Evoking Change through Uplifting ActionDecember 16th, 2008 by John Wolfe
As is customary for me, when PBS goes into pledge drive mode, my TV spends more time on than it does off. During these pledge drives, you’ll find public television airing more personal development and spiritually based programming. Several days ago, they featured a self-help seminar, titled: The Traveler’s Gift, by Andy Andrews. I first became aware of Andy through his book, Storms of Perfection, in which he shared the personal success stories (which stemmed from the repeated “failures” and persistent drive) of many well known celebrities, athletes and business people.
The point of Andy’s PBS special was to reinforce the idea that each and every one of our actions, no matter how trivial they seem, create an impact; not only in our life but in the lives of so many others – even to the point of reaching future generations.
As Andy stated, “There are generations yet unborn, whose existence depends on the choices you make and the action you take. Because everything you do matters – every move you make, every action you take; not just for you; not just for your family or hometown – everything you do matters for all of us, forever.”
After shutting off the television, I began feeling for how Andy’s words resonated with me and how I’m applying them in my own life:
When we take any action, it not only has a direct impact on that which we are acting upon, but it also has an impact upon unknown or unseen (to us) variables, far removed from our immediate vicinity. For example, let’s take a look at a small derogatory action, such as someone throwing the finger to a fellow driver in traffic.
We assume a gesture such as that only has a direct, relevant impact in that very short moment in time. Rarely do we contemplate the kind of negative momentum that action may create in the life of the recipient, and in the lives of each individual the recipient comes into contact with after that moment, and in turn, each person those people come into contact with. Such a simple gesture can affect the mood and mindset of an individual in a manner far greater than we realize and that mood and mindset will determine their follow-up actions towards others. During the course of a single event, our activities have the potential to impact anywhere from a handful of people to thousands or even millions.
Every one of our actions and deeds creates a ripple effect throughout humanity and the Universe itself, sometimes enacting small outcomes, and at other times enacting greater ones, but the point is they all create an impact and they all count. When we take that into consideration, it becomes more important to consistently perform more conscious acts.
It may seem silly to think something as insignificant as gesturing with our middle finger can change the course of events for a multitude of individuals, but that (in a way) is exactly what it does. You see, the web of existence is so interconnected and intertwined that there is not one single action or deed which can escape causing an impact in our lives and in the lives of so many others. Everything was designed that way for a very good reason: to show us just how our choices can either benefit us greatly as we recognize and promote our unity, or else how they can harm us immensely as we react from a fear based belief in separation.
So, we have to ask ourselves, are the majority of our actions spurring on something positive in others or are they eliciting the opposite response? Of course, we each have to take responsibility for our deeds. Just because we perform a rude gesture doesn’t grant the recipient of that gesture cart blanche for treating anyone they encounter badly. But, it does need to make us more conscientious of our own behavior, whether we are the recipient or the giver. And, once we understand this principle and how far reaching it can be, we owe it to ourselves and others to be more conscientious. Another beautiful thing about embracing this knowledge is the fact we naturally become less reactive (more on this later) when we are on the receiving end of a rude gesture or unkind act.
Coming to the understanding of this concept was not difficult for me, but actually knowing it in my core has taken a while longer; not because I didn’t care about what I did to others, but, because I spent many years not caring about myself. I used to suffer from extremely low self-esteem. As a child, it was so bad; I heavily identified with the character Little Jackie Paper from “Puff the Magic Dragon.”
That may sound sort of humorous, but in essence, I felt paper thin and ineffective, so I assumed my actions and deeds counted for very little and had almost no impact on anyone else. This assumption was derived from my own internal views and judgments about my worth. Since I didn’t care about myself, how could I assume someone so “unimportant” could ever impact others (who I believed to be more alive and consequential)?
Developing an understanding, regarding the impact and brevity of the actions we take, is a natural byproduct of learning to love and respect ourselves and appreciate who we are. Our actions can only be as beneficial or as detrimental as the beliefs we retain in our internal landscape. As we strive to experience more internal growth, through self-love, forgiveness and understanding, we will naturally feel the desire to primarily perform positive external acts and deeds; not because it’s “right” or in abidance with social or religious law, but because it feels natural. In fact, it will become second nature to us, without trying to force it or even having to think about it because it will be a reflection of who we are internally.
Taking positive, impactful action is not about being a people pleaser or doing it for attention. Performing “good” deeds to please others or to show off and garner praise also stems from an inner place of doubting our own value. Performing uplifting, life affirming action should come from a place of truly wanting to make a difference and help others, while simultaneously respecting yourself.
One of my favorite lines from the book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior states: “A [peaceful] warrior acts, only a fool reacts.” The same can be said of creating positive action. If we are already in the internal place of peace and love, then we will act without being prompted (from social pressure) into doing so. People pleasing and performing good deeds for attention are not conscious action; they’re an unconscious reaction propelled by the fear of not fitting in or not feeling worthy of the attention we hope to gain from those we are trying to please. The same can be said of performing a negative or vengeful, detrimental deed – it’s not an action, but a reaction from a very fearful place.
As I speak of making a positive impact, I’m not necessarily referring to huge gestures. They can be extremely small, yet extremely effective. Just as something as seemingly miniscule as throwing the finger can negatively impact others in a big way; a smile, wave, pat on the back or a kind, sincere word can have a pronounced, beneficial impact on the life of the recipient and the lives of those he or she comes into contact with. Imagine the sort of change we would see if each of us received and passed on that type of interaction, with everyone on a daily basis.
Most people think it’s ridiculous to assume each one of us can actually change the world through caring, uplifting gestures (both big and small). I’ll say this: it takes just as much (if not less) physical effort to generate a beneficial act as it does to carry out an action full of anger or hate. The amount of effort required is not what’s preventing us from completely shifting the current world paradigm at the grand scale. Nor is the change slow in coming because we are pinned down by a lack of sufficient supplies.
Everything we need to accomplish this goal already exists in abundant quantity (be it material items or our own kind words). The woman/man power is there. The resources are there. The infrastructures are there. What’s missing is the internal decision (on the part of each person) to move toward that which is represented by love, peace and an uplifting spirit. If we choose to not be internally responsible for how we feel about ourselves and others – as it’s represented by the actions we take – we will never see beneficial change in our own lives or in the planet at large. It all starts from within.
The size of the gesture is a relative thing. If we each do what we can (and then just a little bit more) from where we are, the rest will take care of itself. That’s the beauty in this interconnected web of existence.
Andy Andrews is absolutely right – “…everything you do matters – every move you make, every action you take; not just for you; not just for your family or hometown – everything you do matters for all of us, forever.”
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