“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Gandhi

I love the brilliance of this quote – but I think it’s starting to backfire. Rather than motivating folks to do good and be good, as I’m sure Gandhi intended, I’m afraid it’s actually paralyzing some people.

I can’t believe how many conversations I’ve had lately with people who feel stuck and stressed out about making their mark, serving others in a “big” way and creating a lasting legacy. They all have lists {in their hearts, in their heads, sometimes on paper} of the changes they’d like to see in the world. But the enormity of each problem weighs them down rather than inspiring them to act. And the pressure of doing something big keeps them from starting small.

When Gandhi urged us all to BE the change, he didn’t mean you – or any one person – should take sole responsibility for solving a giant world problem. I believe he wanted us each to help create a better world by being our most authentic, joyful, centered selves.

We are so much more powerful when we dream and create from a place of joy than from a sense of desperation. I think back to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the heroic stories of everyday Americans who felt pulled to that area, able to help others by doing what they loved, whether rescuing animals or tutoring displaced kids. I think of the phenomenal life coaches and healers I know who derive such joy and fulfillment from the work they do, inspiring change and growth in others. I think of my favorite teachers and how clear it was that, deep down, they loved their work.

Last night, at a pro hockey game, we had the most delightful conversation with a woman who sold us hot dogs. I wasn’t particularly thrilled to be there {I’m not a hockey fan} and Ryder was annoyed that we had to stop at several booths to get all the snacks we needed. But when we got to the hot dog stand, our attitudes changed. The woman who helped us was bubbling over with joy and it was contagious. She asked Ryder about his favorite players, applauded him for his good manners, gleefully told us how much she adores the team, and took care to make sure our order was perfect. She made such an impression on Ryder that he wanted to go back and see her before we left the game!

By making her corner of that great big stadium a happier place, that concession stand worker has managed to be the change she wants to see in the world. Will she make the evening news or receive a gold medal for her kindness? Probably not – and that’s okay.

The mark you leave on the world does not need to be seen by the whole world.

So, put down your long list of problems to solve and just do something you love. Soon, you’ll notice how it magically impacts others. When you’re happy, you feel capable. When you feel capable, you feel empowered. When you feel empowered, you create change in a purposeful, passionate, joyful way. That’s what I think Gandhi wanted all of us to do.