What Holds You Back?

Changing the world is not difficult. It is very simple. It is just a matter of choice. And awareness.

A year ago, I bought a Fairphone. It was a deliberate act to support a company that is striving to source its component parts from places and organizations that uphold human rights, among other things.

To be honest, this generated a fair amount of inconvenience in my life – switching from Apple to Android, with all the complexities along the way (I still haven’t managed to transfer my contacts…), and having as my daily tool something less optimal than what I was used to…

But did I consider switching back? No. Because for me, there is no question that convenience comes second to upholding my values as best I can. And I believe that we live in an age where we have the choice to do so.

We have so much power in our hands.  And yet we usually walk around as if we were completely disempowered. We find it convenient to wallow in our unethical comforts and pretend that we can’t see anything, can’t hear anything and that our hands are tied.

It is easy to make oneself small, and then to blame the government. To blame the big bad companies. The conspiracy of the powerful. Our nasty neighbors who put us in a bad mood, our spouse, our dog…

But we are so powerful. We are so free.

We make choices every single day, every single minute. About what we eat. How we move from one place to another. What we wear. What we consume. About whether we even choose to consume. And ultimately we make choices about our actions, our work, and what we put our energy into.

All these choices send out ripple effects into the world – and these are not to be underestimated.

Unfortunately, we are often held back by self-generated feelings of guilt and by what we could call the Messiah complex.

When we focus on all the things we are not doing, we let our ego keep us trapped in the narrow fangs of our guilt.

It is easy to feel guilty because we know that we engage in choices and actions that have a negative impact on our environment, on animals, on people living on the other side of the planet. For example, when we put petrol into a car. Or when we eat a piece of meat.

If we entertain these feelings of guilt, we slip into a state of disempowered paralysis. Then, we are tempted to stay there, and berate ourselves. Ultimately, we need to understand that guilt is just another excuse not to make a change. Instead, we can use our awareness as a motor for action.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Messiah complex, the belief that we must single-handedly save the world. From this vantage point, a small act won’t suffice, because we convince ourselves that we have to wait for the one big opportunity to change everything at once.

Buying a Fairphone, for example, is not good enough, because the company has still not cleaned up the sourcing of all the phone’s components. Buying organic food isn’t good enough because, oh, we can’t fully trust those labels, can we? We tell ourselves that we might as well stick to our current bad habits and wait until the grand opportunity arrives.

The truth is… we are just fooling ourselves. We must see beyond the trickings of our ego. And understand that this too, is simply an excuse not to engage in change.

I believe it is time we take our inner freedom in our hands. Become aware of our real power. Loosen ourselves from the illusory grip of guilt. And drop the tempting aspiration to wait for our one glory-filled opportunity to save the world.

And then, we can see every minute as a joyful opportunity to steer the world towards the future we aspire to.

Anything less is just an excuse. And we no longer have time for that…

  7 comments for “What Holds You Back?

  1. A
    June 15, 2017 at 12:05

    I completely share this way of looking at one’s acts: being responsible. Or in other words, aknowledging that we are part of the whole. The whole wouldn’t exist as such without its parts, right? Our acts do count.

    It reminds me a of a close kind of actions one can make with strong impact on one’s self and as ripple on to the world: “give intentions to your every day actions”.
    I give you examples: When I take a shower, I see it as if it purifies me from anything I wouldn’t need anymore and it nurishes the earth back with it. When I cycle, I imagine the air I move is energising. When I do gymnastic, I imagine I am pumping in peace. When I fill my glass with water, I imagine it is filled with love and care for me or with whatever I need at that moment. When I eat, I imagine the whole life of each part of my meal, the rice, the carrot, the spices, the salt, recognising their existence and bringing me all the good that they received from the sun, the water, the soil, the care and effort that so many people have put for it to be on my plate. When I go up the stairs, I imagine how it stimulates my whole organism. And so on, this is infinite! And additionally it usually creates a smile on your face!

    Thank you Nicole for sharing your thoughts!

    • Nicole Schwab
      June 15, 2017 at 12:23

      Thank you for sharing such beautiful examples of how we can connect in every instant to the whole, and send out the energy of what we wish for the world.

  2. B
    June 15, 2017 at 13:03

    Small deliberate, incremental acts are what we are made of and the true nature of sustainable change.

  3. Ariane
    June 15, 2017 at 13:15

    So true. It is a struggle. Thanks for reminding us of a our innate greatness and all the time and energy we spend trying to convince us otherwise.

    Awareness comes indeed in the little actions of our daily life.


  4. Julio von Vacano
    June 15, 2017 at 15:11


  5. Yasmina
    July 18, 2017 at 11:18

    Just what I needed to read today

  6. Leo
    June 5, 2019 at 17:20

    Even though I do not have a Messiah complex and do believe in changing the world by simple and small things, what holds me back is the lack of support for a unique individual narrative inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. You talk of small changes in food habits or buying habits such as buying a phone but what I seek is just deep connections with people irrespective of their economic or social status so that we can do something together like co-author a small thought piece or start an organic roof-top farming bartering our produce but I am yet to be successful in such small pursuits including just the pursuit of connecting with a person just because of economic and social inequalities. While I agree with the author on starting small but I do believe sometimes our individual contexts make it difficult for some small changes which would otherwise be easier in the contexts of other people.

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