New does not necessarily mean meaningful, and new does not always make sense. It is good when both go together. When the new makes sense in life and work and creates meaning.
Today we have to cope with global problems and afford “us” regional sideshows. Perhaps this is typical for our species. We know what is suitable, but we opt for the mediocre, the short-term happiness, the short-term success, the pretence, for the uncomplicated and for the briefly suitable. Ways, insights or lessons from past experiences should help, too often that is exactly what does not happen.
The solution, or so it seems, only has to be just good enough to get us far enough away from the problem again — in privat, at work or in societies. What we don’t see, we no longer have in mind, one might think.
Most of the time, then, we have not understood the problem. Most of the time, the problem later strikes back with all the more force. For example, if you don’t clearly define your goal when you start a business, you will have to work even harder to sharpen it later. Those who don’t define their own goals or dreams will later wander through life without navigation. Those who do not define what they want in life will eventually be defined by others — in their private lives, in their jobs and inevitably also in society. Everything has to do with change, with adaptation, with innovation and the corresponding behaviour. We just need to understand the problem at hand.
In understanding, if no one checks it, we humans are sometimes just as lazy and average as in acting.
“What one sees coming from afar is easily remedied. But if one waits until the evil is there, the remedy comes too late”.Niccolo Machiavelli
The result of a war like the current one, a climate crisis like the one that has been going on for years — we humans saw this coming. But we don’t like to hear that: Having responsibility for something that is going wrong but could be done better.
In addition is aggravated by the fact that money makes everything much more comfortable. It happens that we still make money with things that are bad and mostly meaningless, not to say mediocre.
We love to make money in the short term. Even if we produce a lot of problems with it, and also worries. But these seem secondary in comparison. What counts in the short term is the prosperity. The comfort for you, us and societies. And the fact that our behaviour today, if we don’t change it, will cause problems later, are mostly just assumptions at first that can sometimes come under heavy fire — for reasons of convenience. This can be seen in listening to one’s own voice as well as in discourses on worldly issues in the media. And it happens the same way in organisations. Convenience wins where there is no will to rise above the average. And of course we can always pass the responsibility for our situation on to others.
What really counts in the long term is always the price we pay. But no one can precisely quantify it today for later. This is an advantage for those who can convince us now with their current and concrete profits. Let’s take electromobility, for example. It’s going well, but how environmentally friendly are batteries exactly? Their production or recyclability. Do you think that we only produce good things here?
There were enough warnings for nearly everything that went wrong. We just have to listen to it. in time. Listening is just as much communication as talking. Only those who always have their mouths open don’t learn. I know many people like that. In the examples like climate or war and other cases. In our individual lives and in this world.
Should we listen, think and act more appropriate? We have listened and much is being thought and written in the media in the run-up to the storming of the American Capitol, for the abuses in the Catholic Church, for the Brexit, for famines, for the death of species, for the clearing of the rainforest etc. Appropriate behaviour seems to be in short supply in retrospect. And don‘t forget the money!
We often see many things coming but we do not always act, in retrospect have rarely acted in time. We see and hear how we are with others, are to others and often we are not honest with ourselves that we could have seen it coming — the end of the relationship, the friendship, the serious problems. Often out of comfort, out of fear, out of paralysis. We become powerless and despondent. Becoming that is a decision we sometimes make, even if it has longer-term consequences for us.
We are able to act when we want to. We are able to tell others honestly what we are thinking right now, if it would be important. But because of our lack of courage, we choose inaction and thus safe comfort. In other words, against innovating a situation.
There is also the belief, or the faith of people, that one alone does not count, that one’s own voice is worth nothing, that if one does not eat meat, goes to the polls oneself, produces less waste, is kinder to others, consciously develops oneself personally, eats, communicates or listens, nothing will change in the world. But this belief is only a misunderstanding — we misunderstand that the change we have in mind always starts with small steps, always with ourselves.
We often don’t start the change because we lack the example. Because it makes us insecure to give away our idea of a different world. Something no colleague, no friend, no family-member has dared to say so far. A lack of courage. Of confidence. To be the first to walk a new path, one that no one has walked before. To be the first to live another world. And in doing so, we deprive everyone else of the example, the inspiration to follow a better idea than the previous or the popular one.
Just look at where the concept of capitalism, the concept of marriage, the concept of management, the concept of nationality, hierarchy, monarchy or religion has taken us. And let’s just look at how much fear is released when other concepts suddenly become more popular or people yearn for them en masse! For democracy, for self-determination, for equal rights, for renunciation, etc.
Everyone can be an inspiration, an example, a change in the way of thinking, acting or a new consciousness. We need this not only in companies, we need it everywhere.
Nothing changes suddenly. All change was once just a thought. The toilet, the internet, aeroplanes, etc. Everything ends up in a result after many deeds.
I just say “plastic in the oceans”. It didn’t happen all of a sudden. It happened also with the hole in the ozone layer. The examples are countless.
You can also observe this very well on a small scale, in your own cosmos. And then just as well in larger systems: Think of relationships breaking down, the collapse of companies, pollution, the obesity of American society, the increase in alcohol consumption, in the downfall of entire cultures, in wars and certainly also in the approach to climate change. Nothing happened suddenly. Consequences are no coincidence. Everything is the result of behaviour, of decisions.
We often think we are intelligent just because of the fact that we can think. We know it is more intelligent to act. But we do not behave accordingly. We humans often do not behave according to what we know is right. And the world today has more knowledge than ever before. But maybe that doesn’t help alone.
Knowledge and behaviour seem to be two indispensable components for one thing: change.
And: we also know that not acting is often not punished and that in doubt it is more comfortable not to change. You know it. Take equality, tax evasion, for example, or corruption, or going to vote or quite simply our behaviour towards our health. Knowledge and action are two sides of the same coin.
Imagine: The biggest drug of our time could now be sugar. I know we make a lot of money with it. Just like with nuclear bombs. The whole arms industry. Chemistry. I told you we were absurd.
As long as the problems are far enough away or do not interfere with our current life, it doesn‘t matter for us — pollution, war and the crimes against humanity in other countries, the drop in sales as long as my salary comes, the drugs as long as it are not my children who take them, etc.
But things change without us. Because the only constant in this world is change. And those who don’t change for too long fall out — from their environment, from the world, from their company, from relationships, etc.
Sometimes we talk about fit in this context — of solutions, of products or individual services. If someone no longer adapts to society, to modernity, to a market, to values, etc., he, she or it is thrown out. Out of the political system (Russia), out of the value system of a society (e.g. prison). Out of a friendship, network, organisation etc.
And: We will not be able to solve problems that we do not really understand. A principle that we are quick to underestimate for the sake of convenience.
We always have to be able to think very far ahead to understand the complexity of problems, the large as well as the small — how it actually comes to them.
Understanding — that is very uncomfortable and difficult for most of us. That’s why we prefer to put a cross on the ballot paper every few years instead of getting politically involved. That’s why we’d rather backbite superiors than discuss with them. That’s why we prefer to condemn rather than understand.
It almost hurts to leave one’s own perspective and allow other arguments. It hurts to do without something that we always have. We prefer to take many things for granted and consider precautionary measures to be superfluous. Unless we are German — then we insure ourselves against everything as a precaution.
In the short term change — which always also means adaptation — is uncomfortable. In the long term, it pays off. Just think of vaccinations and our immune system. Because long-term decisions rarely show short-term results — for example, quitting smoking. But we like to make short-term decisions instead of long-term ones. Less effective ones instead of sustainable ones — that’s what you see in our societies, politics, in terms of our environment and in ourselves.
Change has to do with leaving the proverbial comfort zone. We get new things at the earliest when we are ready to part with the old (behaviour, ways of thinking, principles, structures, processes etc.). Those things that hold us back from achieving or working out the new, the different, the more appropriate. Think, for example, of the energy transition.
Everyone knows that, if you think for a moment about your own life and the problems you have experienced in it so far. Most of the time, we then did not want to give up the comfort and did not want to let go of it. Private, professional or social. No matter for what.
For the disruption of something we value — family, friendship, community, team, company, the city we live in, the country, the continent or this world — I by myself have blamed heads of state, church leaders, my father or friends, strangers and colleagues for those disruptions, those problems for which I would have had no solution, or worse: whose problems I had a part in through my behaviour or non-behaviour.
Of course, it’s easy to blame someone. Easy to attribute a problem to one man / woman, to a manager, a leader, to one state, to politics, economy, society, etc. Because it is not only much more difficult to find the root of all the problems in all the actors who have contributed to them. Not least to find a cause in oneself. It’s easy to hand over responsibility and blame — it makes life so damn easy. But something inside us knows the truth.
One would have to deal with the history of issues and in the end, we will almost certainly find out that we ourself were involved. The world is the result of our decisions or not deciding. We are always a part of the world we live in. We are meat eaters, vegetarians or vegans. It is all the result of choices, of leaving comfort zones, of renunciation, of the belief that something else is better.
For sustainable solutions, we all have to make an effort. That means first thinking differently, having a different awareness, but then also acting accordingly. Sometimes I am shocked when my friends, when choosing flowers for their balcony, find it absurd to consider bee-friendliness. Or that constant alcohol consumption is harmful to the body, or that the company we work for was chosen by us. Some people don’t even see these connections.
In my work on myself and with companies, I notice how stolid people are. I notice how we like to blame others when we find problems. And I notice how we shine in darkness as human beings when there is only a spark of hope, a sequence of steps to move away from the problem towards a solution. We are so happy when someone gives us good advice or asks the right questions to find the solution ourselves. Quite without advice sometimes.
Only without living differently — in consumption, in travelling, in voting for politics, in participating in society, in stopping to see only ourselves and to follow only our own truth, we will not change anything sustainably.