A great friend of mine, one evening, after his kids had gone to bed put into motion his plan to be the change that he wanted to see in the world. He walked into their bedroom holding a bowl of ice cream. He then handed her the bowl and gave her a slow, deep massage and told her just how wonderful and beautiful she was.
When she asked what he was doing he said he was being the change that he wanted to see in the world. Too often we expect people to know what we need and desire from them in our lives. We simply expect our communities to blossom into the hopes and dreams that we have conjured up in our own heads. But if we want to see things around us change we must first become the example. If we want to see the world change we must first change ourselves.
How to be the change you wish to see in the world (in small ways)
Most people need to see an example
For Christmas last year my baby sister got me a hammock. Since I am always on the move but have a desire to learn to stop and rest I thought this was a fantastic gift. Unfortunately, I did not slow down enough until recently to hang it up on two trees in my back yard. The decision actually came to me the night before I was going to do this. I was so excited that I could hardly sleep. I gathered the hammock and the two straps that were designed to go on the tree.
The straps looked simple enough and since they came with no directions I assumed that this would be easy. Standing in front of the tree with the first strap in my hand suddenly I discovered that I was clueless on how to do this. The way that I thought that it would work was simply not going to hold up any weight. Scratching my head, I examined the straps and looked for directions. Then I thought maybe there was something printed on the hammock itself. When all of those paths fell short I became a bit despondent. Just when I was ready to submit to Google and look up some directions my father in law came over.
With great humility I mentioned that maybe he was smarter than me and might be able to help me figure out how to do these straps. In less than ten seconds he had looped the strap around the tree and had it tightened down. When I saw how he did it I was shocked at how simple it was done. Of course, that is how it is done. I will be able to use that hammock as long as I live because now I know how to do those straps. But I had to learn by the example. That is true for many people today. We can read all sorts of books on being a good parent, but one example can take you further. Someone once tried to explain to me how to fix a computer; I could not make the explanation do anything. However, once he came over and showed me what he meant it was simple.
This is true for how to be a leader, how to protest or not to protest or how to live our very lives. Unfortunately we often need to be deliberate about finding folks that can be our examples. We make a mistake if we want one person to be an example for all points in our lives. Someone might be a great athlete and if I want to be a great athlete I should do their athletic things. That does not mean that I should use them as a model for how to raise my kids or how to be faithful for my wife. It is wrong to expect someone to be a complete example. Pick and choose your examples wisely and you will go farther, faster.
Most people need to see the possibilities
Most of us put natural limits on our lives. More times than I can count I have heard, “That is just who I am, can’t change it.” That is a lie. When we see the possibilities and begin to dream we get the opportunity to create new dreams. I hate to mention it because it has been beat into the ground but the four minute mile was once the fastest a man could hope to run. Once that barrier was broken everyone could do it. The same is true for all innovations.
Today we communicate faster because Bell and Edison created the telephone and moving pictures. Most believed that it couldn’t be done. They created the change that they dreamed of seeing. Once others saw the possibility they expanded on it and we have modern internet and new educational tools that are touching the whole world. There are fewer limits than ever before. Today we need new innovators to try new things or try old things in new ways or just try something beyond our natural imaginations so that we can become the change that we long to see in the world.
Quick exercise: The next time that you are doing a project of any kind and you think, “I wish there was a simpler way to do this,” or maybe “I wish there was a tool to do that better,” write it down. Share it on your favorite social media and keep posting it. In doing so you might be feeding the next great innovation and making your own life easier.
Most people need an excuse to do something new
Most people really want things to be different, but they also don’t want things to change. Human beings are strange like that. Something needs to motivate us to make the changes that we desire to see happen. Maybe you could be that inspiration. During my first marathon I was highly inspired by an extremely overweight person who was running the race. That gave me an excuse to run faster or took away my excuse to complain. Most of us hate change so we need an inspiration.
In reality we won’t always realize who we have influenced or encouraged. Ten years ago I had a heated conversation with a young lady about all the potential that I saw in her. She disagreed and demanded that I accept her excuses at life failure. She showed me a doctor’s note, letters from therapists and report cards to prove her point. Shrugging I told her that those were smart people, but she had more in her than all of that. Before it was done she left in a huff and I did not hear from her for over three years. When I did she was excelling and doing great. She stopped by to show and tell me that I was right. Be the excuse that people need, be tough.
Our world needs passionate, intelligent and optimistic leaders like never before. Leaders who not only know what to do but also know how to show people how to be the change the world needs. Will you be the change?