Feeling inadequate or too overwhelmed to make real change? Those feelings are normal, and even you can be a hero.
It’s frustrating, isn’t it?
You have so many great ideas, so many things you want to achieve. You have grand aspirations to start a movement, or lead a revolution.
But you feel like you’ve accomplished nothing.
Worse than that, you’ve lost hope that you’ll ever be able to. Why?
If you’re like most of us, you had a vision for your life. You wanted to leave a legacy—to have a lasting, positive impact on the world around you. You may have even done some things that moved you closer to that vision. You might work for a great company you believe in, or be in a leader in your community. But something is missing.
You wake up every morning less than energized, have an increasingly harder time getting excited about what you do, or just feel plain burned out.
You’ve lost the spark that once drove you to aspire to great things. Your plan to change the world got put on hold, but you keep coming back to it time and again because you know it’s what you were meant to do.
The problem is you don’t have the time, energy or resources to do it all. The only way you could possibly accomplish the things you set out to do would be if you could multiply your efforts. Clone yourself. Push harder day in and day out.
But here’s some good news—changing the world isn’t about doing more. It’s about being an agent for change.
The Superhero Fallacy
There are so many expectations imposed upon us in today’s world. We’re supposed to be rational and logical, separate from our emotions. We must be a good provider for our families, often sacrificing personal achievement in order to do so. We must be strong, stoic and fearless in the face of challenge. We can’t make mistakes or risk looking weak and incompetent.
Success for many today is measured by how much money we make, and we’re ultimately judged on the merits of our performance, not our intentions.
Living under these expectations makes it difficult—if not impossible—to be a changemaker unless you can find a way to double your productivity, triple your output, and be in multiple places at once.
In other words, you’re expected to be a superhero.
After all, superheroes represent the ideal: they rarely, if ever, fail; they are indestructible; they can do incredible things with little effort; they fully trust their abilities; they are well funded (or independently wealthy); they generally work alone; and they have super-human powers.
We’ve been conditioned to believe that to accomplish great things we must become greater than we are. We must become better, somehow, at doing all that we’re expected to do and more. Add that on top of all our other obligations and you can see how becoming a changemaker can be overwhelming to us “ordinary” human beings.
The reality is that superheroes don’t exist, and to believe that you must be a superhero to change the world is just another way of saying that you’re incapable.
But what if you could start that movement or spark that revolution just by harnessing one power you already have?
Change = Giving
You already have an incredible power—the ability to give.
Bill Gates understands this. So do Elon Musk and Warren Buffet. These billionaires have created massive foundations, pledging the majority of their wealth to create positive change in the world. They have the perfect opportunity to leverage their combined economic power to build businesses and start movements that reach billions of people.
They’ve taken the notion of giving and expanded it to a global scale. And they’re not superheroes by any stretch of the imagination. They have wealth, yes, but their mission goes far beyond monetary reach. They know that the simple act of giving has enough kinetic energy to bring about exponential change.
This works on a smaller scale too. When a friend’s mother passed away, he pledged to honor her memory and give back to those that helped him achieve his life’s dreams. He created a foundation in his mother’s name, and is now building schools and libraries in developing countries. His philosophy is simple: if you have the opportunity to give back, you are obligated to do so.
You might have different ideas for the change you want to make, but this truth is universal: change starts with giving.
So how can you give back when you aren’t a superhero, or when you don’t have the wealth of a Bill Gates or Warren Buffet?
Adopt a Service Mindset
Giving really means positioning yourself to serve others.
Ben Franklin famously started his day with a question: “What good shall I do this day?” Take this even further and ask “How can I serve others today?”
By starting your day with a pledge of service, then you’ll be better equipped to recognize giving opportunities. And these opportunities are everywhere. Literally.
Think about your community—what needs do you see there? Where are the places you can make an impact?
Teach Others and Share Your Knowledge
You’re blessed with a wealth of experience. You have skills and knowledge that could benefit lots of people. When you’re presented with a giving opportunity, one way you could give back is to teach what you know.
By teaching others, you’re able to pass on the knowledge you’ve acquired and the insights you’ve gained over the years. For many, this will be invaluable.
Be the Spark
Movements and revolutions often start with one person or one idea. Start talking to people and disseminating your thoughts, beliefs and philosophies. All it takes is one like-minded person who can align with you and take your message to their circles.
Your influence can spread rapidly, and before you know it you’ve got a movement on your hands.
Inspire Others to Climb Your Mountains
Changing the world is like climbing a mountain. Then, when you reach the top, you realize it’s only the first of a hundred peaks yet to climb, each of them representing a small part of the greater impact you wanted to have on the world.
Imagine that rather than climbing each one of those peaks—which would be a super human feat—you could inspire others to climb them. And they in turn inspire yet more people to climb. You’ve put forth the effort to climb the first peak and have in effect built a tribe, inspired by your vision, to continue your work.
Your power to give and inspire others can have a much larger impact than if you try to be a superhero and do everything on your own. Leverage your message and allow others to carry your torch.
Change One Life At a Time
Mother Teresa said, “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”
The psychology of giving is based on the fact that we’re more likely to give if we can see the face of an individual we can help. By focusing on changing one life at a time, you have the potential to affect the lives of hundreds, if not millions.
You can truly spark a revolution through the power of giving.
It doesn’t take being a superhero to change the world. You don’t have to be a billionaire like Elon Musk either. Give others the tools and opportunities to be their own changemaker—to bring their own message to the masses and lead their own movements.
Change isn’t about carrying the crushing weight of the world on your shoulders. Positive, lasting change comes from within, from being true to yourself and trusting the powers you already have.
The changemaker is the innovator, the entrepreneur, the good father, the loving husband, the respectful child, the patient teacher. We are all change makers, and we change the world by being human, not by being superheroes.
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Photo: FLickr/JD Hancock