The Challenge of Change: The Power of Role Models

Change is difficult, even when something isn’t working. For most of us, we go along and go along, doing the same thing we’ve always done until we literally cannot continue because the pain or the barriers are too great. We change because we are forced to change.

But some people have the ability to change without the pain of outside pressure. They are the visionaries who want to create something better. They are the pioneers who want the challenge or who see some change effort as a game (I’m thinking of those engineers out there). The environmental movement and the sustainability movement have a lot of these people. By writing and speaking, they inspire all of us.

But if we aren’t visionaries or pioneers ourselves, how do we actually change now, before it becomes painful, before it’s too late?

I believe that nothing is more valuable to a change effort than having role models — someone you know or see in your community or at your church. Someone who does things in a different way and by doing so, provides an example of how you, too, could be different.

I can think of a few people whose examples opened up a new way of thinking for me:

  • An ex-boyfriend who used the waste water (gray water) from his washing machine to flush toilets. Same guy used biodegradable soap so he could use his dishwater to water plants. (Thanks Peter)
  • My ex-husband canned tomatoes. That’s where I learned how to can. (Thanks Tom)
  • A friend from church who is a recycling extremist šŸ™‚ We often ask ourselves “What would Joe do?” He’s who we aspire to be.
  • A church friend who is a dumpster diver (artist) who helped me break down my barriers to recovering materials from a dumpster (Thanks Laura)
  • A neighbor who buys her food in bulk and keeps it in glass jars. It’s quite pretty. (Thanks, Nikki, for teaching me about the coop.)
  • People who attend the monthly Longfellow Sustainability Group have been role models for me — along with our former roommate Dave — for biking. I bike a lot more now.

None of these people set out to be my role models. They just became one because they were willing to be visible, approachable and engaged. You, too, are a role model, even if only to your immediate family. But your reach could be much bigger. In fact, you could change the world if you would:

  • Talk publicly, especially when asked šŸ™‚
  • Act visibly – do things outdoors or invite people over to share the experience of doing things.
  • Share what you know! If someone asks you about something you do, offer to teach them how to do it, to let them help you the next time you do it, or to help them do it on their own.

Many of us think we have to be perfect before we can be a role model for others. YOU DON’T. Just be you, doing the best you can. Leave it up to the other person to take from you the lessons that he or she wants or needs to learn.

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