Are we working on changes that matter? Or are we moving boxes around?
That’s what consultant Terrence Seamon asks himself when guiding organizational change. Powerful, legitimate questions that shouldn’t scare you and that you should ask yourself.
When we zoom out to see the larger whole that we are part of, we might think that we are only moving boxes around. The Philippines were devastated by a typhoon of unheard fierceness. It was beyond description for Philippine people. Anyone watching the news may have felt discouraged, sad and helpless. There’s not much we can do from our end but donate money – though the cynics among us question whether donations will be spent correctly. Some of us prayed because they believe in God or a field that connects us all. Some of us may disconnect from seeing the whole – focusing on our own circle of influence in life and work – simply to avoid the powerless feeling of “I can’t change the world”.
A Particle or Wave?
Are you working on changes that matter? The answer boils down to what you choose to see. It is your focus that creates reality. Like in physics: light behaves either as a particle or a wave depending on your focus. The same counts for the world at large: you either focus on how you can’t change the world – “there’s only one of me and the world is so large” – so you are condemned to the Sisyphus labor of moving boxes around.
Are you working on changes that matter? Depends on what you choose to see Click To Tweet
Or you focus on how the world is different and got changed – because you were born. You make a difference and you change the world by who you are, together with 7 billion others. There’s no need to be a politician, a social activist, an environmental entrepreneur or a saint to change the world. Every single one of us changes the world – right from where you are now – within your circle of influence.
As a human being, with change wired within by default, I think we oscillate between these two perspectives. I don’t matter – versus: I do matter. Energy/wave versus particle. I currently tend toward the vision of Changes that matter: no matter how “insignificant” my results, I change the world by interacting with it and doing my work.
I couldn’t rescue the Philippines (but I sent them my love and empathy – and some money). I used to want to save the world and I exhausted myself – feeling discouraged by only providing my drop in the ocean. But that was a linear point of view.
How am I to judge whether my results are insignificant? There are ripple effects that I can’t see from where I stand. Change is not linear. Small changes in start conditions may produce hugely different outcomes in systems – with emerging features that we couldn’t foresee. Change and “every box I’m moving”, may go in unexpected directions, making a different difference than expected, in a time and place I can’t determine right now.
Changes that matter – how I matter
Naive optimism? Happy Hippy? You can label it any way you like. The choice to see how “I matter” has proven a helpful belief for me. It fuels empowerment, inspiration and energy instead of discouragement and cynicism. It feels better right away – and I spread better vibes – attracting others who I can work with and spreading positivism along with down-to-earth techniques of coping with change, getting to know yourself and others better, feeling empathy, building trust, listening to understand, practicing dialog and respect, valuing differences as well as similarities between people. Helping build more awareness of yourself, others and the larger whole. One person at a time. One team at a time. One insight at a time, sometimes more.
There are ripple effects that I can’t see. #Change is nonlinear Click To Tweet
Multiply that spark
Every CEO, team member or employee who goes home with the feeling that they matter: every one of them takes a precious spark of love and kindness back home. Everyone who belongs to a respectful group, who are able to speak their mind and who experience how you can be safe even when you disagree – takes this feeling home. In my opinion, “even” when you work in a capitalist organization in your hometown – on corporate culture, change and leadership, or in IT, finance, accounting, marketing, sales – you are working on changes that matter. You affect the system by being who you are and the way you multiply that spark! That’s what I can do in my circle of influence to contribute to the whole. I try to develop the workers, the workplace and the world, right from where I am.
- What focus do you choose? Do you work on changes that matter?
Copyright © Marcella Bremer 2015. All rights reserved.
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Marcella Bremer co-founded this Leadership & Change Blog and OCAI-online.com. She’s an author and culture & change consultant.