How to Change the World

Three Methods:Thinking BigManaging Your ExpectationsGetting Started

You want to change the world, but you aren't sure where to start. First and foremost, remember that changing the world can mean so many different things. You might change the world in one big way, or you might do many small things. You'll need to think big, but manage your expectations. Most importantly: find a cause and get started.

Method 1
Thinking Big

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    Understand what's wrong. Read the news. Ask questions. Broaden your awareness as far as you can. The world is a wide and wondrous place, and you won't be able to change much if you don't understand what's going on out there.
    • Don't just read your local news – read news from other cities, other states, other countries. Read opinions and accounts from people who live across the world.
    • Watch documentaries and TED Talks.[1] Listen to lectures. Try to learn as much as you can.
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    Identify specific problems. It is one thing to say that you want to change the world because you sense an imbalance. It is another to say: There is war in Palestine; there is a drought in California; there are people dying in refugee camps in central Africa; there are rainforests being burned in Brazil; there are entire island nations in the Indian Ocean that are being evacuated due to rising sea levels. There is a lot to change!
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    See the world. Travel to foreign lands, if you can, and speak to locals about the way that they live. Visit people in your community who live differently than you – people who make more or less money; who are younger or older; who come from a different ethnic or religious background. Use the Internet to supplement and share your explorations. Try to drink in as much of this planet as you can. Learn to love it.
    • You don't need to have a lot of money to see the world. Think about how much you can experience just by walking down the block, or visiting a neighboring city. If you truly want to travel, you can find a way.
    • Try to learn from every experience. When you visit a foreign country, don't cut yourself off from the culture. Immerse yourself!
    • If the thought of travel for travel's sake seems too hedonistic, think about taking some sort of service trip. Volunteer to build houses or protect an ecosystem; join the Peace Corps, Doctors Without Borders, or another international aid organization; WWOOF and help out local farmers in a work/trade situation. Find a way to give back!
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    Consider what you want to change. Try to pick out the issues that resonate most with you. Ask yourself what feels important. Perhaps you want to spend your life battling climate change, or purging slavery from the world, or saving a species from the brink of extinction. You might change the world in one big way, and you might change it in many small ways.

Method 2
Managing Your Expectations

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    Ask yourself what it means to change the world. It is a grand intention, to be sure, and you can certainly find a way to make a difference if you have the will and means to do so. However, it's important to remember that "changing the world" usually doesn't mean "fixing everything about the world." It typically means something more like, "encountering a problem and fixing that problem."[2]
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    Know that change doesn't come overnight. Even the quickest and most decisive revolutions take months or years of groundwork. Don't expect to change the world with one big, heroic act. Try to live your values each day, even if you don't see much appreciable change on a day-to-day level. Work hard and don't give up.
    • Even if your cumulative actions don't change the world, you'll be able to say that you lived a life you're proud of. You might inspire or teach others by example. You may find that change occurs when you least expect it.
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    Don't lose sight of your ideals. Be patient and intentional – but not too patient. Set realistic goals for yourself, but try not to lose your fire in the details. Your desire to change the world is powerful as long as it burns within you.
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    Think about your natural gifts. There is a quote, often (dubiously) attributed to Pablo Picasso: "The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give it away."[3] Consider what you love doing: a thing that sets you afire with passion, that consumes you, that holds your focus for hours at the hint of a spark. Do that thing, even if no one else is doing it. Find a way to share it with the world.[4]
    • Consider all the various ways that people have changed the world. Nelson Mandela changed the world by combating Apartheid; Henry Ford by popularizing the automobile; Gutenberg by inventing the printing press; Marco Polo by traveling widely and connecting cultures. You can draw inspiration from someone else, or you can forge your own way.
    • Read about people who have changed the world. Seek inspiration in their stories. These people can be almost anyone that you admire: not just Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., but Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, or Bill McKibben.
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    Specify your dreams. Try to get to the root of the fantasy in your head. What does it really look like, in your mind's eye, to "change the world?" Is it writing a book, patenting an invention, organizing people, saving a species? There are so many ways to make a difference, on myriad magnitudes. No doubt, some of these avenues will catch your fancy more than others.
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    Remember that you don't need to do it alone. Martin Luther King, Jr. made his marches and speeches with the help of hordes of passionate activists. JFK didn't avert the Cuban Missile Crisis single-handedly – he did so with a brilliant board of ministers and advisers. John Lennon may never have helped so many people "Imagine" without the rest of the Beatles. Live passionately and create gravity around your values. As you begin to gather momentum, you may draw other passionate people into your orbit.
    • Organize a club or a discussion group. Gather some of your friends to volunteer with you. Share your thoughts on social media and try to spread the word. Consider that things might happen much more quickly if there are others involved.
    • Libraries will often let you use their facilities for free to start harmless, non-controversial groups. If you can't do that, check out the price for the community building rental. Or: simply host meetings in your home!
    • Try joining an existing organization. Volunteer for a nonprofit, or donate to a charity, or apply for a service program. If you don't know where to start, there are a lot of good people already out there making difference.

Method 3
Getting Started

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    Start small. Find ways to make a difference every day. It may feel as though you are just one tiny part of a huge, lumbering system – and at first, you almost certainly will be. Be patient. All things begin small. Try to make activism a practice and a reality.
    • Vote for candidates that you think will help out your cause. Sign a petition and write a letter to a congressman. Visit sites like [] and [].
    • Download the browser extension Tab for a Cause. Each time you open a new tab, you will earn a "heart" (between 1/10 and 1/3 of one cent) that you can donate to a charity of your choosing.
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    Spread the word. Write letters to newspapers and politicians; post an article, video, or idea as your Facebook status; wear a t-shirt; hand out fliers or pamphlets. If you think that a cause is important and worthy of attention, try to raise awareness by telling as many people as you can. Don't worry if you are uncomfortable with this sort of activism. There are other, less public ways to show your support!
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    Donate. If you don't have much time to get involved, consider giving a portion of your income or savings to a nonprofit or charity organization. One simple meal can cost as little as 19 US cents to produce – and most groups will take any amount of money that you can spare. Use websites like [1] and [] to determine which charities are best at churning donations into change.[5]
    • Read about "effective altruism." This movement aims to use evidence and reason to find the most effective ways to change the world. For instance, if you already make a lot of money, it might be more logically "effective" to donate half (or some large portion) of your income instead of quitting your job to take a low-paying service-oriented position.[6]
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    Get involved. Attend events focused on a certain cause, or events that are meant to bring thoughtful people together. Ask a local nonprofit if they need any help. If you're really committed, look for jobs with nonprofits and other "social good" organizations that might allow you to build a livelihood from your values.
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    Volunteer your time. The depth of your commitment depends on how much time you have. If you can afford to travel to another part of the world to, say, build houses or distribute medicine – do it! If you can only spare the weekends, or a few days a month – do what you can! Giving even a little of your time is more proactive than giving none of your time.
    • Look into volunteering at local libraries, churches, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and beach cleanups. Volunteer to canvass for a politician that you believe in, or to gather signatures for an important petition. If you don't know where to start, there are websites like [2] that can help connect you with causes you care about.[7]
    • Remember that you don't need anyone else's permission to start volunteering your time. You can do almost anything, at any moment, to promote what you believe in. Consider picking up trash in your neighborhood when you have a free afternoon.
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    Consider a career. Think about which sort of job might put you in the best position to change the world. You could be a politician, an activist, a journalist, a minister – there are a lot of ways to get paid for adding value to the world. Start researching on sites like [3] to find jobs in fields that feel valuable.
    • If you aren't ready to think about a career, consider making a commitment to a long-term service position. Look into the Peace Corps or Americorps. These organizations can be a great way to make a difference, learn about the world,[8] and prepare yourself for an even more impactful future.[9]


  • Don't limit yourself to this article. If you think of another way to change the world: do it!
  • Remember, there are may problems that most people don't know about because mainstream news doesn't talk about them. There are still people suffering long after the media stops covering an incident. In Haiti, for instance, many are still left homeless from the January 2010 earthquake.
  • Visit your Chamber of Commerce. Ask about local nonprofit organizations to volunteer or donate to.
  • Don't forget about individuals. Helping an elderly woman cross the street, holding a door open, and smiling are simple ways you can encourage someone to do the same. Ultimately, you might make the world a happier place through a chain of good intentions.
  • Be educated about your cause. If someone asks you a question, you want to know the answer.


  • Don't get too obsessed. If you neglect yourself for your cause, you might prevent yourself from participating in future events.
  • Make sure when you donate, you know exactly where the money is going. Ascertain that your information will remain private. There are a lot of scams out there.

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