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Moving Boxes

Are you working on changes that matter?

  • 02 December 2013
  • Posted by Marcella Bremer

Are you moving boxes around? Several authors on leadership and change pose this important question in Leadership and Change magazine #2. Are we working on changes that matter? Do we make a difference as change-makers, leaders, consultants, HR professionals, or coaches?

Your answer depends on the perspective you choose. 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. The others may have felt discouraged, sad and helpless by watching the images of suffering - there’s not much we can do from our end but donate money - though the cynics among us question whether donations will be spent rightly.
Some of us may have 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”.

Particle or Wave?

Did we make any difference to the Philippines? It all boils down to what you choose to see. It is your focus that creates reality. Just like in physics: light behaves either as a particle or a wave, depeding on your focus. The same counts for how you view change: 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 feel condemned to the Sisyphus labor of moving boxes around.

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. Every drop in the ocean reflects the whole. Even when you move deck chairs, you may eventually help to save this ship from sinking.

Change is non-linear

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. 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 can’t rescue the Philippines - I sent them my love and some money. I used to want to save the world and I exhausted myself - feeling discouraged by only pouring drops 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 Hippie? You can label it any way you like. The choice to see how “I matter” has proven an empowering belief for me. It fuels inspiration and energy instead of discouragement and cynicism. It feels better right away - and I spread better vibes - that attract others who I can work with. It allows me to spread positivism along with down-to-earth techniques of coping with change, getting to know yourself and others better, building trust, practicing dialogue, learning and innovation. I help myself and others to develop more awareness of ourselves, of others and of the larger whole. One person at a time. One team at a time. One insight at a time, one small action each busy day...

Multiply that spark

Every CEO, team member or employee who goes home with the feeling that they matter, who have discovered something interesting, or felt they belong to a group, who were able to speak their mind, or experienced how you can be safe even when you disagree - every one of them takes a precious spark of love and kindness back home. It will spread to communities and families. It will feel good. And when you feel good, you are empowered. You get access to your best ideas and energy and your unique potential. (When you feel bad this access is limited!) When you feel good, you tend to be more generous and considerate. It’s hard to care for Planet Earth if you suffer from scarcity and fear and feeling powerless. But if you feel good, you tend toward feelings of abundance and empathy (even when you’re not rich in a material way) and you might consider the whole before you do something. You may start to avoid wasting resources, stop eating chicken from the bio industry, avoid snapping at your cowokers - because it not only feels better but you get more done if you create a kind, considerate mindset that fuels connections and creativity.

In my humble opinion, “even” when you “only” 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 influence the whole by who you are and the way you multiply that spark!

That’s how I contribute to the whole from my circle of influence. I help develop the workers, the workplace and the world, right from where I am. And you? What is the focus you choose?

More Content in issue #2 of Leadership & Change magazine:

  • Marcella Bremer interviews author Steve Sisgold on how to benefit from what your body is telling you!
  • Tanveer Naseer interviews Guy Kawasaki about his book Enchant
  • What happened at the Berlin Change Days - by Luc Galoppin
  • How to lead your peers when you have been promoted - by David Dye
  • Appreciate Inquiry applied to a real case - by Jeremy Scrivens
  • How to handle “undiscussables” in your workplace culture - by Terri Kruzan
  • How to lead an organization to profitability - by Mark Hamade
  • The five Yoga Niamas: how do you treat yourself? - by Margo Boster
  • Transformational leadership - by Terrence Seamon
  • Plus events and resources about innovation and the brain, vulnerability, how to respond to violence, going into “Monk Mode” and the indispensable Technology Shabbat - by Tiffany Shlain!

Subscribe today!

Marcella Bremer

is the co-founder of OCAI online, a change consultant and author on change, culture and leadership. She also is the editor of Leadership & Change Magazine.