Thursday, July 16, 2015

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." - Leo Tolstoy

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” - Mahatma Gandhi.
"Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing." - Albert Schweitzer.

One of my favorite stories to tell is about the instructions given on airplane flights regarding oxygen masks. In case of an emergency, we're told, please place the mask on yourself first, then on a child. I haven't been able to independently verify this, but I've been told that this is because a child will be much more willing to have the mask placed on them if they see that you have the mask on first.

Modeling is certainly an important part of the "change yourself" concept.

And there is something deeper.

I have a friend who talks about having, doing, and being. Having is the goal that we are after, the tangible result. Doing are the actions we take to accomplish that result. Being is who we are and why we are doing that accomplishing.

Who we are matters. We can get caught up in all kinds of goals, and working on all kinds of programs to get those goals, but if what we do isn't ultimately reflective of our deeper core self--our being--it's hollow, ultimately unfulfilling, and arguably unimportant or even distracting.

Those who, in their being, are settled and centered do a much better job at determining what goals are important, and then in choosing appropriate actions to accomplish those goals.

Working on ourselves is hard work. It's hard enough that we're often tempted to run here and there after easy and attractive goals without really thinking deeply about whether they truly matter. We then build creative programs to accomplish those unexamined goals, and by this time we can be so mired in activity that we might be described as being "caught in the thick of thin things."

And we live in a world of such compartmentalized work, of such high inter-dependency around tasks that have been determined and set for us, that we may not even feel that we have the luxury or time to work on ourselves so that what we do reflects our deeper beliefs and ideals.

But that's a trap. I don't believe we truly influence others in profound and important ways unless what we are doing reflects our being. The time we spend on ourselves--reading, thinking, sharing, exploring, caring--is not wasted time. It's building the foundation without which all the rest that we do doesn't really matter.

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