The Best Thing You Can Do for the World is Work On Yourself
Everyone seems to have a different idea of how we can best contribute to a positive future. Some may run marathons for charities. Others may volunteer at local food banks. Others may do their best to educate others on environmental issues.
We all have our own ideas about what is positive, good, and worthwhile.
But the truth is, we can’t ever know how our actions will impact the future. Our intentions may be pure, but we can’t really know if our mission is ultimately the best one.
So what to do?
The best thing to do is to work on ourselves first.
The more we personally grow, learn, and develop, the wider our view of life, ourselves, and others, and the better equipped we are to contribute to those around us in positive ways.
How helpful are we to others when we’re cranky, confused, or down? Not very.
When we focus on our personal development and growth, not only do we make better decisions for our own lives, but we become more resilient and strong so we can help others around us as well.
In other words, don’t abandon that mission you’re passionate about, but approach it as something you’re passionate about for now.
So here are some things to keep in mind during your journey of personal growth and development.
“Who looks outside dreams. Who looks inside awakens.”
Create happiness for yourself first
We can’t really make a positive contribution until all our own needs are met. This is especially true of our mental and emotional needs.
According to Maslow, we must first be self actualized and personally fulfilled to truly transcend our own needs and focus on the happiness of others.
This is because unless our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs are met, some part of us will be trying to find ways for filling those unmet needs.
If we are unhappy with some aspect of our lives we need to sort that out for ourselves first so we can create peace within ourselves and be ready to help others.
If there is turmoil inside, it will hard to send a peaceful message outside.
Yes, helping others feels good.
Yes, we should try to contribute positively when we have the opportunity.
But we should be aware that unless we work on ourselves first, our ability to contribute won’t be at the level that it could be.
So make it a priority to create peace in your heart first.
The world will be the better for it. It’s win-win.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
“A great many people think they are thinking
when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”
Let go of certainty
I’ve written about embracing uncertainties before, but this is so very important.
What is it that really irks us about someone we are arguing with?
It’s probably that they rigidly stick to their views, right?
That they are being ignorant, close minded, and essentially looking at the world from only one lens.
This is why it’s so important to reflect on how much we hold on to our own certainties.
We all have our own worldview lens that is made up of society, culture, family, and personal experiences.
So while we have personal truths, they aren’t necessarily universal truths.
When it comes down to it, none of us know what the hell is going on.
We’re a bunch of talking, thinking bags of water walking around on a rock hurling through space.
That’s all we really know.
As I’ll go into more in the dialogue section, when we stick to our certainties, we don’t truly listen to others.
We just “rearrange our prejudices” like Bohm says.
As soon as an opinion, idea, or thought becomes certain, go back to the space of uncertainty.
We can learn to stay truly open minded by questioning our own certainties often.
“We are the universe experiencing itself.”
Don’t reduce the complexities of life into a single tweet
This is a big one.
I’m finding that a lot of very complex issues and problems are being reduced to a tweetable answer.
It seems that instead of keeping the discussion open, we prefer a short, simple answer that will explain the complexities of our human experience. There are a lot of big, unanswered questions about life. When all of our survival needs are met, we have time to reflect and ask why.
However, when we ask the big questions during times of personal pain, struggle, or suffering, we want to feel safe and comforted so it becomes easier to cling to a simple, understandable reason than to admit that no one has the ultimate answer.
Settling on an overly simplistic explanation for complex problems can quickly become our crutch because we stop exploring other possibilities, and narrow our lens of the world.
Life is big.
We aren’t always going to know the cause for the events in our lives.
We need to make learning a lifelong process, and we can’t do that when we’ve already decided that we have found the answers.
“The man who views the world at fifty the same as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.”
You are more than your beliefs
Only for the most brave and strong…ask yourself the most dreaded question.
What would it mean if I were wrong?
Really stew in it for a while.
How would that impact my whole sense of self and the world?
This question helps us to see how much we identify with our beliefs. Sometimes we internalize our opinions or beliefs so much that we think it is who we are. Our beliefs are part of us, but they can change. And they should change.
As we grow and evolve, our views of ourselves, others, and the world shift. The essence of who we are doesn’t really lie in our current beliefs.
We are much more than that. Once we realize this and ask ourselves, “What would it mean if I were wrong?”,
we can respond with “It means I’m still who I am, and I have more to explore.”
“It means times have changed, and there are different truths out there.”
“It means that I’m open to different ideas that will help me grow.”
Let go of an us versus them mentality
Let’s clarify this for a moment.
I believe we need to act authentically at any given time.
If we fervently want to stand up for something we believe in we should.
But we need to leave out the idea that our selves are so separate from others who are not on our “side”. That the suffering of others isn’t going to impact us in some way.
Because it will.
We are all interconnected on multiple levels seen and unseen.
The suffering of others comes back to us in some way or another.
We are all affected. Think of how the negativity of one person changes the mood of the entire group. We can’t see this happening with our eyes, but the impact is there.
When some of us are being marginalized, we all lose.
When there is no recognition of the effects of personal, cultural, and political histories of individuals and groups of people, we all face the consequences.
There is no clear winner and loser in the big picture.
“When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.”
Practice effective dialogue
What is effective dialogue?
It’s when we are open to letting ideas swim together to form new understandings.
It’s when we focus on the experience of dialogue and the co-created ideas that emerge as a result.
It’s when we focus on the common felt connections of all who participate in the interactions.
All the above and…of course…don’t take anything personally.
Make it your goal NOT to come to any conclusion at the end.
Ask lots of questions rather than giving a lot of answers.
Honour the diversity of ideas!
If we truly value the diversity that exists in the world, we must also value the diversity of ideas that exist in dialogue with others.
We need to recognize that there are oppressive ideas, and empowering ideas. There are hateful ideas, and loving ones. There is hurt, and there is joy. What’s important is that we contribute our own uniqueness. Our contribution to the diversity of the world is what makes us valuable.
BOTTOM LINE… How about we live to be good examples to future generations? That’s it. The world needs more positive examples to be inspired by.
“If you want to make the world a better place,
take a look at yourself, and then make a change”
Michael Jackson, Man in the Mirror