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Guest Opinion: Change is like a tumbleweed


By Terri Jensen | Chief information officer, Holmes Murphy & Associates

I recently had the opportunity to speak with a young leader who’s discouraged by many of today’s issues. She feels overwhelmed and unheard as she learns about local, national and international events that fill the headlines and social media. During our conversation, she remarked, “It’s hard waiting for things to change.” My immediate response was, “Nothing changes if we just wait.” We may not be able to take on every challenge, but we can certainly put ourselves in motion. 

I believe women are uniquely qualified to start and lead change. Alice H. Eagly reinforces that women are transformational leaders who “are less hierarchical, more cooperative and collaborative, and more oriented to enhancing others’ self-worth” in her article, “Gender and Work: Challenging Conventional Wisdom.” Think of the power this combination of attributes brings to us. 

But where do we get started? How can one person effect large-scale change? The answer is to take it one step at time. You don’t have to slay the dragon immediately. Start small, but start today! Here are 44 things you can do now to make change personally, professionally, or in your community. 

1. Volunteer. Google the phone number of that organization that’s been on your mind and call them.
2.Be a mentor. Big Brothers Big Sisters, I Have a Dream, your church youth group, and many others are hoping you’ll call.
3.Peacefully protest. Facebook likes don’t count.
4.Call or write your representative. 
5.Network with a purpose. List five people you want to meet and talk with, and make it happen.
6.Have a difficult conversation with that one person. Assume their best intentions and tell the truth with compassion.
7.Attend a conference or workshop on a topic that speaks to your heart. 
8.Speak up and speak out. Look at your calendar, identify an upcoming situation where you know you should speak up, and prepare yourself to do just that.
9.Listen to understand rather than rebut.
10.Invest in a nonprofit, crowd-source site. As an example, Kiva.org lends your dollars to many women-owned businesses around the globe.
11.Ask for help. Maybe even call a friend to ask them to help you ask for help.
12.Give more. Donate to a cause you believe in but haven’t yet supported. 
13. Lift up one other person. You know who that is. Make a plan and go do it.
14.Do something that stretches your boundaries. And then do something else that stretches you further.
15.Run for office. Please!
16.Is there a topic on your mind or one you tend to argue with people about? Learn more about it!
17.Ask the hard and uncomfortable questions. 
18.Join a nonprofit board.
19.Attend an art exhibit. Find out why it matters.
20.Research socioeconomic diversity. What does privilege mean, and how does it impact your community?
21.Develop a great new habit. Beginning right now.
22.Check your self-talk. Learn to think positively.
23.Start a study group.
25.Challenge the people in your life to be their best self even when it’s hard.
26.Set up your Amazon Smile account. 
27.Train for a walk, run, bike, or swim that supports an organization. Even better, find a buddy to do it with you.
28.Introduce yourself to your neighbors. 
29.Walk, bike or carpool to work. 
30.Donate clothes or personal care items to a women’s shelter. 
31.Pick up trash. 
32.Join your neighborhood association. 
33.Write a blog. 
34.Shop local. 
35.Participate in a STEM activity. Let’s help get girls and young women excited about science, technology, engineering and math.
36.Be positive and informed on social media. 
37.Take a meal to a friend in need. Sometimes a warm dinner is just what the doctor ordered.
38.Pay it forward. 
39.Take a risk. 
40.Show people they matter to you. 
41.Be inclusive. Surround yourself with people of different backgrounds, beliefs, cultures and heritage.
42.Trust someone you’ve just met. 
43.Help someone you don’t know. 
44. Ignore the voice that says you can’t. 

I’ve recently learned about tumbleweeds. Did you know they are a specific type of plant that breaks off its dried stems to spread seeds for new growth? I believe change is like tumbleweed. It starts as something small, but gathers momentum and volume as it blows across open spaces. And just as important, it drops seeds along the way to promote future growth and change. 

We, as women, can be like tumbleweeds. Let’s get rolling and find the open spaces. Take one small step today. See what you pick up along the way and what you leave behind for growth and change.

Terri Jensenearned her bachelor’s degree in computer science from Drake University and her master’s in organizational leadership from Colorado State University in 2016. Prior to Holmes Murphy, Terri served as CIO at Central College in 2012-13, and the Weitz Co. in 2008-11. She previously founded and grew an innovative technology training and consulting company called Integrated Software Solutions. Jensen is on the board of directors for LifeServe Blood Center and Iowa’s Million Women Mentors. She also volunteers for Youth Emergency Services and Shelter.

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