Movements occur when an unsettled group of people bonds together around a common desire or vision to see a preferred future become reality.
Martin Luther King in his most famous speech uttered these familiar words - "I have a dream." In the next few minutes he outlined his vision for a united interracial United States of America. Many listeners that day decided to link arms with King and dare to create a movement towards this preferred future he described. The journey towards this preferred future wasn't easy. There was a great cost to many individual lives that had both positive and negative long-term effects on humankind. And here today, as I type about something that happened decades before my existence on this planet, I still benefit from a dream that became a reality.
Many of us long to leave a lasting impression on the world in which we live. Some of us desire to make the world a better place, while others of us may simply hope that we receive all that we had hoped for out of life. Regardless of what our personal motivation might be, the outcome of these collective desires is to create some sort of movement towards or away from something.
Creating a movement is a lot like causing an infection. Infections occur most typically as a result of some sort of wound that has been inflicted or caused. A system only learns to grow and to change when it has do deal with adversity. Here are four things I'm learning about creating sustainable movements:
1. Embrace and name the wound. The courage to create and pursue change or movement comes from unsettledness with the status quo. In this unsettling process, it is essential that we take the time to name or identify the root of the disconnectedness. We can't diagnose what the issue is unless we are aware of the symptoms. Sometimes wounds are the source of the unsettledness, but sometimes they are only the symptom of the root cause. Diagnosing the wound can only occur through the filter of communal discernment. What this means is that we need to speak about our wounds with a group of trusted sojourners so that we can evaluate what it is and what it might mean.
2. Pain isn't meant to paralyze. We live in a modern society that expresses distaste for pain. Our culture is built through the use of numbing agents that attempt to help us cope with, dodge and reject the forming process that pain invites us into. While not all pain is healthy (self-inflicted pain is usually a sign of ill health unless referring to muscle strengthening exercises), all pain is not meant to paralyze. You may have heard the old adage "no pain, no gain." Creating a movement starts with understanding the invitation that coincides with our pain, rather than running away from it or attempting to numb our pain away.
3. Courage and strength are the scars of great leadership. It takes great wisdom to learn from and grow as a result of our wounds. Pain does leave a legacy. Wise leaders allow pain to create strength and courage instead of fear and paralysis. Great leaders find a way to face their pain, work through their pain and allow their wound to be a catalyst for creating a movement that leads towards the desired preferred future.
4. It takes time. You've heard the phrase "time heals all wounds." This same practice can be applied to creating movements. It takes time to create a sustainable movement. While we might like to see these things occur overnight, the reality of creating movements is that it often doesn't happen like this. Movements take time to create. Great leaders are willing to live in the tension between a preferred future and current reality for as long as it takes to create the desired movement.
What sort of movements are you hoping to generate?