As new school and work years begin, it is a perfect time to analyze what we do and, if necessary, make some changes. I am probably the first who needs to amend what I do. Primary among the priorities I want to adjust is related to how my actions can be consistent with my professed philosophy as well as my political and economic beliefs.
In particular, since I profess an interest in fairness, greater equality and kindness, I need to act in ways that are fair, kind and lead to a greater amount of equality. Of these three, the first I feel able to change relates to my ability to slow down and be more kind.
Time is the factor that is most difficult for many of us. In particular, it is the scarcity of time that leads me and many of us to look like hypocrites. So, how do we develop a new sense of time? I think it comes down to determining that kindness is the top priority, no matter what.
So, let me name a number of reasonable responses to situations when I could remain kind rather than lose track of my priorities as I manage time poorly. First, if it takes me 15 minutes to transport myself to a place, I am going to set aside 25 minutes. This will eliminate many of the times when I am less than kind because I am rushing. Second, I am going to make more conscious choices about work. This is where I cause myself the greatest problems around time and kindness. I become rushed because I say “yes” to too many new projects that I do not have to accept. Third, I am going to stop my practice of waiting until the last minute to start certain projects. I have been under the mistaken assumption that my life would be better if I put off starting the preparation of a lecture or a presentation or a column until I can only succeed if I focus incredibly well.
Then, there is the topic of how our political preferences show up in the ways we live. Politically, I am going to stop being all the things I do not like in politicians. I have the ability to be less than sensitive, too quick to judge and impatient. No one benefits from my being these ways. In particular, I can keep my mouth shut much more often than I do. Furthermore, I can substitute kindness for insensitivity in all situations.
When it comes to my needing to help the world be a little more fair, I know what I can do. This is going to sound small and I am not saying that everyone else needs to do it. But, I have historically been a 17 percent tipper. I can tip people 20 percent and it will have only a positive influence on my wife and me as well as those I tip. I can also be more generous with charities that work on economic fairness issues. I am generous with the non-profit I lead and volunteer for, Progress Through Business. That said, there are other groups which I can just as easily serve and to which I can make donations.
I know that what I have written above is not enough to make dramatic change. But, more and more, I am coming to believe that government, businesses and other institutions are not going to change things for us. We need to become the people we need to be first. Then, we can be part of entities that will change because we have already changed. The institutions, for the most part, will not change us.
See 10 Essential Rules for Slowing Down: Act Now
Hoffmire is director of the Impact Bond Fund at SaÏd Business School at Oxford University and directs the School of Business and Poverty at the Wisconsin School of Business at UW-Madison. He runs Progress Through Business, a nonprofit group promoting economic development.