CEO: How Badly Do You Want Change?

Apr 2, 2018, 13:07 PM by Chris Coker

We want change, but why isn’t change happening? 

The hottest topic right now is gun control. I am not going to wade into this issue because the Y is pretty neutral ground. However, surveys indicate that a majority of Americans want more regulation around guns.

So why hasn’t it happened? 

In January, the YMCA of Boulder Valley saw the largest number of membership joins in recent history. People usually join the Y in January because of their resolutions to get into shape or lose weight. A large number of Americans want to improve their fitness level, become healthier or make self improvements, but those resolutions usually fail.

The reasons why we cannot fix things in our country or make these self improvements run parallel. It is related to two items: Attention span and the ability to multitask. Here is a good article that details our goldfish-like attention spans.

If you want to make a difference, you have to focus like a laser, and our decreased concentration means we have a harder time effecting change — internally or externally. As a country, we are mad at our politicians. On both sides of the political aisle, we rage about guns, we are incensed about DACA and health care reform, and so on. We can all agree that human trafficking is horrible, but we cannot seem to do anything about these issues.

So why not? We certainly have the money in this country to deal with all of these societal ills, but we don’t seem to have the will. 

Part of the problem is the media jumping like bacon grease from one scandal to the next, from one issue to the next. What is the topic of the day? It's probably changed since we all last checked our news apps.

The second part of the problem is you and I letting them do this. We as individuals allow our media and politicians to hop around from issue to issue.

This is where I am going to take a stand: I personally believe it is cruel and unusual punishment to send a person who was raised here since grade school out of this country! It is my belief, and I will vote for people who support that point of view. But what am I doing about it? I have also promised my wife that I would lose 15 pounds. What am I doing about that?

If I can't stop eating Thin Mints by the sleeve, how am I supposed to hold my politicians accountable about DACA? Our attention span for issues and personal change is sadly lacking.

In fact, as a country, our attention span has dropped almost 30% in 18 years, but we have seen a commensurate rise in our ability to multitask. Which means I can now email, eat Thin Mints while checking my Insta (if you aren’t cool like me you didn’t know that means Instagram) and thinking about supporting DACA... but I can only focus on each one for 70% of the time that I could at the turn of the century. 

Here is how we make real change in our country and selves: We need to realize that sharing something on Facebook or Tweeting about it does not really cause change. Try taking small but tangible steps. Truly decide what societal ill you are going to focus on and make it your own. Pick it, and advocate for it. Have a beer- or wine-tasting party at your home, invite 25 like-minded friends and invite your Congressional representative's field rep to join you. Tell them what you think and say it intelligently and politely. Then, a few months later, encourage your party guests to follow up with your representative. You and your friends can each send an email in less than five minutes. This is minimal effort for a maximum effect. 

Can you imagine if each politician's field rep went to 100 of these parties? It would absolutely have an effect on their advocacy.

On a personal level, if you want to get in better shape, decide you will be more active just two times in a week or make a decision to eat one healthy meal a day. Small steps lead to big steps. Think of the long-term impact it will actually have over time.

You can still be passionate about other issues, you can still enjoy a few Girl Scout cookies every so often, but if you make a small change it will begin to have the effect you desire.


Thank You, 
Chris Coker 
CEO/President of YMCA of Boulder Valley