Sometimes the most random conversation can spark a profound revelation. In the past few weeks, the question of ‘how to live an ethical life today‘ has popped up time and again while having dinner with friends, at work with colleagues, during yoga classes, and even while visiting grandma!
Most conversations were dropped halfway through, however, as in an open-ended commentary on the absence of perfect solutions and the inability of any of us to truly effect change.
One could see this as mere coincidence and not think twice about the topic; but when so many of us seem to be so aware and, at the same time, troubled about one single idea –how to live an ethical life today–, a better strategy might be to actually try and unpack the underlying problem! So this entry today will try to make it easier for you to assess what you believe in and begin doing life following your true values. Ahoi!
Find your own little North star
Simply estated, the issue here seems to be the perceived inability of the ‘modern human’ to live according to her values. Generalizing a little, we spend the majority of our lives with our attention focused on fitting the normal pathway of life pre-defined by our society and its standards –which often dictates pursuing security comes first.
This is how many of us get to spend most of our time (often, until our mid-life crisis) worrying about everyday kinda things –things like finding a good job, a partner, pursuing the right career, earning a certain amount of money, buying pleasurable objects, or having a family.
While doing these things is not bad in and of itself, doing them without taking the time to previously consider whether they are really the things that matter most to you in life is a sure recipe for dissatisfaction. This is why asking yourself things like who am I, what is really important to me, what do I stand for, and how do I do life with all of this at the center of it all is so very important!
Indeed, we all have values, but many of us never take the time to consider what these amount to. And so, we go through life wondering how to ignite the type of change we feel is needed to make living sustainable and ethical for us (and for others) but, ironically, do nothing to get closer to that utopia!
So a practical piece of advice for you all is to take matters into your own hands and figure out RIGHT NOW your personal philosophy. Once you’ve found it, consult with it any major life decisions you encounter. Think of your values as your own little North Star, the one bright point illuminating the darkest of nights, and helping you navigate your vessel home safe and sound!
Overall, be the change you want to ignite
The first thing you have to do is realize that change can come in all possible sizes. By this we mean that we all have a tendency to believe that change is ‘a huge thing’ that takes way too many people’s collective efforts to actually happen; or else, that one person’s dream alone does not really much matter. So we all feel like a tiny grain of sand in a vast and desolate desert. And yet, nothing could be farther from the truth!
The world is certainly changed by dreamers; people like you, or us, who dare to think of the big-picture and –until they’re able to act at that level– work small-scale to transform the world one life at a time. So, if you don’t like something, don’t just complain about it, do something!
In fact, we often overestimate what we can achieve in a single day, and underestimate what we can accomplish over a longer period. This is true of most of us. If you don't believe me, just look at your life right now. What have you accomplished in the last ten years? Did it seem doable at the time? Probably not. And yet, I bet you there are at least two things on your to-do list for today that you haven’t really been able to actually get done! Ain’t that funny?!
So, bottomline: be the change you want to ignite, NOW. Own your values, they truly represent WHO YOU REALLY ARE. Be bold and dream big, but don’t be discouraged if you have to live 'a small life' and stay humble.
Overall, just stay hopeful. Change DOES happen, though it doesn’t generally do so overnight! So trust that it will all work out, keep your eyes open, and follow your bright little North star. Chances are that, if you do so, you will really manage to inspire a few others to follow your example and, between you and me, that's already quite an accomplishment for a mere grain of sand!