The Essential Life Has a Purpose: To Change the World
I want to make changes to this world.
You see, my core tenant in life is to avoid critiquing others & to invest that time in critiquing myself instead. I believe that, rather than assessing & prescribing necessary changes in the lives of others, I should be assessing & prescribing changes in my own life. Basically, I aspire to afford the freedom of non-judgement to others while focusing on my own personal growth & development. The distinction I make in my mind is, when I feel like saying "you should...", I make a mental flip to "I should..."
Reading that last paragraph back to myself, I know that, at the core of my being, I truly believe this. I also believe in justice. I also believe in activism. I also believe in standing up for the little guy & giving a voice to the underdog. I also believe that one of the largest problems with humanity is the "it's none of my business" attitude which stops people from intervening when they see a parent manhandling a child, or a husband mistreating his wife. So with all of the things I believe in & all the ways I believe humanity can change in order to build a better version of the world in which we live, where do I start in my own mission to change the world?
The Micro is the Macro: My Proposition for Changing the World
Self Absorption: The First Step to Changing the World
I believe that there is goodness to be found in self absorption.
Of course, I understand that this is an unpopular opinion, & there is a more appropriate & positive way to frame this idea. I believe that internal journeys & truly knowing ourselves is important. I believe that this internal journey is an important part of our personal evolution. When we embark on an internal journey & begin to understand ourselves, we can also begin to change & shape ourselves into who we want to be - into the version of ourselves that exists in our own minds.
In order to start this internal journey, however, we first need to take a good long look in the mirror & confront the sobering reflection we see there.
Are we truly who we want to be?
In my case, I wasn't. On the inside, I had a purpose, a goal & a spirit that wanted to affect positivity wherever I could. On the outside, I was a 19-year-old girl embroiled in confusion & ensnared in depression. I dyed my hair black, wore black clothing & generally made myself as surly & inaccessible to people as I could. It was, of course, an act of self-preservation, but an act I needed to drop if I was ever going to be anything but angry.
My own journey of self absorption took me to the deepest spaces within myself, the ones cast in shadow & forever settled in darkness. I have a lot of these dark places & there are a lot of good reasons for them to be there. The thing is, it doesn't matter where I've been or what has happened to me, or even what has been inflicted upon me. It matters only where I am going.
Another of my core tenants in life is a desire to maintain a forward focus, to maintain forward propulsion & to keep moving on, no matter what. Basically, I need to "just keep swimming", as the great philosopher, Dory The Fish, once said.
What does this all have to do with my personal mantras & changing the world? Well, the first step to changing the world is changing yourself. The first step to changing yourself is knowing yourself, knowing who you are, knowing your best qualities & understanding the places where you stumble & let yourself & others down. With a clear understanding of who we are, we can anticipate our reactions & begin to curb the behaviour we display which negatively impacts the world.
Our words are Limitations on Ourselves
It seems obvious that the words we speak to others frame them with limitations. When we say 'you're stupid, Billy', or 'you'll never get anywhere in life, Brenda', we are imposing limitations on that person. Of course, we are also hurting their feelings & Billy is probably not stupid & Brenda will go places in life no matter what you say to her. More significant than the limitations we place on others with our words, is the limitations we place on ourselves with our own self-talk.
Now, if you're thinking I'm going to veer into and inspirational talk about how we need to build ourselves up in our self-talk, you're wrong. That's a subject for another post.
For the purposes of changing the world, we need to be conscious of the self-talk that goes more like: 'I'm just a lazy person', 'I have no filter, so I can't help it if I come off as rude', or 'I'm just a people-pleaser, what can I do?' All of these sentiments express limitations &, when we become acquainted with the negative traits we possess & speak about them as permanent fixtures that form the pillars of who we are, we limit our own personal progress.
So, when I talk about changing our self-talk, I suggest flipping the dialogue to something more like: 'I'm a lazy person now, but I'm working to develop habits to be better', 'I respect people & understand the positivity that can come from building others up rather than tearing them down, so I will develop a filter which stops me from passing judgement on other people & instead forces me to focus on growing into the best possible version of myself', & 'I understand that the most positive interactions don't have to involve me changing my personality & beliefs depending upon who I am talking to'. All of these are articulations of changing our self-talk to change ourselves. When we change ourselves, we change the world.
The Importance of SMALL-SCALE Change
When we think about changing the world, typically, we think about grand, sweeping gestures. We think about the Elon Musks of the world & the people like him, who are making significant & large-scale changes to the world & global landscape. While Elon Musk's achievements are incredible & his unending drive to change the world is admirable & applaudable, to change the world, we don't have to invent solar roof panels that look exactly like roof tiles, or build the world's largest battery. Instead, we can affect change by positively impacting the world around us.
When we speak of worlds, physically, there is one world. On a more figurative level, we all live in our own little worlds. We have our own family, our own group of friends, our own smattering of acquaintances, & those we run into in our daily lives. This is our social ecosystem which lives inside our sphere of influence.
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I believe that every single interaction we have in our social ecosystem & our sphere of influence carries two choices: to positively impact the individual we are interacting with & to negatively impact the individual we are interacting with. Having a positive impact can be something as simple as making the person on the other end of the interaction smile. While this might not be life-changing, it is moment-changing & moments equate to the sum total of life.
Of course, sometimes we have bad days. Sometimes we wake-up on the proverbial "wrong side of the bed" & we charge through our morning & most of our day with an equally proverbial cloud hanging over us. When we're miserable, it follows that all we have to dole out is misery...right? No. Instead, this is an excuse we give ourselves. We let ourselves off the hook by expressing sentiments like 'I'm normally nice', 'I helped that person out when they were going through a troubled time, so they can deal with me being rude to them', or 'I'm always polite to the baristas at my coffee shop, but today was just a bad day'. These sentiments are nothing more than ways for us to excuse & accept our own negative behaviour.
I'm not saying that every time we act in an unbecoming way, we would beat ourselves up about it for the rest of our lives. What I am saying is that excusing the behaviour runs counter to our ongoing progress & development. Instead, consider each time you negatively impact someone else to be a learning experience & work to correct the behaviour that lead you to be rude, or abrasive. Also, never forget to apologise.
The Sum of All Parts
While it might seem isolating & divisive, dividing the world up into our micro-worlds - that is, our social ecosystems & spheres of influence that I mentioned earlier - the reality is much bigger than that.
It's important to note that, each time you breathe positivity & light into your social ecosystem, you breathe positivity & light into the social ecosystem of each person you interact with. Similarly, if you negatively impact those around you, you spread negativity & create undesirable change within your own social ecosystem & the social ecosystems of those within your own sphere of influence.
You see, the reality is that we are all connected. This reality, that we are essentially the sum of the world's parts, necessitates what I call the 'law of conservation of society'. What this means is that change is neither created nor destroyed; rather, it can only be transformed from one form to another. Just like Elon Musk's roof tiles will convert the sun's warmth into power for your home, you can be the catalyst for change by absorbing negativity & transforming it into positivity. This in itself is a change. What's more than that, however is the immediate & moment-altering change that you make in the lives of the recipient of your positivity.
Words are Wind: Be the Change
I'm an avid reader. I love a good story & to me, curling up on the couch with a cozy blanket, Sean, our cats & a good book, it something akin to heaven on earth. A story that I have enjoyed immeasurably is A Song of Ice & Fire by George R.R. Martin. I love the twists & turns of the story & it's singular focus on reaching an ending. Of course, this ending hasn't been revealed yet, but I feel that the linear trajectory of the story dictates the ending with be profound & it will be change in the fictional world of Westeros (I believe it will end with Tyrion "taking" the throne with Sansa at his side & the two will bring democracy to Westeros, but that remains to be seen).
Something George R.R. Martin says throughout the books is "words are wind" - this sentiment struck me as particularly pertinent as it's one I have echoed on a number of occasions. Usually, I frame the same sentiment as 'walk your own talk'. Of course, what Martin is saying is that words are just words, they don't necessitate action. What I am saying is that if you're going to talk about ideals, live in accordance with those ideals & back those words up with actions to match. When you follow words up with action, they become more than just wind.
Another way of framing this same idea is to "be the change you wish to see in the world".
Gandhi's quote has become hugely popularised & many people hold it up as a banner over their cause, but what some do not realise is that telling people about the change you want to see in the world isn't the same as BEING the change - why? Because words are wind. Instead, BEING the change is about action. If you want the world to be kinder, BE kinder. We can't be the catalyst for change by talking about kindness, our actions must back up our words & we must walk our own talk.
So, what change do you wish to see in the world? How are you going to BE it? What talk are you going to walk today?
Join us in changing the world.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR - BRITTEN THOMPSON
Who is Britten? She's a reticent little beast born in the wilds of Northern Alberta to a foul-mouthed, French-Canadian father & an angry, stiff-upper-lipped mother. Britten is, almost always, wild-haired & poorly dressed. She recently left the beautiful & untamed chill of Canada for the blistering & somewhat oppressive heat of Australia. Her list of pastimes is short & includes reading, writing, petting cats, overeating & alphabetizing things. She's a fan of Windex on Facebook because who doesn't want a streak free shine? She dreams of one day writing a super-awesome novel that affords her & her partner a comfortable lifestyle, a large property, a few horses & the means with which to foster children in need...or just becoming a red panda.
When Britten isn't writing, reading, or organizing things in her home, she can be found cuddling with her boyfriend, arguing about why Rajon Rondo is the best point guard in the history of ever, browsing Gumtree for a future cat or kitten, or contemplating days gone by, the passage of time & how ridiculous it is that humans have yet to evolve enough to grow a third set of teeth.