Times can be hard ... but you don't have to be!
Are we evolving and becoming better people? As technology advances and provides increasingly efficient tools to enable improvement in all arenas of life, are we finding strategies to expand our personal development in a way that improves the lives of those we love, everyone we encounter, and the world we live in? Are we adapting to changes in our environment, and to sociocultural evolution in a manner that expands our potential as a civilization? Just what are we doing?
Daily we're surrounded by input that can either challenge or inspire us.
Complications such as climate change can directly impact our summer holiday plans as temperatures rise and we pack for increasingly warm resort temperatures. The dexterity of social media and the proficiency of its communication, resulting in increased social protests can ruin our day if it stops traffic with our car at the front of the line waiting to get home to family.
Upheaval subtly affects us regardless if it is happening directly to us or near us.
Why the upset?
As the world around us changes, we change. Over time, continued accommodations create a new reality and eventually, a new state of being.
Life is evolving — changing — in the most literal sense. Hopefully, the efforts we’re making result in something more significant than what previously existed.
We're genetically wired to fight for survival which served us extremely well when daily life was full of mortal threat. Now, our genetic wiring shows up as we assert our independence and express our emotions.
Emotions can be powerful. Anger can motivate us to take action while fear prompts us to react to a warning. As mortal peril decreases, our corresponding impulse to react violently should lessen. But with our genetic hard-wiring of fight or flight, that isn’t always the first impulse.
Oh, what a difference: look at the evidence!
But we don’t need to look hard to find evidence that we're modifying our genetic fight response, and subsequently, slowly changing the world. We're learning compassion and forgiveness at an increasing degree and speed. As we replace our instinctive conditioned responses with those of kindness or love, the world has the potential to subtly change.
As a culture, we want to expand our personal development. The number of life coaches and leadership courses has skyrocketed. The annual growth rate of the industry in 2015 was 10.4 percent compared to 2.0 percent in 2012. People want to feel they are making a difference in the world.
Brain studies substantiate beliefs about learning and growth, bringing new terminology and understanding. Evidence now shows that our brain, through neuroplasticity, continually changes in response to the adaptations we make. It evolves.
Meditation is now taught in some schools and yoga has been brought to prisons. Mindfulness is a practice countless individuals endeavor to practice and is promoted by the United States government for helping veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. What was previously considered esoteric spiritual practices are now part of mainstream life.
As individuals change their personal response to life, they impact everything and every one around them. Whether we choose to change ourselves through practices such as meditation, yoga, or mindfulness or by living intentionally in kindness, we have an impact on every single living creature we come in contact with.
We’ve seen how this works, and felt it, too! Remember the last time you had a casual, but very pleasant conversation with a stranger? Didn’t you leave feeling great, or at least calm and happy? Odds are excellent that you left the other person feeling the same way. You each then continue through your day more optimistically, affecting others in the same way.
We have that same impact on the smallest plant life. You’ve seen that, too, although you may have tried to forget it. For now, picture an angry person stomping on a flowering shrub, breaking its branches. Feels dreadful to even consider, doesn’t it? Now think how every person walking by that broken plant will feel. What an impact!
Consider, too, how vastly different their reactions are from the intention of the planners and gardeners who installed those shrubs, watered, and weeded around them. One angry person’s trampling equals widespread impact just as one pleasant exchange equals widespread kindness.
Start with yourself. When we calmly operate from a healthy position physically, emotionally, and spiritually, we are able to freely give to others and to offer kindness. Countless techniques exist for balancing you to that calm place.
Here are 5 to consider:
Your intuition is your inner guidance system. Pay attention to your gut instincts and you will never be sorry. Living with intuition as your GPS will be the most rewarding path through life.
Like exercise, there are many styles of meditation to suit various schedules and personalities. In other words, there’s no (good) reason to avoid meditating. As psychic and medium, Laura Evans said “it’s a daily spiritual shower.” Even if you shun the term “spiritual,” there's no more efficient way to shed the old thoughts, fears, and worries than a meditation session.
3. Live in the moment.
Daily mindfulness is a wonderful practice of focusing simply on one thought per moment. That’s it — deceptively simple, but not necessarily easy.
4. Do yoga or a daily physical practice.
Yoga is just one of many ways to engage in a physical practice. For the purpose of using physical activity for ongoing clarity, exercise needs to be a routine practice rather than a regimen of gym visits. It can also be beneficial to combine meditation or mindfulness and exercise into a practice.
5. Speak positively to yourself.
Becoming aware of your thoughts and replacing any thought that isn’t somehow serving a positive result and replacing it with a beneficial one can be an intensive practice. As you neutralize the negative and replace with positivity, stress is reduced, self-esteem is increased and life perspective improves.
It’s that easy to change the world.
Everything we do has an impact on our society. We can choose whether to spread a little kindness, or a bit of despair. Despite our genetic hardwiring for survival, we’re fortunate that even if love may not be our first instinct it isn’t a completely foreign concept to us. Since it coexists with aggression we can strengthen it rather than need to create it from inception. As we develop compassion it intensifies until it shifts into an automatic response. The need to attack correspondingly weakens.
We can take action by taking accountability for life and the world around us, regardless of tragedy, trauma, or drama. Commit to live with full accountability and follow through with integrity. In other words, live authentically. Convey hope and a positive potential outcome.
Live life in the way that has the most meaning in alignment with your purpose, values, and goals. Being authentic provides a strength of character that helps withstand external controversy. Every individual has the power to impact change, even when and if we can’t see the change.
It all starts with you and me. We're evolving and we have the opportunity to transform ourselves and the world into the next version — a finer version. We make a difference, every day.
Jan L. Bowen is a passionate thought leader who helps clients align their lives so they find more joy and greater connection. Get Jan’s latest book: "Why Do You Get Up In the Morning? How to Demystify Your Life Purpose" — download now.