7 Little Changes that will Ignite Big Changes in Your Daily Life

It seems like a daunting question.

What can I, as an individual, do in my day-to-day life to ignite change?

Where do I even start?

[Read: Why One Word Can Change Your Entire Year]

We can start with advice directly from someone whose lifetime of igniting change started with one of the biggest sparks of all. Elizabeth “Rabia” Roberts responded to Dr Martin Luther King’s call to join the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, some 50 years ago, and she has been igniting change ever since, doing peacekeeping work around the world, from Nicaragua to Thailand and beyond.

I interviewed Roberts on the subject of “bearing witness,” a peaceful technique that she learned from Dr. King and has been putting into practice since she was 19 years old. Bearing witness is one of the most subtle, yet most powerful, ways to make a difference. Roberts offers these seven steps for how to bear witness, every day of your life:

[Read: 5 Reasons Why 6-Week Goals Are Better]

  1. Don’t worry about solving the problem. We have a tendency to think that we have to come up with the one big thing that’s going to reverse it all. We stop ourselves because we become overwhelmed. Ask yourself: What do I love? What do I care deeply about? Pick something that pulls at your soul, whether it’s a large global issue such as battered women or a local one like the dirty playground in your neighborhood.
  1. Start small. Go out into your town and start talking to people you don’t know – on street corners, in coffee shops. Ask them, Can I take this seat for a minute? Ask them questions with an open heart. We believe everyone wants their privacy, but many of us are dying for someone to say to us, How are you doing? What matters most to you now? We’re lonely people. Get out from your desk, away from your television.

[Related: 7 Key Traits to Becoming a Game Changer]

  1. Go where the suffering is. Healing is an intimate act. We can’t do it from afar. We need to go where the pain is, and then we can know what our role can be. Take any step to engage, as opposed to just thinking about it. The first thing you will notice is that you feel better. We are happier when we engage life. This is human work, face to face. It sounds hard. We have to leave our comfort zone. But it’s harder in the mind than when you actually do it.
  1. Bear witness. In other words, listen. Hard. We bear witness when we put our opinions aside for a while and listen and question without judgment. We teach speaking and leadership and presentation, but there’s very little that’s taught on deep listening, and how to listen to someone in a way that affects things. When someone has their story really heard, something has loosened up and there’s room for change. Once we feel we’re really heard, we’re holding our story less tightly.
  1. Let fear happen. Fear naturally arises in this process, sometimes at the very beginning when you immediately think, I can’t do that, or this is impossible. Fear arises from the unknown. It isn’t a matter of overcoming it. It’s a matter of walking with it. Our species and our ancestors didn’t. We have them at our back. They’re part of our courage.

[Read: Can You Complete This Sentence: ‘I’m the One Who…’?]

  1. Listen to people you disagree with. It will take a long time. People, communities or corporations don’t change because you’re hollering at them. If there’s any hope for change to happen, it’s going to come from being in some kind of dialogue, from entering into their life situation, asking deeper questions and listening for the points of connection. Depending on the depth of the problem, this can take a long time.
  1. Work within a community. Find a way that you can connect with a larger group of people, like a church or a Rotary Club. That’s when you have some leverage, because then you become a community of intention. That’s the thing we need most right now. You can’t feel very satisfied or that you’re accomplishing much on your own. We’re meant to work in teams and communities.

[Read Maria’s latest essay The Power of Words]


{Image credit: Gratisography}

About the Author

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Cathy Huyghe is a Harvard-trained journalist and advocate with a particular interest in women, peacekeeping, development, and areas of conflict. She is a skilled facilitator, networker, mentor, and leader. She listens much more than she talks, and she thinks more than she reacts. Cathy has been a featured speaker, teacher, and presenter to organizations around the world, and her work has appeared in print and online, in outlets such as Forbes.com, The Atlantic, BBC, DailyBeast, GlobalPost, Washington Post, and the Boston Globe. Her broadcast experience includes WGBH (Boston), Georgia Public Broadcasting (Atlanta) and WNYC (New York). She earned two master’s degrees from Harvard, and she is a contributing writer at Forbes.com on the business and politics of the wine industry. She is the wine columnist for Food52.com, and she has cooked in world-renown restaurants from Paris to Las Vegas to Berkeley, California. She is also a certified teacher of yoga.Visit her website and connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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