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Nelson Mandela Day: Lessons On Change by The Revolutionary Leader That Can Steer Your Life Better

Late South African president Nelson Mandela smiles as he poses for a portrait during an event in London on May 24, 2006. Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

Late South African president Nelson Mandela smiles as he poses for a portrait during an event in London on May 24, 2006. Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

Here are five invaluable lessons from the leader's life that you can incorporate in your's if you wish to see a positive change.

Nelson Mandela International Day is a day of celebrating Nelson Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, and is observed each year on 18 July, Mandela’s birthday. The day is a global appeal to action that honours the idea that each individual has the power to change the world, and the capacity to make an impact.

Mandela has been and continues to be, an inspiration to many across the world. He led by example and showed how everyone can rise above their circumstances if only they are dedicated and can persevere. Here are five invaluable lessons from the leader’s life that you can incorporate in your’s if you wish to see a positive change.

Passion Creates Perseverance

If you find a cause worth fighting for, one becomes passionate, and passion helps fuel the fires of perseverance. Against the policies of his country’s apartheid government, Mandela led a non-violent action. It was something that landed him in jail for 27 years. He got out and became South Africa’s first-ever black president.


Mandela’s road to creating change came with enormous obstacles, but he never gave up. One of his quotes is that he will continue fighting for freedom until the end of his life. The lesson to take from this is that when you become involved in something you believe in, you become passionate and attract like-minded people.

Allow Change To Be Messy

Mandela showed us that change is never easy, and can often make us afraid, resistant, or uncomfortable. But, it is important to fight for that change especially if it is good for our society. As a lawyer in South Africa, Mandela made a comfortable life for himself. However, his law firm had many cases of people seeking restitution from the acts of the government that was against them.

Therefore, Mandela decided to fight and change the existing system and rose to become a freedom fighter, which meant another change along the way. But this change caused him pain and misfortune. However, he did not kowtow to fears just because the changing phase was a messy and difficult one, and showed us that genuinely worthwhile change requires you to push through the obstacles and make your goal a reality.

Don’t Be The Victim Of Your Circumstances

Bill Clinton had a discussion with Nelson Mandela about how Mandela’s rage and anger after getting out of prison seemed to disappear within a heartbeat. Mandela said that he regrets that the cameras caught his rage, but there was a Bible study that he attended when he was in jail. “I was angry that I was robbed of 27 years of my life. But then the spirit of Jesus said to me, ‘Nelson, while you were in jail, you were liberated, now that you are free, don’t become a captive.’

He added, “We don’t have to be victims of our past. We can let go of our resentment, and that all of us can achieve greatness.” Mandela taught us that we are all victims of something at some time in our lives, but we get to decide whether or not we will be victimized.

Collaboration Is Key

Strong-willed and resolute, Nelson Mandela never flinched. He fought for what he believed in, but he was also modest and kind. “You mustn’t compromise your beliefs, but you mustn’t humiliate the opponent,” he said. Mandela realized that you couldn’t agree with your enemy if you weren’t willing to work with them and treat them decently. So he taught us about collaboration and settlement.

By asking his captors to work with him to bring about positive change, he showed an incredible level of sincerity for the cause and an exceptional capacity to forgive.

In 1993, Nelson Mandela was collectively awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with his previous opponent, president FW de Klerk, South Africa’s last apartheid head. The two leaders symbolised collaboration and understanding for causing a peaceful end to apartheid and forming the groundwork for a new democratic South Africa.

To be thriving in business, politics, or relationships of any kind, one needs the ability to give and take where all sides gain more. Mandela poignantly reminded us that the world can be a better place, but only if we work together to make it one.

Change Begins From Within

If there was a benefit to his years of imprisonment, Mandela said it was to look in the mirror and create what he most wanted for South Africa. Self-awareness is a symbol of outstanding leadership. Mandela knew that if he were going to lead the nation out of racial discrimination and into an amicable democracy, he would have to “be the change he wanted to see.”

He understood that this difference starts with who we are and how we impress others as leaders. His happy character sparked hope for millions of people who want to dream big and pursue their dreams without confinements, who want to live in a world of compassion, inclusion and hope.

On his 89th birthday, Nelson Mandela assembled a group of autonomous global leaders and asked them to “speak truth to power, elevate the voices of the voiceless and give hope where there is gloom.” He called them The Elders. Mandela said, “Together we will work to help courage where there is a fear, support agreement where there is disagreement and encourage hope where there is despair."

Since its founding 10 years ago, The Elders have replied to Mandela’s command. Sustaining peace, acknowledging humanitarian crises, supporting climate change and nuclear disarmament, eradicating child marriage, upholding equal rights for women, joining divided communities and promoting the democratization of countries around the globe, The Elders have pooled their power to make the world better and Mandela’s legacy lives on.

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first published:July 18, 2021, 10:57 IST