If you’re reading this, you’re probably trying to make a change in the world, even if you don’t call yourself a change agent or an activist. Maybe you’ve spoken up or shared a link on social media around an issue in your community. At work, you might be leading your organization through a big transformation or simply trying to improve how things get done. Perhaps you’re trying to right a bigger wrong and have joined a protest, signed a petition or are running for office.
Large or small, the actions we take to enable people to thrive, communities to flourish, society to become more just and the world to become more beautiful are steps worth taking.
Peace activist A.J. Muste reminds us that even when our efforts don’t succeed, we take them to honor our soul and live in integrity. A reporter once asked him, “Do you really think you are going to change the policies of this country by standing out here alone at night in front of the White House with a candle?” He replied, “Oh, I don’t do this to change the country. I do this so the country won’t change me.” Even when we don’t succeed, taking some action has value.
Lately I’ve been noticing how this work has the potential to make me feel less aligned with my wholeness than I’d like it to. I’m starting to wonder: Do I create a false duality of “us and them”? Do I use this as an excuse to treat people in a way I don’t want to be treated? Am I so attached to a particular outcome that I feel despair and outrage when it doesn’t come about? Do I talk about what isn’t working in ways that cause me to see myself and others as victims? Have I internalized the stories I tell to move others so that I forget that I am more than those moments? Have I pushed myself so hard that I’ve burned myself out or neglected other roles in my life that are equally important to me? Have I pushed others so hard that they burn out too? Have I pursued continuous improvement so deeply that I’ve forgotten that I am enough just as I am?
I have to admit I can answer yes to all of those questions from time to time. So I’m questioning my theories about change.
One way I’m doing this is through an on-line course called Unlearning: For Change Agents with Charles Eisenstein. Throughout the class, we are encouraged to explore and rethink:
- How we frame issues and problems. What assumptions and beliefs do we have that cause us to define issues and sides in conflicts?
- How we relate to others. What stories are we making up about others, and how can we relate them in a way that invites them to live into their gifts?
- How we make change. Must we force open the door to change, or do we have alternatives to struggle? Is change even something that needs to be “made”?
Eisenstein is more metaphysical than the mainstream, so this course may be a bit out there for some. But if like me, you’re feeling a cognitive dissonance about how you relate to others and change, you might find something here.
If you decide to check it out or if you have ideas and sources for a new way of creating change, I’d love to hear from you.
After spending years coordinating healthcare and other services for my son, I now lead and support initiatives in which patients and their families, clinicians and policy makers collaborate to create better health and care. I welcome you to join in an on-going conversation about healing health care by subscribing to this blog, in which I write regularly about the experience of living in a complex special needs family and working to create and support change, or by connecting on Twitter or LinkedIn.