The Character Movement

What Margaret Wheatley can teach us about character.

“We need a worldview to navigate this chaotic time. We cannot hope to make sense using our old maps.” — Margaret Wheatley, American writer

Hanging in my living room is a beautiful tapestry of a medieval world map. I like its muted colors, Latin script, and fine details, but its depiction of world geography is all wrong. Some continents are the wrong shape and some oceans are too small. If we used this map today to circumnavigate the world, we’d shipwreck many times over and never get to where we need to go.

Margaret Wheatley, author of Who Do We Choose To Be?: Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity, tells us it won’t help to dust off old maps to guide us through our current challenges. Old maps cause us to focus on the wrong things and blind us to what’s significant that is emerging. Using old maps and old information, we will journey only into greater chaos.

In our work with educators, one of the character traits we focus on is adaptability. Whether we are an educator or not, we need to embrace adaptability to get us through today’s unique challenges. We can appreciate old maps, but we need to start drawing new maps with the ever-changing information given to us each day. This is hard work with no quick guarantee of success.

As an organization, Youth Frontiers is having to adapt our work at this time too. We have become cartographers — hard at work devising new ways to bring our messages of character and community to students and educators. It’s going to take some time to learn how to navigate this new landscape – but we have what it takes.

If you’ve caught yourself thinking, “It used to work then, but it doesn’t work now,” you’re using an old map. Time to replace it with a new map.

This Week’s Challenge: Flex your adaptability muscle. Think of an old map you are using to solve a problem at work or at home, to teach or parent a child, to repair a damaged relationship. Try a different approach. Come up with a new solution you’ve never thought of before. You might like the new map better.

How we respond during this time will define us as individuals, a community, and a nation.

Let us choose to be people of character.


Joe Cavanaugh
Founder & CEO
Youth Frontiers

P.S. Next week, Thursday, April 30th at 7 p.m., we’re broadcasting a fun, virtual event for all of our neighborhoods. Check out this 20-second teaser.

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