There are so many things going on in the world at the moment, and many of them may not be exactly what we might have hoped for. So at times like these I feel that it is necessary to focus on what matters most, and what we may be able to do as individuals to improve the situation. And who better to inspire our good intentions than Gandhi himself? Here is a list of eight of his wisest words, and my (potentially slightly less wise) interpretations of them.
1. Be the change you wish to see in the world
It really is that simple and we really do have the potential to be a catalyst for change. It may seem like our ambitions are far too major or radical, but with any change we wish to see, we can be that first important step along the road to something huge. Everything has to start somewhere. Every avalanche starts as a teeny snowflake. If we wish that the world was a kinder place, then our simple acts of day to day kindness may inspire others to do the same.
2. What you think, you become
We are the products of our thoughts; good or bad. If we believe that we cannot do something and we will not be successful, then that task is likely to turn into a mammoth difficulty. Negative thoughts lead to negative outcomes; positive thoughts lead to positive outcomes. As soon as we learn to master our thoughts and stop our self-sabotaging minds from conspiring against our goals, we become a magnetic force for goodness.
3. Where there is love, there is life
In the turbulent and chaotic world that we live in, the power to love and the courage to do so in the face of adversity is one of the only things that can transcend all of the hatred, fear and violence we see around us. The uplifting feeling of love gives us each the energy to reach out to one another, whether that simply be the gesture of a smile or offering a stranger your seat on a train, the unconditional love of a family member, or the enduring friendship of a long-term friend. The capacity to love is what makes us human, and it holds the unparalleled power to cover the world in peace.
4. Learn as if you’ll live forever
We are constantly learning, growing and evolving as a species, as communities and as individuals. We should never let go of the unapologetic curiosity we hold as children, and continue to question everything, every day of our lives. We should waste no opportunity to breathe in the wisdom of the world and explore the wonder that is resting at our fingertips. The more we know and understand about the universe around us, the more fulfilled our lives will be.
5. Your health is your true wealth
No amount of money or material possessions can make up for ill health. If you are stuck in bed unwell then these things are superfluous. We are given one body to live our lives in; imagine if we were told we could only ever have one car to use our entire lives and imagine how well we would take care of that. We should treat our bodies with respect and remember that nothing is a worthy substitute for good health.
6. Have a sense of humor
So much of our lives can be made up of stressful or mundane tasks and chores. But what is this really what we are living for? We should discover the things we enjoy the most and do them all the time. We should take the time to laugh and allow ourselves to laugh without inhibition. There are many situations in life that could bring us down, but the moment we choose to laugh at them instead of dwelling on the negatives, the situation may immediately seem far less dire.
7. Your life is your message
Take a moment to consider how others view you. And how you would perhaps like be remembered. How we behave can be far more influential to those around us than what we actually say. We should each live in a way that leads by example and spreads the message we wish to give without us having to utter a word. And to quote another wise old man, Aristotle once said “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”. So if we want the world to be excellent, we ourselves must be excellent.
8. Action expresses priorities
What we spend our time doing should reflect what our priorities are in life. If we want something to be a priority then we should dedicate time to that every day, or at least as much as we are able to do. And if we are not able to do so then perhaps this tells us that we need to make some changes in order to make room for our real priorities. Don’t waste time on things that don’t really matter. If you have an ambition then make the time to take steps towards it.
9. Our greatness is being able to remake ourselves
The power is in our hands. Nothing is stopping us at any time from deciding to go in an entirely different direction from the one in which we are currently moving. This may take a lot of work and whole load of courage and determination, but anything is possible and we should not limit ourselves by putting ourselves into a box which we are afraid to break out of.
10. Find yourself in the service of others
Sometimes all it takes is just one person to make that difference and change someones life. Helping others to the best of our abilities is not only a wonderful thing to do for that person, it is incredibly enriching for society as a whole and it is also very gratifying knowing that you are having a positive impact or being even just a small part of something that affects positive change. And as Gandhi said, “you may never know what results come of your actions but if you do nothing there will be no results.”
I know that many of us are already stuck in our own rhythms of life and perhaps don’t feel that we are able to become, or to be honest are particularly interested in becoming, activists or radical drivers of change; but if we each make small, positive and intentional decisions that may slightly alter how we live our lives day to day, then the world may start to transform into all of those things we might be wishing for.
Image courtesy of Rusty Sheriff via Flickr