How To Change the World

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“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” ~ Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy


When we think about changing the world it seems….well, impossible.

I’d love to change the world, but isn’t the planet too big and aren’t there too many people in it? People who bring their own unique worldview into the mix. So many opinions, biases, prejudices…all the negative stuff that creates so much discord in life. How can one person possibly make a difference for the better?

Before you change the world, change yourself.

We can’t be accountable for other people, but we must take responsibility for ourselves. In doing so, we can make an impact by the example we set. 

I recently participated in a Kindness Challenge that prompted participants to focus on the goal of becoming kinder and more compassionate. Simply being more aware of myself and how I responded to those around me led me to act and react in better ways. Change yourself first and you change the world.

This helped illustrate Newton’s Law that states:

“For every action there is a reaction.”

Newton showed that force can only result from mutual interactions. Therefore, if we want to be a force for positive change, we must change and become a positive force! 

How can we do this? Everyday we’re faced with choices on how to respond to the people around us. If someone treats us badly, we’re likely to respond in a negative way. If, however, we respond in a totally unexpected (positive) way, two things happen:  

  1.  We get the other person’s attention long enough to…
  2. Get him or her thinking about why we responded in an unexpected way.

I‘ve come to believe that much of the poor communication between people is a result of a lack of awareness: about ourselves, the other person, and the circumstances surrounding the encounter. If we can prompt others to think first, instead of reacting, we’ll have accomplished the important first step. I’ve found it helpful to do the following:

  1. Be aware of how I’m feeling and take time to think before speaking/acting
  2. Consider what the other person is feeling and why (maybe they’re experiencing a rough point in their life, or have experienced bad things that are affecting their behavior.)
  3. Realize that other people have lived a different life and see things according to their upbringing, religion, ethnic backgrounds, and so forth.
  4. Exercise more patience and less judgmental thinking:  don’t take it personally, because it may have nothing to do with you and everything to do with something else (see #2 above.)
  5. Turn the other cheek and respond with kindness.

You’ve heard the expression that it’s usually people who deserve love the least, that need it the most. Chances are they haven’t had good leaders and examples in their own lives. They may have suffered abuse, negligence, or another injustice of some kind. Does that excuse bad behavior? No, but it helps us understand what drives that behavior and gives insight into dealing with it in a better way.

Ripples

Whatever the case may be, we have daily opportunities to induce changes in our families, workplaces, neighborhoods, and communities. Like the ripples that multiply outward from a small drop of water, we can create a similar cause and effect. 

We are facing tremendous problems in our world:  social, political, economic, environmental, and the list goes on. It will take a long time to make widespread positive change and we’ll never solve all the issues, but we have to start somewhere. Now is a good time and our own corner of the world is a good place. We have to be diligent in our efforts everyday and set an example for others. Some days we’ll succeed and some days we won’t. But we keep trying.

And that’s how you change the world.

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” ~ Albert Schweitzer


 

 

2016 Kindness Challenge – Week 5

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I was in the midst of putting my post together yesterday morning for Week #5 of the Kindness Challenge, when I heard about the Orlando tragedy. Obviously, I switched gears and spent much of the day on various news sites,  as well as Twitter and Facebook.

This nightmare followed on the Friday night shooting death of Christina Grimmie, a rising star who gained fame on the “Voice.” Needless to say, I’m having a tough time writing this in the aftermath of such hatred and destruction of innocent life.

The nightclub, where the horrific events unfolded in the early hours of Sunday morning, is only 13 miles from my daughter’s apartment, where I’m visiting this week. Not that location makes it any more or any less awful, but the closer it hits to home, the more you realize it can happen anywhere, at any time.


The focus of Week #5 has been to end our days with gratitude for the kindness we’ve experienced on that particular day.

Nikki put together a list of suggestions to help with this assignment. I chose the following three:

  • Make a list of all of the kind things that happened to you today
  • Keep a journal handy to write details of something kind you’d like to remember
  • Say a few words of thanks for the kindness you noticed in your day

Each night, after I shut off the light, I’ve reflected on that day’s events. This is easy, because it’s something I usually do anyway. I took extra notice of any kindnesses from that day and silently expressed appreciation for them.

My goal is to start an actual Gratitude Journal where I’ll record these thoughts on paper. However, my fear is that I won’t keep up with it consistently, like diet and exercise. So, I decided to take the pressure off and not implement any strict rules. I’ll pay attention to the blessings of the day and record them in whatever way works the best on that given night. Some nights I may go into greater detail with several paragraphs and other nights might be a quick “one-liner.” 

I believe these positive reflections right before bed have helped me sleep a bit better this week. I still wake up periodically through the night, thanks to menopause. Prior to that I slept like a log. But, it makes sense if you consider the endorphins released by the brain whenever we have happy thoughts. These “feel good” hormones do just that: help us feel better and more relaxed, so sleep should come more easily.

Last night was an exception. However, one of the things I felt grateful for was not being in the wrong place, at the wrong time. I believe that fate is a random thing and we’ve witnessed these events in a variety of venues: schools, churches, movie theaters, nightclubs, and others. Obviously, the gay community was targeted on Saturday night and some have been religious and politically based. Unfortunately, many of the other shootings had no motivation other than madness. There’s no way to predict where the next incident could occur.

To Thine Own Self

 

I also feel grateful that no one is targeting me for my beliefs and choices on how to live my life. My heart weeps for people who live under the threat of violence simply for the color of their skin, their choice of a significant other, their religion, and so on.

 


Kindness doesn’t stay with us as long as grief and anger do. People who suffer tragedies are likely to experience those negative effects for a long time and, in some cases, forever. We also tend to hang onto the mean things that people say and do to us. While we often forgive, we don’t usually forget. The positive effects of kindness pass more quickly from our memories. Consider the different ways that people show us kindness:

  • Generosity of time – Helping us with the cleaning, packing & moving to a new home, babysitting, petsitting, housesitting and other things that require the gift of their time.
  • Generosity of money and/or things – Giving us monetary help or gifts when we are in need or have an emergency.
  • Being courageous – Helping us face fear and the unknown, while feeling afraid themselves.
  • Patience/Turning the other cheek – Not holding a grudge when we treat them poorly.
  • Making sacrifices – When they give up things, so that we can have something extra.

 If I had recorded every kindness shown to me throughout my life, I would’ve filled many, many gratitude journals! 


The problem with being human is that we tend to take the good stuff for granted. That’s one of the goals of mindfulness: to focuse on the positive aspects of our lives and create a consistent awareness of those things as we go about our days.

Gratitude 2Being consistently aware of the kindness of others and the gratitude we feel because of that will create a more positive frame of mind as we face the ups and downs of life.

As hard as it is to do, we must learn to let go of the bad and forgive. Instead, we must embrace the good and commit it to memory (and our hearts.) 

In this way it can become a reserve of positivity to draw from when the darkness falls.

Kindness Challenge – Week #5


 

 

Photo Finish Friday

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Reflections

 

“The past is our definition. We may strive, with good reason, to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will escape it only by adding something better to it. “~ Wendell Berry

We’re one week into the new year and I find myself still reflecting on the old year; how to avoid the mistakes of the past and build a better today. Learning mindfulness in order to really appreciate and be in the now, since that’s all we really have.