Being human is messy. We say things we shouldn’t, even though we know better. We lose our tempers over the smallest of things. We react to people and events that are none of our business. We are an imperfect breed.
But I think the imperfectness of being human is intentional. If life were perfect, there would be nothing to learn, nothing new to invent, a lack of excitement in any new experience. So, built into our messy, unpredictable and challenging life is the continual opportunity to make things better.
I always struggled with understanding why tough and difficult things happen in life, particularly when you work hard to be good, charitable and supportive. Should it be that when you are good, life just works out? Though that just isn’t true, there is a silver lining: it is in these tough situations that we have the opportunity to find a way to make things better. The tough situations help us make ourselves and our world better.
When I was younger, my father had a rule for my five siblings and me: to learn to be more present and tuned in, to really pay attention to ourselves and to the people, things and events around us. And with greater awareness, we were to look at the situation and ask, “what could I do to make this better?”
My dad shared Chinese philosopher Mencius’ thinking; Mencius believed that the world was fragmented, in perpetual disorder and in the need of constant work. Instead of being disappointed by this, he saw this as an opportunity and obligation for everyone to have a role in continually making things better. This thinking was in line with my Dad’s guidance for my siblings and me – stop and notice yourself and your world, then focus on making something better.
Many of us have been trained to think hard work leads to success and negative things get you punished. But we know this isn’t true for a very simple reason: there is free will in our world. Because of this, there is always the opportunity – in every situation we encounter – for us to make a positive difference.
It could be within ourselves in how we talk, care, support or engage with ourselves and others. It could be in our environment in how we respect the planet, our efficiency with resources, accommodating others on the highway, sharing what we know with someone who is struggling. There are so many opportunities to make one small difference in our messy, capricious and unpredictable world.
As you start small, you find that your actions inspire others and our world gets better. It won’t ever be perfect, but it can always be better. And that better starts by watching yourself and your world for the places to make a small action that inspires another to do a small action that inspires another to do a small action. Pay kindness forward. Pay concern, care, love and support forward. Though we are imperfect, we are great at seeing others make things better and being positively affected by it.
Stop and really notice yourself and your world. Don’t be upset by the challenges, meanness and disappointments in your life and in our world. These are reminders that our world is always ready for some small actions to make things better. These are for you to do – they are for me to do. And as we do them, we don’t change the entire world, but we change the piece of the world we touch. When we all do this, we do make a difference.
By Jay Forte
Consider reading Is Follow Your Passion Bad Advice?