We all want to positively affect our world, no?
Often in the idealism of youth, we truly believe we can change the world. And, we want to leave our marks to assure history doesn’t completely forget us. And then we get a bit older and realize we’re just dots in the grand scheme of human existence.
We’re literally stardust.
Somewhere along the way, however, comes the dawning that we still want to leave this world a better place—for our children and grandchildren, if nothing else.
And no matter which side of the political aisle you sit, the world could use bettering!
Imagine what it would be like if you really could help change the world. Didn’t even the thought of it make your blood surge a bit?
Imagine what it would be like if you really could help change the world.
You know—right before all that doubt came tumbling in about how “I’m just one person.” “What can I possibly do to help anything right outside my door, much less, across this vast land?” “I have my hands full with work, kids,” etc., etc., etc.
I know—I feel the same way at times. Our lives can be full to overflowing with barely time to decompress after the day (although we have to have some diversion!). Especially during those times, it’s far easier to say: “Let somebody else fix the world.”
And for periods of time, that’s all perfectly fine.
Sooner or later, though, we come to the realization that guess what—it’s us. We’re the adults. Especially when we get to the age of parents passing on, that understanding becomes, well, a bit stark.
We all have to take care of ourselves first. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs holds true for a reason! Of course the lower rungs are about food, shelter, safety, etc.
But funny thing—as you ascend the ladder, concern for your fellow man is part of the climb.
Maslow’s list of characteristics of self-actualizers has as #9:
Concerned for the welfare of humanity
So, all right, already! Let’s get this show on the road! What can I do? It’s easier than you think:
1. Stay informed about the world.
Yep, it’s tough with the insanity of all we have to do to stay informed via real news sources (i.e., not from social media!). I understand. Truly I do. But without getting educated on what’s really happening, it makes you so much easier to be led.
And you don’t want to be led, do you? Don’t you want to lead?
So, how to do this in the course of your insane day?
Begin a simple habit. One that doesn’t take long. Commit to 10 minutes a day of reading a reputable news source (the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, etc.). During this 10 minutes, read only from a source that actually vets information, checks sources, and curates information.
Who doesn’t have 10 minutes? Maybe steal it from all that Facebook time J
I can promise—this will change your life. And in so doing, you can help change the world.
As Thomas Jefferson said:
“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”
Yeah, yeah, I know—the election’s over. Thank God! But voting actually occurs every 2 years, and hardly anyone does it.
“But my vote doesn’t matter!” is a common refrain.
Well, it doesn’t matter if you don’t cast it.
Even in highly contested presidential elections, so many Americans don’t exercise this right, believing that their votes just don’t count.
In 2012, Phillip Phillips won the 11th season of American Idol. More people voted for him than for president that year. 132 million people voted in American Idol. 122 million in the Presidential election.
Okay, so this is somewhat deceptive. Statistics often are. At least with me, I’ll tell you when I’m skewing them! Granted, you can vote for Idol even if you’re under 18. And, you can vote multiple times (without being accused of voter fraud).
Still, that’s a pretty scary indictment of the state of our world.
In the recent election, almost half of eligible voters didn’t vote. The best count is 57.9 percent of eligible voters voted in 2016
In the 2014 midterms, just 36.4 percent of eligible voters turned out. And the thing is, those elections affect your life much more so than the presidential ones . . .
So what would happen if the rest of those folks voted?
It would change our world.
As Franklin D. Roosevelt said:
“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”
3. Broaden your horizons with Literary Fiction
I know—you don’t have time to read fiction, right? Or if you do, it’s for mindless diversion. I get that—truly I do. And I’m just proud as hell that you’re reading any fiction. The actual number of folks who read declines every year.
But one thing I know for true—the arts provide our very best method for not just learning about other cultures, about other people’s lives and values, but also in understanding them. And if you understand someone different from you, you are much less likely to see them as “other,” and far more likely to try and find common ground.
We even have studies that prove reading fiction enhances empathy and improves human connection, as well as stimulating the brain and improving language skills and vocabulary.
The surest way to lasting peace is through culture.
And a new study showed that people who read live longer than those who don’t!
And I know, I know—often Literary works are obtuse and difficult to wade through. But reading levels become more sophisticated when challenged. And the riches buried therein are far more valuable than the work involved to get there.
Challenge yourself to read 1, just 1 Literary novel a year.
a new study showed that people who read live longer than those who don’t!
It can even be the same one! A literary agent/friend of mine reads The Mayor of Casterbridge every New Year’s Day. I always chuckle at what this says about him. But what can I say? I read A River Runs Through It at least once a year.
But reading just 1 Literary novel each year will change your perspective, even if the tiniest bit. Which will change your world.
And therefore, change our world.
(Besides, the one you choose may be mine! Apologies for the little break for shameless self-promotion)
“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.” – William Styron
4. Use your gifts.
We all have them, no? You came here with inherent gifts. You honed them. You’re good at various things at this point, some of which you don’t pursue.
Why not? Is it that little voice again telling you you’re not good enough? You’re not smart, talented, courageous, persistent, whatever, enough to do anything with those gifts?
Hogwash. Slap that little demon voice off your shoulder and reconsider the gift you buried, probably along with a broken dream.
Commit to your gift. Commit to persisting, using that gift in the future. As Calvin Coolidge said:
“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
Now, more than ever before in the history of our planet, the world needs your gifts.
Bring them on. This will change your world.
And will help change ours.
5. Teach Yourself Peace
People often laugh at this, no? “How,” they say, “will becoming more peaceful myself help this world one iota?”
Anger and fear go hand in hand. And we sure saw where that took us this political season! The body is wired to defend itself—that old fight-or-flight mechanism, courtesy of the limbic system.
But if you can quiet that monkey mind, many studies have shown that you also:
- Improve memory
- Stimulate brain growth
- Relieve stress
- Combat insomnia
- Heighten awareness of other senses.
All of which makes you a better, more thoroughly realized you. Which changes your world. And changes ours.
As Alice Walker said:
“Teach yourself peace. Pass it on.”
6. Every month, do 1 thing—just 1 thing—to bolster the causes that reflect your values.
Just 1 thing.
We often think of that in terms of volunteering—which is great!
Or giving money—also helpful!
But these can be little things as well. For example, after the winning candidate in this election blasted The New York Times (venerated, vetted, curated, cross-checked traditional newspaper), I went and subscribed.
Yep, a little thing, but made me feel better. Because I was supporting something I believed in.
So imagine, if you will, if every citizen in these United States just did these few things—or others like them. What sort of world would we live in? Wouldn’t it be better, richer, stronger?
Sunday night, Cris Collinsworth said something that truly snagged my attention. (I won’t bore you non-football folks with the details!) He was describing how a particular player when hit, or faced with a play that would lose yards, would always “react up.”
Now, that tweaked me. Because that’s the key to life, isn’t it? When we’re hit, knocked down, derailed in some fashion, we have two choices: We can complain about our circumstances and blame another (that danged outside linebacker!). Or, we can immediately take the next step toward the goal line.
We can React Up.
I do believe that will be my mantra for 2017.
Ah, yes, we’re just stardust. But then, stardust contains all the components of matter. It’s our choice what we will build with it.
How do you hope to change the world?