It is so easy to look around our world or our communities and find the things that aren’t working. People hurting each other, abusing drugs or alcohol, losing their lives from violence and other causes, moral disengagement, anti-intellectualism, and more are common staples of headlines today. As a culture, we spend a great deal of time and energy focused on what’s wrong. The evening news is jam-packed with everything terrible that happened all over the world. Even our campus newspapers and other media outlets are all too quick to point out problem areas. Conventional wisdom might say we need to shine a light on a problem in order to fix it, but what if the opposite is true instead?
I would like to suggest that focusing on what’s wrong just gets us more of what we don’t want. This might seem strange coming from someone who has become known in higher education circles as the “hazing lady,” but I started an organization focused on hazing PREVENTION. I don’t think hazers are evil. I think they are just continuing to do what was done to them and that perhaps they don’t know what to do differently. My goal is to empower students and alumni to recognize the inherent harms in hazing practices, and to choose something different. My aim is to get organizations and campuses to focus on preventing problems before they start, and engaging the entire community in being part of the solution. Focusing on possibilities instead of problems is the key.
This is the time of year when many people set resolutions, and I have to say that I’m not in favor of those either. Why? Because nine times out of ten they focus on the problem: lose ten pounds, eat less crap, spend less money. These are all perceived as problems in need of fixing. I like setting intentions instead and have absolutely no problem even with goals as long as they are possibility focused. Ask yourself: what do you want more of in your life, your community, your organization, or on your campus? Then focus on THAT! An amazing quote by Oprah Winfrey is, “What you focus on expands.” You’ll find this is so true!
What if our success lies in focusing on what’s right within our organizations and our world instead of what’s wrong? What if all the attention on bad news, and all the worrying about problems is just fostering more bad news and making our problems worse? I’m not suggesting that we ignore what’s wrong. Rather, that we recognize that the bad stuff gets an awful lot of attention from the outside and internally, when it mostly involves a very small percentage of our membership (or our population). Like the larger world community in which we live, thousands of things go right every day. Students rely on each other through heartbreak, help one another out in myriad ways, listen to and support one another, lead effectively, and create community.
The majority of our students are doing the right things, and doing them well. Serving, leading, learning, and becoming the citizens they are destined to become. Making them feel ashamed of themselves for what a small percentage of the population is doing wrong will not change behavior. Inspiring them to be the leaders they can be just might. The focus of all of my talks is to help student leaders feel empowered by their abilities to make a difference in their own lives, their organizations and communities, and the larger world by owning their power, having conversations about hazing and loving their lives more. There is so much more good than bad in the world – we just don’t hear about it enough. So let’s start talking. I would love to help start the conversation.
Credit // Author: Tracy Maxwell
Tracy Maxwell believes one of the best things we can do about hazing is to talk about the problem openly and honestly. Learn more about her prevention and purpose based keynotes at campuspeak.com/maxwell.