Where Does Change Start?
I’ve never offered a direct opinion on the popular phrase, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” That is, until now.
I sometimes struggle with overused bits of wisdom; especially when they’re repeated to the point where, when people hear a commonly-repeated phrase, they react by rolling their eyes and shaking their heads. And yet, there are some phrases that just ring true—no matter how many times they’re used. One such phrase for me is, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Before I continue, I have to recognize that those words can inspire some people while causing others to want to rip their hair out. That’s understandable. A Google search of that phrase returned 48.7 million results.
When a phrase is used so often it inspires memes, songs, poems, essays, and even research papers, there’s bound to be a wide range of opinions on “being the change,” and although I’ve danced around that subject many times over the years, I’ve never directly offered my own thoughts—that is, until now.
As strange as it sounds, I can both resonate with and reject those words. Here’s what I mean: When I hear someone say, “Be the change…” and I see their actions aligning with their words, I resonate with them. When I hear someone say, “Be the change…,” but their words are a glib response to put the responsibility of changing on someone else, I shake my head and yes, I roll my eyes.
So where DOES change start?
I’m going to give the pat answer, but with a slight twist.
Change starts with me.
Notice I didn’t say it starts with you. Why? I will answer with a question of my own: How can I be the change if I use a pronoun like “you” or “us?” Isn’t that putting the burden on someone else?
“Be the change you wish to see in the world” has inspired millions of humans to take real, meaningful action. I’m grateful the phrase has become part of our popular culture for that reason. However—and this is me speaking strictly from my point of view—the one pronoun, “you,” has also inspired millions more to think, “That’s nice,” and then do nothing.
Therefore, my version of being the change is, “I am the change I wish to see in the world.”
Because I am the change, I can no longer put the expectation of “being the change” on my family, or on politicians, or on businesses, or on anyone else.
Being the change I wish to see is my responsibility and no one else’s.
Of course, I can’t change anything if I don’t act in ways that align with who I am. So, I have a few basic tenets I do my best to practice every day:
I focus on best outcomes instead of the distractions of the moment. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment-to-moment drama of life, so I let the momentary distractions come and go while keeping my focus on the outcomes I want to see.
I tell fact-based stories rather than fear-based stories. If there’s one thing humans are good at, it’s telling stories. I therefore remain very conscious of the stories I entertain, because depending on which stories I tell myself and how I tell them, I can remain stuck in circumstances I’d prefer to be free of.
I live solely in the now. I’ll leave the conversation about the illusion of space-time to the folks who understand quantum mechanics. What I will say is that I can’t change what I did in the past… but I can change what I’m doing right now. Simply put, I can change the world right now by changing what I do right now.
Truthfully, being the change isn’t that hard. I do it by practicing the tenets above and including everyone—and I do mean everyone—in my ongoing celebration of life. If someone wants to join me, great. If people say, “Nah, that’s not for me,” that’s fine too. Everyone will always welcome, and they can come and go as they wish.
By the way, my celebration of life also includes all of the crap I’d rather not experience. I may celebrate the crap after the fact, but I will eventually celebrate it.
On that note, I want whoever who reads this to know that my “door” is always open, and that you’re always welcome to be part of my crazy, joyous experiences. Whether we meet in person or through my reflections, know that I’m glad you’re along for the ride.
As for me, I am the change I wish to see in the world, and I’m that change every day.
About the Author
Appio Hunter is an author, speaker, spiritual guide, and self-described champion for living joyously. He uses his seminars and workshops to facilitate conversations about authenticity, alignment, and the daily experience of community, connection, and joy. Appio is also a weekly columnist with The Good Men Project and co-host of the Real Men Feel Show along with his good friend Andy Grant.