THE INC. LIFE

Living In A World With A Crisis of Meaning And Values

Here’s what business leaders can do to contribute to a new narrative for our daily lives.

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BY Sylvia Lafair - 10 Oct 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

When huge tragedies strike, much of what we worry about day to day pales in comparison.

Think about you or your loved ones being in the line of fire on a train, plane, or at a harvest festival. How about kids in school?

Has it always been like this? Have we entered a new era where no one is safe? Do we have to create barricades and live inside "safe zones?"

Yesterday I had a call with one of my coaching clients who decided to take a lunch walk while we talked. It was, she said, such a beautiful autumn day she wanted to take advantage and multitask, walk and talk.

We were discussing how she was handling some frustrations with her new direct report when suddenly her voice became muffled and then the call came to an end.

"A dropped call" I thought and went to dial her back.

What I got was her message saying she would call back as soon as she was free.

In the past, I would have simply waited without anxiety.

However, in these days anxiety and fear are like an epidemic.

Fortunately, within another minute she responded.

"What the heck happened?" was my relieved reply.

"Hey, Sylvia, that was creepy. A man in a blue car slowed down near me and yelled out "How you doing sweetheart?"

I smiled back and said "I'm fine thanks." And he said "Want to get some lunch?"

"I said I was busy. He stayed in the slow lane, and kept telling me how pretty I am. I had a sick feeling in my gut.I decided to run around the corner and stopped into this coffee shop. I just looked outside and he's gone. I'm worried he may show up again when I leave here."

Then her anger welled up, "Damn it, in this crazy world we can't even take a lunch walk without worrying about some jerk wanting to possibly hurt us. What's going on? What do we need to do to stop this madness?"

This is a theme I hear over and over.

How do we stop this world that seems so out of control? What part can we play? Who should get the blame?

I challenged this business leader to be part of the change we so badly need in these times of what I call frozen polarities. This is where all leaders who are sick and tired of the noisy blasts from those who only think in terms of good/bad, right/wrong/ black/white need to come forward and help create the environment for thoughtful dialogue to occur.

The areas to search that can grow in strength to make real change happen are:

The search for wholeness: when we see work is separate from the rest of life and it takes first place we become fragmented and lose purpose.

The search for community: when we see those who are different from us as enemies or imposters we lose the ability to connect in positive ways.

The search for identity: when we stay locked in stereotypes and go to battle for our specific group we lose the impact of the deeper meaning of being human.

The search for meaning: when we value materialistic things rather than relationships and see money as the main route to happiness we lose perspective.

The search for personal power: when we see ourselves grabbing power over others rather than using power to change old behavior patterns we lose the path to joy.

There is a film I recommended to my client that I would suggest we all watch during these confusing and often turbulent days. It's filled with dialogue rather than pure action, so you need to really listen.

It's a 1971 film based on the play by Jules Feiffer directed by Alan Arkin about life in New York (could be anywhere) with a backdrop of urban violence (the world over), obscene phone calls (now social media), rusty water pipes (think Flint Michigan), ethnic-racial conflict (pick a town), and paranoia (all of us).

Now, almost 50 years later it still rings true. When and how do we stand strong to break the patterns of the past that are creating the fear and disillusion?

I'd love to hear your thoughts about what leaders in business can do to make positive change.