The Only Way to Change the World



It's ALL about you.  No is! I know that sounds like an insane thing to say, especially in light of all the chaos and suffering going on in the world right now, but hear me out.

I used to obsess over changing the world. All my awareness and attention was on what was happening 'externally'. I spent a TON of energy focussing on the injustices on the planet, in my community, at work, and even in my own family. I agonized over how to 'fix' people, organizations, systems and situations. I argued my point A LOT, and was almost apoplectic when things didn't go my way or people didn't see 'the obvious'. And of course....I WAS ALWAYS right. I figured, if I was just passionate and articulate enough about what I thought/believed....then I could convince everyone else that they should agree with me and....well, problem solved dammit! The world/organization/family...would be all the better for seeing it my way.

That's how it's done right? Use your influence/knowledge/anger/passion/beliefs, to make everyone see the error of their ways, and force changes in the external world. Easy peasy. Except.....

I eventually started noticing that the world around me wasn't really bending to my will.  Other people had opinions, sometimes polar opposite opinions, which they were just as adamant about, and in their view, just as right about. Despite my best efforts, things in the outside world remained status quo. There were still wars, poverty, stressors, injustices. Systems were still failing, things were still breaking down, and poor choices were still being made. Bad things were still happening to good people. WHAT THE HELL?

This made me frustrated. I was exhausted from always fighting (what I thought was) the good fight, and it was starting to show. My 'tough exterior' began to crack. I literally got sick over the lack of power I felt I had, to affect change in my external world. As you may be aware, feeling powerless is NOT a fun place to be.

Funny how getting sick can bitch slap you right back to basics. I soon realized that in all this outward focus, I had lost track of who I was at my core. Getting sick really forced me to forget about the outer world for a while and to spend a whack of time focussing on myself, and what was happening on the inside. If I wanted to get better, I really had no other choice.

On my way back to wellness, I did a whole lot of self discovery, and made some pretty significant changes that I've written about in other blog posts.  Through that experience, I really got to know myself and what it felt like to feel peaceful and in integrity.  I came to understand that as I focussed on myself and made changes internally, the outside world started to change too. At least that's what it seemed like from my new vantage point.

Even when things didn't go my way, I realized that it didn't really matter, or at least that it didn't help to lose my mind over it. When the roof leaked, or the meeting was lame, or the project failed, when another atrocity was reported, or someone was angry or disappointed with me, I learned that there was another way of dealing with it.... A way that didn't involve me being so pushy, so agitated, and so attached to the external outcome. I could connect with my inner calm and focus on feeling better inside.  I could do and believe what felt right for me internally, even if it didn't change the situation, even if nobody else followed suit. EVEN if people I cared about, didn't agree with me. GASP!

I gradually noticed that not allowing yourself to be jerked around by eternal experiences, feels pretty freaking good! Not losing your mind when the dishwasher breaks, the appointment runs late, your colleague doesn't agree with your views on recycling, or the news runs yet another heartbreaking story, is a powerful and peaceful feeling.  It's a feeling that ripples outward and influences the people around you....even if they don't consciously realize it. 

Through that prolonged self-focus period, I learned that as you work on making your inner world more peaceful, your outer world 'magically' follows suit.  Years later, I have reached a point where what goes on around me no longer rules my least for extended periods of time. It doesn't mean I don't care, or don't notice, it just means that I am now better able to put it in perspective and to cope. Maintaining inner peace and calm, which I am by no means an expert at, makes me better, not worse, at influencing my external world. I can think more clearly, react with more strength, wisdom, integrity and understanding, and solve problems more effectively.

All those years I obsessed over changing the world, and I finally learned that the only way to do it, was by changing myself.

"Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means."

                                                                                                   -Albert Einstein


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