There is a tension in the political competition for our attention and social media isn’t helping. Attention is a commodity these days. We are easily overwhelmed with data, much of it bad, irrelevant information, much of it manipulative, and political messages, most of them self-serving.
There is very little focus on helping us be more aware of better informed about the meaning of these “isms.” The Political Culture wars merely adding adversarial heat instead of resolutionary light.
If you personally try to keep up with COVID, the economy, the environment, social justice, education, well-being, policing…and the list goes on, and on, and on…it’s inevitable and easy to get overwhelmed.
The mental survival reaction is to tune out. The saner sustainable reaction is to hone in and tune in on what’s important to you. Focus your Attention on what is important to you and what holds meaning for you. Take a pass on getting sucked into the tensions of the Political Culture Wars.
Start with taking Beth Sanders’ diagram of Focused Attention to heart. I see it as part of the Head, Heart, and Hand process of Effective Engagement.
What issues, policies, or programs are top of mind that matter to you? Where is your Head at? Do you know how you really feel about these subjects? Can you express your feeling clearly, be it fear, anger, or optimism, or what have you? Where is your Heart at? Then be honest and consider what you are doing about them, in real-time and in real life. Where do you apply your Hands?
I remember being told long ago that you should not believe what people say about what’s “really important” to them. That’s because we all tend to give socially acceptable normative answers to such questions. Most of us see ourselves above average, even knowing that’s impossible. Studies show that when asked if we voted, between 75 and 80% say they did but in reality 50% or less of us actually do vote. You get my point.
If you want to know what is really important to a person, look at their calendar, where do they spend their time? Then look at their bank statements, where they spend their money? That is where you will find the truth about what’s really important to a person. Overly simplistic I know but there is some truth there for sure.
So are you ready to narrow and deepen your focus? I believe it’s better to an assertive, active Citizenship Knight rather than a sacrificial Pawn of Political Partisanship.
Exercising your Personal Agency is not simple nor easy. Becoming an independent critical thinker and a community-service collaborator, takes time, talent, and technique.
So my personal challenge to you is for you to narrow your focus and pick out what’s important to you. Where can you invest some of your scarce and valuable time and to make some ripples? Can you imagine waves of change forming if you collaborate with others on that focus area?
How do you see yourself avoiding the paralyzing perception that the issues are just too complex for an individual to make a difference? Are you feeling that the obstacles are so challenging, and the consequences of failure are so enormous, that unless we boil the ocean, nothing will change? So why even start?
Have you been avoiding that first step towards Effective and Engaged Citizenship, well because it is psychologically intimidating, or you have convinced yourself that other priorities are more important, that can be especially true in these COVID times? The time is never right if you succumb to uncertainty and fear and never start the journey.
There are plenty of examples of the Power of One captured in the author of the book, Bryce Courtney: “Let me conclude by saying in my experience the glittering prizes in life come more to those who persevere despite setback and disappointment than they do to the exceptionally gifted who, with the confidence of the talents bestowed upon them, often pursue the tasks leading to success with less determination.”
So don’t get discouraged if you are not ready—YET, but don’t let yourself off the hook either. You will discover and be exposed to new vulnerabilities but realize the world is run by those who show up. As Gandhi said: “Be the Change you want to see in the World.”