We've all heard the advice to "be the change you wish to see in the world." But what does it mean to "be the change" in daily life? I've pondered this question often in my coaching practice, where I work with folks who struggle to change every day.
In my experience, positive change — whether individual or global — is inevitable when we refuse to perpetuate behavior which harms, and when we refuse to be victims and choose action instead. This breaks down to 31 daily practices that inherently make a difference. Here they are.
1. Own your talents proudly.
Your gifts matter, and the world needs them.
2. Refuse to recreate injurious behavior by those above you.
Mentor those you supervise, recognize their achievements, and treat everyone with respect. "That's the way it's always been done" is not an excuse for mistreatment.
3. Know what you don't know.
Pretending to be something you're not robs you of your ability to learn more from others who already know the ropes.
4. Acknowledge your part in any office conflict, and work to remedy it.
Honestly owning your role in any working relationship makes you a model for all those you work with.
5. Advocate for positive change.
If your office doesn't recycle, start a program. If you see too few minorities being hired, work to shift office policies.
6. Compost and recycle.
Most cities now have by-donation public composting programs. Those with backyard space can compost at home. Make sure to recycle everything you can, no excuses. The planet needs your help.
7. Buy local and organic.
Buying local decreases reliance on fossil fuels, and also benefits the environment through fewer carbon emissions. Buying organic preserves biodiversity, supports farmers who are doing the right thing and undermines efforts to genetically modify our food sources without consequence.
8. Know what's in your cabinets.
Read the labels on everything you eat and every cleaning product you own. If you can't identify an ingredient without using Google, chances are you shouldn't be eating it or putting it on your countertops.
9. Conserve resources whenever possible.
Turn off the lights when you're not in the room. Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth. Unplug your chargers when not in use.
10. Be a responsible pet owner.
That means not only picking up after your pets but also caring for your animal companions as you would for a family member. How you act here affects your entire community.
11. Listen first.
Think about it: when you want support, chances are you don't turn to the friend who only talks about herself. Listening well is a mandatory skill in healthy relationships.
12. Stop blaming.
Every relationship is a two-way street. Imagine what would happen if, instead of blaming the other party, we each investigated our own part in the dynamic, and took responsibility to shift it? Presto-chango: a stronger, healthier relationship.
13. Be the partner you wish to have.
We each reflect back our best and worst qualities in our romantic relationships. Want more romance? Be more romantic. Want a great lover? Master the art of being one. Want generous communication? Learn to communicate well and model that ideal.
14. Parent with respect and connection.
Our kids are our greatest teachers. Loving them well and parenting with good boundaries, kindness and respect benefits the entire world for generations to come.
15. Nurture and care for others ...
... and you'll get the same in return. Making soup for your sick friend or offering an ear to an acquaintance who recently lost a parent guarantees that the same support will be there for you in turn.
16. Get to know your neighbors.
Particularly in major cities, anonymity leads to loneliness and isolation. Cultivate community events in your apartment building or in your neighborhood, and participate when others do the same. Aim to be a hub of your community. The rewards are endless.
17. Seek out like-minded organizations, and contribute.
Volunteer organizations always need more help. Whatever your gifts, they're needed.
18. Be generous and polite.
Carry your neighbor's groceries in when she needs a hand. Open doors for others. Say please and thank you. These little niceties make a world of difference, especially to those with whom we interact on a daily basis.
19. Be curious and open.
Got neighbors from another nation of origin? Ask about their holidays and traditions. Got a colleague who has a slightly weird hobby? Ask what makes it so compelling. You'll gain unprecedented insights into your world and those around you.
20. Surround yourself with positive people.
We become the company we keep. Keep company with those who are optimistic, uplifting and kind, and your world will become more of the same.
21. Treat your body with respect.
It's the vessel for your experience in this life. Fill it with junk and refuse to move it, and your experience will eventually be a miserable one.
22. Examine and heal your negative self-talk.
If the things you say to yourself in your head aren't things you would say to your kids, your partner or your best friend, you've got work to do.
23. Take responsibility for offloading your own baggage.
No one can fill a void that you haven't addressed in your own history. And being a responsible partner, friend and parent means taking whatever steps necessary to make sure you don't perpetuate your negative experiences when you interact with others.
24. Practice self-love.
Got a body part you're less than thrilled with? Every day for 30 days, look at that body part in the mirror and say out loud that you love it. Look at yourself in totality and say the same. See where that gets you in a month — it's life altering.
25. Forgive yourself.
We've all done things we'd prefer to forget, and made mistakes we'd prefer not to repeat. This is a part of life! Write a letter to yourself in which you forgive yourself for past errors, and burn it. Use your energy for the future instead of the past.
26. Educate yourself.
Don't understand what's happening in another part of the world and how it might impact you? Read respected news sources, and opinion pieces in particular. Know how you and your government interact at home and in the world. And always, always consider the source.
27. Eradicate ignorance and fear.
Don't stand by silently while others make slurs or bully. One intervention can change lives.
28. Trust until you have a reason not to.
Inherent suspicion of others, our government and our world cuts us off from positive experience and connection.
29. Practice patience and compassion.
The driver who cuts you off might not be paying attention because his dad's in the hospital. The person who bumps you on the subway might be late to pick her kid up from school. Assuming the best rather than the worst of strangers who cross our paths decreases stress levels and makes us better citizens.
30. Operate from a place of inherent value.
The person who delivers your takeout or pours your coffee may be just as smart and talented as you, but their lives have led them in a different direction. Everyone has a purpose, and everyone has a mission, even when it's not apparent on the surface.
And lastly, in all things:
You need it, those around you need it, and the world needs it. Literally everyone you interact with and anyone you'll ever meet is looking for it somewhere. How can you be the change, no matter what? Practice love whenever you can. It is the biggest game changer there is.