The benefits of being a positive person and of supporting a cause bigger than yourself includes: happiness, longer life, improved self-worth, better physical and mental health and the list goes on.
Trying to make the world a better place in a positive way = good for you. Being a self-centered negative jerk = not good for you.
Assuming you choose the former over the latter, as a practical matter you need a list of positive things that will make the world a better place. Where do you start? What process would come up with such a list?
There are thousands of people and organizations that work very hard to convince you to support their cause. The trick is to figure out what interests you and will make the world a better place. There is only one person who can answer which causes you are interested in: you.
About a year ago, I had read about the benefits of being a positive, altruistic person. I decided I wanted to actually make a list of positive things that interested me and which could make the world a better place. Not saying you should follow the same process but I can categorically say, making the list is well worth the effort. Below is the process I followed.
For several weeks, a couple times a week, I blocked out 15 minutes on my calendar to research and think about what positive things could be done to make the world a better place. Note: I blocked out 15 minutes but most often I actually ended up spending more like 30 minutes. I decided to limit my list to five items.
I made the self-imposed rule that the list would never be more than 5 items. So when a new idea came up I had to decide whether it was good enough to replace something else on the list.
Of course, “better” is in the eye of the beholder. However, I felt the eye of the beholder should be informed by some objective criteria. As I moved from session to session I found my definition of “better” evolved. I also decided that any idea had to be something I would be willing to tell others about and had to be within the realm of realistic and possible.
Ideas can be of any scale: Is it a global thing, a regional thing, a local thing, an interpersonal thing or a personal thing? The ideas do not have to be original or clever. Positive ideas held for the only purpose of opposing something was also contrary to the whole idea of the project.
Here are the criteria I landed on for making the world better:
- Better means a better quality of life first and longer life secondary.
- An idea could benefit either just humans or the combination of humans and other organisms. However, the idea can’t be about harming other organisms.
- Ideas could be about our relationships with others, personal wellbeing or about the environment but could not harm our relationships, wellbeing or the environment.
- Better could be about learning/changing the way we think about something or about actually changing a physical something.
- An idea could help many and harm a few, but in all cases, the idea is to be about helping the many and not basically about harming the few.
Many ideas felt great at first, but upon reflection, not so much. My list was not a “best of” list. It was a list of things that interested me and in my personal opinion would help make the world a better place. The list was not about how to accomplish any items on the list.
Here are the five ideas on my final list. I did not rank them at the time or since.
- Learn to use connected devices better and encourage others to do the same. We are in the information age and learning to use the tools of the age is a very positive thing to do.
- Make government information more accessible and encourage others to do the same (a job-related goal).
- Replace many of the billions of trees that have been cut down over the last couple hundred years.
- Take carbon out of the atmosphere and put it in the ground where it belongs;
- Increase the amount of oxygen in the air;
- Provide a habitat for more organisms, increasing bio-diversity;
- Stabilizes the soils reducing erosion.
- Help people understand that reality, for all its warts, is a very rich and satisfying place to live. None of us are perfect, accepting each other for who and what we are is a better path forward.
By inclination and nature, I am not an activist or a community organizer. The call is not that you follow me. But I highly recommend coming up with a list of positive things you think will make the world a better place.
The final item on my list was:
Work on being a better blogger with a positive message about making the world a better place.
Being a blogger and this blog post is me working on this last item.
Finally, this is the signature line from my work email. “Plant trees – Your grandchildren will breathe easy and the water will flow cool and clear.”
Paul Leegard is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.