How To Change The World


The more good people in the world, the better this world will be. While few people are naïve enough to believe that world peace is a real possibility, many people wish for it, even if it’s a quiet whisper coming from the depths of their hearts. Be the best person that you can be because there’s no way of telling what impact your actions will have on yourself or another human being. I’ve learned a lot by keeping my eyes, ears and heart open and I hope to pass some insight on to you. Here are the things I’ve learned:

Don’t lie.

Lying is a very intricate process. You must be graceful, clever and convincing. It’s a lot of effort on your part, only to, oftentimes, cause you unnecessary anxiety and tarnish relationships. With few exceptions, honesty is the best policy. A rare exception is when you’re restricted by law to repeat information. Or if you’re lying to your best friend about her crappy haircut looking good, because you know she’s broke, and spend a decent amount of money on it, and has no money with which to fix it. Just keep in mind that generally, lying shows a lack of moral character and disrespect for others. Nobody likes a liar. Don’t be one.

Be compassionate.

Honestly put yourself in other people’s shoes. Open up your mind, set your personal beliefs aside, and try to imagine how other people feel. Never mind if you don’t agree with them “mooching off the state”. Do you honestly believe that people who can’t provide for their families feel very good about themselves? It can’t be an easy predicament for anyone, especially honest, well-intentioned people. They do exist. That bum on the side of the road? He might be a veteran suffering from a medical condition. Maybe he made some poor choices in life, but haven’t we all? The least you can do is smile at him; give him hope. Even your 16 year old co-worker who’s moping around because her boyfriend of two months dumped her. How did you feel as a teenager when you got dumped? Or if you’re lucky and never got dumped, how did you feel about your high school beau? Can you imagine what it felt like to have that sweet, innocent, puppy love come to an end? Even worse, maybe that person was your “first”. You gave a piece of yourself away to them, only to have your heart crushed. That’s what the poor child is going through. Give her a break.

Be positive.

Many people have heard of affirmations and think it’s all about repeating positive phrases. For those who aren’t familiar, affirmations are much more than that; every word that comes from your mouth is an affirmation. When you say something negative, you’ve given life to that negative thought. You’ve let the words escape your mouth and now they’re free to float around in your world and in the world of others, and cause a ruckus. Before you say something, ask yourself: what benefits are there, for me or for others, to saying this out loud? Is it really funny? Is it information they need to know? Is it insightful? Does it offer anything to the world other than one more thing for people to be miserable about? No? Then don’t say it. Likewise, saying positive things brings them to reality. When you affirm that something positive is happening, you’ve just given life to that positive thing, and it instantly becomes exponentially more likely that it’s going to happen. Use your words wisely; they’re a very powerful thing and only you can control them.

Be the change.

If you don’t like the way things are, do something about it. You have no right to complain about something if you’re doing nothing to make it better. If you don’t like the fact that the Earth is crumbling beneath us, drive a fuel efficient car, start a compost, recycle (seriously, how hard is it to recycle?!) Don’t stop there; raise awareness! Talk to others about your concern. Write letters, start petitions. If you see someone doing the wrong thing, speak up! Chances are, everyone in the entire world won’t wake up tomorrow morning thinking the same way you do. It’s up to you to enlighten and inspire people to do the right thing.

Be yourself.

This phrase is overused and therefore ignored and/or underestimated. Why on earth would you want to be friends with someone who doesn’t like you for you? Why would you want a job which you’re not qualified for, and will ultimately cost you precious hours of sleep, as you lay awake wondering, “how the hell am I going to pull this off? It’s an awful lot of effort to be surrounded by people and things that you don’t enjoy. Be honest about who you are from the get go. Your future self, and those around you, will thank you for it.

Be courteous.

This kind of goes along with being compassionate. Think about it this way: have you ever had a day when you just don’t have freakin’ time to wait for people to turn into traffic? You have? That’s unfortunate, but so has everyone else. Next time you’re on your way to work, try slowing down or stopping (when it’s safe to do so) for others. Give them a fighting chance to get out into traffic. They’re just trying to get somewhere, too. Get in the habit of being kind and courteous. The universe, and maybe other people, will reward you for it.

Be respectful.

People have a right to their feelings. They deserve space. They don’t deserve to have their peaceful evenings interrupted by your drunken drama. Older people have a lot of experience, and nine times out of ten, they know what they’re talking about. Older people are special because they’ve experienced a lot and they have valuable insight. They deserve special privileges, such as a place to sit, or the say in whether your family gets a dog. Respect your elders. Respect everyone, from your spouse to the guy mopping the bathroom floor. Every single person has a purpose on this Earth and it’s our responsibilities as human beings to respect people. Most importantly, respect yourself. If you don’t respect yourself, no one else will respect you.

Expect nothing.

You may have heard that nothing is free. It’s an absolute sham. Some things are free (or should be). Helping your friend move, paying for someone’s dinner, letting someone borrow money, or sticking up for someone, are all examples of acts of kindness. Your kind act is moot if you expect something in return. Even if you’re kind enough to let someone borrow money, just kiss the money goodbye. Don’t expect it to be repaid just because you’d repay it. If it is repaid, what a blessing! But if not, is it worth spoiling years of friendship? Or a lifetime of that family member’s love? Unlikely.

Choose your battles.

Ask yourself, “is this the mountain I want to die on?” Ask yourself if it’s really worth potentially upsetting another person. Does it truly matter? If you’re constantly disagreeing with someone, eventually they’ll get fed up and begin to resent you. If you find yourself wanting to argue, ask yourself if it’s worth it.

Have no regrets.

There’s no such thing as time travel. Worrying, replaying an event in your mind, and obsessing over something, will NOT change it. You’ve already done it. Just say you’re sorry (and be sorry) and move forward.

Learn to forgive.

Other people have regrets, too. Like you, they can’t go back in time and change their actions. Accept genuine apologies. Accepting an apology doesn’t just mean saying “okay” and going on resenting them. It means accepting that this person made a mistake, realizing that they feel remorseful, and accepting it as part of the past. Move on. Forgive and forget.

Stand up for what is right.

Someone once said this better than I ever could, so I’ll quote him:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me. – Martin Niemöller

Be number one.

Take care of yourself first. Others second. If you’re not treating yourself with love and kindness, you’re not taking care of yourself. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re not fit to take care of someone else. Being a better person starts inside of you. First off, you need to take good care of your body with nourishing foods and exercise. Secondly, you must take care of your mental health. If you’re experiencing unusual amounts of anxiety, depression, etc., then do something about it. Think of the classic example of the air masks on airplanes. They always tell you to put your mask on first. If you attempt to put your fussy child’s mask on first, you may pass out from lack of oxygen. You can’t help your child if you’re incapacitated. Always look out for number one.

Be generous.

You may be having a hard time with money, but you could probably be having a harder time. Imagine life without a car, a job, your dog, your spouse, or food. If you have food, shelter, transportation, a job and someone to love, you’re doing pretty damn good; better than a lot of people. So if you see someone putting $5 in their gas tank, give the cashier an extra $10. If you’re at the grocery store and see a family at the checkout leaving because their card was declined, give them a break, pay for the groceries. I, personally wouldn’t be able to afford to do that. But think along those terms. There are people who’d do anything to be where you are. Give them hope, give them a hand.

Laugh a little!

Not everything’s a joke, but for heaven’s sake, find humor in life! If you trip and fall in a room full of people, chances are, the people around you are immediately filled with anxiety; worry about your well-being, and, if you’re a generally high-strung person, they may be worried about your reaction. Set aside your brief humiliation and laugh. Just laugh! It was probably hilarious to witness your dramatic fall. Your only regret should be not seeing it from others’ perspective. Laughter is such a precious gift; how special that you were able to (accidentally or not) add some laughter and joy to another person’s life.

See the big picture.

Sometimes crummy things happen to good, undeserving people. If something bad happens to you, assume it’s just part of a bigger plan. Visualize yourself and this moment to be in the midst of a vast universe that’s been around for billions of years. Whatever awful experience you’re having, at least try to see it that way. Remember, this too shall pass.

None of these things matter if you’re not genuine.

If you’re going to be helpful, do it because you want to help. Don’t ignore your subconscious mind. Are you helping because it makes you look like a good person, or because you expect something in return, or so you don’t have to feel guilty? Or are you helping because helping makes you feel good and it’s the right thing to do? You’re not doing anyone any favors by going to your friend’s kid’s birthday party and pouting the whole time, or worse, plastering on a fake, inauthentic smile while exuding negative vibes. Your contribution is worthless if it’s lined with expectations. Do everything and say everything with intent. Do it because you believe you’re doing the right thing. If you take anything away from this, take this advice: be genuine.

This is by no means a definitive list; there is always more to be added. I don’t speak because I’m an expert, I speak from my heart because I believe that all people have good in them. Not everyone knows how to use the good, and some need a little boost or a reminder. “Be the change you want to see in the world,” said Mahatma Gandhi. If every person did this earnestly, genuinely and without expectations, the world would be a better place. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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