Berlin. It’s April 11th, 1968 when Rudi Dutschke was riding his bike to the Socialist German Student Union house. While crossing the street, a man passes him and asks him if he is Rudi Dutschke. Rudi says yes. The man holds up his gun and shoots Rudi three times.
Rudi Dutschke was the most prominent spokesperson of the German student movement of the 1960s. He advocated a “long march through the institutions of power”. He wanted to create radical change in government and society by becoming an integral part of the machinery.
Berlin. April 2017. A girl from Iran had to flee the country. She moves to Lebanon. She is an artist. A philosopher. An activist. She has long, colored blond hair. She is tall and wears tank tops and short skirts. She is threatened, followed, kidnapped for her ideas. She has to flee again and lived with us. No end of story yet.
Listening to her story makes me realise: We are quiet. We don’t start revolutions. We don’t disobey the law. We don’t endanger us.
Instead of trying to change institutions, we start somewhere else.
Instead of moral sanctions, we want something else.
The way we try to change the world changed.
We want to create a world where everyone and everything flourishes.
In a way, we are still like Rudi Dutschke. We have an idea about how things could be different and we want to do something about it.
But we understand that the world is complex. Systems are complex. So complex, that we can’t grab it. That we feel powerless by the idea of starting somewhere.
Instead of starting somewhere, we start with us.
We can’t change the whole world. But we can change our world.
We can’t stop Monsanto, but we can buy at a local, organic farmer.
We can’t solve the refugee crises, but we can help a few to get a job.
We can’t make every employer pay a fair price, but we can make fair trade buying decisions.
We believe what Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. We believe that if we can’t make the change in our own lives, change won’t happen.
“If an egg is broken from the outside, life ends. If it is broken from the inside, life begins.” someone
A new time has come that changes the way we approach change. The risk we are taking, and the blame we get for it, is that we are not effective. That change doesn’t happen in our living room. That one person is not going to make it work.
So how do we oppose these contradictions. Fair enough, they seem valid and they can make us doubt if change from within is the right approach.
So here are six strategies to make your approach work.
- Take responsibility: When you start with yourself, you automatically accept that you are also the cause of the trouble. Take this responsibility with you wherever you go. Always think that you are the one causing problems and think about what you can do to change it. That’s called consistency.
- Believe that you can make a difference: If you don’t believe it, how are others supposed to. Create a ripple. First, you believe that you can do it. Then your mum does. Then your best friend. From there it spreads.“Our world view – our beliefs and theories, our maps, our metaphors, our myths, our interpretive assumptions – constellates our outer reality, shaping and working the world’s malleable potentials in a thousand ways of subtly reciprocal interaction. World views create worlds.“ Richard Tarnas
- Show what you do: Starting with the outside had one advantage: It was visible. Starting with yourself and your inside doesn’t show others what you are doing. If you want to be effective, talk about it. Make it public. It’s never been easier than it is today. Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Snapchat. Choose your favourite.
- Collaboration not Competition: The old mantra tells us that we compete with each other. “Survival of the fittest” is the mantra we are used to following. But this is history. Nothing can be achieved if we don’t collaborate. Collaboration is key. Not just to make change happen, but also to have a good life. Studies show, that the most important aspect defining a good life is other people. So stop competing and start collaborating.
- Don’t suffer: Suffering is not going to bring success. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable sometimes. It means that if you suffer too much to take it, it’s not going to bring long term success. You are not going to make much of a difference if you are burned out. So whatever it is you do to change the world, only put as much in as you can. You help nobody doing otherwise.
- Don’t give up: You will doubt yourself. You will feel powerless. You will want to give up sometimes. Don’t.“Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.” Jack Ma
Some last thoughts
You can create a world where everyone and everything flourishes. Starting from within is one way to create that change. Nonetheless, changing institutions “from the outside” is nothing to disappear. Both approaches have their validity. Gandhi was a proof of concept that change from within can be a first step. If his ideas are still valid in today’s times is to be shown.
Call to Action
Let’s prove him right.