Friday, April 17, 2009

What's Your Moment of Obligation?

While re-reading Echoing Green's book, Be Bold: Create a Career with Impact, I've been thinking about one of its main ideas--that people have moments of obligation.

Moments of obligation are described as:
"At certain moments in your life, you may find yourself pulled toward a path leading to work that will benefit others. If you seize these moments -- if you make a bold decision to take action-- a different world-- a better world-- is within reach. Some people can pinpoint one particular moment during which their lives took a new turn. Other people experience a series of moments that build upon one another. The key is to turn these moments of opportunity into concrete action."
One of my moments of obligation came during the Green Festival in San Francisco in the fall of 2002. At the time, I was a program director for an arts education program and a facilitator of career counseling workshops for artists. For the past ten years, I had focused my personal and professional life on the ultimate importance of creative expression, but something didn't feel right. The systemic problems in the public school system I worked in overshadowed the impact we were making with our arts programming, and the lack of political and social change aspirations of my career counseling students was starting to trouble me.

A co-worker recommended that I go to the Green Festival and hear Van Jones, who was the Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights at the time, speak about, "Green Jobs, Not Packed Jails." Although the video presentation and following discussion about the Books Not Bars program by EBC staff members was extremely disturbing, it was Jones’ closing remarks that resonated with me.

He talked about how progressives and people on the left were spending a lot of time being angry about the Bush administration's policies, but that we had to do more than just be angry at the people in the White House; the people in the White House were being the kinds of people they were raised to be. He said the question we needed to be asking ourselves was,
"Are we being the people we were raised to be?”
That night I wrote an 8-page essay and emailed it to everyone in my address book called, "What Really Matters." In it I wrote:
"Although I believe that fulfillment of our dreams and use of our talents is important to each person’s happiness, I also believe that reaching out to others and working towards the fulfillment of our neighborhood, community, country or planet’s dreams is the other essential part.

In the Dalai Lama’s book, Ancient Wisdom, Modern World: Ethics for the New Millennium he writes, 'Indeed, we find that almost all the mental and emotional suffering which is such a feature of modern living—including the sense of hopelessness, of loneliness and so on—lessen the moment we begin to engage in actions motivated by concern for others.'”
It took me 3 years to figure out how I wanted to do, "what really mattered." In 2005, I started my business, Big Vision Consulting, with the idea of inspiring people and giving them the tools and resources to support their big vision for a better world through coaching, consulting, my blog and my podcast.

A lot of things have changed since 2002. Although our world still has tremendous challenges, I think more people, especially young people, realize the importance of being engaged in their communities on a local, national or global level. Likewise, I feel like there are more books, websites, movies, classes, etc. out there to inspire people and give them the tools they need to create change. My work doesn't feel as urgent as it did seven years ago, and I suspect a new "moment of obligation" may be coming my way soon . . .

You can read more about moments of obligation on:
• Jacob Colker's post, The Vision of the Extraordinaries on The Extraordinaries blog.
• Cheryl Dorsey's post, Living Your Best Life through the Journey of Service on the USA Service blog.
Clinton Global Initiative -- Q&A with Maya Ajmera, Global Fund for Children by Mitch Nauffts on PhilanTopic.
Echoing Green Fellows' descriptions of their moments of obligation.

Full disclosure: I'm the host of Echoing Green's Be Bold podcast.
Cross-posted from BlogHer.

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  1. Britt, I think I'm in the middle of one now after hearing your interview with Seane Corn ( I'll keep you posted. :)

  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview (:


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