If you truly want to make the world a better place for everyone, the best thing you can do is improve yourself, and your own life. As you improve your own life, you can help more and more people. The better your life is, the bigger the effect you can have on the world.
Even if you don’t help others, improving your own life makes the world a better place anyway. Do everything you can to improve your own life, and the world will automatically become a better place for everyone. The reason for this is simple. The overall well-being of the world can be represented as the sum of everyone’s individual lives. Every life you improve raises this number, including your own.
So how do you improve your life? I’m so glad you asked.
Once upon a time, a friend told me about his plans to open up a “total health” fitness complex. Rather than just being a typical gym, my friend envisioned a combination of gym, diet and nutrition center, yoga studio, meditation/prayer garden, a library, and doctors’ offices. His goal was to provide people with everything they needed to improve their health in three main areas: Physical, Mental, and Spiritual. There is a fourth dimension you also need to consider: Financial.
Improving your life in any one of these four areas improves your life overall. You can focus on one area, or all four. You don’t have to go crazy about it. Remember, small changes yield big results over time. Just do something, even one small thing, every day, and watch your life get better. Here are a few practical ideas to get you started:
Physical: Go for a walk, or bicycle ride around your neighborhood. Crank up the music and have a dance party in your living room. Clean your home. Go to the park and play on the playground equipment. Play with your kids. Play with someone else’s kids. Take your dog for a walk. Take a yoga class. Take a spin class. Take a dancing class. Play backyard sports with some friends. Go for a hike. Go for a swim. Just go somewhere, and do something.
Mental: Read a book. Watch a TED talk. Watch a documentary. Take a class. Attend a lecture. Talk to a professor. Visit a museum. Find a person who has lived longer than you have, and ask them questions. Find a person who hasn’t lived as long as you have, and ask them questions. Go to an aquarium. Talk to a psychiatrist. Talk to a good friend. Volunteer for a local charity. Start an apprenticeship. Start an internship. Just go somewhere, and learn something.
Spiritual: Now if you’re a strict atheist who doesn’t believe in even the existence of a soul or spirit, you might be tempted to skip this section. Don’t. You can still benefit from these activities. Just file them under “mental” instead of “spiritual.” Read a holy book. Talk to a spiritual leader in your community, preferably one from a different tradition than your own. Attend a religious ceremony. Spend some time in nature. Meditate. Pray. Perform some small ritual just for yourself. Howl at the moon. Cry at the beauty of the sunset. Cry over your broken heart. Fall in love. Marvel at the mysteries you can’t solve, and might not ever solve.
Financial: Open a savings account. Open an investment account. Start a swear jar. Put your spare change in a piggy bank. Pick up an odd job for extra cash. Eat at home instead of going out to dinner. Skip the coffee one day a week. Two days a week. Three days a week? Create a budget and stick to it. Educate yourself about money. How does interest work? How can it work against you? How can it work for you? Examine your bills. How can you reduce, or eliminate, some of them? Hold a yardsale. Take your old clothes to a consignment shop. Is there a used bookstore that will pay you for your old books? Get a library card. Find sources of free entertainment. Neighborhood concerts? Community theater? Movies in the park?
But is this really the “best” way to improve the world? Again, I’m so glad you asked…
Yes. Yes, it is. Absolutely. And here’s why:
Consider your financial health. The more money you have, the more you can spend. So the wealthier you become, the more good you can do in the world. If you only have $10 to spend on charity, then you can buy a meal for one person, or maybe two, if you are a good budget shopper. However, if you have $100 to spend on charity, then you can buy a week’s worth of groceries for one or two people. If you have a million dollars to donate, you can fund a hundred food banks for an entire year.
As you increase your physical health, you’ll increase your strength, stamina, and resistance to disease. You can take on more projects to help more people, you can go to more places that need the most help and help people there, or you can simply devote more of your time and energy to people close to you.
Improving your mental health will grant you more clarity and focus. You’ll be able to solve more problems, and that’s what making the world a better place is all about. You’ll be able to understand the problems better, and you’ll be able to ensure that they are being solved effectively and efficiently.
Last, but certainly not least, improving your spiritual awareness will help you understand the people you are helping. Raising your spiritual awareness, even if you are not a believer yourself, will teach you how to be more kind, more compassionate, and more loving; and that’s what the world needs more than anything.
Your health is the cup you carry to offer water to the thirsty people. The bigger your cup, the more water you can carry, and the more people you can help. Even if the only person you choose to help is yourself, then carrying a bigger cup just means that you’re less likely to need help from someone else in the future. Grow your cup, and keep it filled. Use the overflow to help others. In this way, you might slake the thirst of the whole world.