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How to Inspire Change

By Audrey Seymour

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The "Occupy Wall Street" movement is especially interesting because it's not clear how things are going to turn out. The participants have drawn attention to an issue that impacts many, but will it lead to actual change or just add to the large-scale frustration being felt?

Several factors need to line up in order to generate lasting change.

The first step is to bring awareness to an issue.  

This could be a situation that is unjust, or a challenge that you're now ready to tackle. The Occupy movement has done a great job of bringing awareness to something that has been percolating in our subconscious  for a while. There are also examples where things we are completely unaware of get brought to our attention, such as the scandal with The Gap using child sweatshop labor.

In your own professional life, you may find that you continually avoid certain necessary activities like making followup calls to prospective clients. As you've probably noticed, just recognizing the problem does not by itself change anything.

So how do we move from awareness to the desired change?

The next step is to clearly articulate the ultimate outcome.  

In the Gap case, the optimal end state was fairly clear, to end the use of sweatshop labor. The company had to make the change immediately to not lose market share. But in the Occupy movement, what are the demonstrators aiming for? Without this information, there is not much possibility of changing anything at all.

For some, it may be easier to know what you don't want. But pushing away from what you don't want is a reactive movement that closes off your heart and your inner resources. It also is not enrolling for those you hope to change.

Imagine instead describing a beautiful vision of what you imagine. This direction fires up your own heart and enrolls others in shared purpose.

The step-by-step actions to get there are the final piece that locks in the result.

Once you understand exactly where you are now and where you want to be, it's simply a matter of bridging the gap into steps that are stages on the path.

The Occupy movement started to gain momentum when it asked everyone to move their money from large banks to credit unions. What a wonderful first step for those who agree with their message! To succeed, the Occupiers need to continue giving their audience specific actions they can take.

If making the five followup calls to prospective clients intimidates you, then simply start with committing to one call a day for the next week.

Think of a situation where you need to inspire change, either in yourself or in others. Which elements need more attention to increase your impact: greater awareness, clarity of outcome, or a step-by-step path to carry you there?

© 2011 Audrey Seymour. All rights reserved.