They say it is a curse to live in interesting times and anyone would have to admit that the times we live in are completely fascinating. The sheer size of the challenges facing the world compared to the insignificance of our own actions can be daunting. This sense of not being in control can prevent us from acting for the benefit of ourselves and the planet. But it is crucial as individuals we realize that our efforts do count.
Start very close to home
Change begins with us, within ourselves. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change that you want to see”. We may feel powerless to make major changes in the wider world but we have the power to chose how to think, feel and act. Each moment we are actively creating our reality with our response to what we see and hear around us.
Our perceptions form our reality
Everyone of us can make a difference to how we live in the world by changing our own outworn dysfunctional thinking. I think one of the most liberating realizations we can have is to see how we can project our own discontent onto the external world. We see forces beyond our control preventing us from living a meaningful life while in fact we each have tremendous power to create a positive world view and act on it.
Attitude adjustments work
Changing our habitual negative thought patterns and emotional responses will take time and patience. It really is all about consistency and persistence and working along side others of a like mind can make this transition easier.
Think and think again
Work out why you are wanting to change, identify the underlying beliefs which form your opinions.
How strongly do you want this change? Take stock of your lifestyle and look objectively at what is causing anxiety or discontent. The result of this lifestyle inventory may require giving up things that are taken for granted. The areas of our life that we find painful should be gently addressed. Do this at your own speed and in a way that you feel most comfortable with, such as talking to a friend or someone you trust. Powerful change rests on a strong foundation built from knowing who you are and what you want.
Expand your world view
Old habits are as comfortable as a pair of well worn sweat pants. But how often would we venture out into the world dressed in them? To live in the world we have to be open to new ideas, alternative points of view, no matter how uncomfortable they might feel at first. It helps to read widely, talk to new people with different points of view from yourself. I think of it as an empathy gym workout where your understanding and appreciation of difference grows stronger with practice.
Be committed to change
A high level of commitment is needed here. When we met obstacles we often have the nasty habit of shooting our best intentions in the foot. Usually this takes the form of finding some external reason for giving up. We find some convenient excuse out there in the world making us feel it is all too hard or pointless. Keep your overarching motivation top of mind and reach out to others who are on the journey too.
We are living in the age of community and the world in all its variety and confusion is a tap or keystroke away. The opportunities for networks and the support of like minds has never been so available. The resources are global but they can put us in touch with local groups and individuals who are working on change much as you are. My inner city neighborhood for example has evolved a very effective local hub as part a global sustainable cities network.
Love in action
Finally this process of change is about gaining enough emotional maturity to love yourself and value what you offer. From this individual place we can reach out and become a more active and engaged person in the world. Realization of our dreams and vision for the world requires a committed individual acting in the present with a loving heart.