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One Small Daily Practice that Can Change the World

Are You Ready to Make a Difference

Change the World
Credit: Ridofranz/iStock

We are almost mid-way through 2019 – two decades into the 21st Century. Much has changed since New Year’s Eve 1999. I spent that evening with a friend wondering what the future would bring and discussing if it were possible to change the world – to shift the trajectory we are on.

The Doomsday Predictors had suggested catastrophic events as the result of the Y2K Computer Issues. They ranged from vast blackouts around the world to nuclear holocaust.

The only things that actually happened were gun sales skyrocketed and the survivalists took to their bunkers. The rest of us just rode it out – and nothing happened other than a few minor glitches that were fixed quickly.

Since then we have experienced the horror of 9/11; multiple bombings and shootings when innocent people have been killed; we have survived two Presidential elections – first Obama and then, Trump.

Bin Laden was finally taken down; the reign of social media began with the introduction of My Space – followed by FaceBook; and the political scene has gone crazy.

It can be challenging to stay positive – especially about the future, given the incredibly difficult current political environment.  If you add in the intense public media and social media arenas that are spewing anger and hate in every direction, worry comes easily.

It is easy to get mired in difficult questions which are almost impossible to answer.“How did we get here? What is at the root of all this ugliness and name-calling?”  “What can I do to stop the insanity?”

I do not have answers and it is unlikely that you do either. Instead, I would like to focus on what we can do.

It’s a Busy World

Life has become fiercely busy for practically everyone. We are on our electronic leashes 24/7 and refuse to put them down because “someone may need to reach us.”

We tell ourselves – far too often – that we don’t have time to stop for a nice cup of coffee (we drink it on the run). Or, going to lunch with a good friend or an adult child (who also never stops) rarely happens.

We are so busy we forget to eat or we choose a quick, additive-filled, high-calorie fast food item that quiets the hunger pangs but hurts our bodies.

Does anyone ever STOP for a minute to reflect and consider the small things we could do to make things better? Things that could make us personally happier, and by extension, our families happier? Maybe not, but we should.

We do not have to join the ranks of angry people who have nothing better to do with their time than spew ugly, violence-igniting, vitriolic words through social media. We can be among the quiet voices of reason in the middle of a violent storm.

Quiet Daily Expressions of Gratitude

You may shake your head and scoff at such a ridiculous statement and ask the question, “How could expressing gratitude make any difference in this outrageously angry world in which we live?”

Michael Lee Stallard, who writes for Forbes, WSJ, and the NYTimes, recently wrote in his blog,

Gratitude is necessary to offset the negative bias in news reporting and media that has a 21-to-1, negative-to-positive ratio. Real life is much more positive than reflected in the press because, for the most part, it’s negative events that journalists view as newsworthy.

If every person who is not involved in the angry dialogue that is all around us, would spend 10 minutes each day in self-reflection – focusing on blessings and expressing gratitude for all that is good, we could change the world.

What Is Self-Reflection

To clarify what I mean by self-reflection, the dictionary defines it as, “Serious thought about one’s character, actions, and motives to learn more about his/her fundamental nature, purpose, and essence.” 

My interpretation of that is to think about who we are (character), how we are behaving (actions) and what things are driving our behavior (motives).  If we can become clear about those three questions, our purpose in life (why we are here) will also become more clear.

This kind ofself-reflection is not necessarily easy, but if practiced daily, wonderful insights can be gained. Self-reflection can help surface emotions and thoughts that have been simmering just below the surface of consciousness.

If we can tap into those and diffuse any potential eruptions, we may be able to replace them with more reasonable actions.We must learn to commune with ourselves in order to become the best version of ourselves.

Part of the self-reflection process is to look at the life we live, the world around us, and the people in our circles of life – to find the beautiful gifts we enjoy from each. It is a way of embracing the wonderfulness of life, rather than focusing on the negatives.

These short daily reflections can stop the intense, fast pace that has become normal – at least for a few minutes. During those few amazing moments, there will be time to appreciate and enjoy the small things that make life worth living.

Where Do You Want to Go

This is not a time to be spent in self-flagellation or regret about things we’ve said or didn’t say or rehashing a difficult work situation. It is a quiet time that we hold sacred to learn who we really are and where we want to go.

It is time to dive deep inside successes and the positive lessons learned – things that worked and should continue to be part of our lives. So our actions are deliberate. We do not want to be working on autopilot, hoping for the best. Autopilot means we are stuck – going nowhere fast.

Yes, this is a form of meditation, which may make you roll your eyes in disbelief because you are convinced that meditation is a complete waste of time. All I can say to that response is, “Get over yourself!”

Don’t miss the opportunities that short daily reflections give us to consider the next best steps in life. It is time to consider, “What are my goals, my strengths, positive behaviors, and useful skills?” These are things that we can use to change what needs to be changed to build happier lives. That is NEVER a waste of time.

Live a Life of Gratitude

The next part of daily reflection is expressing gratitude, which is much more than just giving thanks. It is not an obligation or an intellectual exercise. It is a state of being from which we live our lives – appreciating all that is good in life. The things that make us feel warm, safe, and happy.

Gratitude doesn’t just happen, it comes through an intentional focus on the rich emotional connections we have with others in our lives and all the good things that we enjoy every day – the blessings! It is the mental process of focusing that allows us to live a life of gratitude.

When we live lives of gratitude, our minds are so focused on the good that negative thoughts are instantly recognized and replaced with positive thoughts. The energy of gratitude streams through the entire body and affects our health and well-being.

It would be glorious to have the power to change the world in an instant. Instead, we must do what we can by changing ourselves, one daily self-reflection at a time until each of us is living a life of gratitude. That will make a difference!

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