There are some leaders who have no choice but to step out of the mainstream and make an impact beyond taking care of themselves, their family, their team and their clients. They’re drawn to a greater contribution – to create an example for others, and they’re deeply driven to live and work by their deeper values.
This is a group that’s expanding rapidly and I know it will continue to grow in coming decades, but for now, these individuals are still relatively rare birds. I think of them as gamechangers.
They wouldn’t always give themselves that name. Some of them get on with their work quietly, changing many lives without making a big fuss about it. Others are in the public eye, willing to step up and step out and encourage others to follow their example.
The key to being this kind of gamechanger is that you realise it’s not just about the technical and technological solutions. It’s not just about innovation and new ideas, even in the big issues of today, such as climate change, population growth, pollution and inequality. Those solutions are important but you know that we also need to change the way we think, feel and behave as human beings. We need to expand our consciousness and embrace fundamental change within ourselves, our families and our communities if we want to change the game on the planet.
The Gamechanger’s Journey
I’ve been working with gamechangers like this for some years now and I’ve recognised certain patterns in their lives. I’ve mapped these patterns into 10 steps they typically experience over their lifetime. I call this The Gamechanger’s Journey.
Whilst this journey has much in common with Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, I’ve deliberately mapped out what I’ve seen and experienced through my own life and work with other people. This is a modern story, very much of our period of history and evolution. It’s not the same as the heroes of the 20th Century. That’s what makes it special.
Note: the steps are in a specific order for a reason, but we tend to experience cycles within cycles, so they layer on each other, creating a much richer life than this linear description can contain.
Step 1: The Struggle
Typically, gamechangers have experienced a struggle with “normal life.” This may have been from the beginning or it may have occurred later. There are four main kinds of struggle that initiate them into this journey.
- Suffering – in childhood or adulthood. It can be in the form of abuse, long-term illness or disability, conflict, trauma, tragedy and other long-lasting pain.
- Feeling different – feeling like an alien, not fitting into mainstream society.
- Dissatisfaction with success – you achieved your mainstream goals but it feels empty and you look for something more
- Negative life event – an accident, divorce, illness, death or other life-changing happening.
Step 2: Waking Up
At a certain point you start to wake up. You learn different ways of thinking, acting and being in the world. You get very interested in personal development. You may even change your friends and environment. This is a powerful time of transformation.
Step 3: The Call
You feel called to contribute more to the world. You experience your first inspired vision and purpose for your own life and it involves some form of service or making the world a better place, beyond the normal scope of your job or business. Most people experience a lot of doubt, resistance and fear at the thought of doing something about it.
Step 4: Stepping Up
You take action to bring your vision into reality and create your first gamechanging project or business. If you’re inexperienced, you may fail quite quickly or struggle for a long time.
Step 5: The Challenges
Once you’re running a gamechanging project or business you face a lot of challenges. Many people find them a distraction, but this is the true training ground of the modern gamechanger. Think of it as your modern Batman training.
This is where you learn how to master yourself and your emotions and create the new world in your own life. Then you’ll be able to share it with others through your work. Your response to these challenges determines your capacity for changing the game and succeeding in your mission.
- The challenge to find true health arises when you experience burnout or sickness.
- The challenge to find true happiness arises from a deep sense of dissatisfaction or lack of wellbeing.
- The challenge to access wisdom arises when you’re lacking direction or clarity.
- The challenge to experience true love arises when you have relationship and family problems.
- The challenge to create true prosperity arises from when you’re experiencing financial problems.
- The challenge to live in alignment with your purpose arises from a feeling of a lack of meaning.
- The challenge to deep integrity arises when you experience any kind of legal problems.
Step 6: The Comfort Zone
After you’ve mastered many of those challenges you’ve developed a high level of skill and life is a lot more comfortable Many people stay here for a long time and keep enhancing their skills. Usually they feel sad that they haven’t created the level of impact they originally dreamed of. At a certain point they get so frustrated with this that they vow to do whatever it takes to make a bigger contribution.
Step 7: The Crisis
That triggers a profound feeling of being totally lost. You find yourself in unknown territory. Nothing works the way it used to. Everything you’ve learned so far doesn’t seem helpful any more. You can’t go back and you have no idea how to move forward. This is the beginning of a profound spiritual transformation.
Step 8: The Deep Decision
You emerge out of this crisis and step into the light. You stop struggling with yourself and commit to serving others. You realise that there are people all around you who need your help.
Step 9: The Return
It feels like you’re returning to the mainstream world that you’ve been trying to escape all these years, but you’re different on the inside. This is a period of optimisation and expansion, when you want to be the best you can be so you can help as many people as possible.
Step 10: The Joy
By this time you’re so aligned with your purpose that it’s a constant source of joy in your life. Not many people reach this stage because they didn’t master the challenges well enough at Step 5. Those who do are changing the game in everything they do. They are very alive and very awake. They feel like they’re living in heaven.
The big story
What I’ve described here is the arc of an entire lifetime. It’s most likely that you’re only part of the way through this journey as most stages can take many years to complete. It’s always helpful to know what lies ahead, even though some of the stages sound very challenging. There’s a lot you can do to mitigate the struggle and enhance your learning. This can take many years of struggling off your shoulders so you can get on with being a true gamechanger.
I know gamechangers who’ve spent 10 or more years feeling lost, depressed or burnt out, simply because they didn’t understand what was happening to them. If they’d had good advice and support and had other like-minded people to connect with, they could have avoided the vast majority of this struggle and they’d be far further ahead on their gamechanging journey.
Your responsibility as a gamechanger
If you have the courage to step up and lead society into a new level of consciousness, I believe it’s very important you take care of yourself and understand deeply the contribution you bring to society.
This isn’t easy work. It may challenge you to the core of your being. It requires you to step up way beyond what you may believe you’re capable of. But it’s worth it.
The modern gamechanger is very different from yesterday’s hero so this isn’t about any of us stepping out there alone, being a hero and conquering the world. This is something we do together because we can see a way forward to a better way of living.
And our modern training ground is no longer the distant kingdom, the martial arts, the excruciating discipline, the cruel master, the impossible physical challenges. In the 21st century your life is your training.
Your body and its deep desire to thrive pushes you to master your health. Your family and its need for love and happiness insist that you grow your capacity for love. Your business and the chance to create prosperity for all makes you determined to transform your relationship with money. Your integrity and your willingness to stand by deep values when the world is tempting you to make unwise decisions becomes the bedrock of your work and your life.
This is the Batman training of the 21st century. This is what will prepare you to go beyond where humans have gone before. This is the Gamechanger’s Journey.
And it’s YOUR story.