Dear Dr. Rob: Can I Really Change the World?

By Dr. Rob Carpenter:


Many people believe that you have to possess extraordinary talent, resources, luck, or power to change the world. But this simply isn’t true.


If you study the history of those who have changed the world—in ways both small and large—you will see that most of them came from backgrounds where you could not have predicted that they would. Just think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Steve Jobs, and the like (all of them would not have been voted “most likely to succeed” by their high school classmates or been named to a “Top 30 under 30” list).


But despite this—that is, despite the prevailing notion that you have to come from an “elite” background to change the world—the reality is that you don’t. In fact, growing up and living a comfortable life may work against you if you think you are called to make a significant dent in the universe, because studies show that those with comfortable upbringings often don’t get opportunities to demonstrate the resilience they will need to bring about change. This is not true in the case of every well-off person, but it is more true than not.


Nevertheless, whether you grew up in the School of Hard Knocks or in the School of Privilege, you can change the world if you want to. And you can change it starting right now.


Here’s how:



Recognize that you can first change YOUR WORLD.

By understanding that change begins with you, you can start making decisions that will prepare yourself to be the most educated, enlightened, and forward-thinking person you can be. Changing the world will be of little use if you aren’t constantly changing yourself to be better so that you can serve the world as best you can.


Recognize that you can change the world of a FEW PEOPLE AROUND YOU.

When you think “small”— that is, when you think about how you can impact only one other person’s life or a handful of lives—you can begin to realize that changing the world is about helping improve individual lives (not just changing systems and structures). And when you realize that you can change 1 life and then 5 and then 100 and then possibly more, you can embrace the identity of the “change agent” that you are called to be.


Acknowledge that you can change the world WITHOUT GETTING PERMISSION TO.

Completely embracing the mindset that you don’t need permission from your friends or family or coworkers to change the world will liberate you from the pressure to just fit in and play it safe in life. When you see that nobody can tell you “NO”—and also that few will tell you “YES”—you will begin to see that nothing (and no one) can hold you back.


By embracing these things—by embracing this new mindset—you can start to change the world. Whether you change 1 life or 1 million—or even 1 billion—lives, all that matters is that you step into your calling and do the things you feel called to do.