Change agents. We see them everywhere: they’re the ones heading the annual food drive; lobbying the school board to get soda machines out of the lunch room; hosting family reunions; making the holiday office party more fun; and actually attending city council meetings. They identify opportunities for change and act on them-- instead of just talking about it or waiting for someone else to take the lead. We admire them for their energy and courage, and we may feel a bit uncomfortable in their midst, privately asking ourselves, “Could I do that?” and “Would I want to?”
The business world has known for decades how vital change agents are- without them, they’d soon go out of business. But it isn’t just organizations that benefit. Being a change agent can be the equivalent of winning the personal growth lottery. Making a difference is life-changing when it’s done in a way that feeds and delights you.

Rob Brezsny, author of Pronoia is the Antidote for Paranoia (a truly wonderful book) says, “Everything I do has to be of service to other people and totally exciting for me.” If you think change is something you should do, or even worse, as a way to push your own agenda, you’re sunk before you’ve even begun. Instead, focus on the thrill of creating momentum behind something you care about (organic school lunches, family game night); strengthening your ability to make things happen (versus being a passive by-stander or victim); encouraging the talents of others; engaging in a process that deepens your knowledge of yourself (many an initiative has become a path to a renewed sense of life purpose or new career); solving problems at the source, rather than constantly addressing emergencies; and improving the quality of your life by living by what you most treasure.

Consider the following tools as pointing out instructions to being a sustainable, joy-fed change agent.

Transcend Yourself

To be the change you want to see in the world first you have to see what is possible. For Rob Brezsny it means “banishing my biases, what I think I know about a given situation, and finding a way to be receptive to delight, surprise, and unexpected information.” Robert E. Quinn, a professor at University of Michigan, tells a powerful story along these lines in his book Change the World: How Ordinary People Can Accomplish Extraordinary Things. A mother tried everything to help her eight-year-old daughter Erin to be a better student--even though Erin fought her. The mother spent hours with her, tried to be cheerful, encouraging, and supportive. The situation continued to worsen until the mother attended a support group and, through examining her motives and beliefs, realized she had been deceiving herself. She secretly wished Erin were more like her older daughter, a natural student and high achiever. “I was outwardly encouraging but inwardly distrusting her. Erin felt that message from me.” When mom became more authentically supportive and loving, Erin responded by becoming a good student. “When we alter our scripts, we, like the acorn, initiate a new pattern of being, a pattern of high potential,” Quinn notes.

Ask yourself these questions and see if any new possibilities open:
Why do I want to create change? How will you benefit? How will others benefit? Try writing a letter to yourself from your future self... what will be different?

Would I work for this change even if it failed or the outcome took a different course? If your outcome is the only acceptable one, that’s usually a sign you’re pushing a particular agenda.
How will the change I imagine support my values? Think of values as shorthand for what you most care about. Freedom, integrity, creativity, justice and kindness are examples.

What are the facts in this situation versus my opinion? Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On the left, list your internal conversation about the issue at hand –your private dialogue of complaints, opinions, and objections. On the right side, identify a fact for each left–hand column remark. Look for the simple provable truth. You probably won’t find a fact for all your internal remarks– this reveals where the facts stop and your interpretations take over. Your interpretations are where how you see the situation may be blocking change- like Erin’s mother.

Embrace Not Knowing

Committing to change does not mean you have all the answers. In fact, it requires the willingness to be willing to declare, “I don’t know what to do and I know we need to try something different.” It means being willing to hang out in the unknown, even when you are terrified, to question and listen, instead of jumping into action. The higher the stakes, the more pressure there is to know. Just try saying, “I don’t know” in a meeting when the budget is already blown or when a family member is seriously ill and you’re discussing treatment options. That’s where courage and listening to your heart become precious supports.
Try taking three easy breaths and asking yourself, “What do I need to learn?” and then being willing to listen to what arises in you. Try asking engaging questions of those around you, rather than furnishing quick answers. Good questions empower others to gather information and brainstorm solutions.

Deep Commitments

Change agents are creative souls who make deep commitments the cornerstones of their approach. They recognize, as intuitive and author of Trust Your Vibes, Sonia Choquette does, that “a change agent is someone who is naturally aligned with her spirit and the desire to take any situation and create with it to make it better.” Being creative involves bringing your specific genius to the challenge at hand by making a deep commitment to break free from what isn’t creative, what isn’t bold, what isn’t life affirming (when we aren’t learning, we aren’t living). A deep commitment could be taking the kids for a long weekend because you want to make a deeper commitment to being a parent or it could look like having lunch catered during morning meetings that run long because you want to make a deeper commitment to a healthy workplace.

To find your deep commitment, reflect every night before bed for one week about where or when you were a hypocrite during your day. Ouch, you may ask, why would I do that? Because it will reveal where you are currently short changing the person you want to be. We all prefer to ignore uncomfortable feelings yet it’s precisely those uncomfortable feelings that signal a gorgeous opportunity for accelerated learning. By reflecting on where that squishy, I-don’t-want-look-too-closely feeling showed up during the day, and doing it over a short span of time, you’ll see the pattern of what you most care about. Sonia believes, “We all feel resistance to getting into motion but we forget that resistance as soon as we are on the other side and we embrace the new experience.”

Cultivate Talent

You don’t have to be all things to all people in order to affect change—after all, your goal isn’t to gather glory but to make a difference for the good of all concerned. Think of this as a magnificent opportunity to encourage the talents of others. You may be the one who sees what’s not working yet someone else might be better equipped to shift the situation. We all love to be recognized for our gifts. We adore when someone says, “I’ve watched you with the girls on the team and the way you were able to help improve without making them feel bad was amazing. I wondered if you might help me with a similar situation I’m facing at the senior center?”

Look around- people who can help make your dreams a reality surround you. Become an observer, a talent spy. When you see a talent that would help your cause, be specific about the gift you recognize in him or her, and what you are asking for. Skip this tool entirely if you can’t be authentic– false flattery is toxic and hard on everyone’s souls.

21st Century Transformation

Science and spirituality tell us we are all connected and the daily news certainly makes it clear the myriad ways that connection can unfold, so perhaps being a change agent is posed to become one of our most transformative 21st century spiritual practices. Instead of retreating to meditate in a cave, we’ll learn to “become more consciousness, more loving, more alert, more gifting,” as spiritual guide and author of The Translucent Revolution Arjuna Ardagh says, in community. We will evolve and transcend through making life better. Change agenting has all the hallmarks of an authentic spiritual path: focus on transcending the self; serving the larger whole; learning to be comfortable in the unknown; committing to what you most care about; nurturing your precious energy; and cultivating the brilliance of those who surround you.

Who knows what might happen if we all embraced change- mass enlightenment?

Author's Bio: 

Jennifer Louden is a best-selling author of five books, including her classic, The Woman's Comfort Book, and her newest, Comfort Secrets for Busy Women. She's also a creativity and life coach, creator of the Inner Organizer, and a columnist for Body + Soul Magazine. She leads retreats on self-care and creativity around the country. Hear her live on Martha Stewart Living Radio, Sirius Channel 112 every Sunday at 8 am Pacific, 11 am Eastern. Visit her world at: and