Global change starts at home
‘If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.’
I saw this quote from Mother Theresa on a wall a few weeks ago. Since then, the quote has gnawed away at me. Why? I keep asking myself. The current state of the world is well documented, everyone I speak to wishes they could do more, and at the same time is lost about how to, so we tend to give up. But that does not sit so well with us, we want to help, to make things better. We are here to co-operate, that is what sets us apart from other animals. Does this quote give us an opening, a direction where we could channel our time and energy?
To me, what sits at the heart of this idea is that our greatest impact starts at a very local, personal level. This seems very at odds with the modern definition of success in a global world. One of the products of technology has been a widening of our unit of reference and outlook from our home and community to the entire planet. We feel that we aren’t really having an impact unless we are helping a large number of people. It is this idea that I find so disempowering, that somehow being local is not enough.
Mother Theresa took a different view. The quote came from an interview in 1972 after she had won the Noble Peace prize. She was asked, “what can we do to promote world peace?” Her answer was the quote above. She went on to say, “Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbour… let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
I take a broad view of “home” and “family”. For some, this will mean a nuclear family under the same roof, for others home may be a number of safe and welcoming places, and family may be a group or tribe that is not dictated by biology. What is clear to me though is that changing the world starts with those closest to you. Imagine building a skyscraper. The foundations are critical and take months or years during which time visible progress on the site is limited.
It is only when the foundations are solid and in place that the building can rapidly rise from the ground. Your family are these foundations. With your time and love, your family can go out into the world alongside you and bring about real change. You have multiplied your impact. Life starts and ends at home; not at work.
Whilst most of us have an inner knowledge that we need to be more present at home or in our community, life gets in the way. Work, travel, health, friends; all seem to make demands of us that trump the quieter requests from home. This does not always need to be a radical overhaul. I have seen clients and friends make major improvements to their relationships and impact on the world by adding a small amount of space and time at home. Perhaps once or twice a week.
How then do we love? What do we do with this extra time we have created at home? And how do we make better use of the time we have already? It starts with connecting. Connecting means putting down your phone as you come into the house, it means turning your face and body towards the person you are talking to, taking a genuine interest in how they are and what is on their mind. Connecting means anticipating and understanding others’ needs, often when they are not aware of these needs themselves. This may be when all you want to do is come home and collapse. But if your day and your work colleagues have had the best of you, how can you change the world when you go home?
As you reflect where you spend your time and energy, remember that global success without local success is no success.
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