Gandhi’s quote, “You must be the change you want to see in the world,” often seems daunting. It’s easy to feel that we have to be everything, all at the same time… that we have to work on ourselves, day and night, until we’re good role models for the rest of the world.
I like to think about the art of becoming the change that you want to see, wherever you are.
‘Art’, to me, means that changing the world should involve creativity, colour and fun.
‘Becoming the change’, rather than ‘being the change’, suggests that it’s a gentle, gradual process – something that has to be learned and perfected over a lifetime. It’s not something that we can hope to achieve in a day, a month, or even a year. That takes the pressure off and lets us focus on the journey, rather than the destination.
But the crucial part of that phrase is wherever you are. It’s no use trying to imagine change on a global scale, if we can’t picture what it would look like in our own homes or workplaces.
We’ve all learnt a lot, as we’ve grown up, about the way the world works – and, quite literally, about what different people do when they ‘go to work’. We ‘know’ that project evaluation is about meaningless box-ticking; performance appraisal is stressful; and if you want to have a board meeting, you have to sit around a boardroom table and get bored.
We ‘know’ that paint, crayons and coloured chalks are off limits in the workplace – unless you work in a primary school or an arts centre.
We take it for granted that everything important happens indoors.
We’re willing to tolerate chronic illness, fatigue and depression for decade after decade – not just for ourselves, but among our families, friends, colleagues and employees – because, well, that’s life, isn’t it?
So the art of becoming the change is about challenging all these old ideas. What if we let go of all those beliefs? What if, just as an experiment, we held the board meeting under a tree? What if we handed out paints and brushes to senior academics? What if a bring-and-share lunch, or an annual retreat with all the meals cooked over a campfire, became the new office tradition?
Go on, I dare you. Learn the art of becoming the change. Give yourself permission to let more joy, more laughter, more energy, and more passion into your life… and then do one small thing differently, and watch what happens.