www.nib.com.au/the-checkup/healthy-living/australias-happiness-index