Tomorrow is the last day of October, which means tomorrow will also be the last day of this 31 day series about simple change. In my welcome post for this series, I wrote how the word change is a heavy word, often interpreted negatively because we assume two things about change: change is difficult and change is bad. But change doesn’t have to be hard and it doesn’t have to be negative. Simple changes can have powerful impacts. Allowing yourself time to daydream can help you become more creative and less stressed. Creating family traditions can create a sense of family unity and provide happy memories that last a lifetime. Taking care of yourself by scheduling medical appointments and getting enough sleep can help you stay healthy, which means you are also better able to care for the people you love. All these changes are simple, inexpensive, and uncomplicated but they can have a big impact on your happiness and wellbeing.
And yet, I imagine that most of us are still unable to make the simple changes required to be happier, healthier, and more productive. Why? Why do we refuse to slow down? Why do we insist on putting the health of others above our own health? Why are we unwilling to carve out a few minutes of the day to write in a journal, or meditate, or call a friend. Perhaps one reason is that we are afraid of being selfish. Somewhere along the line, we learned that taking care of ourselves and taking time for ourselves was selfish and therefore undesirable. Which is why we feel guilty when we think about reading a book instead of doing yet another load of laundry. It’s why we feel guilty when we take time off from work to go to the doctor for a check-up. It’s why we feel guilty about leaving our kids with a babysitter in order to go out with our spouse. We are afraid of being selfish. But consider these words:
“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi
We lament how fast the world moves and how busy kids are today but we refuse to slow down our own lives and the lives of our children. We complain that technology has made people worse communicators and less social, but we don’t make the time to write a letter or visit our friends. The world is not separate from us…the world IS us. When we talk about the world and society and today’s culture, we are talking about us. So if we want something “out in the world” to change, we must first be willing to change it inside ourselves and inside our families. We must be the change we wish to see in the world. If we want the world to be different, we too must be different. Which leads me to the other reason we avoid making even simple changes in our lives. We are afraid of being different. We may not want our kids to be in five separate activities, but we do it because everyone else is doing it. We may actually enjoy writing letters to people, but we feel silly doing it because nobody else writes letters anymore. So in an attempt to avoid feeling different, we avoid making changes, even when those changes could make us happier and healthier.
Sometimes change happens in a big, dramatic fashion. But more often, change happens in small and incremental ways. A little more sleep can make you feel a whole lot happier. One small act of kindness can lead to two or three or four more small acts of kindness. It’s amazing how seemingly insignificant changes have a way of rippling around in big ways you can’t even begin to imagine. And so the challenge for me and for you isn’t just in finding simple changes we can make to improve our lives. The real challenge lies in our willingness to make those simple and small changes, despite feeling guilty or feeling as though we are moving against the tide. Because you just never know…one simple change in your own personal life today can lead to a bigger and better change in the world tomorrow.
Throughout the month of October, I’ll be sharing some ideas for simple changes you can make to improve your life. Did you miss a day? Visit the 31 Days Welcome page for links to each day.