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Date: 01/01/2014
  • Practices
  • Transforming Our Relationship with Power
  • Seeing with New/Ancient Eyes
  • Emerging Facilitators
  • Facilitators

When I Made a Difference

from chapter 8 of Coming Back to Life by Joanna Macy and Molly Brown; second edition, published 2014. Please acknowledge the source when you use any of these practices.


Time: 30 minutes


Recounting incidents from our own lives, we recognize our capacity to create positive change. This is all the more valuable since we are not accustomed to sharing this kind of experience or understanding it as power.

Note that the guide does not use the word power until later in the general discussion that follows. 



Think of a time in your life when something important and good happened because of what you said or did. Recapture the scene, play it back for yourself.

Now in groups of three or four, people take turns telling their stories. The guide suggests: As you listen to each story, discern the qualities in that person that were at play.

  • “I got the principal’s permission to start a recycling program at our school.”  
  • “Instead of backing off, I just stood there and talked to the guard at the nuclear power plant.”
  • “I was presiding at the board meeting and felt stuck; I decided to relinquish my role as leader, and then everyone was able to decide what to do.”

When the small groups are finished, the guide asks people to call out the qualities they discerned in each other’s stories, and writes them up on newsprint as they are named—empathy, trust, letting go, flexibility. The guide then asks the group to point out those qualities and behaviors that fit new paradigm understanding of power. (see pages The Nature of Power section in Chapter 3 of Coming Back to Life).

At one workshop, a man still insisted that he experienced no power in his life. “What gives you pleasure?” the guide asked. “Well, I don’t know. I feel good when I ride my bicycle.” “What is that like?”  “Well, I tell you now, it feels good when I’m riding home from work and the traffic is jammed. I just speed by all those cars and trucks; they can hardly move and I’m going where I want to go.”  “That sounds like a powerful feeling,” said the guide. “You bet!” said Jim beaming. “I guess that is a kind of power, isn’t it?”  And he recognized with pride the guerrilla-power of autonomy and flexibility.

Contributor/Author: Joanna Macy & Molly Brown