How to Make a Positive Impact in the World
Do you think you can make a significant impact in the world?
If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work. -- Thich Nhat Hanh
Is it possible that something as simple as smiling could make such a huge difference in the world that we can be part of the movement towards peaceful co-existence? Many of us think that whatever we do cannot have a significant impact on world issues that we are dealing with today such as world hunger, poverty, climate change, global warming, cruel methods of farming, epidemics, deforestation, over-fishing, religious intolerance, etc. But have we ever thought what would happen if we did not do our bit? The world would be in a far worse shape than it is today.
There are many of us interested in understanding how we can live meaningfully yet not impinge on the lives of others. People are concerned about the impact their lifestyles are having on climate change, the impact of their attitudes towards other nations and peoples, the power of consumer choices on what is supplied by multinationals and many other issues.
Each one of us can have a huge and positive impact in the world on two levels:
- as an individual
- as a group by joining other like-minded people in different organizations.
How Can One Person Make a Difference
It is no surprise that one person is enough to make a difference in this world. We have examples of people who have made a positive impact on the world and changed it forever. For example, Mother Theresa, H. H. Holiness the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln and many others. They stood up for what they believed was right and acted accordingly.
Even though we may not become as famous, we can still make a difference in our own sphere. Let us remember that the change must be within ourselves first before we focus on the outside world. What are the areas in which we can do things differently so as to ensure we make good use of the opportunity of being alive in this world? Every human being has four aspects to his or her personality:
Physical Choices to Make a Positive Impact
Let us start with the physical, which involves food, lifestyle, clothing and health choices to maintain a decent standard of living.
The way you think, the way you behave, the way you eat, can influence your life by 30 to 50 years. -- Deepak Chopra
Food: Did you know that preparing just one vegan meal can save 3000 gallons of water and 16 pounds of grain reducing your carbon footprint and your impact on world hunger. You might consider becoming a vegan or decide to include a few vegan recipes in your weekly menu to start making a difference. It is also important to be aware of the source of the food. For example, did you know that most of the seas and oceans of the world have been overfished and the last relatively untouched region is the Ross Sea in Antarctica? Buy local produce as far as possible.
Clothing: You can make cruelty-free, ethical and sustainable choices when buying clothes and other necessities.
Lifestyle: You might decide to make lifestyle changes so that you can reduce your carbon footprint and also save money in the process.
Health: To be able to lead a healthy life we have to make the right choices in the food we eat, our habits such as smoking, alcohol and medicines. The best way is to prevent ill-health and practicing yoga poses or asanas and pranayama or breathing exercises can help with maintaing good health.
By making the right lifestyle choices for ourselves we are making a positive impact in the world by being healthy and happy individuals who will work for the benefit of humanity and other creatures.
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Emotional Choices to Make a Positive Impact
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. - Maya Angelou
As Thich Nhat Hanh, has said that smiling, being peaceful and happy in daily life can benefit not only ourselves but also others. The first step in making a positive impact in the world is to Just Be and accept life as it is. Once you are at peace with yourself and your life then many other things can be accomplished. You will have the energy to work for the benefit of others.
Money Can Buy Happiness if Spent on Others
We hear many people say that if they had more money they would be able to make a positive impact in the world. But how much more money do you think is necessary? Let us ponder on the following:
- Studies have shown that in North America an income beyond $75,000 a year does not impact on happiness.
- Recent studies suggest that the problem of happiness is in the way that we spend money. People who spend money on others feel happier.
- Volunteering with not-for-profit organizations can also increase your happiness.
- If you don't have the time to volunteer then you can find ways to contribute according to your interest such as knitting for charity, support organizations by becoming a member (Red Cross, Greenpeace, PETA - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, etc)
When you make others feel happy, your own happiness increases. Your emotional well-being will impact on the other areas of your life as well.
Mental Choices to Make a Positive Impact
Always desire to learn something useful. -- Sophocles
In the present context it would be useful to learn the ways you can make a positive impact in the world. It is very important to be well informed. It is easy to get carried away with all kinds of information. But we have to exercise discernment when deciding what would be most useful to study or learn. We have to take care of our mind and brain and practice meditation. It has been found that meditation results in brain growth. If we can develop concentration, we can achieve anything we put our mind to.
It is important to make the right choices to lead a stress free life. However, many times we are faced with stressful situations and have learn to let go of stress and anger. If we are unable to do that it will affect our mental health and our effectiveness will be compromised.
A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination. -- Nelson Mandela
Spiritual Choices to Make a Positive Impact
We humans are not just the physical body and mind. We are also something that cannot be defined but for convenience is called the spirit or soul. We often ignore this aspect of ourself and only pay attention to the physical, emotional and mental aspects. This attitude usually creates a gap in our life. How do we get in touch with our inner self and what impact does it have in our lives?
Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life. -- Buddha
There are three aspects of the spiritual life: study, meditation and service. These three aspects have to be practiced simultaneously. It is of course helpful to study the scriptures or any spiritual literature that you prefer and have the guidelines on how to live a spiritual life. Service for fellow human beings and other creatures is also commendable. However, without including meditation, the spiritual life cannot be achieved, because meditation helps one digest what one studies and experiences while doing service for others. A person can become spiritually bankrupt without the practice of regular meditation. It also helps one realize how interconnected we are with all there is.
I mean the whole thing about meditation and yoga is about connecting to the higher part of yourself, and then seeing that every living thing is connected in some way. -- Gillian Anderson
Let us remember this connection with our fellow human beings, other sentient beings and the planet earth and we will realize that everything we do can either have a positive or negative impact in the world. Let us make the choice to make a positive impact every moment of our life both as individuals and as a group.
Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. -- William James
About the Author
Sushma Webber writes content for both web and print media. She has worked as a volunteer in many not-for-profit organizations. She is interested in creating a balance in life between the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects. She is interested in mindful awareness practices, Zen practices and translating these in daily life at work in front of the computer and during various activities of her life.
Making a Positive Impact as a Group of Individuals
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