We all know the quote:
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi.
Many of us find it inspiring.
I have always liked this quote, so much so that it has hung on my wall for more than 10 years.
Well, fun fact, something I literally just learned while double checking the quote (to be sure I had it exactly word for word) is that this is not actually his quote but rather an interpretation of it.
(Gandhi’s quote is a bit different and in fact doesn’t quite fit with my end conclusion so, I’m sticking with the doctored/popular version for the purpose of this piece. But I felt it was necessary to set the official record straight.)
Ultimately, what I love about it is its positive message. I like that it has a clear action item. It is simple in its message but is also full of challenge.
And that challenge is what I am focusing on today:
The way I converse with the world around me and what impact that will have.
Choose Positivity or Negativity. But Choose Wisely.
Will I add more positivity? Will I add more negativity?
Will I take a moment to choose my words and actions and take the time to question my impulses or reactions?
These choices are mine and mine alone.
What I’m really starting to see more are the opportunities to make these decisions on the very simple, not so noticeable/obvious level.
We all are incredibly aware of the big debates and arguments that happen across social media especially.
These loud, angry “discussions” (if we can really call them that) is a good space for us to exercise some self-control and question our words. (Though that doesn’t happen a lot, let’s be honest.)
While I could focus on these big debates and the ways I can try to add positivity rather than negativity to those conversations, in this piece, I am focusing more on the quieter, less obvious moments.
Stop. Think. Question.
A fabulous example of how I am learning to practice choosing to bring positivity to the world (in this instance via not adding negativity) actually presented itself this morning as I was about to write this piece.
I opened up Facebook and, like most mornings, did a quick sweep through my notifications. I came across a comment on one of my posts where I had been asking for recommendations for a dentist.
One of the recommendations from a friend was actually for my current dentist, the one that I have had a bad experience with and am looking to replace. (There was no way for them to know this as I’d not mentioned it in my post.)
My instinct was to reply to their comment explaining how horrible my experience with this dentist had been – and then I stopped. I questioned myself and I chose not to post my reply.
Now, why wouldn’t I share my story? How could it possibly be a bad thing to do so?
Those are two valid and reasonable questions.
It’s not like I’m attacking someone without reason or publicly shaming anyone for sport. It may even be helpful for me to tell share my experience and warn this friend of how terrible of an encounter I had.
Here’s the thing though, I stopped and noted that this friend has been seeing this dentist for some time and is quite happy with him.
The bad experience I had wasn’t something that involved illegal or inappropriate behavior. It was just a bad experience from a dental perspective for me. Clearly, it is not the norm. And clearly, my friend is happy with him professionally, as she has taken the time to recommend him to me.
So, having taken the time to stop, think and question what positivity my comment would bring to the world and quickly realizing the answer was none.
And then asking myself was negativity my comment could bring to the world and the answer was definitely some.
I made the choice to say nothing.
Now, I am not trying to imply that I only ever say positive things. That would be an absolute lie.
But I am working on questioning myself when I have the easy go-to response to be negative.
That part makes me sad, it’s not how most of us used to be I don’t think. It’s definitely not how I naturally am but I have seen it creep its way into my life and become more natural, for sure.
I think it’s just that we see so much negativity so often in the news, on social media, etc. that we seem to have become conditioned to it.
It feels like we have been put into some automatic defensive state.
We as a collective seem to have become more cynical, jaded, combative.
It’s changing who we are and how we communicate. Especially when it comes to our auto responses, our reactions and impulses.
And this is what I’m trying to retrain in myself.
It’s not who I was and it’s not who I like to be.
I am learning to stop, question, and respond instead of react.
I’m pretty sure we have enough negativity in the world to last us a billion years.
I can assure you that I, and likely you, have never found yourselves on social media wishing for more snarky comments or accusatory posts.
And I am certain I can’t ever recall a time where I was wishing someone had told me that they really didn’t like the dentist I was incredibly happy with or that they hated the restaurant I had just enjoyed a date at.
It is amazing how I’ve found that limiting (as best I can, it’s a work in progress) my negative contribution to the worldwide conversation has actually made me happier.
Be the Positive Change You Want to See
I think the Gandhi inspired “quote” has come to mean something a little different than it used to for me.
I used to think of it a little more like my choice of positivity over negativity would change the world around me.
But really what I think it means to me now is, when I choose positivity over negativity, it changes who I am and how I see the world.