Understand your ability to make an impact—and influence others
Newton’s Third Law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The question for me is, what kind of impact do we want to create in our careers?
During my Social Innovation and Global Crisis classes I learned the importance of measuring how a venture can adjust “the unjust equilibrium.” But should we only care about the negative repercussions when they become apparent? Should we not pay attention to the impact we create in our daily lives? Since taking that series of classes, I started applying three steps to increase my awareness of the impact I have, or the repercussions of my professional actions. Because by paying attention to how we influence others we can create a better life for ourselves, and in the world around us.
Mindfulness is about maintaining an awareness of ourselves and our external environment. Before we can measure our impact we have to be conscious about how our environment influences our behavior. This first step is critical because before we can understand others we have to understand ourselves. According to research by Richard Davidson and Jon Kabat-Zinn, being mindful of our feelings and our external circumstances leads to a happier lifestyle and lower probability of diseases. To know yourself you have to pay attention thoughts and actions. One way is to use a mood journal to record (and understand) how different situations affect you.
In our business ventures, measuring the impact of products and services helps us to achieve our ultimate objectives. But the same can be true for ourselves. During the first step, outlined above, we can come to understand how we are influenced by the outside world and how we respond to it. The next step is to identify who we are and what we want. Schein’s Three Levels of Culture helps organizations define what they stand for, and by applying the same model to ourselves, we can identify the type of impression we want to make. You can apply this model by observing your actions and identifying the motives behind them.
Survival of the Fittest
Darwin concluded that species that survive are not necessarily the strongest or fastest, but the ones that successfully adapt to their environments. We have to do the same—we adapt all the time. Much like a venture, we have stakeholders: friends, co-workers, family, and acquaintances. That’s why it’s important to see how we affect the people we care about. When it comes to a venture, we can see how stakeholders are affected through votes, surveys, and various types of communication. However, for our own network we must depend on our skills to listen. Mindtools, refers to listening as one of the most important tools in our lives. Active listening requires paying attention to everything a person says, as well as the person’s body language—without preparing a response or judging. Once we know, rather than infer, how a person feels regarding our actions and words, we begin to understand our own impact.
My program, the Master of Social Entrepreneurship, has taught me that we have to be mindful, know ourselves, and adapt. However, we cannot hope to do it all on our own. MindTools, a website for business professionals, and Mood Journals are just a few of the tools I use, and there are many more. Each one of us must identify the best tools that meet our unique needs, and then we can truly understand how to improve the impact in our professional and personal lives. As Mario Quintana, a Brazilian author once said, “We cannot live our lives as rough drafts, because we might not have time to go back and perfect them.”
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Camila Silva was born in Brazil, lived in Mozambique, and has been living in the United States for 7 years. She is a Master of Social Entrepreneurship candidate at the Hult San Francisco campus, and has a passion for international development.
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