Monday, May 19, 2008

I can change your life

"I can change your life." That is a bold statement, don't you think? But I actually think I can. My life was changed dramatically because of my interaction and participation with an organization called the Northwest Earth Institute (NWEI). Because of the NWEI, I changed my job and changed my impact on the earth in many ways. I made new friends and deepened my connection with some old friends. Here is my story...

In the late 1990s, a friend invited me to join a NWEI discussion group called Voluntary Simplicity. The group was made up of co-workers and we met during our lunch hour. The mission of the NWEI is "motivating individuals to examine and transform personal values and habits, to accept responsibility for the earth, and to act on that commitment." Think for a moment about that mission. Think about a time when you examined something in your life and realized that you wanted it to be different. The only way it changed was by accepting personal responsibility. The class was like that - it opened my eyes. And once you "see", it is really hard not to take personal responsibility.

I enjoyed that first class and followed it up with two more: Choices for Sustainable Living and Neighborhood Sense of Place. I continued to learn and to grow.

Then in 2000 I had a crisis of faith. I was working for a high tech firm in the marketing department. My job was to create collateral (i.e. paper) to teach people how to sell more of our products. My emerging care for the earth and my job collided. I ended up taking a leave of absence from work to try to figure out what I wanted to do next. During my leave, I was attending a talk given by Paul Hawkin at Portland State University. Jeanne Roy, one of the founders of the NWEI, had organized the talk and she was running around getting things set up. I cornered her and said something like this, "You need to help me find a new job. Because I took the NWEI courses, I can't stay at my current job." She asked me where I worked and when I told her she said, "Then you need to stay there. We need people like you in big companies." And then she walked off.

Boy was I ever mad! That was not what I wanted to hear. Honestly, I was mad for several months until the truth of what she was saying really sunk in. Then I went back to my big corporation and found that I no longer had a job. They paid me for three months to find another job inside or outside the company.

A few days after I returned I saw the man who hired me into the company. He told me he hadn't seen me around and wondered what I was doing. I told him that I had just gotten back from a leave of absence and was looking for a job. He asked me, "If you could do anything, what would you do?" I told him I wanted to help my company be a better global citizen and be more environmentally friendly. "But there are no jobs like that," I told him. He replied, "Yes, there are and that person works for me. Why don't you go talk with her." I ended up shadowing her and working on some projects for her and came to the conclusion that the job would be a really good fit for my skill set. In a strange turn of events, the person doing the job took a medical leave of absence and did not return. At the last possible moment, the company offered me the job. I changed my life dramatically.

Can I change your life? Honestly, only you can change your life. And if you are interested in changing your life (and I am guessing you are since you are reading this long, long post), take a NWEI class. You can organize a class at work, at your place of faith, with your friends or even with your family. Don't live in the Portland, Oregon area? Not a problem, the NWEI has many sister institutes. Click here to find yours (or start your own!).

P.S. The Choices for Sustainable Living class is my favorite - it is informative and give lots of actionable ideas.

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