March 29 – Being the change I want to see.

“We must become the change we wish to see in the world.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

When it comes to wanting change in the world, most people are very good at expecting someone else to change to make it happen. Even I am guilty many times of saying “Those people over there should do something different”. But Gandhi is telling me that if I want to see change in the world, I must be the one who changes. I must become that change. If I want to see more kindness, I need to be kinder. If I want to see more personal accountability, I must be more accountable. If I want to see a cleaner landscape, I must be cleaner.

Change in the world doesn’t come all at once, and it can’t really be legislated. Change takes time, and it takes leadership.

Some years back I took classes at work on Organizational Change Management. They were designed to help us understand why IT solutions that were developed weren’t always successfully implemented. What I found in these classes is that people are very resistant to change. Once someone is ingrained into a way of doing things, even if you show them a better way, they will resist. You can put the best IT solution in front of someone for their job, but if their 10 year habit is to write out things by hand, they will find a way to print the form and write on it.

To overcome this resistance takes a lot of planning, and finding leaders within the group who can influence change. Those leaders become early adopters, and show people the value of changing. The change can happen, but it takes people being the change first to show others the way in order to be successful.

An example from my personal life is bottled water. In this country we drink a gigantic amount of packaged, bottled water. Most of the time that water is nothing more than tap water that someone ran through a filter and put in a plastic bottle. The environmental impact of this is great. It takes crude oil and a lot of energy to make the disposable water bottle, and a great deal of water is used in the manufacturing and packaging process. Once people are done with the bottles, they usually toss them in the trash, and they end up in landfill. Recycling the bottles is a partial solution, but doesn’t address the issues from the manufacturing.

I can sit and complain all I want about bottled water use, but if I continue to drink bottled water, then I am no better than anyone else. A few years ago I decided that I would no longer drink bottled water, unless there was really not a choice. I bought myself and my wife new, reusable water bottles. We have several each, and we use them whenever we can. When we camp, we take with us a 10 gallon jug of water so that there is no excuse to be had about using bottled water because the well water tastes bad. When we go on long car trips, we pack one or two of our own water bottles to use until we get to another tap. When we had graduation parties, we supplied the 10 gallon jug for our guests who wished to drink water.

There are some circumstances where we cannot use our own water bottles. Airplane trips and many sporting events will not allow you to bring in your own water. Because we wish to stay hydrated, we will sometimes have to succumb to the use of a packaged bottle of water.

The change I want to see is that we will stop using bottled water as a replacement for tap water. I want to live in a world where the country that has some of the best drinking water in the world uses that water wisely. I want to live in a world where we don’t needlessly send to landfill a bottle created just because we couldn’t be bothered to go to the tap.

This isn’t a huge change in my world, but it is a change. I want as much as anyone to have a cleaner planet, and to take care of the precious resources we have. As Gandhi suggests, I had to make myself the change I wanted to see.

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