“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
– E.M. Forster, as quoted in ‘The Well-Balanced World Changer’
I finished a book last night that took me a few months to read – not because I’m a slow reader (although I am) or that my life is too busy (again, guilty) but because I needed to spend time reflecting on each and every chapter. And I went back and read some chapters a second time. As I said this morning on Facebook, the book is filled with encouragement, insight and wisdom – so much so that I not only read some chapters twice but I highlighted lots of passages. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.
The book – The Well-Balanced World Changer: A Field Guide for Staying Sane while Doing Good by Sarah Cunningham (see links below) – is broken into 10 sections, with several short chapters in each. Every single chapter had something profound to say to me. The author was speaking my language.
To say that the book is strictly about “changing the world” is to do it an injustice. For me, it’s more about changing myself from within, of aligning myself with God’s purposes in the world. After all, to make a better world you have to start with yourself.
The author’s words of wisdom resonate on so many levels. She talks about relationships, motivations, disillusionment (a good thing!), compassion, commitment, vision, juggling stuff, setting priorities, being vulnerable, being confident, taking risks, making lemonade out of lemons (she tells a story about a professor applying to colleges who sent out his resume with a typo: War and Peach). About perseverance, putting criticism in perspective, figuring out what matters (“If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were worrying about one year ago.” – E. Joseph Cossman) – too many topics to name here.
Each section and each chapter starts with an inspirational or thought-provoking quote. The author found some really awesome quotes – with ideas I’ve been trying to incorporate as I work on gaining confidence in my writing (and other areas of life). Like this one:
“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” – Bill Cosby
“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” – Robin Williams
And these two:
“Here is a test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” – Richard Bach
“It’s always too early to quit.” – Norman Vincent Peale
Yes, yes, YES!
These are the section titles, followed by the opening quotes:
- Worth & Success. “The world has not seen what God will do through one man who is totally yielded to God” (D.L. Moody).
- Health & Balance. “Every great dream begins with a dreamer” (Harriet Tubman).
- Peace & Perseverance. “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world” (Robin Williams).
- Risk & Control. “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world” (Archimedes).
- Alignment & Relationships. “You realize you can’t change the world but it shouldn’t stop you from trying” (Kevin Johnson).
- Plans & Priorities. “It is more rewarding to watch money change the world than watch it accumulate” (Gloria Steinem).
- Passion & Identity. “I wanted to change the world but I have found the only thing one can be sure of is changing oneself” (Aldous Huxley).
- Desires & Frustrations. “Anger is like gasoline. If you spray it around and somebody lights a match, you’ve got an inferno. But if we can put our anger inside an engine it can drive us forward” (Scilla Elworthy).
- Faith & Expectations. “Our generation does not want its epitaph to read, ‘We kept charity overhead low.’ We want it to read that we changed the world” (Dan Pallotta).
- Humility & Perspective. “A neighbor is a far better and cheaper alternative to government services” (Jennifer Pahlka).
Those section titles alone won’t make you want to rush out and buy the book – they’re a bit prosaic. But the chapters’ contents flesh out the ideas in such a way that you’ll want to keep reading once you start.
This book, plus a sermon my pastor preached in late January, prompted me to get off my duff and enroll in a certification program to become a wellness coach. That sermon sealed the deal for me. It was the day I realized that all my “research and prayer” about whether to do it had reached fruition. That I needed to “paint or get off the ladder,” as my former pastor would say. So I enrolled in the program the next day.
I take my last online course this Tuesday, and in three weeks Bruce and I will head to Colorado, where I’ll finish my training on-site. After that, a final exam and I’ll be one step closer to my version of changing the world.
As I told my co-worker last week, at 51 I’m in the second half of my life. I don’t want to waste any time on things that aren’t of eternal significance. The field is ripe for the harvest. Slowly but surely, I’m being transformed into what I hope is a useful servant in God’s kingdom work – His mission for us as Christ followers.
Good preaching by my pastor plus the excellent book The Well-Balanced World Changer are helping me be bold, have confidence in my dreams and in my almighty God, and work toward my life’s purpose.
If you are similarly called (and I believe we all are), read this book. I purchased the Amazon Kindle version for $8.09, but you can order hard copies starting at $6.84 at Amazon.com or an ebook for $7.99 at Christianbook.com.