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Many hands on a globe“We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

I have always wanted to make a difference in the world.  Over the years, my vision for how I would do this has shifted, but I have maintained my desire to help others.  Lately, I have questioned how much of a contribution I’ve been making and have increasingly felt that what I do is not good enough.   A recent experience vividly illustrated the powerful truth in Mother Teresa’s simple quote.   The focus of this week’s post is on that experience, what it taught me, and how I will proceed in life based upon what I learned.

An Ordinary Evening – Or Not…

One evening two weeks ago, my husband and I went to the gym to work out.  It was like any other evening, or at least that’s how it started out.  As we were walking from the parking lot into the gym, we heard a noise…  Upon repetition, it became clear to us that the sound was a cat’s meow.  Soon, a small white cat with tabby markings was at our feet, meowing loudly and nudging us.  Her friendly demeanor made it clear that she wasn’t a feral cat, but her thin appearance was characteristic of a stray and most likely abandoned feline.   The meows were likely a cry for help, a plea for food by a cat that probably hadn’t had a good meal in a long time.

The Bystander Effect

While we stood next to the meowing cat, a number of people walked by us and appeared to be indifferent to what was happening.   Like everyone seems to be these days, they were probably busy and moving on to the next item on their lengthy to-do lists.   There is something known as the “bystander effect,” a phenomenon that explains why most people don’t rush to help those in need.  When there are many others in the vicinity, it is assumed that someone else will help.

I had read about this problem in “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell just a few weeks ago, in fact.  Gladwell illustrated his point by recounting the story of the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese in New York City.  While Ms. Genovese was stabbed to death on the street, 38 witnesses watched from nearby buildings and NONE of them called the police!

Just Another Bystander?

I realize that ignoring a stray cat is not the same as idly standing by while a woman is murdered.  However, since our gym is located at the intersection of two busy streets in a high-traffic commercial area, the chance of this small cat surviving under those conditions was not very good.  I decided not to assume that someone else would help the cat.   I chose not to walk away because it was inconvenient for me to help at that time.  I decided that I would be the one to rescue the sweet little kitty from her scary plight.   In that moment, I knew that I could do a small thing with great love!

A Happy Ending

Sparky the CatMy husband and I had help in saving the little kitty we nicknamed “Sparky.”  We were able to lure her into a carrier with canned food and a local rescue group took her in and got her spayed and vaccinated.  We were pleased to learn a few days ago that Sparky was adopted immediately following her five day hold at the shelter.  She now has a new home and a new chance at a happy life.   The fact that we were willing to step in and help saved Sparky’s life, and it didn’t take much time or effort, either.

I Make a Difference

The “Sparky experience” taught me that although I had been feeling small and insignificant in the world, I do matter and I can make a difference.   While it’s true that I have not made myself a household name or achieved a seven (or even six) figure income, I mattered to Sparky and I made a powerful and significant difference in her life.  She didn’t care that I am not successful according to our society’s definition of the concept.  I allowed myself to be guided by my heart and help a small creature that really needed my help.

Moving Forward – More Small Things…

I’ve decided to commit to doing more small things with great love, both for those I know and those whom I’ve never met.  Since I feel a strong connection to animals, I have submitted an application to volunteer with the rescue group that helped us to rescue Sparky.  I also plan to pursue other volunteer opportunities for valuable causes that strike my passion and tug at my heartstrings.  I have the time and freedom to volunteer, and will find organizations which have a need for the types of services I can provide.

I will also strive to be more open and giving with the people in my life.  I have a tendency to be withdrawn and reserved and I know that leads me to feel more isolated and alone.  I plan to review my list of contacts to see who I might want to reconnect with in the coming weeks and months.  I also plan to put myself “out there” more often so I can make new personal and professional connections.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as the old saying goes…

The Ripple Effect

I am often very hard on myself and make blanket judgments about my purpose and place in this world.  In truth, I have no idea how much I touch the lives of others in small but meaningful ways.  I am reminded of the movie “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing,” a film which explores how the lives of thirteen people intersect in the face of life’s cold unpredictability.   One of the characters had been standing on a street corner about to walk out into oncoming traffic to commit suicide.  As he stood there, he saw a woman (one of the other characters but a stranger to him) smile at him from across the street.  This simple act of kindness and generosity convinced the man that there was still hope for him and a reason to live. The smiling women never knew that she saved someone’s life that day…

We never know how much we impact others.  We can make a difference in large and dramatic ways, in smaller yet deliberate ways, and in random and unintentional ways.  The important thing to remember is that we can and do contribute to the lives of others.   If we choose to do so, we can make a concerted effort to positively influence others, but even those who primarily pursue self-serving ends still have a ripple effect on the world around them.  We all matter and we are all valuable to our loved ones, our communities, and the society at large.

Kindness and Contribution

Remember, we don’t need to commit grand gestures in order to make a difference.  We make a difference by being our authentic selves and acting from our hearts.

I close with a few quotes on the topics of kindness and contribution.

Every smile is a direct achievement.” – Unknown

Isn’t it amazing how often we can touch someone’s life, and enrich our own, by a very simple act? Kindness, pass it on…” – Betty, WA Community Organizer

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” – Mother Teresa

Be kind.  It is hardly ever the wrong thing to do.” – Unknown

Related Posts

  • Deservability: We all want many things in our lives and we often wonder why we don’t get those things.  A big part of it has to do with the concept of deserving, or as Louise Hay terms it, “deservability.”  If, at the deepest core of our being, we don’t feel we deserve to have what we wish for, that belief will block those things from coming into our lives.   This post focuses upon the concept of deservability and the insights I derived from completing Louise Hay’s powerful exercise on that topic.
  • Lack of Connection: All of the technology in the world can’t change the fact that we are growing more and more socially isolated in our society.  In fact, a recent study found that 25% of Americans have no confidants at all!  Loneliness is becoming the biggest epidemic in our country, even bigger than cancer or heart disease.   In this post, I write about this troubling trend and share my personal struggle with isolation, as well as how I plan to turn it around.
  • The Tyranny of Shoulds: We all have a voice inside of our heads which tries to tell us what to do, how to act, and who to be.   Sometimes this voice is productive, such as when it moves us out of inertia and into action.  However, the voice can also be counterproductive or even destructive.  This post explores the dark side of our inner voice, the place where “should” and self-recrimination reside.    Some tips on escaping the “tyranny of shoulds” are presented to help us find a happy medium.
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With this post, I begin working through the exercises in Louise Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book.”  While you can definitely read my blog and benefit from my insights without doing the exercises yourself, I encourage you to follow along and gain and share your own insights.  Not all blog posts will be associated with YCHYL exercises, but these exercises are an integral part of the Healing Project.

Defining the Concept

We all want many things in our lives and we often wonder why we don’t get those things.  A big part of it has to do with the concept of deserving, or as Louise Hay terms it, “deservability.”  If, at the deepest core of our being, we don’t feel we deserve to have what we wish for, that belief will block those things from coming into our lives.  We end up settling for less than what we truly desire as a result of our limiting beliefs.  To achieve our goals in life, it is necessary to work on our beliefs as well as take concrete actions toward that which we want.

Deservability Exercise

The Deservability Exercise in the “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book” consists of seven questions which are designed to help us to better understand the power of this concept.  Below, I have included these questions (rephrased in a shorter and simpler format) as well as some key excerpts from my responses to the questions.  I feel that I have gained some valuable insights as a result of my introspection into the concept of “deservability.”  Now I invite you to answer these questions…

1. What do you want that you do not have now?

  • I want to have vibrant, good health.  I want to wake up feeling energetic, healthy and hopeful about the coming day.  I want to know that I will feel good instead of fearing or even expecting that I will feel bad.  I want to be able to make plans without fear of having to cancel because I don’t feel well or having to endure a headache or other pain while engaged in some type of social activity.
  • I want to feel like I’m making a positive difference in the world.  This difference doesn’t have to be on a grandiose scale, but I want to feel needed and important.
  • I want to feel as if I am utilizing my best gifts and strengths and that I am expressing my creativity.  I want to feel that I am expressing the best of myself in my endeavors and in my interactions.  The specific things that I do to use my gifts are not as important as the fact that I will be using my gifts in some sort of pursuit that matters to me.

2. What did you learn about deserving in your childhood?

I don’t know that I was told that I didn’t deserve, but I often did feel that I have to earn respect and praise.  I felt that I had to “tow the line” and do what was expected of me in order to win approval and love.

Earning would only work for me on a temporary basis. I would get approval in the moment, but it would be fleeting. I feel that I have continued this practice with myself.  I have to earn my own respect and approval and I often feel that I don’t do enough in order to be worthy of my own love or even like.

3. Do you feel that you are deserving of good things, or do you feel that you have to do something to earn them?  Are you good enough?

I feel more deserving than I did in the past, but there is a still a sense of feeling that I must earn things in life, including love and approval from myself and others.

My initial reaction to “are you good enough?” is that of course I am, but deep down I think I don’t feel good enough or worthy.  I feel as if I haven’t lived up to my full potential in life.  So much of my feelings of deservability are tied up in financial earnings and the societal definitions of success. I feel as if I don’t measure up in these ways.

I do feel that I can be good enough.  It will require an attitudinal shift more than an action shift because I know on some level that I am already good enough.

4. Do you deserve to live?  Why or why not?

I definitely feel that I deserve to live, no question.  This hasn’t always been the case, clearly, as I used to engage in such reckless and self-destructive behavior.

Now I feel that I am worthy of life and worthy of good things in life.  I shouldn’t have to earn the good things I have or feel guilty for what I have.  I want to be able to just be grateful and happy for my blessings and to trust that I have them because I deserve them!

5. What do you have to live for?  What is the purpose of your life?

I have many things to live for.  I have my wonderful husband, my adorable kitties, my family and my friends.  I feel that I have my potential to make a difference in the lives of many others.  I feel that I have my potential joy and future happiness to live for.

I am not entirely sure about the purpose of my life, but I feel that it has to do with inspiring and empowering others.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I wrote that, so I know that it’s true.  I feel that I can be a force for good and a person who can help others to release themselves from their bondage, the bondage of their own creation.  I feel that I can help others to be more free and to experience more joy and happiness in life.  I have yet to fully create this meaning or to realize my purpose, but I feel that I am on the precipice of this at this point in my life.  It’s as if I have to make it over just one more hill and I will be able to be more fully creative and expressive.

6. Whom do you need to forgive in order to deserve?

I feel that I have forgiven most of the other people in my life at this point.  I mostly need to forgive myself in order to feel more deserving.  I still feel guilt over things I’ve done in the past and I need to let that go.  I can’t go back and change what happened, so I need to release the past and move forward powerfully.  I also need to forgive myself for the fact that I have changed careers many times instead of sticking with one thing.  That is also something that I cannot change.

My choices and my actions have shaped me into the person I am today and I think that person is a good person.  Yes, I made some bad choices at times, but those choices were primarily motivated by my inner pain and my lack of self-confidence and trust in myself.  I was trying to escape my pain, so I did some bad and hurtful things.  I don’t excuse my actions, but I do need to forgive them.

7. What do you deserve?  Do you believe:  “I deserve love and joy and all good”? Or do you feel deep down that you deserve nothing?  Are you willing to let go of your limiting beliefs about deservability?

You know what?  I do believe that I deserve love and joy and all good!  It’s taken me many, many years to get to the point where I can write and say that.  I know that there are still some undeserving beliefs which need to be healed, but I basically believe that I am a good person who tries my best to be and do good.  I am willing to let go of my judgment and contempt towards myself.  I am willing to embody “I approve of myself.”  I am willing to awake with joy and live my life in joy and peace.  I am willing to change, I am willing to grow and I am willing to love and accept myself fully as I am while working to create the life of my dreams.

Some Affirmations to Try

Here are a few affirmations derived from Louise Hay’s “Deservability Treatment.”  It may be helpful to repeat these phrases either aloud or silently to yourself when you find yourself feeling down on yourself or discouraged about life in general.

  • I am deserving.
  • I deserve all good.
  • I now move past all negative, restricting thoughts.
  • I no longer identify with limitation of any kind.

Next we will delve into becoming more aware of our beliefs, both positive and negative, about various aspects and concepts of life.  We will identify those beliefs which serve us, as well as those which are holding us back from accomplishing our goal and realizing our dreams.  Then we will move into healing the various aspects of our lives, one step at a time…

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