Be the change you want to see in the world

photo of Gwen Randall-Young

by Gwen Randall-Young

The title above is a quote that is often mis-attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. But it is only a paraphrased, shorthand version of his actual quote and, as such, it gets his message across. But there is much more to understand about this concept.Here is his actual quote: “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”

If we choose to be the change we want to see in the world, what would that look like? It would mean that we focus on our own thoughts, beliefs and behaviours rather than on what others are doing. We would stop judging others and instead of complaining about others, we would practice self-reflection. We would realize the only thing in the world over which we have any control is ourselves.

Gandhi goes on to say that changing our nature is the source of our happiness. This is powerful because most have a codependent relationship with the events in their world. Codependency is a psychological term, which means excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner.

I have co-opted the term and used it to define the ego’s dependency on things happening according to what it wants and being unhappy when it does not.

So, when everything works out the way we want it to, we are happy. If not, we may feel shortchanged by the world, victimized and even depressed. When our plan does not work, ego goes into a place of criticism, judgement and blaming others for our state of mind.

Ironically, it is a version of “what you see is what you get.” If we view the world and our lives negatively, our experiences will be negative. If we focus on our own growth and development and become the opposite of all we dislike in the world, we produce our own happiness and equanimity. Equanimity is defined as “mental calmness, composure and evenness of temper, especially in difficult situations.”

It is our own polarized thinking, judgement and reactiveness that makes equanimity impossible. It is not others who stir our internal pot; rather, it is our ego reactions. Ego takes everything personally and sees things only from its own perspective.

We have political systems that are based on criticism. And more often than not, it is the individual who is criticized, not just their policy. Politics is the outside manifestation of ego qualities writ large. However, you can go into any office, classroom or neighbourhood and see the same thing. It is also present in personal relationships. Hence, the world is mirroring the ego dynamics of individuals.

If we, as individuals, change our inner dynamics, we may well see that same change manifesting in the world. That is what Gandhi was saying and this is the only way to create real change.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. To read more articles or to order books, “Deep Powerful Change” hypnosis MP3s or MP3s for Creating Effective Relationships, visit or check out her Facebook inspirational page.

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