What are you for?

My friend Sarah works for a nonprofit that is focused on the environment. Recently, I asked her why she was so passionate about her work. Her answer surprised and thrilled me.  She said, quite simply, “I am for a healthy and sustainable planet.”

What’s so thrilling about that answer you may wonder. Seems logical enough.  But many people I know who work on the environment – or on any other issue for that matter – would not answer the question of why they do what they do because they are “for” something.   Very often, it’s framed in “against” terms.  I work on the environment because I’m against the degradation of the planet or because I’m against unaccountable corporations or because I’m against oil dependence.

This subtle shift from “against” to “for” is where the good stuff lies. Gandhi famously spoke of this in his talks and writings: “It’s not that I’m against British rule. It’s that I am for Indian independence.”

When we are set up to view things as separate and as opposing forces, we’re motivated by fear because one side will be victorious and one will lose. We layer one battlefront on top of another and find ourselves forever struggling.

When we are clear that our goal is “for” something, we stop moving away and start moving toward, which has a whole different quality to it.  It has a quality of gentleness and generosity and light.

Whenever I meet with a philanthropist for the first time, my goal is to stir that which is inside them that is for something.  This means I don’t lead with a case for support that shows why my idea is better than someone else’s or why we have to do this now or the whole world will fall apart.  Reminding yourself and your partners what you are working “for” is an endless source of inspiration and action.

So, what are you for?