Mother Teresa. Gandhi. Martin Luther King Jr.
These influential figures were born into the world, just like you and I.
Yet one thing that separates these and other inspirational people — those who have driven major positive change throughout history — is the belief that they CAN have an impact. That they WILL have an impact. That indefatigable belief ultimately allowed them to achieve their status as icons.
When we think about the accomplishments of our heroes, we forget the similarities between us and instead focus on our differences. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the idea of not achieving their level of influence.
But we also have to believe in our ability to have an impact, and we have to remember that every positive leap forward is rooted in one small step.
As Gandhi suggested, we can be the change we want to see in the world. We just have to break the process down into actionable steps. Here are some examples.
Start at the local level.
Contemplating the problems of the world can be cause for hyperventilation. How are we to tackle issues such as global warming or inequality? We’re only one person.
The best place to start is at the local level. Look at your community and identify the problems. What steps can you take to improve the conditions in your own neighborhood? That’s a much easier question to tackle.
It doesn’t have to be some grand or dramatic act. Consider starting a coat drive or creating a community garden — both as a fun activity for your neighborhood and as a natural source of food. Once endeavors like these take off, you’ll have a platform to effect bigger and bigger change.
Have some perspective.
We’ve all been guilty of being myopic in our worldview at some point. Yet having perspective is an integral piece of the puzzle of change.
We need to remember that our life experience is entirely unique. Living with that understanding is a step toward opening our minds to how things could be.
Often, perspective can best be achieved through education. We may not be able to understand foreign situations firsthand, but what we can do is learn how to better contextualize them. The more news we consume, the more books we read, the more people we talk to — it all makes it easier to see the big picture
It’s hard to change the world without knowing its history. Get all the information you can so you have the tools to get started.
Think before you speak.
Empathy. It’s a simple word, but it’s often absent from our communication with each other. It’s natural to be caught up in our own worries, but we have to learn to approach every one of our conversations with thoughtfulness and intention.
Empathy is like a muscle you have to exercise. The more you practice, the easier it becomes to exert. Soon, you’ll be tackling every interaction with empathy. You’ll keep the circumstances of the person in front of you in mind.
It may sound small, but leaving your neighbors with the feeling that they have been considered is a huge accomplishment.
Volunteer your time.
How was Mother Teresa able to touch so many lives?
She had so many positive attributes that inspired others, but at a base level, she gave them her time. She paid them some attention. She put aside her own needs and prioritized others. She put others before herself.
When we volunteer our time, we do the same. We are humbled when we help others, and while it may feel granular, it’s a great way to do our part to make the world a better place.
Try to see the good in people.
Giving people the benefit of the doubt can be hard, but it gets much easier when you look for the good in others. Everyone has light in them; you just have to take the time to seek it.
When you readjust how you approach others, it’s easier to believe that the world can be better. You will be inspired to do your part to be the change you want to see in the world.
When you join the Peace Corps, you are being the change you want to see in the world. It's the opportunity to make a positive impact in more than 60 countries. So what are you waiting for? See how you can help make the world a better place, one community at the time.