2020 was awful. We all want to move on from it as quickly as possible. And yet, as much as we all want to greet the new year with as much positivity and hope as we can muster, it is both prudent and realistic to admit that challenges await and we are faced with difficult questions.
- How does a divided country heal?
- How can we save as many people as possible while we wait for the vaccine to work?
- What about the climate crisis?
- Racial disparities?
The list goes on.
Where do we begin?
A Good Starting Point
There are no easy answers. No silver bullets. No rapid change. When faced with this, there is only one truth. We all have to do our part if we want to solve these (and other) problems.
However (there is always a however).
We can start with a simple measure.
A powerful measure.
An easily overlooked measure.
We can start by acknowledging our shared humanity.
It seems so simple — deceivingly so — but it is the most powerful mental shift I have come across in my life thus far.
Here’s How It Works
To elicit feelings of shared humanity, start by thinking about all the things that the two of you share when you are interacting with another human being, whether that is online or in person.
If you don’t know where to begin, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a good place to start. We all have survival needs. Think about those, both in your life and the life of the person you are interacting with. We all have safety needs. Think about those, both in your life and the life of the person you are interacting with. We all have belongings needs… on it goes.
We are all born, we eat, we sing, we laugh, we cry, we grow old, we die.
There are so many ways in which we are similar.
A Prelude to Meaningful Solutions
Making that mental shift, that basic connection, is a prelude to meaningful solutions. It is a vehicle for empathy and compassion that is also practical. By making a mental connection through shared humanity, we are more likely to find fitting solutions for a wide variety of problems. Whatever the final outcome, our approach will be human-centered.
What if Other People Don’t Act That Way?
That is very likely. Deepening divides focus on differences in ideology, not human similarities. But what others do is no excuse for our lack of action. Making a human connection is the moral imperative of our times. We need to be willing to rise above pettiness, don robes of forgiveness, and approach everyone as if they were our brothers and sisters in the family of humanity — because they are.
Let’s commit to celebrating our shared humanity in 2021 and see where it leads us.
I will also be hosting an international online program in partnership with Charter for Compassion. Click here if you are interested in learning more.