Photo by Luke Mattson

It’s All About Deeper Connections…We all have one: that friend who is always asking us not just how we’re doing, but—really—how are we doing? That person who not only listens to our stories but hears them without judgment and loves to help us discover solutions to our struggles, both big and small. But who is this person, really? Some people might call them their partner, their friend, or their confidant—but, if you look deeper, you may discover that this person has many of the characteristics of a social entrepreneur.

Social entrepreneurs are just that—social people with an entrepreneurial spirit that guides them through their daily lives. They’re deeply interested in their communities and the individuals who make up those communities—for these connections are the gears that keep our lives in motion. Their attention tends to be aimed outward instead of inward, analyzing the world around them with critical-optimism, looking into the social structures that govern our everyday lives and at the people that these social structures effect. They’re always asking themselves, “how could we do this better?” and challenging their communities to come up with an answer.

Often, a social entrepreneur won’t even realize that they are one until someone else points it out. They tend to focus much of their energy outside of themselves, discovering so many new opportunities, ideas, and perspectives that they can quickly become consumed by it all. The downside to this, though, is that it means they often don’t leave enough time to check-in on themselves, which is why self-care is so important to remember (though this certainly rings true for all of us).

Social entrepreneurs are notoriously bad at saying “no”—they are often people-pleasers in the truest sense—always putting others before themselves almost to a fault.

They’re observant and empathetic towards those around them and believe that no one’s story is too small.

Yet, sometimes, the curiosity and passion can be overwhelming, and as a result, social entrepreneurs can lose track of all the promises they’ve made, leaving them to feel like they’re letting people down. They can be exceptionally hard on themselves and hold themselves to sometimes unrealistic expectations, pushing the limits of involvement by over-booking their calendars with things they really do want to do. But none of us can do, or be, everything all the time. And this is something that social entrepreneurs struggle with most.

For social entrepreneurs, casual conversation simply doesn’t exist. The typical conversation-in-passing that most of us experience with friends and acquaintances alike never lasts very long when you’re talking to a social entrepreneur. They have an elegant, fluid way of always digging a little deeper, asking just the right questions until you suddenly realize that you’re not just talking about the sandwich you bought this morning but about the state of the food economy and the impact we can make with each meal we have. And it never bothers you, because the tone of the social entrepreneur is never judgmental, but always curious. And you leave these conversations asking yourself questions that you might have missed otherwise, feeling energized by your newfound curiosities.

Social entrepreneurs are all about starting the conversations that no one is having—be it with groups of people or by simply sparking an internal dialogue where we ask ourselves “why?” instead of just accepting the world around us. Social entrepreneurs want us to empower ourselves by empowering each other through the spreading of ideas and perspectives—and you can’t do that without conversation. It takes a community of people to make an impact and to solicit lasting change, and that change often means innovation, not just by looking through a lens into the future, but into the past as well—using our world’s collective knowledge to work together to create and solve the problems we don’t even realize exist yet.

So, go gather your friends together and start asking those questions that have been dancing around in the back of your mind all week and start uncovering where the answers have been hiding—and maybe you’ll discover that, really, each of us has the potential to be a social entrepreneur.

At Conscious, we feature powerful stories about global initiatives, innovation, community development, social impact and more. You can read more stories like this and connect with a growing community of global leaders when you join as a member.