Thought - Language - Actions: The Seeds of Sustainability Greatness?

image: thoughts, actions, resultsAs Charles Reade said, "Sow a thought, and you reap an act. Sow an act, and you reap a habit, and you reap a character. Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”  

Habits are routines of behavior that are repeated regularly and tend to occur subconsciously, without one directly thinking consciously about them.    In the world of sustainability plans, this unconscious display of habits is a fertile ground of opportunity offering low hanging fruit for eco action.  As it turns out, habits are powerful forces, the gap between thought and action may represent the single largest opportunity for global sustainability progress.  

As it is, action follows thought; so, to create lasting sustainable change, we must first explore our thoughts.  Entry points of exploration to consider include a variety of options.

The video, "The Happiness Factor" by Shawn Anchor explores the mass conscious belief around success and how that is scientifically skewed.  Within the video, he states we can re-wire our brains to a new definition of success which increases happiness and productivity.  What are the suggestions for rewiring our brains?  Of the five suggestions, two favorites stand out: gratitude and random acts of kindness.  Rewiring our brains with a positive mindset creates refreshing views previously not available from a negative mindset and the post, How to rewire your brain to be more optimistic, offers insights to shift from positive thinking to positive actions.   

Another approach is appreciating nature.  The post, Nature: The Natural Mood Enhancer, suggest paying attention to the natural world not only makes you feel better, it makes you behave better.  As Albert Einstein said, "It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it."    Viewed from a sustainability perspective, that can take many forms.  As in, caring for the Earth's resources from a physical and material perspective, but also in how our individual thoughts of eco awareness and behavior shapes that caring.  

A third option: the post, 15 Random Acts of Green Kindness explores how kindness and sustainability are intrinsically linked. And, we talk about the The Karma of Personal Sustainability and how our thoughts are shaping our world.

But language plays a part in sustainable change too.  “Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.” -Linguist, Benjamin Whorf

Cultural permission is the tone, attitude and language that emanates from the executive suite. It is a mantra, expressed in oft-used catch phrases and philosophies that move like waves through the organization. They get adopted and interpreted as actions to be followed. They become part of everyday lexicon and cultural idioms that people hear coming from the highest levels, and form a platform for what the organization believes and expects of its people.  Words have power.  Use the power of words to create a culture of sustainability.  Language can be effective in managing organizational change.  Referencing, the post, Consider Consequences Of Language In Organizational Change, Kevin Barge, professor of communication in the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M, states that our experiences regarding change are influenced largely by the words that we say and the impact of those words on our coworkers. According to Barge, "if people are conscious of the effects their words can have on others, they will be more likely initiate successful change efforts and build productive organizational relationships." 

How can this be applied from a business sustainability perspective?  Implementing sustainable business strategies in any organization requires a complex mixture of finesse:  realistic, achievable and measurable.  Finding that magical balance is what is required to make change stick. 

Explore the different messaging types an organization can repeatedly share to engage employees with information and insights into a company’s business sustainability program:

  • 1.    Cascade business sustainability strategies down through organizational and individual performance goals.
  • 2.    Inform, motivate, and actively engaging employees in the company’s business sustainability programs.
  • 3.    Provide ongoing education, training, and knowledge sharing opportunities.
  • 4.    Integrate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) into the business processes, corporate performance, and employee recognition.
  • 5.    Actively engaged with key stakeholders on sustainability issues, including employees to understand how sustainability issues are affecting the business.
  • 6.    Perform transparent reporting on sustainability concepts and sensitive issues, with both positive and negative results.
  • 7.    Link corporate sustainability to the local community in which employees participate and engage.


Napoleon Hill got it right! "First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your thoughts.  We've all heard it before, "If you always do what you've always done, then you'll always get what you always got."  In other words, you can't solve the problem with the same thinking that created it.  Such is the case with climate change, carbon, water, and other pressing world concerns.   So, if our traditional thinking and approaches aren't cutting it, then what will? How are your thoughts and company culture creating a sustainable future?

Comments for Thought - Language - Actions: The Seeds of Sustainability Greatness?