To burn bright you need to be a fire.

How to be an effective changemaker

I see a changemaker as someone who shines with a light that ignites the dry tinder of our disillusioned spirits. But being a changemaker is difficult, taxing and a drain on the individual. Too many engaged activists burn out because of the resistance of the status quo or inattention to the three pillars of stability.


A fire transforms. And a fire needs oxygen. In the case of being a change agent, oxygen is the spiritual freedom of mind to imagine a new future, the path forward and the willingness to forge new connections and networks. When your mind and spirit are occupied with worry and uncertainty, a fire can’t be nourished.

Darwin married his first cousin Emma at the age of 29 because he thought it was time to enter into a stable relationship. They continued to live in the same house for the rest of their lives, Down House. Despite their considerable religious differences( Darwin proceeded to shatter the foundations of the Christian worldview, Emma was very religious) they openly discussed the implications of Darwin’s work on the transmutation of species with mutual benefit.

The safety and trust of his relationship and family gave him the energy to proceed writing, researching and validate his ideas until they were ready for publication (and in between, procrastinating for 8 years studying barnacles).


A fire also needs something to burn. For an activist, this means to have the resources to devote time to the subject to be changed.
It’s all well and good to have a raging tempest inside of you if you are too poor to buy a train ticket to the protest or take the time off for the workshop. You can’t be an effective change agent if you lack the means.

Winston Churchill was constantly expanding his resource base by scoring deals with newspapers and publishers to gain from his travels, adventures and political experiences. Because his lifestyle demanded increasing income he always made sure to find avenues for earning a living. He knew that only with his financial prospects secure could he devote his time to politics and shaping public opinion. To have to worry about surviving and getting something to eat doesn’t allow you to worry about the future.


A good fire also needs time to develop. The main resource of our economy is trust. We trust that our client pays our invoice. We trust that the drivers on the road are not going to run into us. We trust that our subcontractors fulfill their part of the project and deliver the parts on time. Building trust takes time.

Unlimited flexibility is the enemy of trust as moving takes time and exposes us to constantly new networks of people, established relationships between players and preconceptions how things ought to be run. For these structures to change, an insight needs to be developed, trust and reliance needs to be built. A stable home is therefore essential to the resourceful activist as it frees energy and time to worry about how to spread influence and analyse the situation that needs changing. It also allows enough time for networks to develop and ideas to spread.


Therefore, contrary to intuition, internal stability is the changemakers best friend. In order to lift you need stable ground to stand on. This is why it is so important to first work on stabilising your life before engaging to change the world. Not all of these factors need to be fully working before the changemaker can start.

When something is brewing and you start down the path of action, opportunities open up, helping hands arrive. You need to be open and ready to engage and take risks and the rest will be provided. That way there is more spark left to actually ignite your own fire. And once you burn, you can ignite the fire in others that are ready to shine bright.

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