When we look out in the world we can see what I like to call inner and outer revolutionaries. Both are at one point or another unsatisfied with their lives, the world or sense tension and then seek a way to relieve it. But they will act very differently to find the solution and gain a sense of relaxation or inner peace.
The outer revolutionaries believe that until something outside themselves changes on a personal or global level they cannot rest or that their “work” is not done. On a personal level, they think that people around them should behave in a certain way. Their kids should be like this, their spouse should be like that if only my coworkers and bosses would be different, etc. On a global level, they ruminate how their country or the world is messed up. How people on high social positions – managers, politicians and other government employees don’t know what they are doing or are intentionally doing bad things for their own gain. Many go out in the world and fight against those things or try to change them.
The inner revolutionaries understand that to change their world they must first change themselves. They understand that they have total control only over themselves so it’s the most reasonable place to start if they want to see big change take place. Secondly, they understand that only when everything they do is a true expression of themselves they can make as big as possible impact in their field.
The main difference between them is really expectations that they have towards themselves and others. Outer revolutionaries have high expectations towards others and low towards themselves. Inner revolutionaries have low expectations towards others and high towards themselves. The reality is the more we extend the circle around us the less power or control we have on outside events. If we are not actively engaged in a certain field we can’t really change anything there. And of course, we cannot be actively engaged in everything because we simply don’t have the time or the resources.
In my early twenties and before that I was a complete outer revolutionary. It didn’t occur to me that nothing will really change if I try to rearrange the circumstances of my life. Today I laugh whenever I think back on how foolish I was. But when we are in our teens that kind of thinking is not a big deal. It’s a disaster when someone is 40,50 or 60 years old and still doesn’t understand that point. The recipe for frustrated, angry and depressed life is to constantly invest all our energy into something that we have absolutely no control over and fundamentally cannot change. The recipe for joyful, fulfilling and contend life is to start with ourselves.
Some people want to tell you that focusing on yourself is egotistical. But it’s the only sensible option we have. Only when we change ourselves for the better others may follow. We may inspire them with our positive change. Or we may not. But in any case, we have at least helped one person – ourself and that is still better than no person. Masaaki Hatsumi said: “If you don’t change only your circumstances change, but your weaknesses stay the same, and we always fall on the side we lean on.” So if we truly want to make the world a better place there is one simple thing we can do. Expect less from others and more from ourselves.