The power to bring about change is in our hands. That's because the most important thing that each of us needs is each other.
Many of our social problems stem from our lack of attention to each other -- in early childhood, to stimulate growth; in our schools, to draw out the unique potential of each individual; in our communities, to help our friends and neighbors. Many of our problems have grown out of our alienation -- our inattention to each other as individuals. And that is something we have the power to change. One by one, person by person, we can make a difference.
Taking care of people is not just the government's job. It's everybody's job. And it's not just about money -- it's about giving our time and talent freely to enjoy the uniqueness of others and attend to their needs. When we begin to give this individual attention, one by one, as a gift to each other, our society will begin to right itself.
It will be like the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. Just when we think that we have very little, we will discover that we have a nearly infinite supply of what each of us needs the most -- love, acceptance, family, community. We will discover that our baskets are full, and always have been, and always will be, if we only care enough to give what is in them -- our time, our talent, our attention, our love.
Challenging the Status Quo
One of the biggest obstacles to positive change is the drive for success. Since success is usually defined in terms of the status quo, the desire for success leads people to conform. There are exceptions, of course, but for most people, succeeding in the world of organizations means playing the game -- not rocking the boat but working in established ways to achieve established rewards. Depending on how the system is structured, it may even be advantageous for individuals to exploit problems instead of solving them.
To challenge the whole system is to risk becoming an outcast, isolated and not eligible for the rewards the system distributes. For that reason, people usually stick with the traditional way of doing things, even when the traditional way has become wrong or irrelevant. Following the accepted rules is the way to power, wealth, and fame, even if it's not the way to solve society's problems.
The Paradoxical Commandments
If you live the Paradoxical Commandments, you will change the world. You will love people, and do good, and succeed, and be honest and frank, and think big, and fight for underdogs, and build, and help people, and give the world your best. When you do those things, you will have a positive impact on the people, organizations, and communities around you. They will change, you will change, and the world will change-for the better.
I wrote the Paradoxical Commandments to encourage people to make the world a better place. I wanted to help people get past their excuses, their difficult past, their difficult present, so they could find personal meaning and make a difference anyway.
The Paradoxical Commandments Action Checklist
1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
Which illogical, unreasonable, or self-centered people am I going to love anyway?
2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
What good things am I going to do, even though people will accuse me of selfish ulterior motives?
3. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
In what ways am I going to be successful, even though I know I will win false friends and true enemies?
4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
What good things am I committed to doing, even though they will be forgotten tomorrow?
5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
With whom, and about what, am I going to be honest, even though it will make me vulnerable?
6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
What big idea am I going to pursue, even though it will be shot down by small men and women?
7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
Which underdogs am I going to fight for?
8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
What am I going to build, even though it may be destroyed overnight?
9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
Who am I going to help, even though they may attack me?
10. Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
Am I committed to always giving the world my best, even if I get kicked in the teeth?
There are so many things that need doing -- so many problems to solve, so many opportunities to seize. Some of the problems and opportunities seem so big that it may be hard to believe that one person can make a difference. The world is just too crazy! And yet, nothing will get better unless each of us decides to make a difference anyway.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New World Library, Novato, CA. ©2008.
www.newworldlibrary.com or 800-972-6657 ext. 52.
Do It Anyway: Finding Personal Meaning and Deep Happiness by Living the Paradoxical Commandments
by Kent M. Keith.
Dr. Kent Keith published the Paradoxical Commandments as part of a book he wrote for student leaders in the 1960s when he was an undergraduate at Harvard. These maxims for finding meaning in the face of adversity took on a life of their own, making their way into countless speeches, advice columns, books, institutions, and homes around the world. They were even found on the wall of Mother Teresa’s children’s home in Calcutta. Do It Anyway expands on the vision behind the Paradoxical Commandments.
About the Author
Kent M. Keith is the author of Do It Anyway, Jesus Did it Anyway and Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments. He has appeared in national media from Today to the New York Times. A former attorney and university president, he is a popular speaker on finding personal meaning in a chaotic world. His website is www.kentmkeith.com. Visit him also at www.paradoxicalcommandments.com.