Being the Change

gandhi prayerful “You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” is a statement widely attributed to Gandhi.[1]

For years, I held the corollary belief that the legal system had to change before I could change the way I practiced law. As much as I wished that my professional actions and principles could be aligned with my personal beliefs and values, it seemed impossible, perhaps even foolish, to try and practice that alignment.

As a dedicated lawyer, one who takes seriously the charge to zealously represent the interests of my clients, I found that my professional identity and obligations presented a profound challenge to “practicing what I preached.”  It seemed that the only way I could stay true to my personal vision and values was to either leave the law practice or severely restrict the scope of my practice.  So, I dedicated myself to personal practices of compassion, humility, and non-violence while I searched for an alternative profession that would allow me to integrate my personal values with my professional obligations.

For years, I lived a sort of double-track life.  On the outside, I played according to the only rules I believed were available within the existing legal system.  Inside myself, I wished for a world where my clients and I could meet the problems that regularly arise in law and business (and personal relationships) without having to ‘go to war’ — competing for advantage or control over people and circumstances.  The realization that there was a way to fully integrate my deeply held principles and vision of a better world into my legal practice (and thereby be a catalyst for sustainable systemic change) dawned very slowly.

Gandhi’s work is often referred to as “passive resistance.”  I think this is a misnomer that leads to the misconception that the practice of non-violence is a practice of passivity.  Even the most cursory look reveals that Gandhi’s practice of non-violence was emphatically active.  While I knew that interior change was profoundly affecting the quality of my own experiences and interactions, I wanted more.  I wanted to apply my vision and principles to my work, to fully live them as well as hold them. At the same time, I wanted to continue to be effective on behalf of my clients at the intersection of marketplace realities and the conventional legal-justice system.

I started searching for effective and powerful legal practices that were harmonized and aligned with my principles and vision that also engendered systemic change.   I began to seek out the pathfinders — brave souls who were already intersecting and impacting the legal system as and where it stood — simultaneously engaging difficult human conflicts and existing legal systems in new and transformative ways.  I met and learned with innovators who had established models and practices with successful track records of 25 years and longer.

By studying how these pioneers were re-framing and re-inventing conflict resolution, I began to envision a way to carry those lessons ‘upstream’ to the point where the parties were not in conflict but were ‘in love’ and ready to enter their relationship, thus “Discovering Agreement,” was born.

Learning with a community of change-makers taught me the reality of what it means to be the change.  Gandhi’s words became more than a caption on a poster.  I learned the transformative effect of living in the change and connecting with those who were seeking the same path, the same positive direction. The Discovering Agreement approach works for anyone.  All you have to have is the passion to see your values through and be the change that you want to see in your own life, your own business, and your world.  When you are the change, you catalyze change for others.

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[1] According to his OpEd in the New York Times, Brian Morton made a concerted effort to confirm that Gandhi did, in fact, speak or write this famous phrase which is so often attributed to him. Mr. Morton concluded, The closest verifiable remark we have from Gandhi is this: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” Morton, Brian. “Falser Words Were Never Spoken.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 29 Aug. 2011. Web. 28 Aug. 2015.

Comments

  1. Randy & Caroline Furlong says:

    Linda,

    We love what you are doing! All the best at being the change you want to see in the world! Thanks!

    Love,

    Randy & Caroline

    • Thanks Randy. Your encouragement helps in exactly the way the word sounds — it adds to my courage to continue. — Lindaa

  2. Linda, your vision and voice add to the culture of empathy, in which human beings are fully seen and understood for their vulnerability and complexity. Finding solutions that benefit all, rather than diminish the human spirit into reductionist positions of winner and loser is a new path that I hope will garner vast support from all domains that involve and value human interaction.
    Helen Riess, MD.

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