I would bet that there are many things people would like to change about society, but they may not know where to start.

To figure out where to start, let’s look at how societies change.

There are two dimensions along which societies can change, and the following table shows both.

Types of ChangeTop DownBottom Up
Outside InTop Down and Outside InBottom Up and Outside In
Inside OutTop Down and Inside OutBottom Up and Inside Out

On the top is the vertical direction: top down or bottom up. On the left is the other dimension: from the outside in or the inside out. Here is what they mean:

Top Down
Change is implemented, or pushed, by politicians or leaders from the top down.
Bottom Up
Change is implemented/pushed by the people up from the bottom.
Outside In
Change is implemented by forcing it on people.
Inside Out
Change is implemented by people changing themselves first.

Most people try the two in the top row, depending on their place in society.

If they are in a leadership position, they usually try Top Down and Outside In, trying to force change on the people below them. If they are not, they usually try Bottom Up and Outside In, trying to force change on the people above them.

The problem is that if you force change on people, they will resent it, and they will either figure out a way around the change or fight against it. This goes both ways.

So that is not the way to do it; it must be done from the inside out.

If you are in a leadership position, change yourself first. And after that, your example will persuade the people below you to change.

If you are not in a leadership position, change yourself first. After that, you can change the people around you with your example because, once again, it is your example that will persuade people to change.

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 the 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.

That quote comes from here.

So next time you would like to see some change in society, start by looking in the mirror and figuring out what you need to change about yourself first.

For myself, I have already started; I need more virtue.