Last week I shared my six principles of delivering change at pace – in this post I focus on the first and perhaps most important principle that ‘All change starts with self’.

Let me begin with a simple question – who can you change?  Your partner, husband or wife, your teenage daughter or son?  Your best friend, your brother or sister?  Have you tried?  How did it go?  The simple truth is that there is only one person that you can change and that person is YOU!

It is also true that what is within your power is to influence those you work with or those you love, but the ultimate decision on whether they will change or not lies with them, not you.  This is also not a new concept or idea, indeed my own research uncovered a very old passage written by an unknown Monk in 1100AD who wanted to change the world:

When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town.
I couldn’t change my town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself,
and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself,
I could have made an impact on my family.
My family and I could have made an impact on our town.
Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.

So it seems that the concept that all change starts with self is almost a thousand years old, maybe even older and I find to my surprise that I have much in common with that Monk of so long ago!

So why is this principle so important to any change practitioner or leader in delivering successful change in organisations?

Well, if you embody the change you want to see in others, you become, by definition, a role model of the change you are asking others to make (remember the much-quoted phrase ‘Be the change you want to see’?).  In doing so you are authentic and bring credibility to the change you are seeking to cause.  When your words and thoughts are aligned then so too is your voice tonality and your body language – people will then be inclined to really listen to you and believe in what you’re saying!  Your words can no longer be hollow or incongruent.

You can make this complicated, or (like me) you can keep things simple and just take time to pause and reflect on the following questions to get you started – for if you change how you think, then you will change how you feel, and if you change how you think and feel it will change the actions you take:

  • What am I seeking to change?
  • What will I see others doing differently if they embraced the change?
  • How might I change my own behaviour to reflect the change I want to see in others?
  • How will I know if I am making a difference? What feedback might I hear?
  • As I change myself and others follow my lead, how will I support, recognise and reinforce the changes that they make?

As the Irish playwright, George Bernard-Shaw said ‘Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything’ so, are you ready to be the change you want to see?  What challenges does that present to you and are you willing to accept that you may be the biggest untapped resource and catalyst for change at your disposal?

I am curious to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to email me at and if you want to sign up for my future blogs please register here.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Jacqui Alexander is an expert in business transformation with a proven track record of helping organisations align, deliver and improve their performance.  She uses an innovative and blended approach that combines the practices of organisation development, continuous improvement and project management to improve ways of working. 

Her approach is particularly impactful when shifts in mind-set, culture or ways of working are imperative for business success.  She runs London-based consultancy, ChangePace Consulting Ltd.