3 min read

The Global Goals, and How a Person Changes the World

A few weeks ago, I participated in a workshop on the 17 Global Goals for sustainable development. These goals were agreed upon by world leaders in 2015 — to be reached by 2030.

They are ambitious, big and somewhat intimidating. At least from a one-person perspective.

The homepage reads:

“These goals have the power to end poverty, fight inequality and stop climate change. Guided by the goals, it is now up to all of us, governments, businesses, civil society and the general public to work together to build a better future for everyone.”

So, the planet has work for us — what’s next?

I didn’t know much about the goals before the workshop, but I learned a lot. Especially the framework they provide — with subgoals and projects attached to each goal.

We can’t all be Bill Gates or Dalai Lama. Maybe we don’t all quit our jobs and become marine biologists. Each and every profession matters, and we all play an important part in the fabric of society.

As employees, we value a vision that justifies our going to work every day. As human beings, we search for meaning and purpose in our existence.

It’s like all parts of us are wired to belong to something bigger.

Even the cells in our body operate under a similar premise. Pancreatic cells don’t attempt to travel to the heart because it’s a more worthy place to do work in. They all play important parts in the healthy functioning of the body.

As individuals, so do we.

We all have different strengths and talents (yes, we all do). Our job is to identify them, nurture them and bring them into action.

Who am I to make an impact?

With 7 and a half billion on our planet, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and go into hiding. Many of us live comfy lives, and are not directly affected by many of this world’s issues. And even so, how could I pinpoint what I, one person, can actually change?

Well, we kind of can’t.

The problem is that we believe we have control over the outcome of our actions.

We simply cannot control how our actions affect others.

But we can be conscious about the fact that all actions we take — and those we don’t take — do affect the world.

And only 20 years ago, our ability to make an impact might have been limited. But our ability to create an impact is accelerating by the year.

Jordan Peterson presents a powerful way to look at our footprint in the world:

“You’re at the center of a network. The node of a network. You’ll know a thousand people, at least, over the course of your life. And they’ll know a thousand people each, and that puts you one person away from a million. And two persons away from a billion.

And so, that is how you’re connected. And the things you do, they’re like dropping a stone in the pond. The ripples move outward, and they affect things in ways that you cannot fully comprehend. It means that the things that you do, and you don’t do, are far more important than you think.”

How a person changes the world

A few years ago, I was talking to a friend. I shared a story at some point, nothing special, we were having a conversation over lunch. She later told me how much that story had stayed with her.

I could not have known on what level she would hear that, or that a new perspective she took from the story would come to guide many of her decisions over the next few years.

We might have a deep impact on one person’s life, or touch a few thousand, or be an ‘influencer’ with millions who listen to what we have to say.

I don’t believe one is more important than the other. Because we cannot control who we reach, or how deep. (Kind of life the butterfly effect). What we can do is get conscious, work on our strengths and direct ourselves towards worthy causes.

So what can I do?

  1. Get angry. What compels us, what articles are we drawn to and which topics affects us more than others? Usually stuff that pisses us off or moves us, does so for a reason. (Personally, I get extra bothered by inequality and girls not getting an education.)
  2. Get to know thyself. Picking up Strengths Finder 2.0 ten years ago changed the course of my life. It gave me new words and distinctions as to what my strengths are. I started choosing projects and work very differently. Keep building on what you’re good at.
  3. Participate. Speak about topics that matter, step up when something seems off. Give time, resources, energy and love to causes that break your heart. Question things, even when people around you don’t.

How do we change the world? Maybe it’s when we realize that we already are.