Simon Terry

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Your change is unique

With the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream speech” this is a week in which we are reminded of the power of people’s dreams to change the world and the power of individuals to bring those dreams to life.

How do you want to change the world?  

Everyone does, at least in some small way. Everyone’s desired change is slightly different.

That is the work each of us need to do.  The diversity of our unique visions is also the reason why the changes are not going to happen on their own.

Here is an exercise to try:  Take the next five people you meet and ask them to describe specifically how they would like to change the world.  Don’t settle for “achieve world peace” or “end poverty” or “achieve gender equity”.  Ask them to explain how that world would look, work and feel in some specific detail.  

The answers are diverse even if the themes are consistent.  Ask yourself how you would describe similar changes. My experience is that each person’s method and inspirations for changing the world are driven by unique visions and their experiences.

This drives us to at least five insights for our personal actions to realise our changes in the world:

  • You can’t leave it to others: Nobody else wants exactly what you want.  Don’t you want your views to be considered and some part of your vision realised.  If you are not involved you don’t get to shape the changes and the decisions will be made by others.  As many people have discovered specifying requirements and sitting back generates a different quality of outcome to being a part of a change process.
  • You can’t do it alone: Any change to the world, as opposed to ourselves, by definition affects others.  You will need to take their goals, concerns and circumstances into account.  You will need their help or at least an end to resistance.  Plan for a collaborative and adaptive process to engage them in the change.  There is always enough work to do and ideas turn into better action through discussion and debate.
  • We need to use what is common: Finding common purpose, concerns and circumstances is how we engage others to move to new actions.  We need to align around each of these before we can move forward in an engaged way.   Differences are issues to be addresses.  What is common is our way forward together.
  • We need to embrace difference: Don’t sweep difference however small aside or under the carpet.  It will only come back later more dangerously and more vehemently.  Explore how the small differences in vision can be addressed or aligned in action.  Difference is the source of ideas, innovation and growth.
  • Use the ‘fierce urgency of now’: The best time to act is when you see the need for action. When you see a need for action, act then.  Others will see it to and the common view of a need to act is important to leverage.   Later, you will need to recreate the same level of energy and urgency or you and others will be endlessly debating when is the right time.
If you want to make your changes in the world, you will have to act, embracing the challenges that it brings.

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