There’s an exercise in counseling that goes like this: describe your perfect day. Wake up – what do you see? What’s for breakfast? Where do you work? What’s it like working there. What and who do you come home to?
The point is to picture your life exactly as you want it, and then identify one small step that can help get you there. Usually the individual doesn’t walk out of the counseling session with a perfect wife and a winning lottery ticket. What they walk out of the session with is a sense of hope. A sense of possibility.
I share this because it’s not unlike working in a poor community. If you begin with the end in mind, and choose one small step to make it a reality, you’ll have a sense of possibility. When all is said and done, it’s not your talent, intelligence, or network that will end world poverty. Talent, intelligence, and networks will certainly help, but without a sense of possibility you’ll be leveraging your talents for misguided solutions over and over again. The best way to achieve a sense of possibility is to begin with the end in mind.
If we want to walk to the grocery store down the street, do we start walking downhill because it’s easier? Do we start walking just because the feeling of movement seems right? Let’s hope not. We picture the grocery store that is one left, two rights, and another left turn away – then we start walking. If we don’t know where the destination is, how will we ever work towards getting there?
Too many times the first question we ask a community is “What do you need?” When we focus on what is wrong, we miss what is right. It’s true in marriages, it’s true in business, why wouldn’t it be true in developing communities? The poor, no matter how destitute, have enormous untapped capacity; find it, be inspired by it, and build upon it.