“The purpose of life is not to be happy— but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you have lived at all.”
Ah, spring. The time of graduations, commencement ceremonies, and speeches about changing the world. Along with the latest viral videos of commencement speeches by celebrities, we have a tremendous amount of advice about changing the world, amassed from the collective stores of the world’s religious figures, philosophers, and authors.
William James advised, “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy admonished, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Mother Teresa imparted, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Even Dr. Seuss prescribed, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
One of the books that has changed my life, as it has changed so many other lives, is Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People®. Covey’s second habit is, “Begin with the end in mind.” One of the questions Covey asks his readers to ponder is what they would want someone to say about them at their funeral. A sobering thought; it really puts things in perspective. Suddenly, a big house, a nice car, or even working late every night this week at the office trying to earn that big promotion doesn’t seem so important.
In an earlier blog, I asked if it was more important to be remembered as a great patriot for a single country competing in a world of constantly shifting geopolitical tides and kingdom turnover—or as a citizen of the planet with truly long-term global thinking. The glory of Rome is no more, but the planet goes on and on. You may be just graduating, or you may be at the stage of life where you are thinking more about eulogies, but the big question remains: Do you want to change the world for the better? If so, your next question is likely to be: How do I accomplish such a monumental task?
As our inaugural class of students at our first Ecotech Institute in Denver prepare for graduation, I am increasingly asking myself: “What are the biggest levers by which we can reach people and shift the course of the world?” I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I think it involves the following concepts:
- Systems thinking,
- Interdisciplinary/holistic (global, big picture, and “ecosystem”) education, and
- Psychology-based – that is, if the desired change doesn’t speak to us and motivate us, indeed, if it’s not “fun”—then it is unlikely to be sustainable behavior and thus destined to fail.
I plan to write more about these topics in future blogs, but in short, I believe that changing the planet begins with changing ourselves. Or, as Mahatma Gandhi declared, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” If you are pondering this question, then I hope you will join me in my own future explorations.
(Once again, I am indebted to QuoteGarden.com for their wonderful collection of verbal treasures.)
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
by Kyle Crider
Kyle is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ecotech Institute or Education Corporation of America. Email Kyle at firstname.lastname@example.org