There are a lot of people who want to make a difference in the world. However, many get frustrated because they don’t know what it takes.
After more than a decade of teaching people around the world how to do it, I’ve developed this list of what everyone needs to have in order to make a difference. They are grounded in my experience, pulled from a variety of research and proven by the fires of social change over the decades. These capacities make the difference between those who talk about successfully changing the world and those who actually succeed.
I call these items capacities because they provide definition to our vessel in life. They determine what we can do, who we can be, and where we are. Each of us is absolutely limitless in our capacities. If it helps you understand them better, think of this as a list of traits, skills, dispositions and abilities.
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Capacities to Change the World
Personal Capacity #1: Change Management
Change management is a capacity to change the world because it focuses on being able to identify, secure, use, sustain, and restore resources during times of change. People who change the world successfully move people, leadership, and constituents through transitions and times of change.
Personal Capacity #2: Humility
People who change the world possess humility. We develop and maintain a modest view of our own importance in public and personal perspectives regarding our efforts. Despite all the things we may have accomplished in the past, there will always be challenges ahead. No matter what happens, we want to always respectful towards everyone. We love to celebrate our successes, but not in an arrogant or boastful way. We believe in a quiet confidence because in the long run our character will speak for itself. We strive for humility.
Personal Capacity #3: Collaboration & Teamwork
Changing the world requires being able to foster, facilitate and sustain collaboration and teamwork. We build and sustain the necessary group and cross-group cohesion and operations needed to maintain success.
Personal Capacity #4: Learner Mind
People who change the world to S-T-R-E-T-C-H ourselves both personally and professionally. We see the differences between being stuck in a rut and moving through a groove. We know everyone, including me, has more potential than we ever realize. We work to constantly unlock that potential, both in myself and the people we work with. We will never “get it right,” and that’s a reality we gladly accept. The only way we can solve new problems that arise is by learning and growing myself to meet them head-on. We are learning.
Personal Capacity #5: Conflict Management
Being able to guide, direct, manage, and otherwise navigate conflict in powerful ways is a key capacity of people who change the world. We identify and successfully navigate conflicts and problems from an operational, day-to-day perspective.
Personal Capacity #6: Openness
People who change the world are open books. Our availability and vulnerability can lead to creating strong relationships built on trust and courage. We can use these strong relationships to accomplish so much more than we can otherwise. It’s not easy getting there! We strive to always act with integrity, be compassionate and loyal, and try to be a good listener. At the end of the day it’s not what we say or do, but how we make people feel that matters the most. We care about others, both personally and professionally. Peeling away the layers, we work to be open.
Personal Capacity #7: Passion
To change the world, we must have passion. What keeps us going? It’s passion for engaging people. We’re inspired because we believe in what we are doing and where we’re going – even when we don’t know where that is! We don’t take “that’ll never work” for an answer. A lot of people tell me that the Engagement Revolution will never happen; imagine if we had listened to them so far! We have positive and optimistic attitudes because we have open eyes and are inspired by everyone around us. We are passionate.
Personal Capacity #8: Decision-Making
Being able to make decisions is a key capacity to change the world. We discern how, when, where, and why to make decisions, and how to help others make decisions, both on a micro- and meta-level scale.
Personal Capacity #9: Community
People who change the world build community, not just colleagues. We serve children, youth, adults, and organizations by removing obstacles and enabling people to succeed on their own terms. The best decisions and ideas are made by people who take action, and we want to foster action among people. We collaborate with people and organizations to address the challenges in their worlds. Beyond that, we watch out for our community and care for others. We work together and play together with our community because our bonds go beyond the typical consultant/coach/trainer/speaker relationship. We work to build community.
Personal Capacity #10: Diversity & Cultural Competency
Understanding our own diversity and being competent of others’ cultures is a necessary capacity to change the world. We acknowledge, embrace, and enable all sorts of differences as powerful motivators and assets.
Personal Capacity #11: Amazement
People who change the world seek amazement in this work, and we seek to amaze others when it happens. To amaze, we differentiate myself by doing things in an unconventional and innovative way. We go above and beyond the average level of action to create an emotional impact on people and organizations and to give them a positive story they can take with them the rest of their lives. We seek to amaze.
Personal Capacity #12: Coaching
Coaching others is essential in times when confusion, uncertainty, and apathy seem endemic to the world. People who change the world guide, transition, and mentor others through their daily professional and personal challenges without attempting to teach or lead them. Coaching doesn’t mean we know the answers or have solved the problems; it means we can help others find the answers for themselves.
Personal Capacity #13: Boldness
Changing the world requires that we are bold and try not to be reckless. We aren’t afraid to make mistakes because that’s one way we learn. We take appropriate risks and we encourage others to take risks too, and we use risks to make better decisions. We believe gut feelings, and we know everyone can develop gut feelings about decisions as long as they are open to new ideas and can allow failure to happen.
Personal Capacity #14: Motivating & Empowering
Motivating and empowering others is a necessary capacity for people who are striving to change the world. We constantly seek to engage others in consistent, substantive, and sustainable ways that are motivating, empowering and sustainable.
Personal Capacity #15: Drivenness
Having a sense of purpose, fostering our passion, and knowing we’re powerful beyond our own belief is the key to drivenness, and if we’re going to change the world we must have this capacity. We constantly change and embrace it with open arms. We never accept status quo and I’m always thinking of ways to change processes, perspectives, and opinions, hopefully for the better. Without change, we can’t continue to be useful to myself or other people. We are driven.
Personal Capacity #16: Personal & Professional Goals
Personal and professional goals are absolutely essential for changing the world. If we’re going to insist, persist, empower and engage others to achieving, we must foster this sense within ourselves as much as possible. When we’re working to change the world, we recognize our own goals and their relevance to our position, as well as help others do the same.
Personal Capacity #17: Open-Heartedness
Changing the world requires open-heartedness. Help is a key word for us. We offer it and ask for it often. Often, we can’t do everything required in a project, so in a large part, part of our livelihood is helping others do their projects successfully. We are not expected to know all the answers, but we know where we can go to ﬁnd them, and we share that with others. We help myself help others.
Personal Capacity #18: Knowledge Management
Knowledge management is a key to changing the world. Using diverse ways of identifying, developing, sharing, and effectively using the knowledge of communities, we work to expand the knowledge of individuals and organizations. We must harness our own capacities in order to increase others’ capacities, and in order to do that we must manage our own knowledge.
Personal Capacity #19: Humor
Changing the world requires a sense of humor. We have to know it’s good to laugh at ourselves frequently and to see the levity in every moment, especially the heaviest ones. Living shouldn’t be drudgery or toil. We have fun and can be goofy even when there’s work to get done, and we get lots done. Being a little goofy requires being a little innovative, and we are always looking for a chance to fully engage in life by bringing out the fun and goofy side of it.
Personal Capacity #20: Problem-Solving
People who want to change the world must have problem-solving capacities. We effectively, consistently and realistically identify, address, critique, and re-imagine challenges. Working in groups, we empower others to solve problems in creative, appropriate, and powerful ways that make the world a better place for everyone.
Personal Capacity #21: Action Orientation
If you want to change the world, you avoid the risk of not trying and the regret of wishing we had done something. When we were young, we knew that it would be far more haunting to live with the regret of having not followed our instincts than to have followed our gut and failed. We have lived in action and done risky things. We see our ideas when we have them and make note of them. That’s why we always have a notepad. If we think an idea is compelling, we go after it. We live life only once, and we all die too soon. We always try. We take action.
Personal Capacity #22: Training & Facilitation
People who are working to change the world have the capacity to train and facilitate others. We successfully identify and meet the needs of people through group training and individual learning. Understanding that facilitation is neither easy or inherent, we consciously work to improve our skills and build our abilities to teach, facilitate, foster and improve ourselves and other people.
Personal Capacity #23: Simplicity
Changing the world requires simplicity, and more and more we realize the power of simplicity – even in complexity. Since we are in the business of ideas in action, we want to share them as effectively as we can in our complex world. We do that by being simple. It takes more mental space for me to create something simple or communicate something complicated in basic terms, but ultimately, that’s what people want. We don’t need to explain everything the first time around. WE need to facilitate the best tailored learning experience ourselves and our organization or community. We always need to break down knowledge into easily digestible, clear statements and actions. We work hard for simplicity.
Personal Capacity #24: Verbal & Written Communication
People who want to change the world have verbal and written communication skills. We engage people with words and language in effective, empowering and meaningful ways that reflect their own hopes and desires, and we strive to make the ways we communicate even better all of the time, whether online or in print.
Personal Capacity #25: Release
In order to change the world we have to release everything we do when it’s done, and just let it go. Instead of trying to figure it out, we just let it be and accept that it is what it is, nothing more or less. It doesn’t determine our worth, others don’t validate our choices, and our contributions never go unnoticed, even if it seems like it. We release what we do when it’s done.
Personal Capacity #26: Personal Engagement
Changing the world requires personal engagement. We foster our own connection to the actions you’re taking, maintain that connection, and sustain the relevance of the work you’re doing throughout our own life, as well as help others do the same. Find the meaning of everything we do, everywhere we do it is the power and possibility of changing the world.
Personal Capacity #27: Focus
People who are changing the world work to transform the lives of youth, no matter what I’m doing. We do not look for fame or fortune, and we reject greed and deceit. Instead, we constantly look for opportunities to serve others, and we share our energy and efforts as often as we can. We see the ripple effect in everything we do, not just the flashy or huge things. If we don’t see the ripples, we trust the waves work. We know every action in our lives sets off an entire cascade of responses whose overall impact is huge, and we know this is true for others, too. We are focused.
Personal Capacity #28: Compassion
Changing the world requires compassion. We develop our ability to establish and foster empathy with people and places outside of our own personal or professional sphere. When we are compassionate we accept, understand, or at least hear the perspectives and possibilities of everyone, everywhere, all of the time.
Personal Capacity #29: Listening
People who change the world know how to listen. We speak by listening. Instead of rushing to come up with a quick reaction to what someone has said or done, we listen to them. When the time is right, we respond with knowledge. When we were younger, we assumed that the world was more interested in us than we were in it, so we spent most of our time talking. We were generally under-informed, we shared whatever we thought, we tried to be clever, and we thought about what we were going to say instead of listening to what someone else was saying to me. We have learned to slow ourselves down and engage rather than debate. We take time to really listen to what people say, and we try to learn from everything we hear. We listen to people.
Personal Capacity #30: Systems Thinking
Understanding both informal and formal systems is an important capacity for people who change the world. We see how small things that seem separated can create big things through complicated interactions. We understand that systems are multifaceted and show clear, understandable and meaningful ways to make change.
Personal Capacity #31: Facilitation
People who are changing the world know how to facilitate. We provide appropriate support to learners. We do not train people, because we don’t do tricks or routine work. Instead, we adapt and contrast, modify and transform. We encourage learners through questions and activities that build confidence, stretch understanding, and foster engagement in learning. We facilitate learning.
Personal Capacity #32: Deliberation
Changing the world requires patience, strategy, and consideration for others in the personal capacity we call deliberation. We regularly stop to check our intentions and affirm our actions, so that what I’m doing actually reflects who we are. If I’m not aware of why we do what we do, we are disconnected from what matters to me. If I’m disconnected, I’m ineffective. Staying aware of our intentions and being deliberate allows me to guide our work with purpose, and challenge myself when its time. We are deliberate.
Personal Capacity #33: Challenge
Challenge is a key capacity in changing the world. When a we get too attached to the way things are, we lose the the greatest freedom of all: the freedom to fail. Without feeling like a failure, we don’t have to assume that a slight misstep is a deep plunge into the abyss. Instead, we step forward to challenges and see them each as an opportunity to innovate using a smart idea or strategic thinking. When I’m stepping up to challenges, we accept that failure is going to happen while I’m growing. Ultimately, we won’t become a better person because of how we respond to success, but instead, what we do with failure. We accept the challenge.
The entire list of capacities for changing the world includes: Change Management; Humility; Collaboration & Teamwork; Conflict Management; Decision-Making; Diversity & Cultural Competency; Coaching; Motivating & Empowering; Personal & Professional Goal Development; Knowledge Management; Problem-Solving; Training & Facilitation; Verbal & Written Communication/Public Presentation; Personal Engagement; Compassion; Systems Thinking; Challenge; Focused; Deliberate; Facilitate; Release; Listen; Simple; Action; Help; Amaze; Driven; Funny; Bold; Learning; Openness; Community; Passion; and Humility.
Respond below and let me know what you think!
If you’re really interested in these capacities, send me a message for my free one-page self-assessment tool. I also provide training and coaching in each of these capacities for groups and individuals.