A lot of folks, it seems, want to change the world.
I most often hear this rallying cry from talented, turned-on, tuned-in, twenty-something Creatives.
It makes me grin with envy.
It also makes me grit my teeth the way a parent reacts as they watch their toddler suddenly burst into a full-out run toward a closed sliding glass door.
How can one change something that is ever-changing?
The world is massive. Complex. Contradictory. It’s dynamic—in constant motion.
Trying to change change itself seems quite the Quixotic quest, if not a logical impossibility.
So what is it we really mean when we say we want to “change the world”?
I think it means we want to free ourselves and others from the baggage and burdens of life. Help the helpless. Empower and enable people. Right wrongs. See the unseen. Speak the unspoken.
But can we really? It seems there are a few possible approaches to change:
- We can try to change the world.
- Or the world can change us (psst…it will).
- Or we can resist change or being changed (and fail).
- Or we can embrace change.
Let’s hone in on that last one.
I think Mohandas Gandhi—a guy who actually had some success with changing the world—got it right when he said,“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
What if you and I replaced our desire to change the world with a desire to be a changed human being in the world?
At some point in your life, you’ve probably encountered this quote attributed to Dr. Howard Thurman:
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
That’s it. He’s describing what being a changed person in the world is all about.
As we grow and mature, we shift our orientation from what we want to tell the world to what the world is telling us. More and more, I find myself sitting down to write asking, “What idea, ideal or information out there is trying to be heard? How can I give it life? A voice?”
Throughout this year, I’ve been researching a little thing called “the spillover effect”. This externality tells me that the things I do have positive and negative effects on the people and places around me.
Which means who I am and what I do spills over into the lives of others. It’s brought clarity to my role and responsibilities as an artist.
You might even say it’s changed me.
And that, for better or worse, changes everything.
Even, maybe, the world.
From May 2012 to July 2013, I wrote a weekly series of intimate essays for writers and artists seeking a deeper connection with their identity and place as modern creatives. I called this series Root Notes. This was an essay in that series. It was originally published on October 5, 2012.