My friend Pat Murray is one of the clearest thinkers I know in the areas of group and individual behavior and I have learned some valuable lessons from him. See if this pairing of one statement plus two questions from Pat’s work stimulates your motivation innards.
YOU GET WHAT YOU TOLERATE – Children teach us this every day. A major part of their job is to push the envelope to find out where the edges of acceptability are. Those edges are often defined by some sort of pain, like physical pain as a result of attempting to defy the laws of physics while riding a bicycle or from adult displeasure over an inappropriate childhood behavior.
So it is with politics. Our politicians will push the envelope and keep on pushing until we tell them they’ve gone too far by punishing them with our phone calls, letters and emails of displeasure and, eventually, with election defeat. The key point is that if you tolerate their behavior, they will not only continue it but they will keep on pushing that envelope to an extreme until you actively refuse to tolerate what they are doing. Passivity and apathy on your part will result in ever more outrageous behavior on their part. You get what you tolerate.
WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? – Are you clear about what you stand for, what you believe in down to your bedrock, the absolutely most-not-be-violated ideals you will never compromise? Tagging on to that question, motivational speaker Les Brown likes to say that you have to know what you stand for or you’ll fall for anything.
There are people in all areas of our lives who want to sell us something, who want to bend us to their way in order to help them to create a world that serves them. Some of these people are quite comfortable lying to us, misleading us with flagrant, fatuous falsehoods (my alliteration for today) and many of them have very loud megaphones. They feed us a spoonful of verifiable fact to gain our trust and then go off into their stream of dishonesty. Unless you know what you stand for, you can be manipulated easily by these people and become a pawn to serve them while they do harm to you and everyone else in the process. What do you stand for?
KNOW YOUR INTOLERABLES – Yes, I know that “intolerables” isn’t a word you can find in the dictionary, but you understood its meaning immediately. What is on your list of things that you will not put up with? What are the absolutely no-go items? Lying, cheating, stealing, dishonoring the sacred, cruelty, abandoning the helpless, disloyalty? When you make your list, be sure to do a gut check so that you don’t write hollow platitudes, because that doesn’t serve you. Rather, write what is actually true for you.
For example, you may find abridging the rights of fellow citizens to be intolerable, but do you believe in it so strongly that you’ll fight anyone who tries to silence those with whom you passionately disagree? Do you believe in the rights of citizenship with such passion that you’ll stand up publicly for those whose voting rights are being stolen right now? Do you believe in civil rights so strongly that you’ll speak out against the anti-Muslim fever that is both marginalizing and killing some Americans? Speaking of killing, it may be an intolerable for you, but do you make an exception for those who kill abortion doctors? Know your intolerables.
It is true that those are under-the-skin questions likely to provoke. Are you agitated enough to take action? A good starting place is to make two lists: HERE IS WHAT I STAND FOR and THESE ARE MY INTOLERABLES. Your lists probably won’t be very long, but they will have great power for you. And when you’re done, you’ll stop falling for anything and instead will be prepared to stop tolerating all that envelope pushing that violates what you believe in. You might even exercise your citizenship by speaking out to make things better.
Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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