With everything happening in the world right now—coronavirus, climate crisis, police brutality and white supremacy, the election, so many high-stakes things—it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and not know how we can make a positive difference in the world for ourselves, our family, and for the future of humanity. And to top it off, I’m sure we all have our own things going on as well; things in our own lives that aren’t the way that we would like them to be. In my last post, I talked about how changing our lives is the first step towards changing the world. In this post, I’m going to talk about how to begin the process.
Before beginning any big project, it’s important to start with WHY, to start with what’s important. This is because if you know your WHY, and if it’s strong enough, you’re going to be much more motivated to do the hard work that’s necessary to change your life and change the world, and you’re much less likely to be pushed off course by someone else who might not believe the same things that you believe or care about the same things that you care about. You don’t want to be living someone else’s vision. You want to be living your own vision for your life, and for the world.
I recommend getting a journal and writing these questions out and taking some time with the answers. Take time not just with yourself, but also with people you trust.
Here’s the first question:
What are your top values?
A few years ago when I was in grad school, I came up with my top three values: love, humor, and justice. Ultimately it all boils down to love in the end, with humor and justice serving as two different flavors of love, in my opinion. Cornel West says that justice is what love looks like in public. I like the range that these values give me, I like the fact that they remind me of the fact that I’m here to be of service to others, in both my private life and my public life, and that I want to be light-hearted about life. We all want to have fun. That’s what we’re here for. So love, humor, and justice are my top three values. What are yours? You don’t have to limit yourself to three.
What does your perfect society look like? If tomorrow you woke up and everything were perfect, what would be different? How would know? What’s a simple way to describe the perfect world that you envision?
I studied linguistics in college, and we always looked for the simplest possible explanation to describe the rules of a language. What is it that somebody knows when they know a language? We had to keep it simple because there’s a finite amount of storage space in the human brain, so we have to make sure that the rules that we were writing were simple. What is a simple way of describing your perfect society?
For me, a perfect society is one that effortlessly meets the needs of mothers, children, and dogs. It might sound silly, but if mothers and children and dogs are getting everything they need, I think that everyone else is going to be doing pretty great.
What do you believe in? What do you believe is true? What do you believe about humanity? What do you believe about the world? What do you believe about life?
I believe that people are good, that we’re here to love each other and take care of each other, and that all the evidence to the contrary — because there’s a lot of bad stuff happening, there’s a lot of violence, there’s a lot of oppression, there’s a lot of injustice, there’s a lot of taking advantage of each other—can be explained without resorting to claiming that some people are better than other people. I’m not saying that violence doesn’t exist, but there’s a reason for it, and it’s grounded in our goodness and it’s grounded in the fact that we’re here to help each other and love each other. I believe that violence comes from trauma—hurt people hurt people. Child abuse, sexual violence, political oppression, living in an uncertain world, all of the traumatizing things that happen to us in our lives that tell us that the world is a scary place and that we’re not good enough. We react to that in ways that make sense to us but that only end up perpetuating the violence. I do it, you do it, our parents did it, and none of us did it because we were bad people. I believe there’s a lot of explanatory power in this idea that can take us to the root of all the human suffering and violence that we see and experience, but that people, at our core, are good, and that we’re here to help each other heal.
What are some principles that are important to you? Here I’m defining principles as similar to values, but more like values that are harder for us to live by.
The three principles that I try to focus on most are self-care, minimalism, and collaboration. These are values that I believe are important, but they are harder for me to live by because I’ve grown up in and been socialized by a traumatized individualistic capitalist society. As such, my upbringing taught me to be a good consumer and buy more than I need, that I’m supposed to do everything on my own and not think about other people, and to be numb to my authentic needs and unable to distinguish between what I need versus what I want or the artificial needs that are suggested to me by our consumer society. So even though I believe these principles are important and I want to live by them, it’s harder for me, and I have to do a fair amount of unlearning in order to fully integrate them into my life.
- What are your top values?
- What does your perfect society look like?
- What do you believe in?
- And what are some principles, some values that are harder for you to live by but you want to focus on?
Start there, and we can build on that in the next installment of this series.
The second part of your mission, should you choose to accept it, is grounded in action. If we truly want to change the world, right now the greatest opportunity to change the world, I believe, is in the upcoming election on November 3. Check out this site for a guide on how you can make a difference before November, or do your own research. You can make a commitment now and start taking action right away if you want, or just wait until my next post and I’ll tell you the next step, but find something that you can do, and let us know what it is. That way we can keep each other accountable.
Ok. Take care. Be well. Let’s change the world. Let’s show up for ourselves and for each other.