Back to Blog

How to Increase Justice? Take Simple, Different Action

Posted June 18, 2020 • Change,Conflict Mastery,Emotional Intelligence,Leadership,News • by Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler, Ph.D.


Rarely, if ever, have we had a global, collective pause the way we have over the past several months. Around the world, our collective busyness, for the most part, came to a grinding halt. Although we’ve struggled to juggle the roles of teacher, parent, worker and essential worker, and to deal with overwhelming grief, being in quarantine has also allowed us to slow down, to notice, to reflect, to think.

While this collective pause and grief may have been thrust upon us unwillingly, after even just a few months it seems that it may be helping us see the world differently, waking us up.

In Optimal Outcomes, I wrote about how sometimes it helps to hit pause to reflect more clearly on any situation we may be facing. This pause time helps us observe situations in new and different ways and enables us to notice things that we simply couldn’t have if we hadn’t taken the time to pause.

We are now collectively seeing things that have been there all along, but that we have tolerated, and not done nearly enough about.

In the final scene of the transformative film 13th, Ava DuVernay’s riveting 2016 documentary about the injustice of mass incarceration in the U.S., Bryan Stevenson, the civil rights lawyer and author of the award-winning book Just Mercy, says:

“People say all the time, ‘I don’t understand how people could have tolerated slavery. How could they have made peace with that? How could people have gone to a lynching and participated in that? How did people make sense of the segregation… That’s so crazy. If I was living at that time, I would have never tolerated anything like that.’ And the truth is, we are living at this time, and we are tolerating it.”

As Stevenson’s words rang in my ears after the film ended, I began asking myself the following three questions:

  • What do I tolerate today—in my life, work, society, on this planet—that I’m not proud to admit that I tolerate?
  • What constructive actions can I take today to help move those things in the right direction in the future?
  • How can I take those actions even if I feel scared, or I’m not sure where to begin, or it’s logistically challenging or personally costly, or goes against others’ (explicit or implicit) expectations of me?

I am sharing these questions with you in the hopes that you might ask yourself these questions too.

If we collectively take the time to ask and seriously answer these questions, and take even small actions in the right direction, we’ll get closer today to creating more just and equitable relationships, work, society and planet in the future.

In Optimal Outcomes, I wrote about the importance of designing, testing and taking a pattern-breaking path to break free from old, patterned ways of doing things. A pattern-breaking path requires: 1) taking action that is simple (so we don’t add more complexity on top of an already complex situation); 2) taking action that is surprisingly different from what we’ve done before; and 3) taking one small action after the next in an ongoing way.

A pattern-breaking path is a simple, different, sustained path toward justice and freedom.

How will you design your pattern-breaking path? What simple, different actions will you take?

I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section below. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *