17 Ways to Change Your World

Don’t we all want to change the world?  At least in some form or fashion.

Global Warming and Pollution Concept - Sustainability (Elements of this image furnished by NASA)

Everybody I know wants to change at least something about this world we live in, if not a lot of somethings.

I often joke that if I ran the world it would be a far better place.  I am laughing, but part of me believes it.

And most folks I know believe that too.

Lord knows, the world needs fixing!

In the idealism of youth, we actually believe we can do this.  As in achieve it.  But it doesn’t take too many steps on this path of life before we see that, well, the world is a lot bigger than we are.

And while you truly can fight city hall, most of the change we can effect isn’t outside us.

All change for the better begins within.

So if I want to change my life, how do I begin?

  1.    Figure out what you want to change.  I know, this seems like a no-brainer, right?  But so often when I talk with young women, they tell me they want their lives to be better.  Which is great!  But the specifics then come quite vaguely.
  2.    Make a list.  Brainstorm.  Write down every single thing that comes into your head.
  3.    Prioritize that list.  Yep, not very sexy.  I mean, you’re wanting to save the whatever!  Not sit here making lists.  But focusing on the top 5 things you want to improve is crucial to how to change your life.
  4.    Take the first one and make a plan.  From beginning to end.  Whether it’s “getting in shape,” (you can start out in the vagaries, but getting to specifics is where the key lives) or learning Spanish, delineate the action steps to get you there.
  5.    Break these down into manageable steps.  The surest way to give up on a goal is to make the steps involved too large or broad and not reach them.  Reaching the first wrung on your ladder causes you to feel empowered, which then spurs you on to tackle the second one.
  6.    See where the holes in your knowledge, skill set, guidance are.  And there are always lots of holes.  Because you obviously don’t know what you don’t know, or you’d already have mastered the change.
  7.    Get help.  Whether it’s an online course, finding a mentor, talking to someone who has already achieved what you’re shooting for, help is out there.
  8.    Commit to the goal.  I know, another no-brainer, right?  And wouldn’t you think this one would’ve come earlier in the process?

The difference in commitment and desire, however, is huge.  You wouldn’t commit to a marriage with a person you didn’t know, would you?  The point being you need to know what you’re up against before going all-in.  And there is no shame whatsoever in wanting to achieve something, dissecting what it takes to get there, weighing the pros and cons, and then deciding to pursue a different goal.  That’s called maturity.

  1.    Once you do commit, once this is truly yours to do, inspiration surges.  Make sure you feel that.  If not, reexamine step 8.  Make sure you’re not a wee bit shy of your truth.  Inspiration is a great litmus test for if this thing is truly yours to do.  As Patanjali, the compiler of the Yoga Sutras, famously said:

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”

  1.    Pat yourself on the back.  Yeah, you.  You’re on a noble quest!  Acknowledge yourself for being on your path.  That will cause energy to surge some more.  Energy that you can surely use!
  2.    Don’t hesitate to change directions.  This isn’t about forsaking your goal at all, but rather, being flexible enough to turn a different way.  Unforeseen circumstances will surely arrive, and by being able to change the plan when called for, you’ll find a better way to the goal.

Because those dormant forces will be showing you another way.  Listen.  Watch. Revise.  The only shot in life is the next one.

As Zig Ziglar said, “When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal, you do not change your decision to get there.”

  1.    Realize that “failure” is just another way to not succeed.  It’s easy to get derailed or demoralized when you fall. But it isn’t the failure itself that stops most people, but the emotional valance we give it.  Are you really not good enough?  Or do you just need to practice more?  Did you fail because you’ll never get there?  Or because you didn’t know how to do the thing that felled you?

Because no one masters anything without doing some falling on the butt.  So expect and accept that that’s going to happen.  Then get up off the mat, see what you need to work on, and proceed again.

  1.    Know that a lot of the road will just be filled with slog.  We expect highs and lows, but most folks forget that so much of the battle is just waged in the trenches.  And those get muddy and boggy and long and slow, without much excitement.  It’s easy to question here.  “Nothing’s happening!”

Or is it?  Mastering difficult steps can often just be a process of doing them—over and over and over.

  1.    Plan out rewards along the way.  We need them. They inspire us, and we know all the fabulous things that come with inspiration 🙂  Stopping to celebrate how far you’ve come pays huge dividends.  And besides, you’re worth it.
  2.    Complain.  We hear so often, “Winners don’t complain!” And while as a way of living that’s pretty true, everyone has down times.  And if you stuff it, you’re not being honest with yourself.  Horrors!  Because we know what self-deception brings.

So, get it out.  Vent.  But set a time limit for this.  Take an hour (or a few) and wallow in the misery of it all (doesn’t even the thought of that bring a chuckle? But the harder you wallow, the ludicrousness of giving your power to perceived problems becomes quite apparent!).  Then get back on your path to success.

  1.    Reevaluate where you are.  Often.  What usually surprises people here is not how much they’ve failed, but how far they have come.  Wow—I learned that!  I accomplished this.  I’ve come a pretty good ways toward my goal.

Maybe here you need another celebration

  1.    Walk your spiritual path in conjunction with the one toward your goal.  This one is pervasive, and covers your entire road to success.

Whatever path you walk spiritually upon, be sure to stay with it.  This feeds your soul, which is of course the source of strength you’re drawing from.  Nothing un-grounds me quicker than being “too busy” to follow my spiritual path.  And nothing puts everything back into perspective like the peace that comes with doing so.

As Author Alice Walker says, “Teach yourself peace.  Pass it on.”

Which comes to the crux of all of this.  If I could change the world, I know I have to change myself first.  We are the change that we become.

So change yourself. And then go make the world a better place.

About the Author Susan Malone

Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.

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44 comments
Sabrina Quairoli says February 17, 2016

Powerful post, Susan! I love it. I was always told to make the change within of what I wanted the world to be. This quote comes to mind, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world. by Mahatma Gandhi I hope I taught my kids this same message.

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    Susan Malone says February 17, 2016

    Oh, I love that Ghandhi quote too, Sabrina! And I’d be willing to bet your kids go the message well 🙂

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Beth Niebuhr says February 17, 2016

So you don’t think we can change the world? Okay. We’d best focus on changing ourselves then. Baby steps. Patience. It’s so true that rewarding ourselves is worthwhile. I’m a big fan of mini vacations – the 20 minute variety. Read something. Listen to music. Dance to the music. Nice article.

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    Susan Malone says February 17, 2016

    I do think we can change the world, Beth 🙂 By changing ourselves! I love your mini-vacations idea! I’m incorporating that into my world, and my, what a difference it makes.

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Trish says February 17, 2016

Susan, your 17 ways to change our world is bang on! Maturity certainly does shine a light on our youthful ways of thinking. Your post kinda’ brings a giggle to mind, thinking of all the things I wanted to change way back when.

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    Susan Malone says February 17, 2016

    Ain’t it the truth, Trish! How we thought we’d change everything in youth 🙂

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Teresa says February 17, 2016

Love this article Susan! I was just thinking of this same topic over the weekend. 🙂 How we are here to make a bigger difference. I believe it is tied to our purpose and life journey. The thought of changing the world could sound daunting or overwhelming but really, it is following our passion regardless of how “BIG” it is. When we do so, we inspire and become the best version of ourselves. About our spiritual path. Just think if everyone did this? Yes, indeed it would change the world for the better.

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    Susan Malone says February 17, 2016

    I so agree, Teresa–following one’s own purpose benefits the whole world. And yes, so inspiring!

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GiGi Eats says February 17, 2016

I change my life for the better EVERY DAY!! I am always actively trying to improve anything that needs improvement! 🙂

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Rebecca Bryant says February 17, 2016

I agree by changing yourself we can change the world a little at a time. Great post and very inspiring.

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Roslyn Tanner Evans says February 17, 2016

I as looking forward to reading this post because I wanted to see what cause you were about to inspire us to pursue. And I was right. Ourselves. Why is it so hard for others to see that by ongoing growth & development we are changing the world. Our interactions with others does this. So who we are as HUMAN BEINGS in all that we do, makes a huge difference & changes the world.

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    Susan Malone says February 18, 2016

    You embody this, Roz. I see it in what you write, in the jewelry you make. Thank you for all that you do!

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Beverley Golden says February 17, 2016

Number 13 is my biggest challenge. As an “air” person, when I decide I want to do or change something, I am looking for the fastest way to “fly” there. The muck and mire of the process, or as you call it the “slog”, has never appealed to me and often weighs me down. My BIG changes would be animal rights, environmental rights and human rights, on a global scale. And of course on a personal level I am a stand for Peace. As you’ve so eloquently shared in your post Susan, the only way we can have any of these things in the world is if the collective “we” also is these things. Sometimes I feel the frustration and then come back to myself and continue to do my work and make my transformation and my changes from within. Often, this does not feel like enough though. There is so much to do to really change this world! Appreciate what you’ve shared in this post. Back to basics…back to myself.

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    Susan Malone says February 18, 2016

    This reminds me of an anecdote where the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh was speaking to a group about peace, and being heckled unmercifully. He abruptly left the stage–unusual behavior for him. When asked later why, he said he’d gotten angry. And he knew he couldn’t be effective when angry. That’s always stuck with me, about how when internal demons (even when, by god, my anger is justified! LOL) still rule, it hampers any outcome we’re trying to achieve. Even Thich Nhat Hanh!
    But you’re working diligently to change the world, Beverley–and I so appreciate what you do! You embody this Hanh quote in such a positive way:
    “Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.”

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Jovanhanna says February 17, 2016

This is great! I shared your link with the Alice Walker quote. She’s one of my favorites and that quote speaks volumes! Great post. I am all about positivity and personal growth.

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    Susan Malone says February 18, 2016

    I just love Alice Walker, Jovanhanna, and read this quote, well, I have no idea how long ago! It stuck with me all this time. Walker is wonderful at boiling truth down to the essence, no?

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Kristen Wilson says February 17, 2016

Girl.. yessss… I wish people would be nicer, play along well with others and just mindful of others. I know people are self absorbed and don’t care.. but I still have hope and still will act accordingly, and that is that I am still going to act mindful of others, period!

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    Susan Malone says February 18, 2016

    I wish people would play well with others too, Kristen. One of the goofy things I’ve found is that when I change my attitude toward people, their attitudes toward me change also. So by your being mindful of others, you’re already effecting a change!

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Nayrha says February 17, 2016

I’m currently working on number #3 and developing a road map to help me accomplish the things I have on my list. It’s a lot of work but I think it’s necessary and in the end it simplifies things! Great post. 🙂

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    Susan Malone says February 18, 2016

    Isn’t it funny how simple doesn’t translate to easy, Nayrha 🙂 But having that road map will get you there every time! Good for you!

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Meghan Monaghan says February 17, 2016

We all do have grand ideas, don’t we! It’s best to start with ourselves first. A little self inventory is very smart. And humbling. You’re right though, Susan. Without specifics, it’s just vague. Which means no real change happens. It’s inspiring to look back a year or two and see purposeful growth in yourself. Builds confidence! You mentioned a key point about being able to change directions. It’s maturity that helps a person admit their choice wasn’t the best, pivot and head in a new direction. Can be much worse to stay headstrong in something you know is crumbling. I know my “falling on the butt” experiences have taught me a whole lot about myself. Really appreciate your view of allowing yourself a time to vent. It is healthy to get it out and helps you move along.

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    Susan Malone says February 18, 2016

    All spot on, Meghan! Isn’t it funny how we think of that self inventory as being all about the negatives 🙂 But when we really look, wow, how far we’ve come! Which is so motivating. And aren’t we glad we took some of that “changing directions” maturity with us 🙂

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Sheila Bliss says February 18, 2016

Heck Susan, I’m a better person just reading your posts! Keep ’em coming!

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Jessica says February 18, 2016

Great post. I am a fellow list maker too!

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Anna @ shenANNAgans says February 18, 2016

I really needed to read this post today. The trenches are muddy and boggy and long and slow, and absolutely no excitement of late. Had a little vent, now back to my list to remind myself about the why. Really appreciate that you popped into my world. Thank you!

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    Susan Malone says February 19, 2016

    Sometimes life is just about the slog, Anna. No matter what quest you’re on. But just about the time you think that’s all it is, something springs up to give you another boost. Hang in there! And it’s good to vent now and then 🙂 Sending you sunshine.

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Deb Nelson says February 19, 2016

So many good points here, Susan, to keep us moving forward – in spite of the prospect of getting burned out by the slog. That’s my downfall – keeping things different enough from the day before so I don’t feel like I’ve fallen into groundhog day black hole. Love the tips of breaking things down into manageable steps and rewards. For me, asking for help is always key.

Glad you focused on changing ourselves a little bit every day – that’s how great goals are achieved all over the world.

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    Susan Malone says February 22, 2016

    Love “fallen into groundhog day black hole,” Deb! Great way to put that. And keeping things different enough each day is a wonderful tip–thank you!

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Joyce Hansen says February 19, 2016

This is a create list of points for personal change and transformation that we can introduce into our life without feeling overwhelmed or having to do it all at one time. It brings a smile to my face thinking how when we were young that it was our mission to change the World. Now, that I’m older I find myself adapting to a changing World.

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    Susan Malone says February 22, 2016

    I still chuckle at my younger self too, Joyce 🙂 Even though my preference would still be to change the world, these days I focus on those things I can change.

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Kimberly says February 19, 2016

I definitely need to bookmark this post for later. There are some things in life that I am wanting to change and many of your points are very insightful.

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Karen says February 19, 2016

Wonderful words of wisdom. Patting yourself on the back and giving yourself rewards is something people tend to forget, yet habits are rarely formed if their isn’t some type of reward or recognition for the behavior. Therefore planning those in is so critical to keep going. I just purchased some aromatherapy self care products as a reward for passing my midterm test through FDN. Felt so good and I will be ready to go forward next week.

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    Susan Malone says February 22, 2016

    Congrats on passing your midterms, Karen! And you go on the aromatherapy as reward!

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Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com says February 22, 2016

Hi Susan! What AWESOME advice for any of us on any given day. Doesn’t this just apply to creating and living fully out in every way? Just reading through your list is inspiring and uplifting for anything we want to do. I think my favorite though is #17 because no matter what we are doing and how we are contributing to the world, we must be the change we hope to see and I don’t know any better way that through living what I spiritually believe. Thank you for such good inspiration on a Monday morning! ~Kathy

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    Susan Malone says February 23, 2016

    You’re absolutely right, Kathy–this does apply to creating and living fully in every way! And I’m always awed by how you DO live what you spiritually believe. You’re an inspiration!

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Devin says February 23, 2016

Step 1 reminds me of someone close to me. She wants a better life, but the answer is vague so she never proceeds to step 2. “It’s too much work,” she says. I just hope that one day she gets to see the other side!
Great blog!

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Renee Groskreutz says February 24, 2016

This is such a great post. Lately, I have been needing to change my attitude. It has not been the best. Thanks for this!!!

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