A lot of people are disheartened by the current state of the world. Seems like everywhere we turn, we’re overwhelmed by the immense amount of strife and suffering going on around us.
This can lead to some pretty intense despondency when we contemplate just how big the mess is, and how little we can personally do to change it all.
Well, do you remember the saying, “think globally: act locally”? We can create an even tighter focus than that, and edge more toward: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
You and I might not be omnipotent beings who can change the entire world for the better just by snapping our fingers, but we can make great changes within ourselves.
Those in turn can – and will – ripple outward and affect others.
And they will affect others in turn.
And so on.
Here’s how to change the world, one small piece at a time:
Changes In How You Interact With Other People
1. Be Kind
This one seems like a no-brainer, but it’s startling to see just how often we lapse when it comes to accepting and celebrating others as they are.
Whenever you have the chance to do so, be kind. And if you have the chance to be really kind, do that too.
Did you have a great experience with a customer service rep at a store? Thank them sincerely, and then contact their manager and tell them what a great job their employee is doing.
2. Love Unconditionally
This is another one that people tend to have difficulty with.
To love someone unconditionally doesn’t mean that you tolerate poor behavior or abuse from them, but rather you strive to love them for who they are, rather than for who you want them to be.
You can dislike someone’s behavior, but still love them as a person.
Basically, we’re all struggling our way through existence, trying to make sense of things while juggling a million different responsibilities, anxieties, hopes and dreams… and that gets really hard.
We slip up, we can’t always be the person we really want to be, or the person our partner/child/etc. would be happiest with.
It’s hugely reassuring to know that they love us even when we stumble, right? Let’s love others that way in turn.
We can all tell when someone is being phony with us, and it’s really not a pleasant experience at all.
Now, this is different from being gentle when someone’s not terribly interested in something, but they try to be supportive of us anyway.
Phoniness is more like… really laying it on thick when you praise a child for their drawing, or being super-friendly to someone you can’t stand; in other words, being overly nice.
There’s a lot to be said for authenticity and sincerity. That doesn’t mean people have carte blanche to be jerks to those they don’t like, but rather have the opportunity to be polite, rather than false and saccharine.
Here’s an example: If you really appreciate something that a person has done for them, express that appreciation quietly and with real heart, rather than by a grand gesture. That can come across as insincere.
Just be real, and you’ll find that others are more sincere toward you in turn. That’s how you can change the world, one interaction at a time.
Choices You Make: Big And Small
4. Living In Service To Others
This falls under the “big choices” category, and has to do with your life’s purpose.
Granted, we could devote several articles to this one, but in its simplest form, it has to do with what you want to do with the time you’ve been given, this time around.
You have the opportunity to do just about anything you’d like as a life calling, so what will you do?
Choosing a career that allows you to work toward the greater good is one of the most profound and giving things you can do with the decades you have on this planet.
What draws you? What subjects interest you?
Whatever it is that inspires you, there’s a career path you can take that will allow you to pour your energy into making the world a better place.
5. Shopping Ethically
The term “vote with your wallet” is a powerful one. Every time you purchase something, you make a statement about what you believe in, what you will tolerate, and what matters to you.
If you buy personal care products from companies that pollute the environment and do horrible tests on animals, you tell them that you’re okay with that behavior, and will continue to support it.
If you buy items made by small business owners, or organic, fair-trade foods, you tell the people who make them that you appreciate their efforts.
What do you want to say?
You’ve undoubtedly been inundated with this idea for years, so it’s just a matter of re-evaluating what works best for you.
Are you able to hang laundry outside on a washing line to dry? Can you use stainless steel, reusable water bottles instead of buying plastic ones? How about taking reusable bags to the grocery store?
In which aspects of your daily life can you make little improvements?
Even the smallest person can change the course of the future. – J.R.R. Tolkein
Just about all of us have experienced a situation where we were having a really bad day, but someone did or said something that totally turned the day around.
It could have been something as simple as a stranger’s smile, or a coworker letting us know how much they appreciate us.
Small acts of kindness go a long way to helping others, and in a world where so many people are so stressed and upset, these little kindnesses are absolutely vital.
Building upon the choices listed earlier, consider the actions you take on a daily basis that affect both your environment, and the greater planet beyond.
If you choose to use a potent chemical cleaner in your home, people, animal companions, and plants will be exposed to the fumes that cleaner releases.
When you pour the cleaner down the drain, those chemicals enter the water table. The underground streams that carry those chemicals empty out into larger bodies of water, spreading the chemicals far and wide, affecting plant and animal life everywhere they go.
You can make kinder, gentler choices when it comes to personal products, and then go a step beyond for greater ecological stewardship.
Scatter indigenous flower seeds so native pollinators can feed from them. Make your yard attractive to birds and local wildlife, or donate to tree-planting initiatives.
If we all played our part, it would have a huge positive impact on the world. Be a part of that change.
8. Devote Time And Energy To A Cause You Believe In
Each and every one of us is passionate about something that has to do with the greater good, so consider what you feel strongest about, and take action to do your part.
Do you love animals? Consider fostering homeless kittens or volunteering at an animal sanctuary farm.
Do you like to knit? You can make hats for preemie babies or blankets for refugees in camps.
You are capable of doing something that can make a remarkable difference in another’s life.
Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love. – Mother Teresa
Your Own Mindset (And How It Influences Everything Else)
9. Reduce TV And Social Media Consumption
Take a moment and think about the last time you went for a week or more without watching TV. Yes, this includes Netflix.
Can you remember that?
If you can’t remember, try it. You might find it difficult to find other ways to amuse yourself for the first 24-48 hours, but after that, you may discover that you’re spending more time outside, or reading, or working on some of those creative projects you’ve set aside for the nebulous “eventually” to come around.
How does this change the world? It improves our own mental health. This spills over into everything we do and every person we engage with. It’s a big one.
10. See The Good In Everything
No matter what the situation may be, there’s always some good to be found in it.
That long wait in line at the grocery store is an opportunity to chat with a stranger who might seem down.
A terrible breakup is a chance for personal growth and vital alone time to get back in touch with what’s important to you.
There isn’t a single experience that isn’t a chance for healing, goodness, and evolution.
When you focus on the good stuff, you stop focusing on little, seemingly negative things that upset or irritate you. You’ll complain less, and stop criticizing those around you.
That in turn will make their lives happier, and so they’ll be nicer to other people, and so on and so forth ad infinitum. The positivity will keep rippling outward, elevating everyone.
These are just a few simple things that pretty much anyone can do to make their little corner of the world a bit better than how they found it.
Just doing one thing on this list can make a dramatic difference, even if you don’t notice it immediately.
What other ideas do you have for changing the world for the better? Let us know in the comments section below!
Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.