This is a really good question. I know it is. And on numerous occasions I’ve tried to answer it, but never felt satisfied with the outcome.
At this time of new beginnings, I am facing it yet again. Knowing that grappling with the question is even more important this time, or I’ll be in danger of going round in circles. Again.
Bernadette Jiwa’s new book The Right Story – a Brief Guide to Changing the World triggered insights about why I was having such difficulty gaining traction. And I suspect I am not the only one.
I want to change the world!
I don’t think there’s anything I have done that hasn’t had big ambitions. Never for me, but to make a difference that impacts many others. Whether that’s transforming family farming or healthcare. Or eradicating homelessness, poverty and injustice…
In some of these areas my work, and the way I led, did have an impact. But the gap between here and there was always huge and I struggled to secure lasting change.
Likewise in thinking about new beginnings now, I have struggled with a vision of change that was tangible. Bringing it down to scale or specifics felt like creating a box. And I really don’t like closed containers. The need is too big and urgent.
The tension was difficult. Having too small a vision felt like selling out (and wouldn’t pay the mortgage). But yet I was drifting around not being able to grasp hold of anything.
I wonder if this particularly resonates with those of us who have grown up in a culture of serving others. Who are aware of the need for change and get excited by the big conceptual solutions. But who struggle to see quite where we fit in and don’t want to take the easy route. Just so we can tick the box and say we’ve at least done something.
Owning our own change
This leads into my second personal insight. I have been so focused on what others need – and in trying to see and hear it – that I have struggled to own the change that I want to see.
Perhaps it’s because of the years of public service and servant orientated culture that suggests that if I meet your needs then I must be doing the right thing. And it feels good. Tick.
The basic principle of serving others with an open heart and generosity is valuable. But it can also cause us to become blind to our unique role in the ongoing creation of the world. If we don’t own and articulate the specific change we are seeking to make, then we carry on trying to do good and lose our edge.
Or in my case, drift around struggling to find a foothold.
In starting to look in earnest at the change I am seeking to make, I have to own my inner world. What really motivates me, as opposed to what I think should? Where is my lighting up more than a flickering match in the darkness?
This is slightly uncomfortable and unknown territory. The answer isn’t out there, it’s in here. And also means that new beginnings require a change and growth from the inside, first and foremost.
Collective new beginnings
And yet it can’t stay there. New beginnings aren’t individual events. Change is collective.
Only people make change and change is effected in people. And as human beings, not just human doings, we need the accountability and encouragement of people around us – physically or remotely – in order to become the change we want to see.
This is why we need to look carefully at where we are planted. The people we surround ourselves with, including what we read, see and listen to. These are the people who can help us become our best selves and face our limiting thinking. Then cheer us on to be quiet disruptors in a world that so needs this kind of change.
So what is the change you are seeking to make?
And who knows about it!
Thanks for reading
I have been drawn to explore new beginnings more than I expected. I hope these musings have been helpful for you too.