Anatomy of a Change-Maker: Part 5
“Sharing for me means positivity. I work with children to help them reach their potential and have that positive self belief that I had as a child. I set myself the goal of winning the Paralympics when I was 13 and I wondered as an adult, what was in me that made me persevere? If I could uncover that, then I could inspire others.”
Elizabeth Wright, Paralympic swimmer and creator of education programme Resilience, Wellbeing and Success.
Elizabeth Wright is one of 200 change-makers worldwide that I have interviewed for my forthcoming book, Generation Share. Published by Policy Press for Global Sharing Week 2019 (June 16th-22nd), Generation Share takes people on a much needed journey of hope to meet the change-makers who are building a society fuelled by Sharing.
Three years of research for Generation Share, has shown me that change-makers have 6 all-important character traits that make up the Anatomy of a Change-Maker. Previously, I detailed the first characteristic, being a Sharer the second trait, bravery the third, adaptability and last week I talked about the importance of love. Today, I’m talking about positivity.
Change-Maker Characteristic Number Five:
POSITIVITY: It’s notable that all of the change-makers I have interviewed over the last 3 years are inherently positive, regardless of the challenges they face and the often complex environments in which they live. In a previous blog, I talked about the power of positivity to change the world and my own life experience has taught me that a simple smile or kind word can have a ripple effect.
Science shows us that negativity leads to more negativity, whilst positive thoughts and actions create positive solutions and an increase in happiness and well being. Positivity provides a much needed antidote to the disease of cynicism and negativity that is destroying our world. It’s the language of the new economy, known as the Sharing Economy. It offers people healing, hope and inspiration, much needed at a time when hate, totalitarianism and populism are winning votes. We have a global crisis of responsible leadership and to tackle our complex problems, we need solution-focussed, socially conscious, but above all, positive leaders – change-makers. These change-makers know that by elevating the status of good, positivity and consciousness, we can begin to change our malfunctioning world.
38-year-old Australian Paralympic swimmer, Elizabeth Wright is no stranger to struggle. Born with a congenital limb deficiency, her right arm is missing at the elbow, her right leg is shortened and requires a prosthesis, she is lacking two fingers and the forearm bone of her left hand. Positivity and understanding character, she believes are key to leading fulfilled lives. Elizabeth, who won bronze and silver medals at the 2000 Summer Paralympics, now runs a character education programme for children called Resilience Wellbeing and Success, to help them achieve their potential.
“When I discovered there was this thing called character, it was a light bulb moment. If we can help children develop their character and their character strengths, their ability to thrive increases. I was fortunate to have parents, teachers, and coaches who believed in my ability to achieve more than doctors thought possible. We need to recognise, emphasise and celebrate a child's strengths in a positive way and build self belief.”
Elizabeth believes that we all have something to be positive about, no matter our circumstances and it is this characteristic that can transform lives and the world at large.
“Sharing positivity is so important, when you look at the world at the moment, there is so much doom and gloom. It’s about finding the positive in small things, being grateful for what we have, even if we don’t have a lot, you can still be grateful for the people in your life, or your favourite desert. I could spout tons of research which proves the impact of this work, it’s about getting children (and not just children) to switch their thinking from the negative bias to looking for the good stuff. We all have ups and downs it’s the nature of being human, but by helping them see their lives positively, we can help them spiral upwards to thrive and flourish into the future”.
Indeed, there is a slew of evidence to demonstrate that we have much to be positive about, provided we are able to shift our minds away from the negative. For despite our screens being flooded with negative news (our very definition of news is currently negative) the world is actually becoming a safer, fairer, more equal place. Today, less than 10% of the world lives in extreme poverty compared to 37% thirty years ago; life expectancy has more than doubled to 72 since 1900; 84% of adults worldwide can now read and write and contrary to popular belief, terrorist attacks have fallen from 17,000 in 2014 to less than 11,000 today. Positivity is the ability to see what’s there.
Of the 200 change-makers interviewed for Generation Share, all of them demonstrate this power of positivity. Perhaps positivity can lead us to a tipping point and these catalytic, individual change-makers, can create a ‘butterfly effect?’ Seemingly, throughout history, small actions have instigated bigger change indeed the impetus to seek out the change-makers and go looking for Generation Share, stemmed from my belief in the power of positive stories and books to catalyse that bigger change.
As Elizabeth says, “If we can start to focus more on the positives and embrace that idea of sharing there’ll be a lot less conflict and misunderstanding in the world. It’s like – ripples, you start something, it ripples out, becomes something bigger and has a global impact, becoming a whole sharing economy.”
Generation Share will be published by Policy Press in June 2019 for Global Sharing Week. You can now pre-order your copy here.