I’ve been going through a bit of a slump with my journey to get to zero waste. I haven’t gone backwards, I just haven’t gone forwards much since I recently concentrated on swapping to a zero waste lunch at work. Reflecting on that, and other transformation work I’ve done professionally, has made me think about what it takes to be a change maker. My zero waste journey is about changing my own habits but the same characteristics apply to any change. Other bigger changes in personal life, transforming a team or a whole societal movement, need many more people to be motivated to change, which can be a long, hard road with many (most?) aspects of it out of your direct control. So what does it take to be the catalyst for that, for persuading yourself or others to change in small or big ways?
You need to love the thing you’re doing and be super motivated about what you’re trying to achieve. There’s going to be some tough times and you need that connection with your goal to keep you going
Those tough times mean you need to be resilient. To be able to keep going despite the set backs and the disappointments. To bounce back and remain as motivated as you were to start with, if not more. That means being positive and engaging with people in a positive way too. It’s a lot harder to get people to connect with you if you’re miserable and ground-down by all the set-backs!
Whatever the change, to truly embed it is likely to take a long time so you need to be persistent. Both through the tough times and the good ones, past the first successes until the change you want has become the new status quo. Keeping going for the long-haul to change the world for the better, whatever that is.
To be curious, to learn from others, change your thoughts and ideas all in service of meeting your goal. Thinking you know everything at the outset is unlikely to work. Your goal can be fixed (although that might change too) but how to get there will change as you learn, meet new people, find out what works and what doesn’t.
Finally, you need to be able to connect with others. Change rarely comes about through one person and needs others to come with you. Even my zero waste journey, which largely requires me changing my habits, does also need acceptance from the rest of the household and is a lot easier if they change their habits too. But it’s not just about connecting with others to influence them, it’s also about connecting with others to give you support. Finding other like minded people who are trying to do similar things, who can share their learnings, ideas and be a rock when you’re going through one of the tough times.
I realised that it’s similar to what Angela Duckworth has found about what makes people successful in every field she’s looked in. You need ‘grit’
Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goalsAngela Duckworth
She also talks about a growth mindset helping to build grit, because once you appreciate that the brain keeps learning and isn’t static, that helps with perseverance in the face of failure.
Do I have grit?! I do when I pick the right things! My mum instilled in me the benefit of persevering with what I’m doing, committing to it and not giving up and I have carried that with me over the years (sometimes too much and it’s taken me way too long to give up things, which I didn’t enjoy but that’s another story). And I’m definitely passionate about zero waste. I hate throwing things away, I hate the impact on nature and once I started looking at the waste I create, I couldn’t un-see it. I do think these things have helped me keep going on the journey, it feels inconceivable to stop, although I go through some slumps like I am now.
It some ways it seems remarkably simple – work hard, for a long time at something you’re passionate about and you’ll make change happen.