While at my annual cousins’ party this weekend, I was reminded of a little bit of wisdom I had read many years before. At first, I didn’t recognize it, as if it were flitting around waiting for me to see it, like a dragonfly skimming the top of a lake before alighting on a water lily for a time. Yet as the chilly night dovetailed from casual dinner conversation, into one of those peaceful, moonlit, Florida nighttime chats, foggy memories of prior years’ parties came rushing back to me. Toward its end, this party, more than any other, triggered an appreciation in me for how each of us had confidently grown into their own more complete version of themselves. Still, I couldn’t shake this lingering question: What had I read years before that was just out of reach?
Well, upon further reflection, I actually started to understand this question while we sat around the fire pit, its flames reaching up into the darkness. By this hour, the conversation had turned to that seemingly timeless forum wherein young adults question and the elders answer. And as more questions were raised, and answers provided, I started to feel a warmth growing, not from the fire, but from this small community we had created for a few hours. I could tell that we were all enjoying each other’s company, building a connectedness that generated an inner glow evident on people’s faces and in their eyes. In short, it was great seeing our younger cousins striving for ways to just be better.
Suddenly, after creeping up on me for what must have been hours, the little bit of wisdom that had been eluding me came into focus: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him…e need not wait to see what others do.” After considering these words from Gandhi more deeply, I felt—and still do feel—that they allude to this idea of being our best selves, such that the world experiences a better change as a result. Therefore, I noted, Gandhi was imploring us to take responsibility for who we are and what we do to shape the world we will have around us. Not a bad revelation for an evening spent with family.
To generalize this realization, consider all those people who make us feel terrific and can lift our spirits. That is what I am referring to in the story above. These people just exude enthusiasm, engagement, and joy. In fact, I would bet they are consistently being enthused, engaged, and joyful! Fortunately, researchers have investigated this topic extensively, and they overwhelmingly find that positive thinking actually begets positive outcomes, disproportionately so. As such, in the spirit of Gandhi’s wisdom, let me provide you with a simple way to enact a positive change in all of our lives. In other words, this advice will allow all of us to be better and do more (i.e., change), propelling us in a positive direction wherein we then have more of what we want in our lives (i.e., a better world around us).
Thankfully, what I suggest we all do is simple: Each and every morning, afternoon, and evening, pick your most positive experience—a graduation day, your nuptial moment, a first child’s birth, an annual family gathering—and then allow that memory to grow and fill your whole mind. Now, let it fill your whole body. Focus on the feeling anchored within that memory and magnify it, letting it take over your entire consciousness. At this point, come back to yourself, positively charged and happier than you were before, and consider a world wherein everyone does this activity everyday, endorphins firing off throughout their bodies, driving them forward with positive purpose. If we all could do this every day, that would be the world that I want to live in!
To this point last, I know I make better decisions coming from a place of joy because my playfulness, openness, and innocence all shine through in these moments. As such, I know if you practice this state of being consistently, then you will find a similar result. In fact, I’m confident that when we are being who we know at our core we must be, and feeling how we want to feel, that we will then do things that come from this core place. And when we do the things that amplify who we know we are at our core, we will consequently coax out the best versions of those that are around us, and so the cycle goes. When this occurs, the fruits of our labor—i.e., what we ultimately have—will take care of itself. Let’s start here together, and see just how powerful we might yet turn out to be!
James Lani, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
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