Zoe is a blogger for Psychology Today (PT), and each week we’ll be sharing her PT blog posts here. Enjoy!
Mahatma Gandhi was once asked by a reporter, “What is your message to the world?”
Gandhi responded by jotting down on a piece of paper: “My life is my message.”
When I first read this statement, I was struck by the universality of Gandhi’s simple sentence. I realized that if Gandhi’s life was his message, then my life was my message.
I also recognized that this truism applies to everyone, which means that your life is your message.
As this truth sinks in, a question may arise: Am I living in such a way that I’m truly modeling the message I want to convey?
To answer this question, you might ask yourself other questions, such as: What are my deepest values? What qualities do I most want to embody?
You may wish to create a list of qualities that are important to you, such as compassion, honesty, generosity, perseverance, courage, and kindness.
It’s possible that by deeply reflecting on your values, you may want to make a greater effort to more intentionally live in alignment with them, perhaps by striving to be a better friend, a more loving partner, a kinder parent, or by volunteering, helping neighbors, or participating actively in your community.
In a globalized world, living more kindly in relation to those with whom you interact is a beautiful thing to do, but it’s not sufficient if you truly wish to put a quality such as compassion into practice.
That is because our everyday actions – from what we eat and wear, to the energy and transportation we use, to the products we buy – impact others far removed from us, making it challenging to effectively turn our compassion into meaningful action.
Our simplest choices may leave a hidden trail of sorrow and harm, and it takes effort to learn about the impact of our choices and behaviors on people, animals, and ecosystems across the planet. And once we understand the profound consequences of our actions, it takes an even greater effort to make truly kind and sustainable choices.
In my last post, I wrote about how to make meaningful change happen. I described steps people might take to stop injustices and destruction, but I didn’t write about personal choice-making. I didn’t talk about consciously modeling our message and striving to personally minimize the harm and maximize the good we do through our daily choices. Instead, I focused on why it’s important to forge a path as a solutionary who creates systemic change.
But just as proximal kindness isn’t enough, being a systemic changemaker isn’t enough, either. To be a true solutionary, we also need to endeavor to model a message aligned with our values.
The reason it’s important to walk our talk isn’t because personally making more compassionate and sustainable choices will, by itself, change the world.
It’s important because integrity matters.
Click below to learn the four reasons why.