An individual approach
Our journey begins with the individual person who has unique experiences, thoughts, and feelings. This uniqueness may sound obvious, but we sometimes take it for granted.
It’s easy to put people into categories when we’re pressed for time or have too many things going on. In a similar way, it’s easy to associate our actions and appearance with the ideals that we grew up with, learned in school, or see in commercials.
Because we’re starting from the individual person, this approach doesn’t employ categories or ideals which ignore the intrinsic uniqueness of individuals.
Enhances social change efforts
This vision complements and enhances efforts of social change. The focus on the individual extends the reach of social change.
While social change efforts address issues at the group and systems level, this vision focuses on the unique individual — where issues originate. The combination of groups and individuals provides a more holistic approach to addressing the social problems we experience today.
Social change through what we already know
At one level this vision is a shift of mindsets. It’s a new way of looking at ourselves and a new paradigm of how we interact within ourselves and the world around us.
At another level this vision simply reminds us of what we already know. It’s realizing that we are already at the place we want to be. We just have to act upon it.
This movement of reminding and realizing is small, yet it lays a foundation of social change.
Dissolves the source of racism and discrimination
Seeing our own unique selves helps us understand that categories and ideals don’t apply to humans.
This leads to social change because we no longer categorize individuals or idealize them. It dissolves the source of problems like racism and discrimination before those problems start.
Reduces the source of prejudice and hate crimes
When we realize that our authentic knowledge comes from within us, we understand that others have their own authentic knowledge. Each of us makes lasagna and mixes paints in our own unique way based on our own authentic knowledge.
Our uniqueness extends to our everyday lives. The way we live is different for each one of us, in part because of our own authentic knowledge.
This leads to social change because we no longer expect people to live the same way we do. It reduces problems like prejudice and hate crimes before those problems begin.
Lessens the source of gender and racial inequalities
When we understand that each of us is different, and act on that understanding, then we realize that each person’s way of living is different. Accepting our differences moves us toward treating each other with more respect and kindness.
This leads to social change because we no longer expect people to live the same way we do. It lessens the source of problems like gender and racial inequalities before those problems start.
Shifting toward practice is meaningful
Shifting the vision toward practice is more than an intriguing exercise. This practice has meaning for each one of us.
Let’s be smart about this shift toward practice.
The hardest part of any journey is the first step. Taking small steps can be simple and easy.
Let’s be understanding about this shift toward practice.
We can imagine this practice in different contexts, but it should fit within the space of efforts, projects, and people.
Let’s be empathic about this shift toward practice.
We should be empathic not just to the person next to us, but also to our own selves. We should remind ourselves that we’re not only here to help others in a chaotic world. We should remind ourselves that we’re also here to help the person inside of us. The person who seeks a world where all individuals are unique and valued, in a life that is important and meaningful.
Russell Suereth founded Pathways of Change to promote a social shift where each person’s uniqueness is respected and our daily lives are important and meaningful. His focus is how we can create real and lasting change at the intersection of individual and systems transformation. Russell is the author of the McGraw-Hill book Developing Natural Language Interfaces, the lead inventor on two United States patents, the creator and producer of award-winning music, and podcast creator, producer, and host. He is currently in the Critical and Creative Thinking program at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.
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Visit us at Pathways of Change to find out more about our vision of social change, where each person is unique and our everyday lives are important and meaningful.
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To me the important question is, what do we want to create as individuals of social change? The author Robert Fritz has an interesting view of creativity and realizing our vision.
“The inventiveness of the creative process does not come from generating alternatives, but from generating a path from the original concept of what you want to create to the final creation of it in reality” (Fritz, 1984, pp. 38-39).
This path and the activity of realizing is what I want to share with you. Please contact me directly through email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.
Fritz, R. (1984). The Path of Least Resistance: Learning to Become the Creative Force in Your Own Life. Random House Publishing Group.