I know you want to make a difference. I know you have something to say. I know you want to change the world.
You’re a product of the 21st century: the internet is your platform and those 542 Twitter followers are your audience. Being the driven, world-changer you are, you see it as your sacred duty to start, well, changing the world. Because it needs your help, and it needs it now.
But please, step back for a second. Sign out of Facebook, put down your megaphone, and let’s think this through.
What makes you think you have what it takes to change the world for the better?
Change is Hard
You’ve finished high school and are just now starting college. You think you’re at the top of the pack. You’re only 19, but your mind is older. And you’re not throwing away your shot.
I know all the arguments. Not too long ago, I made them myself.
But what do you actually know?
You’re struggling to keep a decent work-life balance. You can’t find time to exercise or eat a decent meal. You’re constantly forgetting to call your mom. And sleep? What’s that?
If you haven’t mastered bedtime, what makes you think you can master the complex social systems you so fervently wish to set right? And what makes you think your naive attempts won’t just make things worse?
You cannot change the world for the better until you’ve first changed yourself.
This isn’t a new concept. The point was hammered home over 2,000 years ago:
“How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” - Matthew 7:4-5
Good intentions aren’t enough for anyone. To make a lasting positive difference, we must gain the maturity and discipline to see with both eyes first.
So how can we start working on that plank?
Fortunately, taking the plank out of your own eye is simple. Unfortunately, it is not easy. (There’s a reason so few of us have actually accomplished this.)
According to psychologist, Jordan Peterson, changing yourself requires 2 straightforward actions you probably already know:
- Stop doing what you know you shouldn’t be doing
- Start doing what you know you should be doing
Sounds hard, doesn’t it? It is. But I challenge you to take this seriously, and to start now, because your college years are absolutely the best time to put your life in order.
Young adulthood is a gift. You’re finally old enough to make your own decisions, but you’re young enough to experiment without life-shattering consequences. You have lots of room to try because you have lots of room to fail.
It will be hard. You’re not always going to want to do what it takes to care for yourself. You’re not always going to want to stop doing what you know is hurting you. But building this kind of discipline over yourself is the only way to develop the skills and perspective you need to change the world for the better.
And—believe it or not—you are up to the task.
…Then Change the World
Let’s say you go for it. You put down your wide-reaching social mission (for a short time) and start putting your life in order.
You speak to your friends and family with truth and love. You shoulder as much responsibility as you can, both at work and at home. You dedicate yourself to your studies and to truly understanding the mysteries around you. You aim yourself at the highest good you can imagine.
By doing this day after day, you may notice you’re not the only thing that’s changing.
Your family life and relationships grow stronger. Your boss recognizes your hard work. Your fellow employees are inspired to follow your example. And the world around you seems to have a little bit less suffering in it.
Because of you. That’s how you start changing the world.
And who knows, maybe in a few years when you reach for your banner again you’ll realize you’ve already changed the world, and you didn’t even notice.
A former student counselor and Unbound student, Abigail is passionate about empowering others to achieve their goals. When she’s not dreaming with her friends, you can find her reading or singing Broadway songs. Loudly.Read more by Abigail