We like to think we can make a difference and change the world. We like to think that our actions produce outcomes that can change the world for the better.
But the reality is: We can’t change the world with the intent to change the world.
Forcing change upon the world is silly – even if it is for the better. Even if our hearts are in the right place, wanting the world to change is the same thing as wanting to control the uncontrollable. And approaching anything in life with a desire to control is a surefire way to fail.
So what are we to do?
We tend to hold onto this notion that we need to contribute to society in positive ways in order to advance ourselves as a whole. (I hold onto that very much.)
We also tend to hold onto the notion that the world should be without poverty, crime, conflict, or anything unpleasant. We should all be little unicorns embracing the spectrum of our own personal rainbows.
But the reality is: There’s always going to be poverty, crime, conflict, and unpleasantness. We can’t control any of that. We can’t go *poof* and make it all go away. Nor should we want to. It just adds fuel to the fire.
We attach outcomes to our efforts
When life doesn’t look the way we like, some of us take the initiative and attempt to change it.
Even if we want to help make the world a more peaceful place, we’re still approaching life with a desire to control it.
I’m not suggesting that we abandon all efforts to help people in need and share our skills and knowledge with society – definitely keep doing that! We should always reach out and be conscious of ways we can apply our uniqueness.
Let’s just ease up on the need to see outcomes as a result of our efforts.
When we give ourselves freely, amazing things happen – for the world and for us. Other people are inspired and assisted, and we feel expressed, lighter, as if a load has been lifted from us.
But as my good friend Kelly once taught us, we can’t give to take. We attach an outcome to our actions when we want the world to be better as a result of our giving. And thus the problems begin…
We develop expectations for the outcomes
We know far too well that expectation is the number one killer of all relationships – even our relationship with the “rest of the world.”
How many times have you “lost faith in humanity” because of an act of violence you saw on TV? How many times have you shunned certain types of people because of their words and actions towards other types of people?
How many times have you felt discouraged to care about anyone else in the world, since nobody else seems to care about anything but themselves?
It’s so easy to lose hope that the world can be a better place because there’s so much hate and poor decision-making around the world.
But here’s the thing:
No one is so powerful to eradicate hate from other people’s hearts. Others must do that themselves. Therefore, the best thing we can do is not add to that hate and keep our own hearts full of love.
We expect that acts of giving will *poof* people into a state of gratitude. They won’t.
We expect that acts of kindness will *poof* people into a mindset of compassion. They won’t.
We expect that in times of crisis all people will behave in ways that makes us proud to be human. They won’t.
When we place expectations on anything, we’re usually left disappointed. And we develop resentment toward people and the world as a whole.
The only way to change the world
The only thing we can truly do to make a difference in this world is work on ourselves and help those within arms reach. It’s the age-old “be the change” philosophy.
We can’t change people’s minds. Only they can do that.
We can’t control people’s actions. Only they can do that.
We can’t force people to value what we value. Values are personal to each individual.
It’s not that we shouldn’t try to make someone’s day happier. It’s not that we shouldn’t go out of our way to lend a hand to a stranger in need. It’s not that we shouldn’t care about the well-being of humans on the other side of the globe.
It’s just that, when we all have such limited time here on earth, and we’re all scrambling around trying to carve out a little nugget of happiness and meaning, we don’t have to rely on grandiose heroic acts to repay the debt of our existence.
The most heroic thing we could ever do in our lifetime is share our true selves with the world. The most meaningful contribution to society is working hard at being the very best version of ourselves and allowing that version to run its course.
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