It's a natural result of being human to want to "make your mark" on the world. The majority of us have a wish to create some sort of impact and leave a lasting impression of ourselves. And while it is a partially egotistical pursuit, because we're craving to fill ourselves up with some feeling of self-worth, there's a lot more to it than that.
The desire to make a difference in the world is a wholesome one which I believe is born partly from our connection to one another. We're all aware of it, in my experience, even if it's only a mild awareness, but nonetheless, we all know we're connected somehow.
But, and this is where the ego comes in, most of us aren't happy with just doing good in our part of the world, we want to create some Earth-shattering difference that rings throughout the world until the end of time.
This isn't realistic, but it's not a bad thing either. We simply have the wrong idea about what we need to do both to "fill" ourselves up and to contribute to making the world a better place.
When I say make the world a better place, I specifically mean to create a healthier, more peaceful, and more enlightened society. That, to me, is the ideal we should all strive for.
So then, if we're not supposed to strive to turn the world on its head with our pinkie finger, are we supposed to settle? Not at all, we simply need to gain clarity about what really makes us feel "whole" and fulfilled and what creates positive change in the world: people living life cherishing (nourishing, health) their bodies and minds, practicing peace, and walking the path of greater enlightenment.
"But these are things I'm doing for myself, how am I supposed to help create a better world like that?"
In Buddhism, it's understood that before you can change the world, you need to change yourself. In fact, to take that further, it's precisely by changing yourself that you change the world. All you should focus on is lighting up your corner of the world.
Maybe once you've done that your light will continue to grow. But if it doesn't, that's OK. Spreading your light, however far it goes, will be enough.
We should all dedicate ourselves to lighting up our little corners of the world. If we did that, the world would never be the same.
6 Ways to Light Up Your Corner of the World and Make a Difference
Each of the below 6 points centers around some way of transforming yourself from within or creating some difference outside which originates in working on yourself from within, both with the potential to create positive change in the world.
You might not notice it at first, but live your life based on these principles and you'll see clearly how changing yourself from within can change the world.
1. Use and consume mindfully
By use and consume mindfully, I'm referring to the way you live your day-to-day life: what do you eat, how do you eat, how do you treat the food that you eat, what products do you use in your household, aside from food what do you put in your body, your mind? I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
Each and every day we place things in our body as well as our mind. Most of us disregard not only our physical health but our mental health as well, and this strongly affects our ability to maintain peace and happiness and to be there for others and create better health, peace, and happiness for them as well.
Let your mindfulness practice guide you here. Don't seek to change things right away, just start by becoming mindful of the things you place into your body and mind each day. That will be enough to begin the process of change.
Changing the way you live with regards to consumption of products can have a far-reaching effect on the world, so it's a powerful way to create a widespread difference by just changing your own actions each day.
2. Develop Compassion
By compassion, I'm not referring to charity or philanthropy. I'm referring to a state of being, the way you look at and feel about others.
Can you feel others pain? Do you understand that everyone is experiencing suffering and that our actions are rarely at first what they appear to be?
These are the things that meditating on compassion can teach you.
Compassion has far-reaching effects, and along with loving-kindness creates what is one of the most powerful effects we can have on the world, even if it's only with those closest to us.
When someone shows you compassion, it's surprising. That's not a good thing, but it's natural. We don't naturally grow up to feel compassionate towards everyone, although we do show compassion naturally in certain cases and have the capacity to develop it for all beings.
To develop compassion as a state of being might not sound like it would have much of an effect on the world, much less you, but it affects literally everything we do in each and every moment, and that makes it powerful beyond measure.
We treat everyone we meet differently, and that has a profound effect on others, especially our loved ones. And cultivating compassion within ourselves completely changes how our mind works, creating a deep sense of peace because we're no longer at odds with the world around us, but one with it.
3. Develop and practice loving-Kindness
After compassion comes loving-kindness, the outward expression of having developed love and compassion for others.
In this, we see acts of kindness spring up everywhere we go. Again, this also isn't really about charity or philanthropy, but about treating those we meet in our everyday lives with love, compassion, and caring.
The effect this could have on the world if even a fraction more of the population practiced it is beyond comprehension. It would be a complete revolution.
Of course, these things are easier said than done, and we must go through pain and suffering in order to then use it to transform ourselves, but if that was accomplished we'd have the ability to change the world in a way that's never been seen.
This is how the world really changes. It takes each individual person to live with love and compassion for others, not a couple of people trying to fix everything. It starts with us and it ends with us.
4. Take care of yourself
Most of us don't take care of ourselves. It's really that simple.
It's not that we want to harm ourselves, it's that we have the wrong idea about how to go about getting what we want in life.
It's a natural condition to feel that you need to work to deserve peace and happiness. We feel that we need to sacrifice our physical and emotional health to get ultimate happiness at the end of the rainbow.
It's the idea that after 10 years of work you'll deserve to finally have a happy life. Take a second to look around you, it's a deep condition that affects nearly all of us at some point.
Realize that you deserve peace and happiness right now in the present moment. It's always been available to you, you've just never allowed yourself to receive this wonderful gift.
It's definitely not easy, but if you meditate and live with mindfulness you'll begin to uncover your inner dialogue, the dark hand of the ego which steers us astray.
If you follow your spiritual practice and live with mindfulness, you'll start to realize that there's nothing to "fill up" and that you were whole all along.
And that's when the "looking forward" turns into "appreciating the now".
5. Create something
This might not initially sound like it originates from you, but without the creativity and proper motivation, creating/building/making something that can make a difference in the world is no easy task.
Creativity is more connected with one's well-being and overall lifestyle than most think. If you don't take care of yourself and practice peace your creations will either lack the creativity necessary to surmount major obstacles or you won't be able to see the project through to completion.
You could create anything really: a solution to a problem in the form of an idea, technology, or some effort that positively affects people's health, peace, or gives them better access to important knowledge that positively affects their overall well-being. The possibilities really are endless.
Actually, in every moment we're creating something. The very difference we make in people's lives is something we create. Life is a constant exchange between giving and receiving (and the gift), and our kindness, compassion, and mindfulness are all things we create with our effort.
Whatever it is that you decide to create, make sure it contributes to a healthier, more peaceful, and more enlightened you as well as society.
6. Live as an example to others
No words will ever be as powerful as the example you set for others, especially your family, friends, and coworkers.
This really comes down to who you are (or what you do) each and every day and is one of the most difficult things you can do in life.
To live as an example to others requires integrity. Or in other words, you actually have to be the person you say that you are, because those closest to us always know if our public image is different than our private one. And those closest to us are always the ones we can impact the most with our example.
This doesn't require perfection, nothing does. On the other hand, courage is required because of the very fact that we're "imperfect". To be an example to others, first, you need to be willing to face yourself and accept your shortcomings.
We all have them, the difference lies in your willingness to accept them openly and embrace them or bottle them down and run from them.
The reality is, this is something you have to face no matter how you try to let your light shine. Our light exists in our darkness, without which we'd have no ability to shine.
Embrace it with mindfulness, stay with it, transform it, and live to tell others.
You can shine brightly...if you're willing to face yourself.