November 2011 has been an interesting month. A month of near unremitting bad news, which featured the near collapse of the Euro (which will eventually happen), and 1 million 16-24 year olds out of work in the UK. Against this backdrop, we have the City of London encouraging the Government to cut higher rates of income tax to encourage "entrepreneurial activity". The BBC has got in on the act with a new series about money, which began by looking at the rise of wealth coaching.
As personal development practitioners, I don't believe we should stand idly by all this, and say nothing. If we do, we play the game we're expected to play. The game of rule by fear, which encourages us to settle, not aspire, and turn a blind eye to injustice. The game that equates riches and capitalism with entrepreneurial activity. The game that pretends there are unparalleled opportunities generated by technology, and the open market. The myth that everyone has a chance to be somebody. The assumption that more money will make us happy.
None of these things are true. If they were, Sir Alan Sugar and Steve Jobs would not stand out from the crowd, because they'd be typical - the UK would be entrepreneurial beyond belief, given the monumental top salary increases in recent years. If they were true, technology would not be dominated by a few big players - Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Amazon to name five.
I want to encourage people to stop playing the game, do things differently, and stop buying what we get fed by our society. We personal development guys should be at the fore-front of this movement. Why do I say this? Well, I owe you some reasons, so here they are. I refuse to believe in any of the following things:
* That 1 million people between 16-24 out of work is the best we can do as a society.
* That people who didn't create the mess we are in should be expected to pay the bill, and take on the debts for a generation.
* That Greece, Italy, and other nations, should be run as if they're corporations, who can be declared bankrupt and their people held to ransom.
* That most people want to turn a blind eye either to their own injustices or the injustices they see being heaped on others.
* That your life chances should be determined by whether your parents are well off or badly off.
* That we should settle for mediocrity, that we should be mediocre, when we all have so much brilliance to show what we could do if only we got the chance and gained the belief to do it.
I refuse to believe, in short, that we should live in a society that is governed by fear rather than by hope and aspiration.
As I see it, personal development cannot exist in a vacuum. It exists in society. A society that is in sore need of repair, sore need of overhaul. We cannot as personal development practitioners turn a blind eye to that and pretend that we can empower people and encourage them to believe in themselves in a vacuum, when our education and health systems are collapsing, and when the vast majority are expected to foot a bill that essentially the few created, as a result of the game that has been played out - the game of confidence, no-confidence, and fear.
I believe that we need to stand up, and stop colluding in the game and the system. There have been many fine examples down the years. It's time that we stood for some of these finest examples ourselves, rather than standing by. The likes of Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Mandela, as well as being positive characters, were against injustice, against the system that they sought to change. They did not seek change by lowering themselves to the same level of the injustice that they fought against. I believe those of us who can see what's happening as we approach 2012 should stand up and be counted, to undress and expose injustice, and not fear that we may be accused of being political. Indeed, it's hard to be political when difference between the political parties is like the difference between competing management committees lining up to run either UK PLC or Scotland Ltd (or even USA Corporation). It is essentially the same game that is going on right now, whatever level you see.
There is no doubt that 2012 will be a year of change. That change could be fantastic or dreadful – we have a choice. It is incumbent on those of us who think differently to start beating the drum in a different way, and encourage the rest to wake up. Waking up to the fact that there are other choices out there for how we live our lives going forward. I buy the Chinese idea that crisis and opportunity are broadly the same thing. I think we need to think about that word opportunity in a different way from the traditional western capitalist approach, in that it's not simply an opportunity to make money. It is an opportunity to fashion a better life.
Let's face it, we have the resources to make the lives of our people so much better than most of them are right now. Better in so many ways if only we would re-programme what it is that we value. From branding and wanting more and more goods to something that is more centred on spirit and contentment, building sustainable relationships and sustainable ways of living that will actually work. You only have to look at all the health issues we face that appear to be incurable. We do not have epidemics of obesity, psychological illness and depression because people feel good about themselves. We have these things because people don't feel good. It is time we did something about that. We have the technology, wealth, resources and ingenuity as a race to make our future better than it is now - off the scale better. It is time we did that.
If we can't do this, just what are we in business for?
Welcome to 2012 when it arrives...... may it be all that you make it.
A published author and coach consultant, Mark has 25 years experience of helping people develop their leadership, power and career to become the best they can be. His motto is 'bringing personality to work, and work to life'. He owns Brilliant Futures, and can be found at http://www.brilliantfutures.net/