How to be the change you want to see
Day by day!
You may be familiar with Gandhi's famous quote "we must be the change we wish to see". This is a wonderful sentiment, and rings true in my experience. I couldn't just talk about quitting smoking, I had to do it. These hubs don't write themselves, I have to write them. I don't have a stand in for my spiritual practice; I'm the one who sits and meditates. So it is with each one of us, what we did yesterday will almost certainly be reflected in what we do today. And what we do today, will show up, in our thoughts, words and deeds, tomorrow.
So how can we make the choices that are best for us? How can we stick with it, though thick and thin, and get the results that we want, whatever our goal is? What is the way to peace and harmony in our lives? These questions are all related, because they all have to do with what we do everyday. This article is concerned primarily with how to make a commitment in one's life to one's self and stay the course to success.
To begin with, it is necessary to become clear what it is that you want to do. It could be a dietary change, like stopping eating meat; or eating more vegetables. Or maybe you'd like to have less of an impact on the environment, by turning off lights when you leave a room, or getting into the habit of using modes of transportation that have less of an impact on the environment than what you do now. Or perhaps you'd like to pray or meditate more, and become more aware of your spirituality that way.
It's important that you think of something that is realistic for you to accomplish, whether it is a short term goal, a long term goal or a permanent change. You won't ever walk to the moon, teach fishes neuroscience, or grow wings. At least not in this life! So, the very first thing is to pick something that you can do.
For example, I've been working as a videographer for many years now, and early in my career I started a video project - the joke project. Every day for many weeks I carried my camcorder with me everywhere I went, and asked the people that I knew or met, if they had a joke they would like to tell. I got probably about 50 jokes that way. But I never did anything with the footage. It has just stayed in the can, ever since I shot it. I have my excuses, of course: it takes a long time to edit; there are other things that are higher priority; it's a silly project and has no merit (no-one who's any one will appreciate it); I just don't have the time to do that.
Now everyone has the same number of hours in the day, and people that are well known who get things done, like Martin Luther King; or Gandhi; or Elvis Presley (for crying out loud!), all had the same number of hours in the day as I do. They had to eat, and sleep, and everything else that people do; and they still managed to create a lot of love and light in their lifetimes. So, if I really want to do something, I think it helps to have a role model, to think of a person who has made a difference; and to know that they had their own struggles and failures, and that, nonetheless they were able to make a difference in their life and the lives of others.
What do you want to do?
So just relax, and pick something that you'd like to change in your life; or focus on the thing that you know would best serve you if you changed or strengthened it; or recall the thing that you have already recently committed to changing in your life.
Recently, I heard a presenter (Pete Thomas - a weight loss specialist) say that there are four levels of accountability. We can be accountable to the larger public. We can be accountable to a group or team that we belong to. We can be accountable to a mentor, teacher or friend (that is one other individual). And we are accountable to ourselves. Notice that it is this last category that is hardest. It's easier to be accountable to someone, or group, outside of ourselves. That doesn't mean it guarantees our success if we make ourselves accountable to others, just that it is easier. It's sort of like training wheels for the soul.
How can I apply this to myself?!
Lets get back to the video project I'm working on to help demonstrate. I need to make a change in the way I spend my time everyday to get that project done. I need to have a time line for change, and a reasonable way of knowing that I have succeeded in my change. With this example it's easy to articulate these things. I think if I spend an hour and a half a day (six days a week) over the next 2 months, that I'll complete the project to my satisfaction. I have an idea of what it will take from me to do it; and that's my time line. If you want to eat more vegetables, you might start by incorporating them at one meal; and gradually build up to five servings a day.
I'll know that I'll have succeeded when I take a DVD down to Community Television Network, here in Ann Arbor; and have them play it in their rotation. I'll also get the same video onto youtube; both of these things should have happened about 2 months from now (or sooner) if I am able to put 1.5 hours into the project everyday. That means, that you will be able to check back here anytime after September 20th, 2010 and there will be a link to the video.
Accountability to the Public.
Notice how the above paragraph makes me accountable to the larger public. Since I'm not a public figure, not famous, it doesn't mean much. But don't underestimate the power of holding one's self accountable to the public. If I don't get that video published, and remember to post a link here, I may get called on it. At the very least, anyone reading this after 9/20/10 will think I've either succeeded or failed, depending on whether there is a video up or not.
Accountability to a group.
Now the next easiest thing to do is to hold one's self accountable to a group. That's where places like AA or other groups can be very, very helpful. It's really challenging to go into a group situation, and tell the people there that you haven't done what you said you would. Of course you know that they will forgive you, and you can try again; and that's one of the reasons such groups are so effective in creating change. I don't have a peer group that helps me stay accountable to producing videos or other creative endeavors. I'm confident that I'll be able to make the video to my satisfaction, that it will be challenging to do so; and that you'll be pleased with the result. It might not even take two months!
Accountability to another person.
It was just this last weekend that I decided to get serious about this project. With out going into all the details, I was at a workshop; and part of the advice there was to ask another person there to support me in this endeavor. It's a simple but powerful thing to do, so I've agreed to check in with another person three times a week to document how my progress is coming. Did I actually work on the videos the last couple of days, or not? And if I did, how much time did I spend? By holding myself accountable to that other person, I'm more likely to be inspired to carry through and create that funny video. This is the second hardest level of accountability. It's easier to blow off a bunch of people I don't know (the general public); harder still to ignore a group of well meaning friends or co-workers; and harder still to share my failure with a friend, teacher, mentor or another person I trust. Though, if I don't do the project, I'm more likely to look at it as a learning experience than a failure. But a failure it would be, failure to complete.
Accountability to one's self.
This is the hardest level of accountability and may be likened to self-mastery. When you reach this level of accountability you can make choices in this arena of your life with ease and follow through. You are capable and able, and get things done. Why is this? Because, in the example I have set up here, about making a video, if I hadn't told anyone else about my intentions, then it would be only me who would know if I didn't do it. It's easy to just blow off myself. After all, there are hundreds of things I think about, that I would like to do, that I won't. Some are impossible to do, some too challenging, some too far fetched; and so on. Since we as humans think; then we are likely to have thoughts that we can't or won't act on. Therefore, if there is a goal I have that I don't act on; it doesn't seem so out of place. But if I tell a friend, or a group, or even the public; and don't act on it, I'll feel the gap, the longing; or the shame or disappointment more acutely.
Be the change you want to see.
I hope you are inspired by this article to work with your highest aspirations and make a great change in your life. Perhaps you want to quit smoking, or drinking; or maybe you'd like to eat more vegetables or other healthy foods. Perhaps, like me, there is some project you'd like to start or finish. Only you know what is right for you. I hope that you will look inside, and find the thing that will make the world a better place if you do it.
Once you have set a goal; may you be empowered to act on it. Look to other people to support you. Just let them know of your intention, and get a buddy to check in with every day or every other day to tell them how it is going. Did you eat those vegetables or not?! Let them know if you are keeping your commitment, or if you aren't. Set reasonable goals that you can achieve; talk to friends and your peer groups about it; and make the change that you want to see in the world.
Only you can do it!