Most folks are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be! (Abraham Lincoln)
When you can't change others, change yourself so advises Callie Roos in this article.
There was a time in my life when I wanted to change the whole world. I believed that if I could encourage people to change their behaviour I would succeed in making the world a better place. Today, I realise that this was not the way to go. Change has to begin from within. It was Mahatma Gandhi who said, "We must be the change we want in the world", and having applied that principle to my own life over the years, I recognise that by changing myself, I have added value to the world in which I live.
Instinct versus Choice
Every year when the plains in Central Africa dry up I follow the wildebeest as they migrate northwards from Tanzania across the Serengeti Plain and through the woodlands up to the Masai Mara Reserve. When the grazing in the Mara has been exhausted, the herds head southwards again, returning to the plains where it all started. Nothing changes from year to year, as one and a half million wildebeest embark on a journey, where two hundred and fifty thousand are destined to die. In the course of every migration, they still try to cross the river at the same places. Each year the banks on the other side become slippery, and when young calves are separated from their mothers, they often fall into the water and drown, or get taken out by marauding lions or big crocodiles. They never change their pattern; I know that animals operate on instinct, rather than on premeditated choice. Unlike humans they do not have the capacity to build bridges or erect tollgates that could limit the number of lions passing through.
It is this essential difference, which separates man from beast. We have risen to the top of the top of the food chain by virtue of our ability to make choices, as opposed to living our lives simply on the basis of instinct. Our freedom of choice is what makes change possible.
In the heart of the African bush, people sometimes lose their lives, by selectively ignoring the one thing that could have enabled them to survive. Here in the urban jungle, people die spiritually and emotionally, when they lose the ability to hope or envision a brighter future. Cynicism and despair have a way of making us forget that we have been equipped with a life-sustaining tool, which is found in our capacity to think and take responsibility for our choices. More often than not we drown, when we fail to exercise this ability. Life is an ongoing process of learning, growth and making changes. Those individuals, who choose to ignore this, are destined to live their lives as wildebeest and make the same mistakes over and over again.
Escaping the Wildebeest Legacy
Whenever I ask the groups of people I speak to if they want to change their lives to become better fathers, mothers or leaders, they all respond with a resounding ‘yes'. Yet, they don't always recognise that improvement is driven by change. Unfortunately, none of the so-called experts on change can claim to have discovered a step-by-step guide on how to achieve it. This is because essentially, each one of us is responsible for initiating the changes that will make the diverse and individual worlds we inhabit, better places. In a nutshell, if you don't like the world that you have created for yourself, change it or accept that everything will remain the same. Acknowledge that you will encounter the equivalent of slippery banks, marauding lions or crocodiles along the way, and believe in your ability to find a route around every obstacle.
When I began my career as a professional speakerand life coach, I saw my task as going into a business to facilitate its core processes relating to vision, mission, values and strategies. At the time, I naively believed that once these were firmly entrenched, people would change their attitudes and behavioural patterns. Experience has taught me otherwise. Today, I begin in reverse, because I've recognised the importance of change from within. I know that if I change, I stand more change of motivating the teams I work with to change as well. Individual acts of change create a ripple effect that becomes the catalyst for transformation within a business or an organisation. In short, they are the key to making the world a better place.
I don't believe that our creator ever intended us to live our lives in mediocrity or discontent. Why else would we have been endowed with the gift of freedom of choice? Each one of us has the power and the right to choose a path of excellence, especially since we only have this lifetime to invest our potential and reap the dividends that it yields.
My own various life experiences have shaped the person I have become and proved beyond a shadow of doubt that I am responsible for creating my own happiness. As Abraham Lincoln so wisely observed, "Most folks are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be". Therefore, I acknowledge that every choice I make determines the outcome of my mission to live a purposeful and contented life.
We all need to understand and identify our individual purpose on this planet. The change the world and make a significant contribution to the societies and communities in which we live and operate, we need to commit to a goal this is bigger than ourselves.
Now is the time to begin. Yesterday has gone, tomorrow has yet to come, today provides an immediate opportunity to set things in motion.