But actions still speak louder than words!
We live in a hyper-connected, hyper-informed era. Thanks to today’s round-the-clock media cycles, mobile devices, and social media platforms, you and I can set up news feeds that allow us to take in more news per day than ever before. That’s a good thing…right?
Well — yes and no. The trouble is, lots and lots of the news we end up exposing ourselves to is bad. If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves on the receiving end of a news feed that focuses so relentlessly on disaster, trauma, and pain that we end up becoming more anxious, more stressed, and more likely to adopt a negative outlook on life. These days, it is all too easy for us to stop focusing on our commitments to others and our accountability to them – and become cynical and self-absorbed as a result.
This is a potentially major problem. Scientists at Yale University recently identified a phenomenon they call the “hope gap.” It’s the downward spiral that happens when human beings get used to focusing habitually on the immediate impact of a problem, rather than on its possible solution. Too wide a hope gap means we can slip out of a collaborative, problem-solving mindset … and into a panicked, stressful, survival mindset that makes negative thinking the default setting. That’s not a healthy way to live.
The good folks at Google have come up with at least one possible answer to this dilemma. They’ve programmed the US version of Google Assistant to provide upbeat news when you say the magic words “Google, tell me something good”. Upon hearing those words, Google Assistant will point you towards some stories that focus on solutions, collaboration, and positive outcomes. That’s a nice — and occasionally necessary — change of pace.
It is all too easy to fall into the trap of drowning ourselves in news that is negative. And yes, reading, watching, and listening to positive news uplifts the heart and soul and broadens our take on humanity. But I think we need to take the next step, too … because a healthy lifestyle is not just about listening to “good news”. We need to make the effort to do good, too. We have an accountability to the people around us, the community in which we live, and the larger world we inhabit.
One way we can do that is to use the positive news stories we come across as inspirations to take positive actions and collaborate with others in our own world. Case in point: One of the “tell me something good” stories Google pointed me towards was about people in Philadelphia working together to turn otherwise dormant vacant lots into thriving urban farms. That made me start thinking: How could I support that kind of possibility?
I’m not saying that you should race out and start an urban farm, but I am saying that you should seek out positive news stories and then use them as inspiration to take action in your own world. After all, it is the actions we take that positively impact the people around us. If we want to live in a better, more accountable community, then we must take steps to improve that community. If we want others to have a better life, then we need to contribute to that end. Just reading about an issue, or even sharing it with someone else, is not enough. It always comes down to our commitments to others, our accountability.
Accountability is about making and keeping commitments to people. Most of those commitments are never stated explicitly…but they flow from what we believe about ourselves, other people, and the community and world in which we live. Those commitments are a direct reflection of what we truly believe and value. As my dad always said, actions speak louder than words.
So — having read this much, what action will you take to make a better, stronger, more collaborative community a reality in your own world? Now that you know about that cool urban agriculture initiative in Philadelphia, you could start something just as cool in your neighborhood — or you could check this directory for an urban farm in your area that you can support with volunteer work, a small donation, or both. Or, you could find what you personally connect to and make a difference there.
Be accountable. Take action!