Written by Guest blogger Uli Nagel
A spiral of Hope, Possibilities and Gratitude
I am travelling in Europe right now, through Germany and Switzerland, visiting friends and family as well as participating in some trainings and seminars.
A lot of conversations turn towards the current trends in many countries towards a more nationalistic, less global and open society – in Poland, Hungary, France, Denmark, Holland and in the US. Often, worry, disbelief, indignation and fear are the emotions underlying these talks.
The other morning I woke up thinking how urgent it is to focus most of my energy and attention on all the things I want to do, see and achieve in the world – towards the future I want to live in. This future keeps sending out whiffs of promise, like the fragrance of blossoms behind a tall and opaque fence or the coolness rising from a deep, dark well.
Climate Change and a world sliding towards the temptations of authoritarian nationalism and economic isolation are a double-whammy of course. We need more openness across borders for the exchange of ideas and technology, not less. We need innovations, and more ways to collaborate across cultures too, not a withdrawal into past approaches.
Humans can contract under pressure or we can expand. It is understandable to feel the urge to pull back under the many challenges we are facing on a global scale –
which are frightening. But we can also try to sense, form and look toward a vision that lies beyond this retraction even while it is happening. The fact that values many of us have lived by and often taken for granted are now under threat is turning, somewhat surprisingly for me, into a source of energy, of more inspiration and more freedom for the pursuit of that future.
Recognizing the enormous forces seemingly at play in societies’ and the earth’s history, seeing myself as the kernel of sand each of us is, being tossed about by enormous waves, I am paradoxically discovering a new freedom to pursue big dreams.
These dreams are about people from different persuasions, backgrounds and ideologies to connect with, listen to and work with each other on solutions that everyone can support. It sounds very idealistic and impossible, but there are plenty of examples that it is not. Given how young our species still is, on a cosmological scale, and how curious, I feel we have a lot of potential to mature and grow towards greater freedom and harmony, integration and diversity on and with the planet we live on and which lives in us.
When I first began meeting with others who wanted to make a difference in the arena of climate change about a year and a half ago, forming Living the Change Berkshires – Community Resilience and Creativity in the Age of Climate Change, we decided to put our focus on hope, gratitude, appreciation and, as our name says, creativity. At the time, this orientation felt like a stretch – much of the news is devastating and desperate, so our decision felt like an almost artificial determination to me.
But now, a year later, this attitude has taken hold. Our creativity is bubbling spontaneously and is fueling our engagement, giving us new ideas and emboldening and empowering us to take risks, take more responsibility and try things we never thought we’d do before. We are much less worried about who we think we are and how we might be perceived.
For myself, this meant to suddenly be coordinating an energy efficiency pilot program, working with a technological start-up out of MIT, in the process of which I am speaking with politicians and business people in ways I never learned – and loving it. I have also started training in moderating meetings that I hope will empower people who do not usually speak with each other to make unexpected and co-creative decisions. For another one of our members, it has meant persuading her life-partner to put a full solar array on their house and taking the lead in coordinating a climate action fair. Another decided to cofound a new chapter of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, having to educate herself in legislative language and issues – a very new area for her.
It’s those changes right in front of me that give me even more hope – seeing potentials flower and boundaries drop and seeing each other amplify our strengths, abilities and interests. It often feels like being awake in a much more powerful way, accessing ideas, intuitions and questions that I never thought of before and developing an appreciation of how much every moment, every exchange and every decision matters, even while feeling inadequate, asleep, clumsy or slow – it doesn’t matter.
Research in organizations as well as brain science has shown how much more effective it is to work from and towards strength, possibility, appreciation and hope.
It doesn’t just feel better, it opens our minds to new ideas and possibilities and starts a self-fulfilling and amplifying spiral, which we can learn and consciously employ.
We cannot withdraw from the threats we are facing and need to respond diligently to them, yet a new world seems to sprout as a by-product of this orientation towards our potential.