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Checks And Balances

Most of us have probably come across the universal wisdom that the people who irritate us the most are expressing qualities that we ourselves have. This is why family members can be so vexing for so many of us—we see ourselves in them, and vice versa. This isn’t always true, of course, but when it is, it’s a real opportunity for growth if we can acknowledge it, because it is infinitely easier to change ourselves than it is to try to change another person, which is never a good idea. For example, if we have a coworker who engages in some kind of negative behavior, like complaining or trying to control everything, we can look and see if we ourselves carry those traits.

We may have to look to other situations in our lives to see it, because we behave differently in different environments. Perhaps we don’t complain at work, because our coworker overdoes it, but maybe we do it with our friends. Maybe we aren’t controlling at the office, but we’re used to being in control at home, and this is why we feel so irritated not to be in control at work. Even if we look and find that we are not engaging in the same behavior that we see as negative in others, we can still learn from what we are seeing in this person. The truth is, human nature is universal, and we share many of the same tendencies. What we see in others can always help us to understand ourselves more deeply.

Having the ability to see something in another person, and automatically bring this observation back to ourselves, is like having a built-in system of checks and balances that enables us to be continually engaged in self-exploration and behavior change. When we see behavior we don’t like, we can make a concerted effort to weed it out of ourselves, and when we see behavior we do like, we can let it inspire us to engage in imitation. Through this process, we read our environment and let it influence us to bring out the best in ourselves.

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When We Don’t Take Action

Life is sculpted on a moment-to-moment basis. Every one of the thoughts we think, the words we speak, and the actions we take contributes to the complex quality and character of the universe’s unfolding. It simply is not possible to be alive without making an impact on the world that surrounds us. Every action taken affects the whole as greatly as every action not taken. And when it comes to making the world a better place, what we choose not to do can be just as important as what we choose to do.

For example, when we neglect to recycle, speak up, vote, or help somebody in immediate need, we are denying ourselves the opportunity to be an agent for positive change. Instead, we are enabling a particular course to continue unchallenged, picking up speed even at it goes along. By holding the belief that our actions don’t make much of a difference, we may find that we often tend to forego opportunities for involvement. Alternatively, if we see ourselves as important participants in an ever-evolving world, we may feel more inspired to contribute our unique perspective and gifts to a situation.

It is wise to be somewhat selective about how and where we are using our energy in order to keep ourselves from becoming scattered. Not every cause or action is appropriate for every person. When a situation catches our attention, however, and speaks to our heart, it is important that we honor our impulse to help and take the action that feels right for us. It may be offering a kind word to a friend, giving resources to people in need, or just taking responsibility for our own behavior. By doing what we can, when we can, we add positive energy to our world. And sometimes, it may be our one contribution that makes all the difference.

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