Be the change that you want to see

We normally yearn to see a better world or have better life experiences. Such hopes are built on change. Often we expect the change to come from somewhere else, but the stark reality is that true change may never come until we initiate it.

The only thing certain, it is often said, is change. However, the most uncertain thing about this certainty of change is whether or not this change is the change that you want to see. The change we yearn for may range from a change in frosty relationships with our nearest and dearest to a change in awfully poor humanitarian conditions in many war-torn regions across the world.

Most often, we tend to consider somebody or a group of persons responsible to engineer these changes. However, the lives of many great men and women who have been behind some of the greatest political and social transformations in the world show that such changes start with us, and do not merely emanate from somewhere or someone else. Effectively, we have to be the change that we want to see. The following are some very important rules which can help us to become the change that we want to see:

Have a perfect understanding of the change

The first rule is to ensure that you seek the right change. You must have a great understanding of why things are what they are and what you would like them to be. You must find out why and how the situation has degenerated into an undesirable one. Learn why the situation is what it is, and have a good knowledge of the prerequisites for that required change.

We are familiar with the saying, “Out of the frying pan and into the fire.” If we do not fully appreciate a situation, we may initiate a change we will later regret. During World War II, Albert Einstein advised the American government to build atomic weapons. His theoretical formulations in physics led to the invention of these weapons of mass destruction. Though this invention played a very decisive role in ending the war, in the twilight of his life, Einstein hugely regretted driving such a change. His regret was anchored on the knowledge of the sheer destructive nature of atomic weapons, which he gained from the benefit of hindsight.

Quite clearly, Einstein did not fully understand the whole caboodle of the change he sought. Not all changes prove to be desirable in the final analysis. If we yearn to see any change, this change must be a positive one — not a change that makes lives more miserable and exacerbates the current situation. It is important to understand the change, including all its ramifications. Meticulously diagnosing the situation and arriving at a prescription for a positive change is the prelude to being that change you want to see.

Do something in your own small way toward the realization of that change

It would be most unfortunate to have the answers and yet wait for someone else to start fixing the problem. The problem, in fact, may be that the one you expect to start the change may not even know the right answers. No matter how big a change you desire, that change must start with you.

One example of this is when many unemployed look upon the government to provide them with jobs. Yes, governments have a responsibility toward the governed, but a change in attitude and approach can land you the job you fervently desire. You can do volunteer work for a company or an individual instead of wasting time waiting upon government’s intervention. As you serve freely, your prospects of getting a great recommendation to get gainfully employed are enhanced, and you enrich your resumé.

It is with this principle in mind that President John F. Kennedy once remarked, ”…ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country….” The change that we desire starts with our first step.

Have the conviction that the small change you start can cause a mighty one

Some of us who know we must initiate the changes that we want sometimes fail to hold the conviction that the little things we do in pursuit of big changes can be very effective. We must bear in mind that what we can do in our own small ways may not, and, in fact, mostly do not, cause these changes instantly, but, rather, they act as catalysts for a series of events which eventually culminate in the change we want to see.

For instance, the so-called Arab Spring was virtually instigated by the protest of one young man, Mohamed Bouazizi, against ill treatment in his own country Tunisia. Though one may not be well-advised to emulate his style of protest, self-immolation, it shows us the potency of our individual abilities to initiate a mighty change.

I had a flat mate who was extremely unfriendly. I really wanted a change in that relationship so I started making gestures of friendship to him. I would offer him my laptop to do his assignments and other things. Eventually, the relationship changed and he started warming up to me. Today, he lives in another African country, Tanzania, but we remain the best of friends.

Let us be the examples of the change we want

Sometimes we want to see changes which our very lives are at variance with. You cannot expect friends or relatives to treat you better when you treat others badly.

Mahatma Gandhi is a perfect example in this respect. In his quest to advance the cause of humanity, he did not use any inhumane strategies. He used very peaceful means to achieve desirable ends. His life exemplified the change he sought. The best teacher, it is argued, is the example you set. If you want to see a more peaceful world then you must be a pacifist yourself. If you want the gaping chasm between the haves and the have-nots reduced, then embody the principle of charity yourself.

Whether you want to see a small change or a mighty one, the power to make it happen lies in your hands. Be that change today and it shall indeed manifest itself for all to see tomorrow.

Michael Ohene Aboagye

Michael Ohene Aboagye lives in Accra, Ghana. He is a graduate of the prestigious Ghana Institute of Journalism, holding a bachelor's degree in communication studies.