My dad was a wise man. Of the many gems he shared over my lifetime, one remains with me clearer than all others. He said, “Your job is not to change the world, only the piece of it you touch.”
That line has been remarkably helpful as I am aware of the extreme number of things in our lives that need attention. Global warming, country unity, personal respect and acceptance, resilience in tough times, racial inequality, political division – the list is overwhelming.
With an agenda this great, it is easy to inspire feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, leading you to throw your hands up in the air and say, “Why bother?” At least until you remember my father’s guidance.
His statement is as much a statement of purpose as it is mindfulness. It is our job to pay attention on purpose, noticing where we are at this moment, and asking the question, “What could I do to make this (whatever is right in front of me) better?” Not the whole world, but just this piece, right here, right now.
Supporting my dad’s perspective is the wisdom of the Chinese Confucian philosopher, Mencius. He shared that we would like the world to be stable and predictable. That good things happen to good people. But in fact, the world is actually more unstable and capricious. Tough things happen. Bad things happen to good people. We can be disappointed by this, or we can realize that in the presence of tough times, there is the opportunity for us to improve what is right in front of us – to continually make things better. Not that we each have to be responsible for making everything better, but rather just the things that cross our paths. And these improvements can activate the performance and commitment of others.
So, improving the world (because there is always something needing improving) is not up to you. However, improving your piece of this world (your relationships with people who don’t agree with you, your use of power and natural resources, your acknowledgement of others’ greatness, your appreciation for others’ diversity) is up to you and can make a profound difference. The goal is not to be discouraged by the lack of large progress, but to focus on consistent, local, small progress. That is yours to see, own and do.
We have a lifetime to stop and notice the things around us and make a commitment to improve them. And, as the flame of one candle can light thousands of other candles, your work to make things better in the piece of the world you touch can activate the same spirit to make the larger and necessary global changes.
See the value in doing your part. What can you do today, right now to make the piece of the world you touch better? How will you not look at the massive scope of our challenges and problems and get discouraged?
Stop and notice the areas that you can influence today. Start here. Make a commitment to stop and notice yourself and your world, and continually ask, “What could I do to make this better?” Then go do it.
By Jay Forte
Consider reading How to Make the Most of Tough Situations