There are two fundamental components in the world: human beings and nature. By influencing either one of them, you can effectively create change in the world.
It’s hard to have a significant impact on nature, though. Even if you use your bike more, recycle regularly, or vote for the right politicians to pass environmentally-friendly laws, your impact will be small. While we should all strive to make a difference, we won’t be able to witness much of that impact in our lifetimes.
When we picture changing the world, some grandiose ideas and leaders come to mind: Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, etc. But we don’t need to be so big; all of us can’t become great leaders. Instead, there’s a more realistic approach to changing the world -a more approachable and natural way of doing it- through interactions and relationships with people.
Whenever you encounter someone, you’re having an impact on that person. It can be good, bad, or neutral. If you’re polite and say “hi,” you’re probably being neutral. If you yell at the driver that just made a sudden turn on the road, and they hear you, you’re probably making their day worse (and yours!).
But what if we take each encounter as an opportunity for change, for a positive impact?
Instead of saying “hello” to your coworker, spend 10 minutes asking about how they are, caring about their family and friends, and the events in their life. Truly listen, and be there for them.
When paying in a business, be genuinely thankful for the service to the person there and wish them a great day.
You might call names to that driver that was a bit distracted, but if that person were your father or your mother, your reaction would be different. If someone makes something wrong, imagine they’re a relative and act as if that person can be forgiven and loved.
There’s also a great benefit to trying to impact the world through other people positively: you’ll feel happier and more fulfilled.
Somehow, when you give more, you’ll also receive more. It’s not a zero-sum game where you lose and the other person wins. If you smile at the cashier, you likely feel better, and they smile at you too. Try it; the world will be better because of you.