/The realities of 2023

The realities of 2023

From Shaman’s Rock

By Jim Poling Sr.

The celebratory shouts of Happy New Year! are but faint echoes now, pushed into the past by the realities of today.

Today’s realities unfortunately remain the realities of 2022, which was the saddest and most worrisome year of recent times. 

Worries over viral diseases, climate change, rising prices, and Russian, Chinese and North Korean aggression have left us a society very unhappy with itself. 

Gallup, the global analytics organization, reports that its surveys show global unhappiness at a record high. People feel more anger, sadness, pain, worry and stress than ever before, Gallup says in a new book titled: Blind Spot. The Global Rise of Unhappiness and How Leaders Missed It

Leger, the Canadian research and analytics company, reports that 40 per cent of people it surveyed feel things will not change in 2023. And 22 per cent said things will get worse.

All this unhappiness appears to be behind a noticeable rise in bad behaviour. Community violence has risen in many cities, as have reckless driving, alcohol and drug consumption and unruly passengers and customers.

Some blame the rise in bad behaviour on the COVID-19 pandemic. However, various studies indicate an unhappiness-incivility trend was developing long before Covid arrived.

The new year brings hope for less misery, more happiness and better behaviour. But hope is simply hope. Action, not hope, will bring it to us.

The most needed action is demand and pressure for more effective leadership in various aspects of our lives. Gallup has noted how world leaders missed rising global unhappiness, which leads me to believe they have missed other things.

Gallup and others contend that leaders are missing things because they rely too much on objective indicators. 

Business leaders make decisions based on share prices and stock growth. Government leaders rely heavily on economic indicators such Gross Domestic Product and unemployment to figure out how they should be looking after their citizens.

They should be paying more attention to human development indicators and the feelings of people. How are their lives going? How do they feel about their wellbeing? 

They would learn much from measuring the state of people’s happiness or unhappiness and the reasons for it.

Objective indicators are important. However, they might show a country’s economic situation is rosy while its citizens are down in the dumps, unhappy with how their lives are progressing.

Too much of today’s leadership is outdated. They hold onto old-fashioned thinking not effective in today’s changing world. 

Part of the problem is that leadership training is outdated. Various studies over the years have shown that the billions of dollars spent by corporations and government on leadership training have done little to produce more effective leadership. One study showed that billions spent on leadership training improved productivity by only two per cent.

We need visionary leaders who are years ahead of us in their thinking and human enough to understand that firmness and flexibility are equal partners in directing people. Leaders unafraid to step back and make corrections when their questionable decisions are challenged by others.

Where do we find these leaders? They are out there and it is up to we citizens to identify them, and encourage them to step forward. A good New Year’s resolution for all of us is to devote more time and energy in promoting new leadership.

This is not to say that we have been living with totally inept leadership. The world, despite all its problems, has made advances in becoming a better place. 

There have been remarkable advances in producing solar energy to help reduce burning of polluting fossil fuels. Huge successes in recycling have been a part of what has become a green revolution. 

But the leadership needed to achieve even greater successes needs to be better. The only way for that to happen is for all of us to become less focussed on our individual lives and more involved in helping to produce new, more effective leadership.

As the author Vernon McLellen has written: “What the new year brings to you will depend a great deal on what you bring to the new year.”