Archive for Change
When Abraham Lincoln took the Oath of Office as the 16th President of the United States in March of 1861, the country was anything but “united.” The country was so divided over issues such as slavery and individual rights that seven southern states had seceded from the Union, and the nation was on the brink of Civil War. Facing these obstacles, Lincoln could have easily and understandably succumbed to the pressure and relented to the demands of the South, but his values prevented him from doing so. He was willing to face an unprecedented War within the United States for what he believed to be fundamentally right.
History, both ancient and recent, is filled with examples of ordinary people acting extraordinarily and according to their values in the face of overwhelming challenges. People who refused to accept things they felt were wrong with the world, and who truly believed they alone could make a difference. People, such as Rosa Parks, who simply could not wait any longer for someone to act on her behalf.
In the face of personal harm and the risk of arrest, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus, singularly protesting the accepted laws of segregation, thus beginning the Civil Rights Movement.
When people follow their passion and act upon what they know in their hearts to be right, amazing things can happen. All change begins with an individual—an individual who sees something wrong with the world or perhaps something that can be improved upon, and has the courage to initiate the change.
The trick, of course, is to find something you are passionate about. What types of things are important to you and what can you do about it? Next, you must act. No stone begins to roll without the first push, and you alone can get the ball rolling and create positive change that supports your personal values. Don’t wait around for someone else to do what you can start right now. It’s not easy, but when you truly believe in something you’ll find that the motivation to continue will come very easily.
As a simple Catholic Nun, Mother Theresa dedicated her life to helping those less fortunate. She refused to accept that people should be hungry or denied medical care simply because of where they lived or their circumstances. She took personal responsibility for what she believed was wrong and acted accordingly. She was neither rich nor powerful. She did not seek fame or fortune. She simply wanted things to change because they were not aligned properly based upon her value system.
Isn’t it possible that you too could take a cause you believe in and make it your own? What could you do to improve upon this world?
All too often in life, we wait around for someone else to instigate the changes we want to see. We doubt our own ability and become paralyzed to action, thinking either we are not solely capable of bringing the changes about, or that someone else will get around to it. This inability to act alone is all in our head. Each journey begins with a single step, and our first step may set in motion a journey that could change the world.
The world is indeed a better place thanks to Lincoln, Parks and Mother Theresa. Their values and the courage to act upon them changed the status quo and set in motion events that make this earth a better place to live. The only “special power” they shared was an unshakeable belief in what they thought to be right and the guts to do something about it. Individuals can make a difference, and it begins by answering two simple questions:
1. What’s wrong with this?
2. What can I do about it?
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Don’t worry about what others will think. That statement has become has almost cliché, an old standby for motivation, but how many people actually live by that motto? Ask yourself, how many actions have you failed to take in your life, fearing what other people may think? My guess is there are quite a few, probably too many to count. You’re not alone though, many of us have missed great opportunities fretting over how we might be perceived. We get so wrapped up in every possible negative scenario that we fail to see the obvious “silver lining” in things. For some reason, not acting feels safer than the alternative. Later, we lament to anyone in earshot, about how stagnant our lives have become and about all our lost opportunities. It’s an awful cycle but one that can become habitual very easily.
Fear of the way we are perceived can be a major impediment to growth. Many of us become paralyzed from taking action because we’re afraid of the way it will look to others, but this paralysis is completely unwarranted. The majority of people—those same people we worry about—are far too concerned about themselves and their own issues to even notice what we’re doing. If you think about it, concern over the way we are perceived is rather egotistical. It is none of our business what other people think about us.
Now there are people who care about you, and thus have a vested stake in the decisions you make, but why in the world would you worry about their perceptions? They are the people who want you to succeed and will unfailingly root for you regardless of the outcome of the decisions you make. They are your support team, people who will be there for you through good and bad. Count yourself lucky for having them in your corner. The rest of the world, however, is too wrapped up in their own daily grind to have time to ponder yours.
I have been guilty of inaction in the past, agonizing on the way it may look to others. Sadly, that is time I can never get back, but hopefully, by sharing this epiphany with you, I can at least make it count for something. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll probably agree that at least 95% of the thoughts you entertain are of a self-centered nature.
We think about ourselves, and that is perfectly normal. The remainder of our thoughts is probably spent worrying or celebrating the ones we love. But how much time do you spend thinking about “John Doe’s” life? The answer is probably none, except for how John Doe’s life may effect your own or your loved ones. That being said, why would you assume that John Doe has time to pine over you?
He doesn’t. Isn’t that a tremendous relief? His only thoughts, in regard to your life, are how your success or failure will impact him.
Take a talented ballplayer, just up from college, an absolute star in his collegiate days. In his first year at the Major League level, he finds himself on the bench, playing second fiddle to a perennial all-star. This doesn’t sit well with him at all. He is accustomed to being the star, and his new role of bench warmer is not exactly what he had envisioned. He wants to secure the starting position, but he’s hampered by thoughts of how the fans will take it.
Does he want this all-star—his competition—to fail? Probably, but not because he dislikes him. His only thought is how that failure may positively benefit him. Now I’m not saying this is a healthy way to think, but I will say it’s natural. But here’s why I brought that up: If you decide not to act towards growth and excellence in your life, there will always be someone else who has figured out it’s best to act. Your inaction could be just what John Doe was waiting for.
Planning and preparation are important tools for success, but they are worthless if we fail to act when given the opportunity. The people we recognize as great, the ones we admire, are the ones that made a decision to act, some in the face of great public scrutiny. When the astronomer Copernicus tried to convince the world that the earth revolved around the sun, his views met with grave debate from a scientific community that believed the opposite. But he was right, and the rest is history. But what if he would have been wrong? Okay, so he was wrong. What did he really lose by deciding to act on his theory? He’d still be the same old Copernicus. His decision to act, though, changed not only his own life, but the world’s.
The only negative thing that can happen as a result of a new decision is that it may not quite work out the way you had imagined. But what have you really lost? The worst case scenario is that you’ll be back to square one, ready to make another decision and act upon it. Believe me, there is a not a swarm of people stroking their moustache, ready to pass judgment or belittle you. You’re not that important to them, and they just don’t have time!