What’s YOUR sustainability scope?

 Keeping focussed in the face of overwhelm

In a recent interview for TSetting boundarieshe CO2 Manager, I was asked how I stay positive and focussed when sustainability can seem so overwhelming.

Thinking about it, what works for me is:

  • To remember that the fact that there are at least 150 million change-makers in the world.
  • To be really clear on my sustainability scope  – what I’m working on and why.

For all its downsides, a global population of  billion people means that I don’t have to do it all. Even if only 1 billion have the freedom and resources of the Western world, and only 15% of those are innovators and early adopters, that means that we have a talent bank of around  150 million change-makers.

To me, this means that I’m free to do “my bit” in the sustainability game – and concentrate on doing it well. 

How do I define my bit???

This has evolved over more than a decade. From the library covering my study wall, a couple of key sources that I can identify include:

  • Jim Collins and particularly the books “Good to Great” and “Built to Last”
  • Stephen Covey, especially “First Things First” and “The 3rd Alternative”

From Jim Collins I borrowed the Hedgehog Concept (what you’re passionate about, what you can be excellent at, what drives your economic engine) and translated it to a personal level. :

  • What I’m passionate about – personal fulfillment and the environment.
  • What I’m good at – supply chain, systems analysis and ontological coaching.
  • Where I can earn my way – coaching and training.

Jim also taught me to look for “the magic of the AND” as did Stephen Covey in “7 Habits” and “The 3rd Alternative”, which set the framework for regenerative business.  So for me it wasn’t sustainability OR coaching – it was sustainability AND coaching – in the business space, sharing the opportunities of Regenerative Business.

How does this help???

Now I have a focus – I know my scope.  To me, somewhere out in the world there’s someone to work on every aspect  of sustainability.   I’m working on three things:

  • Leveraging my twenty years of supply chain and systems experience to describe regenerative business, its enormous opportunities and its straightforward principles to business influencers;
  • Teaching business sustainability practitioners (at all levels)  the conversational skills they need to become masters in the art of innovation adoption; and
  • Coaching sustainability practitioners to live work positively and productively.

That’s my piece of the puzzle – my sustainability scope – to teach the opportunity side of business sustainability and the leadership and management skills to do it well without burning out.

Why be positive when there are so many problems???

If I want to be a change-maker, I can’t afford NOT to be positive.

If I do my best to keep a focus on the positive then  I’ll be productive, curious and ambitious.   People will want to work with me and be around me. Physiologically I’ll be able to maintain high-level strategic, cognitive thinking.  Perceptually, what I observe and respond to will be filtered towards opportunities to build a regenerative future.

This doesn’t mean I don’t get sad, depressed, angry or frustrated from time to time – I’m human and I do.  It does mean that I build the disciplines and capabilities to avoid these emotions turning into chronic, habitual moods.

If I habitually allow myself to focus on the negative then I’ll be depressed, anxious, angry and resentful.  Physiologically, I’ll lose exactly the cognitive capabilities I need to be a successful change-maker. Even worse,  I’ll become a turn-off to exactly the people I want to influence.

If I focus on how terrible things are and how awful things will be, I direct my perceptual filters to look for the negative.  That puts me on a downward spiral to powerlessness and despair, and it does nothing towards generating a more sustainable future.  I become part of the problem of apathy and inaction.

So my goal is to develop the positive mindsets that empower me to get things done.

What about you???

That’s my strategy.   It doesn’t mean I never feel bad – it does help me focus.  What do you do?

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About Leigh

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Leigh is the principal of the business innovation practice Balance3 and her clients have included corporations such as Amcor, National Foods, Dair, SPC Ardmona, Kobelco, Corporate Express and New Balance as well as a range of smaller businesses and individual clients.