You are probably familiar with the words: “Be the change you want to see in the world”, attributed to Gandhi.
I love this quote, even though it is not certain that he actually said these words. It is such a simple yet powerful reminder that what we see and experience in the world is actually a reflection of who we are. What I’m about to say may sound a bit ‘out there’, but stay with me. Eventually it all makes sense (I hope!).
The external reality we perceive and evolve through is, whichever way you look at it, purely an expression of our internal reality. How so?
Well, let’s imagine my mind is filled with thoughts of babies and toddlers, either because I have some of my own, or because my wife is pregnant, or because I really want a child. Then I will notice in the world around me so many more toddlers and prams wandering around, than my best mate who’s really into sports cars at the moment and definitely does not want kids. I will notice babies’ clothes shops, when my friend walks right by them without a glance.
How I experience the world is directly influenced by who I am being inside.
Similarly, what I want and desire (in other words, what is filling my mind: my internal world) will impact and inform the decisions I make and actions I take which, inevitably, impact the people and the world around me. My internal world expresses itself through my behaviour, and this creates a ripple effect out in the world. If I really want to date X for example, then quite naturally the actions I take, the behaviour I adopt and what I say are influenced by this desire. Who I am being there and then is a person who wants to date X. X’s experience of me will be impacted by my behaviour.
Therefore who I am being inside also affects the world around me.
Here’s where Gandhi’s quote becomes particularly insightful and profound.
If I therefore want ‘life’ to be different, i.e. if I want the world to be different, for example if I want my friend to notice toddlers too, or if I want X to be more receptive to my charms, then trying to change them is missing the point! Why? Because I am then focusing on changing the external expression of my internal creation! I am trying to change the symptom, not the source; I am trying to amend the effect, not the cause. The source of the world as it appears to me is not ‘out there’, it is ‘in here’.
It is through my thinking and my being that I shape what I experience from the outside-in AND what I express from the inside-out.
Therefore, if I want to change the world, the wisest thing to do is work on changing myself. In my opinion, this is what “be the change you want to see in the world” means.
I want my friend to notice what I care about? First, let me be that. Let me notice what he/she cares about.
I want X to like me as I am? First, let me be that. Let me like her as she is.
I want my dad to be less negative? First, let me be that. Let me be less negative about his being negative.
I want my employees to be more committed to the business? First, let me be that. Let me be more committed to my own business.
Displacing responsibility onto others because it is so much easier than looking at the mirror and taking ownership. It’s okay, we all do it. But ownership is where growth occurs. Ownership is where miracles are created. Ownership is where love awaits us.
Be the change you want to see in your wife or husband.
Be the change you want to see in your parents.
Be the change you want to see in your colleagues.
Be the change you want to see in your clients.
I believe here’s the initial quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, which the words “be the change you want to see in the world” were probably derived from:
“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”