February 10, 2017
Law Four: Our Actions Matter
It’s true, there are seven billion people on earth today and counting. It’s also true that when we total it all up, an estimated 110 to 115 billion people have lived and breathed on our planet. Nevertheless, what we do matters.
We can look at this from a number of angles. The Butterfly Effect, for example, outlines a theory of interconnectedness wherein a butterfly’s wings in one part of the world trigger a chain of events that leads to a hurricane thousands of miles away. While it may seem a bit farfetched in that context, the idea that we affect one another is easy to grasp.
Haven’t we all had our day changed by a total stranger? Whether that change was “good” or “bad” is beside the point, the simple fact that the course of our day can be transformed by someone to whom we were not previously connected is worth digging into. Because, after all, if that person had not been there, our day would have gone in another direction. Period.
Here’s another way to look at it: Imagine the old story about the guy walking down a beach at dawn. The sand is littered with countless starfish that had washed up at high tide. Every few steps he stoops to pick one up and toss it to safety in the water. After a while a little boy runs up to him and asks what he is doing. The man replies, “I am saving these creatures from drying up in the sun.” The boy says, “But, look at all of these other ones. There are thousands of them who will die. What difference will you make?” And, as the man picks one up and throws it into the ocean he says, “It made all the difference in the world to that one.”
That is one way that our actions matter in the grand scheme of things. While we may not alter the course of history each day, we do, indeed, alter the course of individuals’ personal history. It’s true, we may not discover the next big cure or invent the latest must-have piece of technology; we may not have an airport named after us or a statue erected in our honor in a town square; we may not even achieve a percentage of our life goals; yet, still, what we do matters.
We each play a small part every day in the big, collective dream of our species. Perhaps we think at times that the world would be the same without us, and through a telescope that might be accurate. However, we do not experience reality through a telescope, we, instead, experience it through a microscope.
Let’s consider the dopamine in our brains for a moment. The release of this chemical might feel like absolute ecstasy to the person experiencing it, and yet, in terms of measurements, the physical amount is so small that it can barely be measured. In one sense, the difference between total bliss and baseline emotion (hum-drum) is infinitesimally small. All the same, to the person experiencing the dopamine rush, it is a gargantuan difference. What is little on the inside can be enormous on the outside.
Perhaps this has something to teach us about how we perceive our lives. That is, the ways in which we measure our “impact” may not be in dollars or social media likes, which are quantifiable, but, instead, in the richness of the feelings that accompany our interactions.
Can’t we all say that there are certain people whom we would be perfectly happy doing at all nothing with—just sitting on a bench—while there are others who might make us want to crawl out of our skin after 5 seconds? Like it or not, our very presence alone has an influence on the experience of others.
Because we don’t have a unified system of measurement for how taking a left instead of a right changes the course of history, we might be inclined to say that our actions don’t really count. Maybe we even think that “it all evens out in the wash.” But no man or woman is an island. Both our presence and our absence affects the channels of world events—the same way that the tiny capillaries in our finger tips connect back to the giant arteries of the heart.
Can we really say that the capillaries are “unimportant” because they are small? No. Each little vein plays its part and adds to the proper or improper functioning of the organism. Some of us are like roots in a tree (unseen but vital) while others are like big branches (seen and vital) and a few are even like the trunk of a tree (mighty and bold, unifying all the parts into a whole.) And, still, without each part, the entire thing fails.
So, who we are and what we do matters. We count.
Be it calculated by leaps or by baby-steps, the actions that we take (or do not take) ripple out into the lives of our fellow humans. And, in turn, their actions ripple out into our lives and the lives of their fellow humans—and so on into infinity.
Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.
Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com
His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world. He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.