Consider this New Year’s resolution
Don’t tell me you’ve already broken your New Year’s resolution. I can tell you I haven’t broken mine—because I rarely make them and didn’t do so again this year. Why, I figure, set yourself up for failure?
But as I was again contemplating not making any resolutions, an intriguing email came to me at the office. It suggested that most people make resolutions that focus on themselves rather than on the impact each individual can have on others.
This email came from a publicist for a new book by Rich Harwood, “one of the nation’s foremost leaders in civic engagement.” Based on insights from his book “The Work of Hope,” Harwood suggests making these resolutions for 2013:
“I will speak with my neighbors as frequently as I can.” Only by starting a dialogue with people, argues Harwood, will we hear and see each other as citizens and start working toward improving things in our communities.
“I will join a cause in my community.” More than just volunteering, which Harwood says is still OK to do, joining a cause means understanding it and becoming invested in the outcome. When more people join causes, the results are more substantial and build community momentum for change.
“I will listen to others.” Harwood argues—with good reason, I’d say—that endless acrimony, division and noise of our politics and public life prevent us from moving forward. By taking time to listen, we’ll be able to better judge how we can get things done together.
“I will not take the easy way out.” Our endless push for instant gratification drives our behavior, Harwood suggests. To create the kind of change we need in communities and our country, we must make the tough decisions and long-term investments that will reap the rewards we want.
“I will invest in the youth of my community.” A gap exists between older and younger generations in many communities, Harwood points out. By making sure our children are getting the right kind of education, by allowing them to grow in a safe and nurturing environment, and by providing them with opportunities to work in the community, we guarantee the sustained growth and improvement of our community, he says.
“I will find boundaries to cross.” Few communities are homogeneous, Harwood notes. Whether the divide is racial, religious, economic, political or something else, find ways to work with individuals on the opposite side. In doing this, he suggests, you’ll find common aspirations for your community that you can work to fulfill, while at the same time leading as examples to break down barriers.
If you have yet to make a New Year’s resolution, these ideas are worth considering. We’ve gone through far too much incivility in the last couple of years. I hope, at least, that our readers keep these suggestions in mind when they pick up the phone to call The Gazette’s Sound Off line, fire off an angry letter to the editor or consider ripping someone in an online comment on our website. Keep in mind, too, that being nasty will do nothing to convince those you’re trying to influence that you have the market cornered on the best ideas.
Happy New Year.
Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or follow him on Twitter or