Be the change. Live the change. Make the change.

be the change live the change make the change

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how our inner lives affect our ability to make the world a better place. It’s an idea that is at the heart of the Ripple Revolution.

Typically when we think about making a difference, we have an external focus. “What action can I take? What change can I make in the world out there.” But that’s only part of the story.

As I have been pondering how to tell the whole story, these are the words that have been running through my mind:

Be the change.

Live the change.

Make the change.

Here’s what I mean with each of those, and how each of the areas connects with the Ripple Legacy you create (your Ripple Legacy is the cumulative impact of the choices you make and actions you take in your entire life, both immediate and those that ripple out).

Be the change.

There’s a quote attributed to Gandhi that encourages us to “Be the change you want to see in the world.” If you want to make the world a better place, that’s where it all starts.

As I describe it here, being the change is a simple concept. What you set in motion in the world reflects what is going on inside. Want to see more love in the world? You can start by cultivating that love within you (both for yourself and for the world around you). Want to see more peace? Develop more inner peace.

This isn’t some abstract foofy idea. It’s pure common sense.

You have probably already experienced this numerous times in your life. Ever felt cranky and discovered that your mood has had an impact on your interactions with people around you? Or maybe you have felt deeply peaceful and grounded and were able to navigate a crisis in a way that helped those around you feel more calm (or at least less panicked) as well.

Both of those are examples of “being a change.” In each of them, your inner state of being impacted the external state of affairs. The key is being the change that nudges things in the right direction.

Not only does being the change have an impact on the world around you, it also gives you a more solid foundation to stand on. You’re more able to be effective and more able to direct your energy in a positive, productive way.

Live the change.

Your Ripple Legacy doesn’t just come from the big things you do. Much of it – possibly most of it – comes from the way you show up day in and day out as you live your life.

The choices you make and the actions you take day after day have an impact on the world around you. Sometimes that impact is positive, other times it’s negative. The more your inner world reflects the impact you want to have on the outer world (the more you can be the change), the more likely those choices and actions will have a positive impact (the more you will live the change).

Living the change doesn’t have to be big and dramatic. Often it’s the small things. For example:

  • Being deeply present for a conversation with a loved one.
  • Stopping and talking with a homeless guy, treating him like an equal.
  • Returning a lost wallet.
  • Giving another driver space to merge in front of you.
  • Paying a stranger a sincere compliment.
  • Telling someone you believe in them.
  • Letting the person with just a couple things to buy go ahead of you in the grocery store line, even though you were there first.
  • When you go shopping, asking, “What impact does this product have? Is that something I want to support?” and making choices accordingly.

There is no shortage of ways to live the change. And the more you look for opportunities, the more you’re like to find them.

Make the change.

This is what most people think of when they  talk about making a difference. It’s the proactive, results-focused aspect of your efforts to make the world a better place.

This is where the volunteer work happens. It’s where the clothing drive for the homeless that you instigate takes place, and where that project you have been noodling aimed at funding educational opportunities for women in poverty unfolds. It’s where social entrepreneurs leave their mark.

Here again, being the change looms large. The more you are coming from a place of inner peace, the more you are living an internal life of openness, love, and connection, the more that impacts the work you do. The more peace you feel inside, the more sustainable any work you do is for the long-term, and the easier it is to navigate the challenges without letting them weigh you down.

Try this: 

Sit down with a pen and paper and take stock of your life in each of these categories.

Be the change: How am I already being the change (e.g., treating yourself with compassion, or having a committed grounding practice like meditation)? What could I do to be the change more?

Live the change: How am I already living the change? What could I do to live the change more?

Make the change: How am I already making the change? What could I do to make the change more?

The goal is to get more clarity as a place to start, not to assess whether or not you’re doing enough in any of the areas. To the degree you can, approach it with a sense of curiosity, rather than judgment.

Pick one thing from each of those categories and start experimenting with it. See what impact it has, whether that is on your inner life or the world outside.

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Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

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Want to change the world? Watch what you feed your mind.

you are what you eat

Want to change the world? Start with what you choose to feed your mind! The input you give it shapes how you see the world. And how you see the world has a big impact on what you see as possible, and by extension the choices you make and the actions you take.

So if you want to change the world, it just makes good sense to feed your mind brainfood that leaves you feeling positive and inspired about the possibilities.

You are what you eat (and so is your mind!)

I just ran across an article that mentions research that supports the connection between what a person feeds their mind and their likeliness to take action to make the world a better place:

“In a study I carried out at the University of Pennsylvania, different versions of the same news story were tested on a sample of 710 people. It found that the classical negative news story left people feeling hopeless and passive.

In contrast, articles with a constructive peak midway and a hopeful ending was deemed good reporting and left readers feeling informed. The data overall suggested that readers of the more positive article were left with more energy to engage and take action.

A growing body of research points to the same finding. This year researchers at the University of Texas, Austin released a study in which a solution-based ending was applied to classic news articles reporting on homelessness in the US, mental struggles for US school children and living conditions for poor people in India. Across the board readers reported higher levels of inspiration, a desire to learn more about the issue and higher levels of engagement when it came to sharing, commenting and discussing the issue.”

So if you want to show up in a way that maximizes the impact you can make, it makes sense to ask, “How does what I’m pouring into my brain make me feel? What impact does it have on me? What effect does it have on my desire to and belief in my ability to make a change?”

Stop cultivating learned helplessness

There’s a psychological term called “learned helplessness.” The simplest way to describe it is a learned feeling of, “It doesn’t matter what I do. Nothing is going to change.”

An experiment done a few decades ago demonstrated the effect of learned helplessness. I won’t go into all the details (they’re not pretty), but it involved electrifying increasing portions of the floor of rats’ cages until there was no place they could retreat to. When they learned that couldn’t escape it, they gave up.

Reading about the research on how we respond to the news, it occurs to me that something similar (if less obviously horrific) can happen to us as we watch the news.

In general, the news is high on tragedy and turmoil, low on solutions. If that makes up most of what we’re exposed to, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to imagine what effect that has on our energy and inclination towards taking action.

If you want to change the world, change what you feed your mind. If you want to explore news alternatives to the standard toxic fare, check out this list of positive news sources to nourish your mind.

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Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

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What is your gift to give?

gift box

As I write this, a friend of mine is in surgery receiving a new kidney. The kidney was donated by a friend of hers from high school.

On her friend’s Facebook page, I saw a post from a couple weeks ago that said, in part: “I’ve long embraced volunteer vacations…In this same spirit, in less than two weeks I am donating a kidney to [my friend from high school]. This is a personal challenge to test what I’m made of, and an opportunity to share my good fortune (health) with another.”

I’m feeling completely inspired by that (not to mention a little in awe).

One of the reasons I’m inspired is the obvious. Donating a kidney? Wow!

But another part – a big part – is simply the spirit in which she is doing it.

I look at her, and I see someone who regularly asks the question, “What is my gift to give?” I would be willing to bet that that approach filters down to the small everyday things as well.

I’m not writing this post because I think we should all jump up and be kidney donors. Making the energy this gift has the potential to inspire about doing something huge like donating an organ is a great way to minimize its impact.

But if that question is expanded to include not just the big and dramatic, but also our everyday living as well, the ripples it has the potential to create are legion.

“What is my gift to give?”

That one simple question has the potential to change our lives, and the world around us.

Maybe that gift is volunteering. Maybe the gift is giving our complete and undivided attention to a loved one. Maybe it looks like being a catalyst for neighborhood community-building. Maybe it looks like showing up with peace and equanimity when someone is frayed and frazzled. Maybe it’s simply a sincere compliment. Sometimes the best gift might even be stepping back and taking care of ourselves.

There is no shortage of gifts to give. Each moment, each interaction, each new situation brings with it an opportunity to ask that question. 

And the more you ask the question, the more potential gifts you’ll see.

Ripple Experiment: Try this. For the next week, as often as you can remember, ask, “What is my gift here? What can I contribute? How can I help?”

Then, when it’s possible and appropriate, give the gift. Explore what it’s like to give the gift just because that’s what you do, not because you’re looking for any kind of recognition or validation. See how it feels to live a week of your life looking for the gift. See what effect it has on how you experience your days.

My last post, How to recognize more daily-life opportunities to change the world, might be a good place to start priming the pump for recognizing opportunities.

If you decide to do the experiment, come back and share how it went. We would all love to know.

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Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

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How to recognize more daily-life opportunities to change the world

One of the things that inspires me about the Ripple Revolutionary way of seeing the world is how much potential there is to make a positive impact just by the way we show up on a day-to-day basis.

If you’re like most of us, distracted as we are by the go-go pressures of life, you probably don’t notice even a fraction of the opportunities to make a difference that come your way on a daily basis.

One way to start training your brain to recognize more of those positive ripple opportunities that go whizzing past is to make it a habit to ask questions, like:

  • How can I leave this situation better than I found it?
  • How can I leave this person feeling better because of this interaction?
  • How can I leave this person feeling better about himself/herself?
  • How can I add joy to this situation?
  • How can I make this situation more fun?
  • How can I help this person?
  • Who needs my help? How can I help them?
  • What knowledge can I share?
  • What connections can I make?
  • What effect will ________ (whatever choice or action you’re considering) have on ___________?
  • What one thing can I do today to make the world a bit better?
  • What opportunity can I notice today to create a positive ripple?

You might try printing some or all of them out small enough to be cut out on a piece of paper small enough to put in your wallet. Or if there is one that resonates particularly well with you, print out just that one. A good way to keep calling your attention to it is to fold it over something that you use frequently, like a credit or debit card.

The more frequently you get a reminder and let your mind explore the answer (and act on it!), the more it will wear a habitual groove in your brain.

And don’t stop with these questions. These represent just a drop in the bucket! Come up with your own. Brainstorm questions with your friends or family. Make it a group discussion and a group effort (for example, having a discussion about it once a week, or even daily, with your family over a meal).

When you explore this with others, you plant a seed for them to start making a difference that creates even more ripples. And on and on it goes!

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Book review: The five secrets you must discover before you die

the five secrets you must discover before you die

I don’t often do book reviews. But I just finished a book that resonated so deeply with both how I want to live my life and the ideas that are at the heart of The Ripple Revolution that I couldn’t help but sit down and write one.

Imagine having 235 in-depth conversations with “wise elders,” people who had lived a long life and had something important to teach. Now imagine squeezing the essence of what those wise elders had to share into a single book. The result is the five secrets you must discover before you die.

I read a lot of books in the personal development genre, both for personal and professional growth. It’s not often I find myself wanting to grab random people on the street, put the book in their hands and say, “You need to read this!”

It’s not that I had some epiphany about what’s important. None of the ideas were new to me; they’re ideas that at some level we all know. What was so powerful for me was the way it all came straight from the horse’s mouth. It offered a context that created an added relevance and poignancy. I found myself being able to fast forward to my twilight years and look back at where I am now and the choices I’m making. And it felt so clear what is working and what I would regret.

Even that exercise isn’t new to me. But there was something about having the context of actual people looking back that made it more compelling and real.

The secrets are:

Be true to yourself (Reflect more)

Leave no regrets (Risk more)

Become love (Love more)

Live the moment (Enjoy more)

Give more than you take (Return more)

My parents visited me last weekend. While they were here, my mom was looking at the book and read a list of the five secrets out loud. My dad laughed and said, “Great – now I don’t have to read the book.”

But those five ideas themselves aren’t the whole story. The whole story is a deeper look at what those ideas mean, where they came from, and how we can apply them in our lives.

I pretty much live personal development work 24/7, partially because that’s the focus of my work and partially because I want the positive impact it has on my own personal life. So it’s not often that I find myself reading something and feeling inspired with a visceral motivation to make that change.

I felt that again and again in this book.

For example, as I read the section on Leave No Regrets, I found myself feeling really clear on the ways I was showing up that I would look back on with regret. Some of those involved not taking risks, not doing what I feel inspired to do, and some of them involved ways I show up where I’m just not the person I want to be. I didn’t come away with the feeling of “oh, I suck!” The book left me with a feeling of, “It’s time to do something about that!”

It’s an easy, entertaining, interesting, and engaging read. Sometimes the personal development books I read have good insights, but feel like a chore to read. Others are enjoyable reads, but light on substance. This book combined the best of both worlds.

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How to make your work more meaningful

One of the key ideas underlying the Ripple Revolution is that it’s not just about giving and giving until you burn out. It’s about creating an ecosystem in your life that feeds and energizes you as well.

Most of us spend a huge amount of our lives at work. Given that, it makes sense to take a specific look at how to make that a conscious part of the ecosystem we cultivate.

Over on my Wild About Work blog, I recently wrote a series on how to make your work more meaningful. The series starts by exploring the basic question, “What is meaning?” The answer to that is the foundation for exploring a variety of ways to experience a greater sense of meaning in your work.

Meaning is one of those squirrelly ideas that can have as many definitions as people you ask, so I came up with a simple, flexible definition that takes that into account:

Meaning = Work that matters (and YOU decide what matters!)

Really, it’s as simple as that. From there, the series explores a variety of ways that work might matter that you can explore to bring more meaning into the picture. Each of these areas has one or more blog posts diving deeper into the opportunities to experience more meaning.

  1. Know thyself: Practice the art of internal awareness
  2. Know thy world: Practice the art of external awareness
  3. Find the difference you’re making
  4. Find a difference to make
  5. Cultivate relationships and community
  6. Look for learning and growth
  7. Put it in the context of a big picture vision
  8. Shape your perspective
  9. Make your work a spiritual practice
  10. Make your work an authentic expression
  11. Find the meaning – all day, every day
  12. Recognize what your work facilitates

The key in unlocking the door to the fullest feeling of meaning your work has to offer is a shift from looking for meaningful work to looking for ways to experience meaning at work.

The first is an either/or affair. Either you have a job that feels obviously meaningful or you don’t. The second offers a bazillion opportunities to recognize and take hold of ways to experience meaning, regardless of your actual job.

–-

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The big value of small irritations

What if I told you that the small irritations you confront every day – traffic jams, a co-worker droning on pointlessly in a meeting, the grouchy checker at the grocery store – are potentially some of your biggest opportunities?

I’ve been working lately on really embracing the big value of small irritations. Each irritation we experience brings with it a learning laboratory that shines a light on how we respond, what our triggers are, what stories we tell, and ultimately how we get in the way of our own peace.

The other day it took me literally the entire day (from eight in the morning to around eight at night) to get my computer booted up and running (or perhaps more accurately, limping). Here’s a Facebook post from a couple days later.

“I have been using my uber-frustrating computer challenges the last couple days as a training ground for not getting sucked into a negative emotional response. Mixed results on that. Sometimes simply stopping and noticing what’s good in my life, or appreciating the beauty out my window, or even being thankful for the opportunity to practice patience. Other times throwing f-bombs around like a drunken sailor. “

Here’s what I love about using our daily irritations to practice becoming the person we want to become. First, they’re going to happen anyway – why not squeeze all the value we can out of them?

Second, they provide a reasonably low-impact opportunity to improve our ability to roll with life. When you get adept at working with the small irritations, you build coping muscles for the bigger challenges in life.

Third, the more I work with the small irritations, the more they cease to be small irritations. The more I let go of my stories about how things should be, the less worked up I get when the rest of the world doesn’t follow my rules.

Try this: For the next week, do a “small irritation experiment.” Notice the things that irritate you. Each time you do, ask yourself some questions, like:

  • How important is this, really?
  • What can I notice right now that is positive?
  • What might be positive about this situation?
  • What story am I telling about this?
  • What can I let go of?
  • What expectation can I soften?
  • What can I learn from how I’m responding?
  • What might a different response be? Am I willing to explore it?
  • What is the hypotenuse of the square root of chi squared times f(x)?

(OK, I admit, that last one was completely nonsensical, without even a shred of sense, but if it works to knock your brain out of the irritation loop, what the heck! Right?)

Give it a try. Experiment with it for a week and see what happens. Don’t expect to navigate your irritations with perfect aplomb (witness my plethora of f-bombs during my computer issues). The key is just to dive in, explore, learn, and grow.

–-

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22 inspiring acts of kindness

Part of living a Ripple Revolutionary life is consciously choosing what you put into your mind. The “mind food” you consume (what you read, what you watch, the conversations you have, etc.) all work to create the lens through which you see the world.

If you want a positive view of the world, it stands to reason that most of the mind food you consume should be positive. To give your mind a positive snack, check out this article on 22 Inspiring Acts of Kindness That No One Ever Talks About.

Next time you start to feel down on the human race (easy to do if you spend too much time consuming the news media), remind yourself that things like this, acts of kindness big and small, are going on all the time.

Better yet, make it a policy to look for opportunities every day to do your own acts of kindness. You might be surprised where it takes you, and how it makes you feel.

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Inspiration Sunday: Street compliments

The aim of my Inspiration Sunday posts is to shine a light on the positive and inspiring people who are all around us if we take the time to look.

Typically, the videos are about people making the world a better place, overcoming great obstacles, or finding ways to live a more heart-based life. Today’s video is more about the change-the-world superpower we each have readily available to us – giving honest, genuine, heart-felt compliments.

Try this: Try a compliment experiment. Make a list of people in your life – friends, family, co-workers, etc. – you think would appreciate hearing what you really think of them.

Over the next 30 days, reach out to as many of them as possible, explain to them what you’re doing, and ask them to simply receive what you have to say.

How does it make you feel? If you like this one, you might also like the gratitude experiment idea I posted a couple weeks ago.

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To create a masterpiece, first you need a lump of clay

Is trying to do things perfectly getting in your way of doing things at all?

Yesterday I came across a great blog post from Christine Kane where she shares nine tips for overcoming procrastination (not that I need any of those tips, of course…ahem).

Tip #3 was “Agree to do it badly.”

For me, that’s a huge piece of the puzzle for anything I want to do or create. While I’ve done a lot of work on it, my inclination toward perfectionism still rears its head more than I would like.

If I’m doing something new, or creating something (like writing), I constantly have to remind myself that I’m not going to get from zero to masterpiece without creating a lump of clay first.

Thinking about it that way gives me permission to do it badly. Because what’s more important than getting it perfect out of the gate (which inevitably nothing is) is having something to work with, period.

Attaching yourself to the need to “get it right” is a great recipe for either not taking action towards your goals or feeling like an abject failure when you do. It’s a form of black and white thinking that doesn’t take into account this pesky little thing called reality.

Seeking immediate perfection is a little like deciding you want to engage in deep philosophical discourse in a language you have never studied. Insisting on that as an immediate outcome would either a) prevent you from even trying or b) leave you feeling frustrated and inept if you do try. The reality is that you need to go through the ugly and clunky process of being new to the language before you can have any meaningful conversation.

You can’t do what you don’t start, and you’re unlikely to achieve anything when you set yourself up to feel like a failure if you do start.

What goal is the need to get it right preventing you from pursuing? What vision is lying in mothballs because you’re not taking action on it?

Stop trying to create a masterpiece, and give yourself permission to create a lump of clay.

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