Practicing Compassion When the World is a Dumpster Fire
by Connie Vanderzanden
Let’s face it, we can all use a little more compassion in our lives right now. Am I right?
Here we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of - well, what do we call this? A perfect storm? Armageddon? A rock and a hard place? Possibilities? (Perhaps all that, and then some.)
“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
-Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz movie 1939
I don’t know about you, but since finding myself way out of my depth for the last several months, I’ve also started to realize that whatever “normal” was before March 2020, it’s a thing of the past. Things are shifting, people are awakening to their biases, and there’s a collective anger surfacing that means change is going to happen. There’s no way to avoid it. And it’s about damn time.
As a result, many of us are finding ourselves on a different path for our business growth. A path that is bumpy, dusty, and where our GPS doesn’t get a consistent signal.
So, what now?
It’s time we go back to developing and acting with compassion.
But first, here’s what compassion is not. It’s not a cloak you can hide behind to avoid the reality of what’s happening in our world right now. It’s not a reason to stop doing the work of addressing and unpacking your own biases. It’s not an excuse to avoid things like keeping on top your numbers, leading your team, and supporting your clients.
Compassion is the focus of alleviating or reducing the suffering of another, including ourselves. We can’t always control how the pain will be resolved. Compassion is about being in connection with others, acting from love, providing support and comfort for the pain, while leaving space for growth and transformation for each of us.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
Here’s how it might show up for ourselves, for our immediate circle (family, friends, team), for strangers, and yes, for our business. What I’m sharing is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather a starting point.
Compassion for Ourselves
This is a new, unchartered territory. Yes, it feels like we have found ourselves in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode.
“To boldly go where no one has gone before!”
Practicing self-compassion is not selfish. If there’s ever been a time to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others, THIS IS IT. You cannot help others and be compassionate if your own reserves are not full. Make sure you are taking time to take care of yourself.
Some things to try:
- Get enough sleep
- Seek professional medical support (Telehealth or virtual options can have similar benefits of in-person support)
- Find something joyful each day
Develop your personal resilience muscle. Check out the post from last month here.
Compassion for Loved Ones
There are two key things to remember here:
- You will not have all the answers.
- You are not here to fix anything.
Being compassionate for others is learning how to be aware and share time with the person who is suffering. To acknowledge their pain. To hear their story. To provide some source of comfort - a meal, a hug, or even just sharing space with them. Your presence is more powerful than you may think it is.
There was a time when we could “leave work, at work”. An ability to use physical space as a partial boundary. Now that we find ourselves doing all the things, all in one location, the ability to be fully present and offer compassion for others is being impacted.
Find ways to counter these new stressors by adjusting your physical environment. Create some rules about how you use your time. Get as tech-free as possible, perhaps on that next Zoom connection call leave your phone turned to silent and no multitasking on the computer - just BE present.
Compassion for Society
Ever seen a young child show concern when a baby cries? We are born with that inherent desire to be kind and show compassion. As we grow up, society teaches us who deserves empathy and who doesn’t. As a result, our compassion lens has been clouded by discrimination.
Practicing compassion for others isn’t about developing a new skill, it is about re-engaging with our natural instinct of kindness. Sure, it is going to be very uncomfortable unlearning this practice. With daily practice and awareness, as a society, we can find a new way.
Connect human to human. We all have different life experiences and even different values. How boring our world would be if everyone was the same, right? Practice setting all your prejudices aside and simply see the other person as a human being. Be open to listening. Be open to learning. Be compassionately curious.
There was a quick read from the Tshirt guys, Life is Good. The article recommended using a simple phrase, “Just like me….” Everyone, just like you, is fighting some battle and has been impacted by the pandemic. For some it’s made a huge impact; for others, a small inconvenience. Everyone has their own challenges that you will not be able to see from the outside. Pause and remember that everyone is living in the same time period on earth AND we are all having a very different experience. Broaden your view when practicing compassion for others.
Other actions to consider:
- Volunteer - it’s good for your soul and helps those that need it; plus it amplifies your gratitude muscle;
- Donate - money or donation of resources is an act of showing compassion; find an organization or cause that speaks to your heart and support their efforts;
- Act - open a door for someone; do an errand; fix a stranger’s flat tire; pay it forward; practice small little gestures of kindness;
- Reach out - text message, phone call, send a handwritten note, give a hug (for those in your immediate pandemic control group); go beyond the “like” on social media, and send some love.
Compassion for Business
Keeping your business mission and values top of mind is key. That purpose and your belief that YOU are here to share your gifts, your talents, your passion, is critical during times of struggle. Take time to make sure you have a clear vision for the business so you can make aligned choices.
Drop any judgment or comparison of where you thought the business “should” be by now. Judgment and comparison both come from fear. Fear lives in the land of lack where the river of money is all dried up. So beating yourself up does nothing to help your money situation. To change the flow of money, to open up your creativity, it requires a space of compassion and understanding.
Use your business to give back to your community. What organization or cause aligns with your business values and mission? Identify that organization and share it widely. Add it to your website, to the bottom of your invoices, highlight in your social media. Let your community know that your support is more than just marketing; you are aligning your business with the organization’s mission.
- Host a giving circle
- Hold a raffle, with all proceeds benefiting the organization
- Set aside a set percentage of revenue or profit
Compassion for Money
Yes, even money needs a little compassion. If you haven’t looked at your financial plan since March, now is a good time to do that. Part of putting on your own oxygen mask is acknowledging how money is being used, what needs to be created, and if there are any shortfalls. Money requires a clear request to show up and ignoring it simply adds more stress to an already volatile environment.
Here are some relationship exercises you can do to up your compassion game with money:
- Stop ignoring money. Organize it and give it a little love. I recommend weekly money dates to review your activity, update your accounting tools, and intentionally move money.
- Close bank accounts you are no longer using, and stop paying unnecessary bank fees.
- Not happy with your bank, find a new one. Why are you settling?
Right now, compassion is needed in every interaction we have. Compassion isn’t always a strength we lead with. It will take some intentional choice to add it to your daily actions. In general, change can be difficult. So the more you are intrinsically motivated to be a more compassionate human being and leader, the easier and longer-lasting the change will be.
Let’s face it, our society and the world need more compassionate leaders.
Choose to do better.
Doing this kind of work can create questions and cause uncomfortable thoughts and feelings to rise to the surface. If you’d like a safe space to talk some of these through, please feel welcome to schedule a complimentary call with me by clicking the button below.