Following a week of rich conversations, thought-provoking videos and a challenging work situation the terms activist, artist and critical thinking came to mind. I realized how each of them relate to the personal change required to create the lives we want.

This week I talked with someone who was sharing his wife’s management “horror stories” of university student employees. I watched two Ted Talks, one from Carol Dwek titled “The Power of Believing You Can Improve” and one from Boniface Mwangi – “The Day I Stood Up Alone.” And finally, I reflected on my interactions with a young co-op student. I wonder how I can help her cross the divide between what she says she wants and what her current state of performance is pointing her towards.

The conversations, videos and supervisory role prompted reflection about critical thinking, activism and artistry. As I thought about them I realized that in order for anyone to create the life they want, it’s necessary to combine, what on first look, are totally unrelated efforts.

The willingness to go it alone

The definition of an activist is someone who wants to create positive change. Critical thinking occurs when someone acquires information from various sources and is able to think clearly and rationally about what to do or what to believe. An artist is someone who through use of imagination and talent or skill, creates works of aesthetic value.

Each of those require the willingness to go it alone for at least a part of the process.

First, only you can envision what you want. And, only you know the questions you feel compelled to ask and are curious enough to seek the answers. Finally, only you can be the force of positive change in your life.

I’ve witnessed what can only be called a multi-generational apathy towards defining and creating a life that will have the type of lasting legacy we crave. We want our lives to matter and yet we can slide into a soft, effortless way of living. One that keeps us from achieving all the areas of our lives containing so much potential.

Critical thinking for every generation

We are quick to point out what the younger generation lack – ambition, initiative, work ethic, responsibility and accountability. Yet the irony is that it’s parents of ” that generation” who’ve created the entitled youth. Setting goals for them and then managing their lives for their achievement. It’s so prevalent that a term has been developed to describe them – helicopter parents. Rather than teaching and leading by example in a continuous, life long manner, we enter their lives and abandon ours.

We rob them of the ability to learn critical thinking by doing it for them. When we are so busy interpreting their lives, we handily pass over ours.

Many of us may have an excellent work ethic but have totally abandoned the responsibility, accountability and initiative that could make our lives match the dreams we secretly hold. Even if we’ve allowed our children to live their lives, somewhere along the way, we gave up on ours.

How to move from apathy to action

So, how do we get from the land of apathy to the one of enjoyment, satisfaction and yes, fun?

Can we start with our fears? They’re often a pretty good indicator of what we want but are afraid to go after. I started writing a book over five years ago, it is sitting under my desk, incomplete. I would like to be a published author and I would like my work to make a difference. That won’t happen unless I make it happen.

I suspect finishing the book is the easy part. The place where fear resides is taking it out into the world. What if no one wants to read it? What if I work really hard and put it out there and am just another unread author?

So what if I am? What if nothing comes of it, but the effort? What I’ve learned so far, is effort matters.

We can’t control success but by pushing ourselves to do what we say we want, it will leave you feeling differently about yourself. It  broadens your world, increases your satisfaction, enjoyment and yes, even fun. Personal activism, aka leadership, creates positive personal change.

How are you showing up in the world?

By inviting new areas of knowledge you challenge your critical thinking.  Varied thoughts from different disciplines expands your world and ideas. The artistry comes from the faith that your skill becomes greater as you use it and become comfortable with not knowing the outcome.

If you want to be more, to live a fuller and richer life, then consider how you are showing up in the world. In what ways do you use your critical thinking, your activism and your creative ideas about your life desires? Are you accountable, responsible and willing to take ownership of all that you can be? Are you willing to stand alone as you choose to pursue your dreams, or are you willing to shrug it off and claim that your time has passed?

The biggest and best gift we can give ourselves and teach the next generation is how to blend those three forces. No one can do it for us and we can’t do it for anyone else. Each of us must, as does the child taking the first steps, do it ourselves. When we do, our worlds will benefit from the focused energy, thought and imagination we bring forward.

Comments? Please. I’d love to hear when and where the trio have or are showing up in your life and what difference it makes for you.

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