I watched a fascinating documentary this week called ‘I Am’ by Tom Shadyac. It’s about what’s wrong with the world and what can be done about it, featuring some of the great thinkers of our time, and I love its conclusions. On of them is about the power of one – one step, one action, one change in behaviour. ‘Small everyday acts accumulate and create change, personally, socially and culturally.’
It reminded me that change of any sort doesn’t appear out of nowhere. It happens because gradually more and more people think differently, act differently, until there is a critical mass. So each time we do those small everyday acts, we contribute to changing the world for the better.
It is easy to feel powerless in the face of poverty, negativity, ecological destruction, never-ending war. And we are educated into believing that only governments and large corporations can really change things – and they show few signs of wanting to improve our world for all of us. Yet history shows that governments do effect change when there is enough noise from ordinary people to force them not to ignore it, and that those who are considered to be leaders of change for the better – Gandhi, Mandela, Martin Luther King – only emerge when there is already a groundswell of people who believe in and actively want those changes, and who are actively taking some of those small steps to make a difference.
So what can we do?
The principle of the power of one can be applied at every level. So begin by identifying a change for the better you want in your own life. Maybe you want to be fitter, spend more time with those you love, connect with nature more, have more fun…
Now take one small step in that direction, today: go for a walk round the block; phone a friend you haven’t seen for a while and arrange to meet up; go to the local park and look at, maybe even touch, the flowers and trees; play a silly game with your children, your partner (try our top 5 films, books, TV programmes – it’s fascinating!)
Now look at your community, whether that is geographical, the people you work with, or the circle of friends you have. What would be an improvement in that area?
Maybe say hello to neighbours and get to know them a bit more; or talk about something different when you go the pub with mates; or talk face-to-face with work colleagues instead of emailing them; or just take a bag and pick up some of the litter you see on the street.
And more generally? How do we make a positive difference at a global level? As Friends of the Earth have always said, ‘Think global, act local.’
Add your name to petitions for changes. There are lots of them on-line: avaaz; friends of the earth; sum of us; amnesty international; and many more. Give something to the homeless person on the street, or at least say hello. Contribute to a water pump for a village through Oxfam. Stop using pesticides in your garden and encourage friends to do the same.
And above all else, treat everyone you encounter as another valuable human being. Be kind, thoughtful, pleasant, no matter how they are being
So this week, begin to use the power of one more. Let’s make a difference in this world of ours, and change it for the better. One small everyday act is all it takes. Just imagine the difference if we simply all applied this principle!