There are lots of reasons why you might seek change. Often those reasons are centered around yourself. Your personal betterment.
These are noble causes. You are infinitely capable, after all, and you deserve the very best, those rewards earned through the persistent pursuit of positive change.
But there is yet a higher cause. Something even nobler.
Vince Lombardi was the famous coach of the Green Bay Packers, who led them to capture their first-ever Super Bowl. In the wake of his incredible success and obvious leadership, Lombardi was highly sought after for corporate events.
He translated the principles of leadership and motivation he used on the football field into 7 principles for work and life. Chief among these 7 principles was one that was surprising for the rough and tough football coach: Love. Love, he says, is more powerful than hate.
“The love I’m speaking of is loyalty, which is the greatest of loves. Teamwork, the love that one man has for another and that he respects the dignity of another…I am not speaking of detraction. You show me a man who belittles another and I will show you a man who is not a leader…Heart power is the strength of your company. Heart power is the strength of the Green Bay Packers. Heart power is the strength of America and hate power is the weakness of the world.”
Lombardi taught that when your efforts are fueled by love, you work harder, persevere longer, invest more, take greater care, and are less apt to give up.
Some years ago the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, renowned for providing some of the greatest care in the world for children battling cancer, was building a new facility on campus.
Something remarkable happened, a love-born relationship between the ironworkers and the children. As the Boston globe reported:
“It has become a beloved ritual at Dana-Farber. Every day, children who come to the clinic write their names on sheets of paper and tape them to the windows of the walkway for ironworkers to see. And, every day, the ironworkers paint the names onto I-beams and hoist them into place as they add floors to the new 14-story Yawkey Center for Cancer Care.
“The building’s steel skeleton is now a brightly colored, seven-story monument to scores of children receiving treatment at the clinic-Lia, Alex, and Sam; Taylor, Izzy, and Danny. For the young cancer patients, who press their noses to the glass to watch new names added every day, the steel and spray-paint tribute has given them a few moments of joy and a towering symbol of hope. ‘It’s fabulous,’ said [18-month-old] Kristen [Hoenshell]’s mother, Elizabeth, as she held her daughter and marveled at the rainbow of names. It’s just a simple little act that means so much.’”
The children and their parents were certainly touched, but think of the ironworkers, each morning in the bitter cold and biting wind. Their project had become more than just another building. Their work now had meaning. They had purpose.
This kind of purpose, when your efforts are somehow tied to something more than yourself, creates powerful, self-sustaining drive that you simply don’t otherwise get.
This year I helped coach my 14 year old son’s football team. The prior season was a tough one, with zero wins. Coming into the new season with that record created a powerful barrier to success – self doubt. What the boys needed was something to believe in. Something to rally around.
That something showed up on the first day of practice. His name was Austin. Austin was autistic. But he had a huge heart and an infectious sense of humor (which was often manifested by his sneaking up on a coach and inflicting physical pain, which delighted the other boys.)
His parents didn’t have much by way of expectations, but were excited he wanted to play. Austin didn’t have many friends. Until now.
The team embraced him. At first he would only practice a few plays at a time before losing interest, when he would go sit on the side and watch (or sneak up on coaches). Over time he would stay in nearly the whole practice, with help and guidance and patience of his teammates, showing him where to stand and what to do.
We decided we wanted Austin to have a lot of play time. He started, every game, as defensive nose guard, and cycled in and out every couple of plays. His parents were ecstatic at the experience.
We ended the season with 7 wins and 1 loss, and went to the championship game, where again, Austin started.
This was the same team that a year prior had not won a game.
While there were several things we worked on to overcome mental barriers, and be better prepared, in my mind nothing played a larger role, at least in gaining our initial inertia, than the fact that we had something to rally around. We had a cause greater than ourselves. We were motivated by love, by loyalty.
Love imbues your change efforts with unparalleled, uncompromising purpose.
Whatever your change efforts are, find a way to let them be led, or inspired by a cause greater than yourself, and you’ll find your rate of success increasing dramatically.
Let yourself be led by love.
(You can read all of Lombardi’s principles in his biography by Pulitzer Prize winning author David Maraniss: “When Pride Still Mattered“.)