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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

10 Things That Even You Can Do to Change the World

10 Things That Even You Can Do to Change the World

Each and every day, we’re inundated with stories about how the world is going to hell. War, poverty, pollution… all manner of atrocities are flung at us from all directions, and it’s enough to draw even the most lighthearted person into a pit of despair.

Fortunately, a great way to counteract all that ugly is to be the change we want to see. None of us can change the entire world all by ourselves, but by making small amendments in our own lives and encouraging others to do the same, a snowball effect occurs that can affect the entire planet in time. Here are a few simple ways that you (yes, even you) can help bring about positive change in the world:

Share Positivity

For every bit of horrible dreck floating about on the Internet or in the news, there’s an amazing, beautiful story to counteract it. Stop wallowing in the fear-mongering ugliness that the general media tries to fling at you, and instead, let yourself be inspired by the wonder, beauty, and compassion in the world.

Websites like The Daily Good, Positive News, and even Huffington Post’s “Good News” section are all filled with uplifting stories that can serve to remind you that there’s a hell of a lot of good in the world. Once your heart is glowing, tweet, and pin those stories so others can be inspired as well.

Plant a Garden

You’d be surprised what a little patch of green space can do for the environment, and if you have a bit of land that you can turn into a garden, you’ll make more of an impact in your corner of the planet than you realise. Planting and harvesting your own food means that less has to be carted in from other countries, which decreases the amount of fuel that’ll be shot off into the atmosphere. If instead of food you’d like a flower and herb garden, plant flowers that attract and feed pollinators like bees, butterflies, and birds: they’re disappearing at an alarming rate because of pesticide and insecticide use, so an organic garden full of delicious blossom and seeding plants (like sunflowers, amaranth, and millet) will help exponentially.

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If you don’t have your own land but have a thoroughly green thumb, consider getting involved in a community garden project: you’ll help others to develop their gardening skills, help to empower them by showing them how to be self-sufficient with their food security, and that garden will become a supportive ecosystem to all kinds of insects and small animals.

Meditate

You don’t have to follow any particular religion or philosophy to meditate, and nor does meditation have to involve sitting cross-legged on the floor while chanting in a language you don’t understand. Ultimately, meditation is just a mindfulness practice that involves calming your thoughts and emotions so you can be in the present moment. This helps to calm frayed nerves to alleviate stress and anxiety, and creates a sense of peace and tranquility of spirit. That inner peace reflects upon all other facets of life: you may have more patience with others, or have greater self esteem, or even just be able to appreciate the little bits of beauty you come across instead of being swamped by all the negativity in the world.

Speak Up, and Take Action

If there are issues that concern you, use your voice to bring attention to them. Sign petitions, write letters to your member of parliament, make an appointment to sit down with someone who has the power to change things, and discuss your worries with them. If someone you know treats another badly, then call them out on their bad behaviour: saying nothing is basically just condoning said poor behaviour, and will make the one getting hurt feel that no-one is there to support or defend them.

Should you find out that the company that makes your favourite chocolate bar/deodorant/drink has questionable practices, then find a more ethical product that you enjoy just as much, and write to the company you’re now boycotting to let them know why you’ll no longer support them. Your voice can make a profound impact, so let it be heard.

Clean Up

You’re probably quite vigilant with regard to disposing of garbage properly, but others may not be quite so conscientious. If you see a piece of rubbish lying about that some jerk has tossed out their car window or just dropped on the ground, throw it out. Keep a pair of rubber or latex gloves in your bag if you don’t want to touch anything that’s potentially “icky”, but keep in mind that every little bit of effort helps when it comes to cleaning up our living spaces.

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If you live in Canada and love all things aquatic, consider getting involved in the David Suzuki Foundation’s Great Shoreline Cleanup: join forces with others to clean up rivers, lake shores, ponds, creeks, and even beaches along the ocean. There are similar initiatives in other countries, so just do a quick search for environmental clean-up groups in your area, and get involved!

On that very topic…

Stop Polluting the Water

Have you ever been thirsty? I mean, truly parched? So thirsty that your throat started to close up and your lips were cracking and you thought you were going to die? Consider the fact that our bodies are comprised of nearly 70% water, and nearly all animals and plants require water to survive. Then think about the fact that only 2% of all water on earth is drinkable, and a significant amount of that is now polluted because of all the crap we keep dumping into it. Every drop of chemical cleaner, every drop of hair dye, every bit of pesticide, paint, non-biodegradable laundry detergent, toilet bowl cleaner, etc. gets into the water system, and although the drinking water in cities is filtered a great deal, most of those toxins still leak into the soil and underground water table, killing life around the planet. People and animals all over the world often have to choose between dying of thirst, and poisoning themselves with tainted water supplies.

Be very conscious about what it is you pour down your drains or use on your lawns, and try to be as eco-friendly as possible. If you dye your hair, try plant-based dyes or henna instead. Instead of harsh household cleaners, all you really need are vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils. To help take action for clean drinking water, look into groups like Waterkeeper Alliance, which has chapters all over the world that you can get involved with.

Reconsider Your Eating Habits

Write a list of the items you normally buy at the grocery store, and consider doing a bit of research on where these items come from. Does your favourite brand use mostly GMO ingredients? If you eat meat, is it from local sources where the animals are treated ethically? Are your eggs free-range, or do they come from a place where the birds are crammed into small cages? Is the sugar you buy harvested by children? Are your organic vegetables picked by people who earn a living wage?

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Delve into the sources of your food and determine whether you’re contributing to the well-being of others, or if your habits could be a little more compassionate and conscientious.

Find Out More About What You Buy/Wear/Use

Just like food, clothing has to come from somewhere, but few people take the time to really research the origins of their clothes. Does the company that makes your shirt source pesticide-laden cotton from a developing country? Have your jeans been sewn by children’s hands in Thailand or India? Were any animals harmed to source real fur trim for your jacket or boots? Was any water polluted to create the PVC in your bag or shoes? Educate yourself so that you can educate others, and speak out against mistreatment when you come across it.

Volunteer

There are many different ways to donate your time to others, so don’t feel that you have to put yourself in a position you’re uncomfortable with in order to make a difference. Some people might be happy working in soup kitchens or helping street youth, while others may not, and that’s totally okay! There are volunteer opportunities for people of every age, profession, and physical ability.

If you like the outdoors, consider doing some volunteer work to help clean up parks. Are you an animal lover? Offer to walk dogs at an animal shelter a few times a month, or maybe help to campaign for the World Wildlife Fund, SPCA, etc. Are you a super-busy professional? Consider donating an hour or so a month to help mentor young people who wish to follow in your footsteps. Are you crafty? You can use up spare yarn by knitting or crocheting warm hats, scarves, and mittens for those in need, like women and children in shelters, or even overseas orphans and refugees. Trust that there’s charity work that’s perfectly suited for you out there, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to make a dramatic difference in another’s life.

Be Kinder

We all get frustrated and upset on occasion, but the energy that we put out into the universe tends to have a domino effect: the person you yelled at in traffic might take their frustrations out on a barista, who’ll then go home and yell at her kids because she’s had a bad day, and the kids will fight with one another because they don’t know how to handle the negativity that’s been forced upon them. On and on it goes, with the web of hostility growing larger and larger as it sweeps through the population.

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If you find yourself irritated or frustrated by a situation, take a step back and really consider what’s going on. Is this an opportunity for you to be more patient? What can you learn from this situation? If you change your tone and be more compassionate with the others involved, can you achieve a more positive outcome?

In addition to reacting positively to upsetting circumstances, we can also take the initiative to pour some good into the world. Practicing random acts of kindness also creates a domino effect, as others appreciate what was done for them and then decide to do good in turn. Paying for someone else’s coffee in a drive-through will instantly brighten their day, and there’s more than a 90% chance that they’ll pay for the person behind them in turn, and so on. This video illustrates that concept rather perfectly, actually.

The actions mentioned above don’t take a great deal of effort to do, but if each and every person on the planet implemented just a few of them, we could see real change happenfor the betterment of all on this gorgeous planet.

More by this author

Catherine Winter

Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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