Go for the Gold
Gold is the color of success, of reaching great heights, of winning. Athletes who beat their competition receive gold medals. There was a time when retirement after a lengthy tenure with an employer meant receiving a gold watch. In these contexts, going for the gold is quite simple and measurable: work hard, achieve, and rise to the top. Social change advocates and activists go for a different gold: the golden rule. This simple rule that children of all or no faiths learn – to do unto others as we would have them do unto us – is anything but simple in practice. We spend a lot of time discussing the budget deficit when, in fact, our time might be better spent focusing on the empathy deficit.
I spent the last two weekends at two different conferences. One was about animal welfare and the other was about the future of coaching. Both conferences were educational, insightful, and thought provoking. On the surface, the two conferences appeared to be as different as night and day: one was about animals and the other was about humans. But nothing could be further from the truth.
The underlying theme of the conferences, although not the stated one, was about being disconnected from others. Sadness, loneliness and insecurity stem from feeling separate, of feeling different in an undesirable way. My coaching clients often ask me if other clients feel the same way they do (answer: yes). We want to be sure we’re measuring up and keeping up with… whom? (See "They" )
In addition to the disconnect people feel with one another, humans are also disconnected from animals. This disconnection results in the brutal confinement, torture, and killing of billions of land animals annually just in the United States. (That’s not a typo, it is billions with a “b.”) With the possible exception of our pets, we think of animals as the “other,” and in so doing, believe we are superior to them. Certainly we are far more capable cognitively and physically (opposable thumbs are useful), but capability is hardly the standard of whether or not another life matters. In the areas that matter most – feeling love, showing compassion, maintaining relationships, and experiencing suffering – we are exactly the same.
We all want what is best for ourselves and our loved ones. But our common narrative has to be more about “we” and less about “me.” Whether we walk on two or four legs is irrelevant. We all want to feel connected, included, respected, loved and treated with dignity. Just imagine.
So let’s go for the gold(en) – that simple rule we learned as children. I’ll try harder than ever. Please join me.