If You Want To Change The World, First Change Yourself: Four Steps To Making A Positive Impact

May 29th 2018
Photo from Unsplash

So you have dreams about wanting to change the world.

Many people want to change the world. Few actually do.

Changing the world might seem like an insurmountable task, but I believe that’s because many people approach changing the world in the wrong way. They focus on trying to create wide-sweeping changes in the political and social structures around them. The problem is, these structures have been sturdy for so long that they are almost impossible to change.

Once people realize that changing the world is difficult, they begin to give up on those dreams they had. They let those dreams wash away and replace them with “realistic” goals that other people give them. Maybe you’ve even experienced this yourself. Have you ever heard the following statements?

“Get realistic”

“Stop chasing a pipe dream”

“One person can’t make a difference, anyway”

Maybe you listened to them, and now here you are reading this article.

To change the world, you have to change yourself first. You have to change your mentality, your habits, and your actions.

The truth is, it is possible to change the world. But to change the world, you have to change yourself first. You have to change your mentality, your habits, and your actions. It’s not easy changing yourself, but it’s necessary if you want to make a massive impact. Here are four steps that you can take today to change yourself positively and create a massive positive impact on the world.

Stop comparing yourself to others

Most people compare themselves to others. Usually this is done through social media. You go onto Instagram, or Facebook, and see other people living amazing lives that you wish you had. Maybe you see a friend of yours posting pictures of traveling the world with his fiance. Maybe you also see the same friend posing in front of a Maserati Ghibli that he recently bought. You see these pictures and start to feel bad about yourself.

A dirty little secret about social media (especially pictures-based social media) is that much of it is based off of people pretending to be something they’re not. You know nothing about what’s going on with people except what’s going on in the picture — and that can leave out a lot of significant context. “It must be nice to be able to travel the world with your fiance,” you think to yourself as you look at your friend’s pictures.

But as I said, there’s more context to those pictures than what you see. What you don’t realize is that your friend and his fiance argue quite often —he spends his money frivolously and hardly listens to his fiance. His fiance doesn’t really enjoy the trip (she doesn’t enjoy traveling that much, something she’s mentioned before often), and she’d rather that they spent some time together visiting her parents. That would cost 10 times less and she’d get 10 times more enjoyment out of it.

We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.

Meanwhile, your friend has to work extra hours every week at a job he hates in order to make the monthly payments on his Maserati that he could barely afford in the first place. Does it still seem like he’s having fun?

My recommendation to you is to stop using social media in order to compare yourself with others. Only keep what is necessary. Most people will still accessible through text or a phone-call, even if you delete your Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram. After doing so, you will most likely find that your mental health has improved (as did mine). You might also be surprised to discover all the free time you didn’t know you had because you were previously spending it frivolously scrolling through your social media feed.

Be as authentic and genuine as possible

Let’s go back to my previous example of social media. As I said earlier, many people use social media as a tool to portray themselves in a significantly more favorable way than they would normally be. This has unfortunately also led to what I believe to be higher levels of narcissism among people in real-life and a lack of authenticity. We expect people to put up facades and to follow the status quo.

That’s why authenticity works — fewer and fewer people are authentic these days. When we’re confronted with authenticity, it’s almost startling because it forces us to become self-aware of our own lack of authenticity.

What does it mean to be authentic and genuine? It means many things. Partly it means being principled to your beliefs, party it means not lying in an attempt to make yourself look better, partly it means stating how you actually think and feel.

Let’s take a look at several examples where a lack of authenticity can backfire. The first example is that of the workplace. You’ve been unemployed for a while, and you’re starting to get sick of the job search. Finally, after a few months you get offered an interview at a company. The company is so-so, but you really need a job so you take the interview. You do well in the interview, and they call you a week later offering you a job for $35,000. Here’s the only problem: they’re offering you less than half of what you think you’re worth. What do you do?

Most people in this situation would simply take the offer, because they believe that they won’t be able to get a better offer. That’s the inauthentic thing to do. The authentic course of action would be to voice your concerns to the employer that you believe you’re worth more than what they’re offering. You tell your employer that, given your experience, education, and skills, you believe that their offer is somewhat low but that you’d be more than willing to take the offer if they gave you anywhere between $45,000-$65,000. If they don’t offer you something within that range, you tell them that you can go to another employer who is willing to offer that amount of money.

The employer, recognizing that you will be vital to the company’s success, might say, “You know what, you’re right. Let’s give you $47,000 and you can work your way up from there”. You just made an extra $12,000 a year because you were authentic.

“But wait a minute,” you might say, “they might reject my offer.” Exactly. Authenticity doesn’t guarantee that you’ll always get what you want or that everybody will like you. It just increases the probability that you’ll get things in your life that align with your true beliefs and values.

Here’s another scenario where authenticity is key: relationships. I think many relationships go bad because of both a lack of authenticity and a lack of willingness to be genuine between people in the relationship. For example, you go out on a date with a woman and although she is nice you think she’s just OK. There’s nothing particularly special about her. However, you give her compliments as much as you can (even when you don’t really believe the compliments yourself).

Another example is if she says something along the lines of, “I really enjoy doing X”, and you don’t particularly care for X, yet you still say “Oh wow, I really like X also”. Don’t pretend like you actually enjoy X! Unfortunately, many people still do this. All this does is create relationships built on false premises and beliefs — these relationships usually deteriorate after a while because it is mostly fake.

Generosity and empathy can go a long way

Generosity and empathy are two incredibly undervalued tools. To use them properly, you must first understand what they are.

Generosity is about giving to other people without expecting anything back in return. Many people view generosity one-dimensionally, unfortunately. Many people view generosity as the act of giving money away, often to charities. However, this is an incredibly limited view of what generosity is. You can be generous by giving a service, a good, money, or some advice.

Generosity is simply about the act of giving to others without the expectation of return.

The second part of the previous sentence is key — you cannot expect a return when you’re being generous. If you’re giving money away simply because you expect it to raise your status, or to lower your tax liability, then you’re not being genuinely generous.

Not sure how to start? Go find a charity to donate to that you feel strongly about, or find an organization to volunteer your time at on the weekend. Not only will you be helping other people, but you might also meet some interesting people along the way.

Empathy is also an incredibly trait to adopt.

People want to be listened to, and they want to be understood.

Empathy is about the ability to listen to other people’s problems and understand what they are going through. You’d be surprised at what people are willing to tell you when you simply become empathetic to them and allow them to open up — I’d know! I’ve had people tell me secrets that they wouldn’t even tell their closest family members.

When you’re incredibly empathetic and generous with others, it allows you to grow closer to the people that matter in your life. Even without an expectation of return, you’ll find that your generosity and empathy will be rewarded eventually. Maybe a young entrepreneur you gave encouragement to today will become the next big tech CEO five years from now and thanks you for the encouragement. Or perhaps you help a friend with finding a job today, and five years later he’s able to get you job when you’re out of your luck.

That’s the power of generosity and empathy.

Improve and change what is closest to you

Many people believe that changing the world requires that you to focus on making sweeping changes in the political and social structures of the world. However, this simply isn’t true. Many people who have changed the world did so, not by focusing on changing entire nations, but by focusing on improving and changing that which they were already familiar with.

One example is that of Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her bus seat on a segregated bus. This wasn’t an act that was aiming to change the world — it was simply Rosa Parks making a small gesture that she believed the segregated buses were unethical and unfair. Yet that simple gesture changed the world by bringing more attention to the civil rights movement at the time.

Recognize that changing the world does not require making massive actions. Sometimes all it takes is trying to fix and improve what’s closest to you and affects you personally.

Maybe you have a friend who is depressed — you can lend them an ear and listen to their frustrations. If you talk to them, there’s a chance you can stop them from making a rash decision to themselves — maybe in a few years after that, your friend invents a new process that’ll reduce the cost of some medicine. You’ll indirectly be responsible for reducing that cost.

Perhaps there’s an old family member you haven’t spoken to in a while — visit them or give them a phone-call to see how they’re doing and bring some positivity to their life. Maybe they’ve got physical health issues that you didn’t know about, and that’s the last time you’ll be able to see them or visit them.

You can often make a bigger impact by trying to change and improve what’s closest to you than trying to change the massive political and social infrastructures that exist.

In Conclusion

Recognize that you can change the world — starting today — simply by changing yourself. The four steps I’ve outlined above are absolutely critical to making a positive impact on the world.

Now go out there and make a positive impact!

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