By their very nature, elections are win/lose for the candidates running, but why does that have to be the case for the country as a whole? This presidential election, in particular, has been incredibly divisive. As a psychologist and coach, I have witnessed, first hand, increased levels of anxiety and fear and am concerned about the potential price Americans will have to pay in the aftermath of this election.
Almost everyone seems convinced that if the other candidate were to win, it would be disastrous. In fact, many voters are not happy with either option. They feel that instead of voting for the candidate of their choice, they are voting for the lesser of two evils, making the election not even win/lose, but in fact a lose/lose proposition.
A zero sum game, such as this, results in disempowerment that will make the government’s ability to work together, make effective decisions, and get things accomplished, extremely difficult. With such a large proportion of the country feeling lost and alienated after the election, how will the government and the country be able to function and meet the needs of its citizens?
I believe that the more we focus on helping others, the greater our own experience of meaning and fulfillment. As such, I am committed to bringing research-based practices into divisive situations. My goal, in working with my clients, is to shift to a new way of relating where win/win outcomes become possible.
Inevitably, someone will win tomorrow and the other candidate will lose, so what can be done, now, to shift this paradigm to something more positive and beneficial for our country? Here are a couple of simple ways each of us, individually and collectively, can help unite our country in the days to come.
Ask yourself, “Is the story I am holding about the elections and our next president (whoever that may be) useful?” Is it expansive, opening up opportunities, or is it restrictive and limiting? If it is the latter, what can I do to shift my story? Being able to shift your story is a powerful way to create opportunities where before it seemed like there were none.
No matter who wins in the upcoming elections, what about our country and its government are you grateful for? Focusing on gratitude has been proven to improve not only your psychological health, but also your physical health and the quality of your relationships.
“Broadcast” your more positive story and your gratitude. As Michelle Gielan says in her book Broadcasting Happiness, “our brains are constantly selecting stories and transmitting them to others. The things we choose to talk about during the course of our day to our colleagues, friends, and family have a direct influence not only on their mood but also on how they respond to stress, change, and challenges.”
Besides exercising your right to vote, what are you prepared to do, today, to change this win/lose paradigm to something more enervating and hopeful?