Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad?
Alice: I'm afraid so. You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are.
If history has proved anything, it's that great leaders - and especially great women leaders--have always been initially painted with the broad brush of ridicule. The list of women who have been called "mad" by those in power is as long as your arm. From Joan of Arc to the Suffragettes, there's no need to reproduce the entire list. The real point is, if you want to Make A Difference (M.A.D.), you should expect many people to think you're a little mad too. I'm here to let you know you it's a good thing, and nothing to be afraid of.
When the news reached me about the tragic events in Paris, I felt two very different emotions at the same time. The first was the only natural human response--an emotionally intense fear and doubt about the future. The second emotion was the desire to do something about it--but without a clue as to what. Maybe you felt the same as me.
But fear can awaken our ability to innovate and grow; helping us fuel our deeper knowing that we can all, in some way, contribute to the relentless resolve of the human spirit. We have demonstrated time and again our resilience to terror attacks. And I don't think this time will be any different.
The Dalai Lama recently suggested that the crisis of suffering and inequality in the world requires a compassionate approach to leadership. While the women of the world are best suited to answer this requirement, we are often occupied in matters that distract us from this calling.
Let me urge you to take some "me time" as 2015 draws to a close, to think about how you can make a difference to the world--your world. You don't need to move to Syria, or start a non-profit (although you might), you just need to get a piece of paper and a pen, and reflect on these 5 steps:
- Analyze your M.A.D. aspirations. We often find it easier to create a plan for our day-to-day work, organization, or team; but when it comes to us personally, to our own lives--not so much. Rather than writing out a list of New Year resolutions that quickly go on the back burner, discover the power of being honest with yourself. Instead, write a list of what's currently working and not working in your life, career, relationships, and if you want to reach a little further, the wider world. Circle those areas that are working and think about what you truly want to achieve, if only you could find a way.
- Discover your purpose. If we want to live a fulfilling existence it is essential to know not only what we're doing, but why we're doing it, and for whom to we want to make a difference. Asking yourself what you want your legacy to be is an exercise that may or may not happen overnight. But the importance of knowing the answer to this question, taking it head-on, cannot be understated.
- Practice integrity and resilience. Make a list of your values and what you stand for. Look at the list often, and put it into daily practice. At the same time, try not to treat this list as inflexible; because as you (and the world) changes and grows, your values will also mature and gain dimension. But if you have regular difficulty standing up for what you believe in, or feel you aren't as strong as you could be, it is a clue that you need to work on finding your purpose (see #2 above). Once you know that, resilience comes much more easily.
- Love thy naysayers. The more "M.A.D." you become, the bigger the difference you begin to make, the clearer you get on your purpose ... the more naysayers will be attracted to you. It's like a magnet. And surprisingly, many of the naysayers will be some of the smartest, most experienced, and well meaning people you know. Naysayers often express a mixture of love and fear--so the best way to deal with them is to hear them out openly and completely, reassure them that it will be okay, and then enlist them to help you accomplish it. Naysayers can become your greatest allies.
- Be ruthless with your time. If you're a woman, you're probably doing too much for other people at the expense of yourself. The key is to learn to be a leader over your time. Start saying "no" to more things, more often. Say "no" to one thing, the next day say "no" to two things, and three the next day. You will be pleased to know it usually turns out okay, after the initial shock wears off from those people accustomed to diverting all your time. You will have a clearer head, and be able to live your life with more intention than before.
These baby steps, daily actions and retraining yourself to know your aspirations, remember your values, talents and purpose will help you put yourself in the best possible environment, and frame of mind, to be in a position to change the world one day at a time, from wherever in the world you are right now.