So Change It! Eight Steps to Making a Difference, Beginning Where You Are

by Andy Wood on February 5, 2010

in Enlarging Your Capacity, Executing Your Plan, Exploring the Possibilities, Five LV Laws, Leadership, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Principle of Increase, Principle of Legacy

I want to take you to a place where, frankly, we aren’t invited.  For just a minute, let’s be one of “those” people we often gripe about – those rubberneckers on the highway, who seem fascinated with somebody else’s messes.  

In this case, we’re creeping up to a closed bedroom door, where on the other side, we can hear muffled sobs. 

A man’s sobs.

A few days ago, somebody from home had rocked his world.  The news was bad, and every ounce of optimism he once had was crushed.

You should have been here yesterday.  He was really blubbering then.  And he will be again tomorrow.  Fasting, too.  And praying.  Lots of praying. 

But as he cries and prays and cries and fasts and cries some more, something happens.  Most people in grief situations come to a place of acceptance.  This man – Nehemiah – went to a place of opportunity instead.  While others were living with embarrassment and humiliation, he was living with a vision and an emerging plan.

Nehemiah became a change agent.  And so can you.

The Bible’s Language for Change Agents

Life is a dance with change, where the music gets faster and faster as we go.  And to be honest, most of the time we’re running to keep up with it – and we’re usually responding to somebody else’s initiative.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the next time somebody was trumpeting ch-ch-ch-changes, that somebody was you?  And it was actually a change you not only could appreciate, but one you helped make happen? 

The people we admire most, whether in history or in scripture, had one thing in common:  they changed something, or influenced change somehow.  Here’s how one Bible writer described it:

Through faith they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength in weakness, became mighty in battle, put foreign armies to flight, and women received back their dead raised to life (Hebrews 11:33-35, NET).

In studying some of the most effective change agents I know or have learned about, let me share eight lessons I have learned from them.  Regardless of your experience, gifts, or personality, anyone can apply these ideas to make a difference in your world: 

1.  Look for the gaps.  

Constantly survey the difference – the gap – between “what is” and “what should be.”  What’s missing?  Where is the need?  Countless organizations have been formed, laws have been passed, lives have been impacted, or relationships strengthened because somebody noticed something missing.

2.  See the gaps as opportunities.

There is no shortage of people in the world who can identify the problems – just go to your local McDonalds or small-town coffee shop at about 9:30 in the morning.  You can get – or give – an earful.  But nobody ever solved a problem by just talking about it.  Change agents see gaps as opportunities for something better.

3.  See yourself as the bridge builder between what is and what could be.

You’re headed for a big disappointment if you assume the change that needs to happen is somebody else’s problem to solve.  Or worse, that you are incapable of doing anything about it.  The very fact that you see the need is a big fat hint that you are at least one of the bridge builders. 

4.  Establish a clear vision for meaningful change.

It’s here – with vision – that your mind crosses the gap and imagines an ideal future.  What is your ideal view of the problem solved?  How detailed can you make that view?  Write it down.  Nehemiah had that wall around Jerusalem so clearly pictured, he knew exactly what kind of building materials to ask for when he made the trip.  THAT is vision.

5.  Enlist the help of others by sharing your vision with them.

Our most meaningful dreams are much too large for us to accomplish alone.  This is no time to be a Lone Ranger!  Begin identifying a personal “dream team” – a collection of solution people who have similar vision, but different skills.  Communicate your vision early and often.  Specifically, clearly, ask for their help.

6.  Go first!  Be an example of the change you want to influence.

Everybody is somebody’s leader.  And every change agent starts as an example of the change they want to influence – or the change never happens.  You must model the role, Mister President, Senator Whoever, Mister CEO, Miss Sunday School Leader.  You must be the example, the first to volunteer, or influence others out of the overflow your own drive or passion.  Otherwise, you’re just a preacher(!) or a whiner.

7.  Take action.  Do something – anything – to get started.

I believe in planning.  But I have seen countless plans that were never executed (which makes the time and effort planning a huge waste).  Here’s a thought:  start moving – just a little – in the direction of your vision.  Make the call.  Host the meeting.  Start the conversation.  Make the reservation.  Schedule the event.  Something!  You can always adjust and plan in more detail as you go.

8.  Strive for excellence.  Don’t settle for mediocre, but don’t demand perfect, either. 

In whatever solutions you apply, have a standard of excellence somewhere this side of “perfect.”  Don’t be paralyzed by the pursuit of perfection.  But don’t “mail in” your efforts, either.  Look for ways to improve (new gaps).  Welcome constructive feedback.  Be teachable.  But celebrate also the success you enjoy.

I have seen this process establish churches, launch annual meetings or conferences, even change the public smoking regulations in our city (launched by a teenage girl).  I have seen mentors and coaches use them to transform or influence individuals or organizations.   They can work for you as well. 

Change is going to happen.  Why not be the reason it does?

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