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What Is Your Motivation for Being a Change Agent?


Wed Apr 27 2016

What Is Your Motivation for Being a Change Agent?

Many members of ATD see themselves as change agents. I find it interesting that many of these people are frustrated by the environment in which they are trying to create change. One definition of a change agent is a person who causes a change in the way things are done or the way ideas are viewed. But perhaps we need to add a word to the definition: tries. A change agent is a person who tries to cause a change. We often find little success and great frustration, and this leads to a question. Why try? 

Let’s consider the environment in which we are trying to effect change. We work in systems. The place in which you are trying to create change is a system. Whether it is your body, your family, your civic organization, or your company, you are working within a system, and systems don’t change easily. 


As an analogy, consider a rubber band. What happens if you pull it? It follows the direction of the pull and regains its shape. If you pull too hard, it resists you until it snaps or breaks. If you want the rubber band to be shaped as a triangle, you will have to construct some support that will create an ongoing tension. If you remove the support, the rubber band will return to the shape of a circle. When dealing with systems, all sorts of positive behaviors can fail to bring about the intended results, and may even create unexpected and complex problems. 

There are four main themes that contribute to how we and others think about the world around us. These topics help define the culture of the system within which we are operating. Understanding how you compare with others in these areas may provide insight as to why you are struggling to create change. 

1. Experience

We have shared and differing experiences that shape our identities. One shared experience most of us have is 9/11. But each of us has separate experiences in childhood that have a strong influence on our identities.

2. Awareness

We have differing levels of awareness of varying topics. Simply the awareness of how your actions affect others, and how their actions affect you, changes how you think. Another more concrete example is how your individual educational path sets you apart from your peers. Mutual training in Myers-Briggs profiles creates a common increased awareness.

3. Interaction

We are constantly interact with one another, and with other groups of people. We share work activities and social media. But we may belong to different professional organizations from our peers. We interact with different people on Facebook than we do on Twitter or LinkedIn.


4. Desire

We share corporate values, yet we all have different personal values. Significantly, your desire to create change probably sets you apart from many of your peers. And this leads me back to the question: Why try?

What is motivating you to create change? You might say you want to make things better. But in a world of systems, it can be a difficult, frustrating, relentless effort. So I challenge you to shift your mindset. Try to make change because it is simply the right thing to do. If you see yourself as a change agent, then trying to make change is the only way you can be true to yourself. And when you do it for that reason, you can go home at night proud of the effort you’ve made, whether or not you can see the results.

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