Gandhi taught that we must be the change we wish to see in the world. I want to change the world so I’m going to keep changing me.
Instead of railing about how the world needs to change, what needs to happen, and who needs to do what, we should take radical self-responsibility for the decisions, actions, and outcomes of our own lives. Following are five steps I have learned in order to keep changing myself.
- Admit You Are Addicted to Others. Are you a “help-aholic”? Do you put the “-ism” in volunteerism? Looking over your day, do you spend more time engaging outside yourself than you do within yourself? Are you scared to spend time alone inside yourself? Do you not know how to rely on others in healthy ways? If you answered yes to any of these, you may be addicted to others.
- Own Your Own Stuff. Instead of waiting and wanting and working for the world to change, I need to own the challenges, considerations, hard times, and barriers in my own life. While volunteering to make a difference in the community may be noble and right, we must take stock of our own lives first. This may be the bravest step because it calls for humility. We must be humble enough to admit we have “stuff” to own.
- Get Brave and Commit to Making Change In You. If you can name your stuff, you can change your stuff! While I am excellent at helping others see their stuff, seeing my own requires work. But getting brave enough to actually do something about my stuff is tougher still. I don’t want to set myself up for disappointment or letdowns, so I might not commit to me. But those times when I do commit, well… they are awesome. Commit to making change in you. Then…
- Be The Change. Do you want a more peaceful world? Work at becoming a more nonviolent person. Do you want to see more love in others? Show others more love starting right now. Nobody else needs us to change them- we must, must, must change ourselves.
- Don’t Give Up. The calls of the world around us are loud and constant. We hear pleas for the environment, children, hunger, disease, and suffering all the time. Standing at the crossroads, it may feel like a righteous road to choose to help others, and I’m not saying that you should not do that ever. I am saying that in this life we’re living a choose-your-own-adventure style story. When you’re staring down the fires that burn, focus on the holder where the torch goes instead of the kindling that makes the flames leap. Because those flames are within you right now. Don’t give up, ever.
Many of us live with the constant message that we must help others. Do things for other people. Its seen as an ideal, a value, a goal, and an outcome, all at the same times. Not bad, wrong, or negative, helping others is most often a distraction from the first person we should concentrate on helping: Ourselves. Most often, we don’t focus on ourselves because we’re addicted to others.
Being addicted to others isn’t necessarily codependency, although that plays a large part for many people. Its as if in our desire to change the world we become codependent on society, placing our will and work in social engagement with our communities, neighbors, strangers, and loved ones. We do this before we even acknowledge our need to personally engage within ourselves.
Along the way we become addicted to others by constantly talking, helping, serving, waiting, giving, validating, chattering, and being with others. Over time we become afraid of ourselves. We fear discovering who we really are and what we really stand for in life, and in that fear we turn to others in a never-ending quest for acceptance, guidance, and motivation. Living engaged teaches us that we must begin make those journeys within ourselves, and that the world cannot give us what we don’t give ourselves. In the same way, we can’t give to other people what we don’t give ourselves.
“I want to change the world so I’m going to keep changing me.” Take a look inside, and let’s live up to what the Mahatma taught us almost 75 years ago. We can do it.