“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”
“The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.”
“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.
These three quotes by Mahatma Gandhi have meant a lot to me as I’ve developed my political and social worldviews. The only undeniable way we can change the world for the better is to change ourselves for the better. Here are ten simple ways you can change the world for the better, beginning today.
1. Smile Early and Often!
Did you know that your body language has a major impact on your mood and emotions? Everything you do, from your posture to your facial expressions impacts the way you think and feel. Don’t take this mind, body, spirit connection lightly. Instead, take advantage of your ability to improve your mood and attitude by starting your day off with a smile. Smile when you’re alone, smile on your daily commute, smile in the workplace. Not only will you feel better about yourself, you’ll also positively affect the people around you. One smile can have an incredible ripple effect with unlimited reach.
2. Explore The World!
If your last three vacations have all been to generic beach resorts with white sand and fruity drinks, it may be time to rethink your travel priorities. Relaxing vacations are great, but they don’t nourish your soul the way impactful travel can. By impactful travel I mean trips that allow you to visit places and interact with people that can create synergies of goodwill and respect. If you really want to change the world, you’ve got to understand the world. You’ve got to get to know people from different cultures and see them as they live. Can’t afford to fly halfway around the world? Plan a day trip to a nearby neighborhood you’ve been meaning to explore. Whatever it takes, you’ve got to break out of your ordinary environment so that you can interact with people you wouldn’t normally get to see.
3. Respect Your Body!
Stop abusing your body. From the food we eat to our sedentary lifestyles, we don’t always treat our bodies with the respect they deserve. Why does this matter? Well if you’re unhealthy and unhappy due to binge eating, years of cigarette abuse, or a lack of any physical activity, you’re probably not in a great position to be an effective change agent. You’ve got to reasonably take care of yourself before you can begin to take care of others. When you feel good physically, you end up with an abundance of creative energy and drive that will inevitably spill over to others.
4. Feed Your Brain!
It makes me sad when people brag about not having read a book in years. Reading is one of the most elementary forms of empowerment on the planet. The more you know, the more you can do. When I was a teenager I never read books. I was a lethargic college dropout with no real goals, no motivation, and no hope. Eventually I fell in love with books and my life changed. I became hungry for information and determined to impact the world around me. My sense of determination knew no boundaries. I was able to channel that determination into an action plan which led me to a Harvard degree, a productive career, and this blog which I use to make a small but meaningful impact on the world.
5. Vote, Even When It Hurts!
If you’re as cynical about politics as I am, then it may not make much sense to vote. The system is corrupt, the politicians are all in on it, and the special interests can’t be broken. Blah, blah, blah. These are all poor excuses to free ourselves from the responsibility of actually making a difference and changing the system. Don’t like the Democrats or Republicans? That’s fine and I’m sure many of us would agree with you. But did you know that there were thirteen candidates for President of the United States on the ballot in multiple states in 2008? Out of thirteen candidates you should be able to find someone you don’t feel totally awful about supporting. And if you can’t, then help an independent candidate get on the ballot in your state. The status quo is strongest when people are apathetic and choose not to vote. There is nothing that encourages greed and corruption more than a non-participatory electorate.
6. Shop As If The World Depends On You!
The truth is that the world does depend on your choices as a consumer. Below is a snapshot of the choices you can make to change the world. There are literally a million ways to make an impact (for good or bad) with the money you spend.
- Tired of hearing about corporate abuses against working people? Buy Fair Trade products. You can find a list of Fair Trade vendors here.
- Tired of reading about children working in sweatshops? Buy union made products. You can find a list of union made products here.
- Tired of environmental degradation? Buy locally produced products with little or no packaging. You can find local products here.
- Tired of animal abuse on factory farms? Try meatless Monday.
- Tired of seeing maimed third world children on the news? You should buy conflict free diamonds and gems. Learn more about conflict free diamonds here. Or better yet, maybe pass up the allure of a shiny rock with no real benefit to your comfort or well being?
7. Plant a Garden!
The simple truth is that planting a garden can help you connect with nature, save money at the grocery store, bond with your family and community, and feel better about yourself. Want to heal the world? Organize a lunch between you and your neighbors using only the food you can grow in your gardens. Talk about an easy and practical way to make a difference.
8. Empower Your Children!
You have to make time for your children, no matter what. It starts by having simple conversations with your kids. Talk to them about current events and ask them for their opinions. Read to them for at least 15 minutes every day. Give them the opportunity to participate in organized sports or after school activities where they can develop a skill such as dance, music, or art. And encourage them to give back to the community by taking them to fun volunteer events. Whatever you do, don’t just stick your children in front of the television or video game system and think you’re doing them justice.
9. Volunteer Your Time!
Figure out what your community needs more of and try to help fill the gap. People do this every day without much fanfare by volunteering as EMTs and firefighters, tutoring students, picking up litter in public parks, collecting food for food banks, and serving as crossing guards at local schools. There are tons of ways to give back. Volunteerguide.org has lots more ideas here.
10. Encourage Other People!
Contrary to the usual behavior of my Facebook obsessed generation, it’s not all about you. It’s about the connections you make with other people and the positive impact you can have on their lives. So go ahead and change the world by building up the people around you. Don’t be afraid to be generous with your compliments. Take an interest in the talents of your friends. Acknowledge the good things they do. Help give them the energy they need to reach the next level.
Changing the world is easy. It’s changing ourselves that requires some effort.