What if there were a way to reduce our (currently outrageous) footprint on Earth such that:
- the shift is convenient
- it reduces economic cost and saves technological effort
- it reinforces benevolent relationships
- it creates organic, effortless growth
- it is consistent with ethical and spiritual values
- it enriches the social whole by nurturing the individual person or group?
What if this way were as simple as shifting how we ‘see’ things, especially the nature of our work?
The answer is: Yes. It is possible to achieve all the objectives outlined above, at once, by simply a first shift in perspective. This first shift in perspective then leads to shift in actions, and therefore outcomes. And this shift is as simple as changing your fundamental question about growth.
Change Your Question: From ‘Need’ to ‘Have’
Instead of asking: “I need _______ to get ________.” Ask: “Where do I want to go? What do I have, right now, to get there?”
The shift that we are seeking is one from a Scarcity Perspective to an Abundance Perspective. Note that the second key word is ‘perspective’. This shift is not about lying to the self about resources and growth, but rather seeing things as they are and then choosing to pay one’s attention in a certain direction. In sum, if you have 10 acres of land, you are not psyching yourself into believing that you have more than 10 acres. Indeed, you stay reasonable and grounded about the land’s known natural capacity, but shift your attention to what can be done with the land rather than what cannot be done with the land.
In the first way is potential for growth. In the second is anything from anxiety, to greed, to the urge to steal, to depression.
How Does This Work?
The “have” mindset in people or organizations is indeed only just a mindset: it requires soft intra-personal or intra-organizational work, but it yields hard results including structural transformation.
The “have” mindset:
makes intelligent use of given resources to get things done. Take the instance of technical innovation. In Pakistan, the word ‘jugaar’ is used for a technical/mechanical patch-up that makes things happen. In Africa, the same concept goes by the name of ‘tinkering’ ? it is now being recognized as a very smart form of innovation. India, for instance, has a grassroots innovation network.
highlights strengths-to-grow rather than weaknesses-as-excuse.
yields planet-friendly development and growth. Needs are limitless and greedy, and lead to growth by taking. ‘Have’s’ are identified and content, and lead to organic, natural, rightful growth by giving.
How To Put The Abundance Perspective Into Practice?
The shift from the Scarcity Perspective to the Abundance Perspective is a reflective exercise first and foremost. It requires less action, more silent thinking. Action comes after the perspective shift has occurred.
See it through this example: you want to choose a place for vacation. The first decision about where to go on holiday requires no action (other than research, perhaps) but thought: you figure your budget, your priorities, your style, your mood internally. Once the decision is made, you then gather and align required resources. If you choose to ski in the cold mountains, you will not invest in scuba-diving in warm waters. If, however, you do not make up your mind, you may end up with chaotic resources and decisions. Even serendipitous, unplanned travel is known to be such. You decide not to over-plan.
Apparently small decisions such as this translate into large costs or savings for individuals and the planet. Unnecessary acquisitions whether by individuals planning a holiday or organizations investing in new ventures ? lead to ineffective decisions, delayed action, lack of (worker) spirit, and wasted resources that could be leveraged elsewhere.
This Ramadan, Shift to Abundance
This shift to the Abundance Perspective requires slowing down, pausing, taking stock of one’s current life, evaluating what is, and then moving forward. It is not easy in a fast-paced daily life for organizations or persons to find time for this extensive reflection.
In this situation, Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, provides an excellent opportunity for an organizational shift that is driven by reflection. The natural rhythms of the human body and therefore the pace of work slow down during fasting. Quick-paced activity is not as possible. It is thus an ideal time to do collective reflection everyone (or everyone in the fasting whole) is slow-paced, together, for an entire month, and there is a general aspiration to do good, do right.
The context and the motivation are already present ? and so, dedicating Ramadan to asking the big questions about the organization’s mission and purpose is in itself a great practice of working with what one ‘has’.
Conversations: a Tool For Shifting to Abundance Perspective No matter how complex an organization is or how sophisticated its products and systems are ? it is made up of human beings. The start of the shift in an organization lies with human beings, and humans can begin reflective shifts using an age-old tool: conversations. This simple tool is so potent that today, ‘changing the conversation’ has become the most powerful tool in a change-makers’ toolkit.
Conversations can be held in ways suitable to each organization. The best method is to have face-to-face personal conversations in groups of no more than 8 persons. Alternatively, a larger, in-house ‘Reflection Conference’ may have some core themes for all, and topical break-out sessions for smaller teams.
A contemporary alternative is to have online conversations in secure groups or even on blogs (this blog does not have to be public ? only shared within a particular group or organization). Eventually, it will be noticed that small groups break out on their own and they should be encouraged in doing so for individuals cannot concentrate in large, many-to-many conversation.
At The Oneness Breakfast, an inner peace initiative that I have co-founded, we use food-sharing and a Native Indian-styled conversation for transformation of the person within the collective. We have actually flipped the conversation to “TLC: The Listening Circle”. Some of the themes covered: sustainability, local food, attention management, nation-building, and education-for-all. One of the outcomes of the circles has been the participants’ voluntary involvement with Manzil Organization, a free school for slum children, including voluntary teaching, media coverage, and fund-raising.
Abundance: A Living Practice
Ramadan is a time to bring ethical values that humanity holds dear into action, making them a living practice.
Illness arises when the belief and the practice are on two different tracks such as when one believes in contentment (Abundance Perspective) but lives by fear & greed (Scarcity Perspective).
Spirit is, by definition, ‘action when it’s taking place.’ The Qur’an defines spirit (‘ruh’) as: “the act of/ by act of Allah” (17:85). I understand it to mean that the very act or movement is called spirit. This is also the popular meaning of the word; hence we say sportsman’s spirit, high spirit, low spirit. Spirit is action. Practice is to live the spirit deliberately (by choice), daily, as routine.
This Ramadan, invite yourself and your organization to shift to the liberating Abundance Perspective ? and converse about how to make it a living practice.