Gandhi either said,
Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Either way he called people unhappy with the status quo to act. He challenged them not to start with demands for other people to change their behavior. He challenged them (and us) to start with ourselves, change ourselves first, and then lead out on our change journey. (Sounds a lot like driving change:choosing a change for yourself and clearing the obstacles for others to internally choose the change too.)
Many people use Gandhi’s quote as a tagline on their emails, hoping it will either bolster their resolve to keep fighting the status quo or challenge the email recipients into being bolder too. I like when I see the quote on emails I receive because it gives me a strong clue that this person has their eye on the future.
Yet, typing the quote into an email signature line is easy. Living it? That’s tough.
Gandhi wasn’t encouraging us to do the easy stuff to bring about the changes we wanted, he was trying to give us confidence to do the hardest things: see how we, in our behaviors, are stalling the very changes we most desire.
Our first foe in our battle for change is ourselves. Can I master myself and my habits enough to live the change I desire in others? Can I take the criticism when it comes and learn as much as possible from it? Can I sift and winnow the attacks I’ll take into the valid and invalid against my values, not theirs? Can I admit my failings yet still fight for a brighter future?
Our storybook versions of history turn change agents into saints and thus delude us into believing that it is only through perfection that true, meaningful, lasting change is achieved. The opponents of our changes–or often worse, our fellow change agents–seem to buy into the concept of change agent perfection, are often quick to correct us whenever they think we’ve faltered. We must muster the strength to respond to their corrections using not the past behaviors we despise, but the new behaviors we aspire too. We must steel ourselves to the emotional hurts and continue to be the change.
This week, as I struggle with large challenges, I’m personally drawing on this quote and the calm resolve of Gandhi’s example to propel me forward as my internal tank of resolve empties. Good people, flawed as we all are, can create lasting and powerful change. I both believe that can happen and have seen it happen.
Shall we change the world? That’s tough. But, we must try. If we don’t, who will?
Be brave my friends. The world you want and wish for is possible. We will see it someday.