You know those old adages: change starts with you and ‘BE’ the change you wish to see? Wisdom left to us from that peaceful activist who changed the course of history, Mahatma Gandhi. But HOW? How do you ‘be’ the change you want to see in the world? Here are 3 ways to approach your own change-making.
1. Figure out what you want to stand for…NOT what you are railing against. Shouting “No!” at what you don’t want won’t bring you more of what you DO want. Instead, you must point your focus towards what you want to create. If you want less bullying in schools why not stand for more inclusion in schools or the teaching of the value of speaking up and the skill of using your voice when you witness bullying. Research shows that bullying is most often witnessed and that if more kids spoke up earlier – and if there was a way to speak up safely – then less damage would occur. So, by standing for the solution rather than railing against the problem, you are more likely to move people in the direction you desire.
2. Integrity: make sure your own actions match your words. Give people concrete, simple things to do to create the new reality that you want. And, then do them yourself….first. If you are asking for less bullying in the school yard, then review your own tendencies to use threats (whether real or implied) in your OWN daily actions. “Me? A bully? Impossible. Except, for maybe when I drive….or, when I use my negative influence to get what I want from my subordinates at work…” All symptoms of the same behaviour that you are asking to decrease in your child’s school. It’s the old adage, “clean up your own backyard” advice. And it works. It means there is 1 less person in the world using the damaging behavior and 1 more person in the world making conscious choices on how to engage in a positive way. This models the behavior you are after. This is you being the change you wish to see.
3. Reward the behavior that you want to increase – every step of the way. Even in yourself. Like it or not, we are all motivated by external rewards and recognition. Food when the bell rings, gold stars on the first page and the proverbial pat on the back. Human beings, are driven by both intrinsic and external rewards – now here is the tricky bit. If we think that the only appropriate time to get or feel ready for the reward is when the new social change has occurred, is complete and out there in the world, then it’s a long time to wait. Too long, in fact to keep the behaviour sustained.
You see, we humans, need feedback along the way. The external feedback has to happen in order for the intrinsic shift to occur. And this takes TIME. In our culture of micro and immediate, this is really difficult. So, while you – and the community you want to influence – are in transition, give them feedback along the way. Rewards. For yourself, too. These can be small, medium and large. Depends upon the state of change that you are after. Think, again, of the bullying in school example. You could reward kids who come out to an info session. Or those who create a facebook page, or those who engage their parents in a conversation. All small shifts to creating the new environment that you want. But it IS movement in the right direction and needs to be noticed. Acknowledgement will help to reinforce the new behavior. And sustain it. It is especially essential with ourselves – the ones leading the change. Appreciate and notice the efforts you are making, the progress that is coming. This will fuel your fire to keep going. The outside world is a reflection of the inside world. That’s why “change starts with you” really does makes sense. Really.
Start small: What is some social change that you would like to see in your family? At your office? On your block? Start something, one step at a time.