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The Shifting Sands

By Karen Wright

Today on Good Morning America, Middle East correspondent Bob Woodruff interviewed NATO's commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McCrystal. McCrystal proposes a different approach in war-torn Afghanistan. We've all seen old strategies ousted by new strategies as military and presidential leaders change. I am, by no stretch of the imagination, an expert, or even a well-informed person, on military tactics. And I won't get into my personal views of war except to say that I've yet to know of one that brought about real peace. If you give any credence to the Law of Attraction, how could violence ever achieve anything but further violence?

But, here's what caught my attention in this brief interview with NATO's relatively new commander. Instead of Shock & Awe, he proposes Minds & Hearts. He says that our conventional approach to rid Afghanistan of terrorist influences has left civilians and communities destroyed by "non terrorist bombs." According to McCrystal our efforts to protect the Afghan people has ultimately done more harm than good.

His concept of Minds & Hearts shifts our strategy from destroying terrorists at all costs to protecting the Afghan people first and foremost. To restore in them a confidence in NATO intentions and cooperation with NATO efforts.

I only bring this example of a shift in thinking up because it's indicative of so many slight, but telling, changes I'm witnessing in many arenas of thought. For instance in petroleum use and global warming: Rwanda, Bangladesh, China, England, France, India, Ireland, Italy, Taiwan, and some US cities have either banned plastic grocery store bags completely, or have placed monetary penalties on their use. The January 2009 Detroit Auto Show focused heavily upon Green Cars. Canada's Public Board will no longer buy or sell bottled water in schools this fall.

It might have been spurred by failing economies, but people in many countries are rethinking their consumerist tendencies. Buying is down, recycling is up. Heck, I even reduced the number of sheets of toilet paper I typically used and how long my showers are! Waste in every form is being scrutinized and people are waking up to realize just how much we've unconsciously squandered of almost everything in the past.

I'm also seeing a shift in thought in business practices. The ubiquitous battle cry of "do more with less" has gained a new decibel level. And not all just due to tight finances. A report I read the other day show that, among the 10,000 employees polled, 2.09 hours of each day is wasted by the average employee. 26% of their day! Truthfully, my experience tells me this already incredible statistic is distinctly on the low side.

Wise companies are recognizing that business-as-usual is killing them. Old command and control management tactics aren't working - and honestly haven't been working for more than two decades. As business continues to focus upon growth through better skills, smoother systems, stronger policies, workers' frustration is growing as they're continually left holding the thin end of the opportunity stick. Older workers are tired of having their years of wisdom ignored. Younger workers are resentful that their fresh way of seeing the world is considered immature.

Businesses that treat their employees as truly valued partners, not hired hands, are receiving a burst of renewal. Innovation is up, accountability is up, satisfaction is up, and profits are up. The only thing that's down is employee turnover - oh, and costs. But, this path of business requires a very different way of thinking. Power is out, shared vision is in. Businesses who rely upon increasing skills will never achieve the greatness of businesses who understand that an employee who can, but doesn't want to is an asset wasted. Skilled worker is yesterday's language. Engaged partner is today's gold mine.

Thoughts and perceptions are shifting. It might seem slowly, but remember the effect of the tipping point. Change happens imperceptibly for a long time and then it suddenly, as if overnight, is the new standard.

Change is natural and needed in everything. Stuck is always painful. Take a look at your own life. Where are you experiencing pain? It's a good bet that you're also stuck in a way that wants to evolve. Stop resisting the inevitable and put your considerable heart and mind into enjoying what's being born. Who you are and what you know, up to now, is miniscule compared to what you're capable of.

Karen is author of The Sequoia Seed: Remembering the Truth of Who You Are, a great read for anyone who is seeking understanding or guidance, inspiration or clarity in his or her life.
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