You Are the Catalyst for Change


Article by John Maxwell

Photography by Provided

If someone were to ask you, “What gets you out of bed in the morning?” how would you reply? Would you talk about your job or your family? Would you tell them about a dream you’re chasing or a goal you’re trying to meet?

What we give our lives to says a lot about who we are. For 40 years now, I’ve gotten out of bed in the morning with one single focus: adding value to leaders who will multiply value to others. 

Because of that focus, I’ve authored over 80 books on relationships, equipping people, attitude, and leadership, all with the purpose of expanding my reach to add value to leaders.

Four decades, dedicated to making better leaders. But now, as I enter into my fifth decade, my purpose has expanded. I still get of bed with the goal of adding value to leaders who will multiply value to others, but there’s an even greater purpose behind it all.

Transformation. I want to see our world transformed into one where every human being is encouraged and allowed to live to their full potential. Imagine what it would be like to live in a world where everyone—men, women, children—were equipped and empowered to live a life of deep purpose. We would truly see a transformed world.

That’s the message of my latest book, Change Your World: How Anyone, Anywhere Can Make a Difference. I’ve spent decades learning what it takes to transform communities and countries, and with my writing partner, Rob Hoskins, have produced a book that offers step by step instruction on how leaders—people who care to make a difference—can produce transformation in their own backyard.

It’s a book written for everyone—including you. You are a potential catalyst for change in your community, no matter where you live, no matter what you do. All it takes is your willingness to step up as a leader. Harriet Tubman once said, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars and change the world.”

If you dream of changing your community, or city, or country, you must not only dream, you must also act. Many things in life just happen, but positive change isn’t one of them. Changing anything in our world requires someone to be the catalyst.

Someone like you.

Leaders like you become catalysts for change when they do three things: pick a problem to address, invite others to join them, and do what they can where they are. 

1. Pick a Problem to Address

A leader can never become a catalyst until he or she first takes ownership of the problem they wish to solve. You cannot rally people to a cause that you aren’t willing to own, especially these days; people know when a leader is being half-hearted, and they don’t respect it. When you pick a problem to solve or a cause to rally around, you must have conviction in order to succeed.

Over the years, I’ve learned that whenever I feel a sense of conviction about an issue, I need to start moving in the direction I believe I should go, even if I’m uncertain. Action creates ownership, and ownership creates credibility with people. And you need that credibility because transformation cannot be done by one person alone—we all need people to join us on the journey.

2. Invite Others to Join You

When you’ve settled on the problem you want to tackle you should immediately begin looking for others to join you. In the book, Rob and I recommend starting with friends and family; you already have influence with them, and chances are you’re of like mind in many areas. Go to those family members who frequently ask you for advice or seek your opinion on personal matters, as you likely have greater influence with them.

To move beyond family, however, you’ll need to take a leap of faith and begin sharing your passion for solving the problem with other people. Passion attracts, and when people come to you with interest, don’t be afraid to ask them what they think or invite them to improve your ideas. Empowering people to help you creates a bond, and once that bond is established, you will quickly discover who you can truly work with and invite them to take action with you.

3. Do What You Can Where You Are

Action is the final step. It doesn’t have to be big or grand; it doesn’t even have to be guaranteed of success. Nothing happens in life until someone does something, and once you take your first step, the next step will come into focus. Remember that transformation is a process, not an event. It takes time and repeated action to bring about positive change. So focus on purpose, not perfection, and do what you know to do.

These three steps may seem too simple, but I assure you they work. The goal of all transformational movements is making things better however possible. Incremental change is better than the status quo; and when you’re truly committed to making your community a better place, you know that any improvement is a significant improvement.

If you’d like to learn more about transformation and how to become a leader of transformation, then I encourage you to pick up my book, Change Your World, from your favorite bookstore or online retailer. If you’re concerned about making the world a better place, then you know that now is the best time for leaders like us to make that dream a reality.

No matter what problems or challenges face your community, you are the catalyst for change that can make all the difference. But you must choose to get involved; transformation won’t choose you—you must choose transformation.

For the sake of your community and mine, I sincerely hope you do.

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