If you want to change the world, you begin with yourself. It’s a truth as old as time, echoed by many of the greats. Mohandas Gandhi urged us to “be the change you wish to see in the world.” Michael Jackson reminded us to start “with the man in the mirror.” Marianne Williamson said: “Personal transformation can and does have global effects. As we go so goes the world, for the world is us. The revolution that will save the world is ultimately a personal one.”
I’ve been fortunate enough to experience this firsthand. As a kid, I had a fiery spirit, big imagination, and an itch to tiptoe out of my comfort zone. Lots of people tried to extinguish my light throughout my childhood and adulthood. Yet there were also many compassionate individuals who saw goodness and potential in me, and encouraged me to pursue my dreams and make something of myself. They believed in me until I learned to believe in myself. I gradually redefined myself. I am not broken or incomplete. I am not a victim or a sick person or half a woman because I deal with epilepsy, grappled with depression, or could not have a child. I am not the projection of anyone else’s shortcomings or biases.
I am a warrior, a writer, a lover, a protector, an empath, a believer, and a survivor.
Up to a certain point, my life had become a pattern of toxic environments, disappointing role models, and bad decisions made by myself and by those around me. My family was—to say the very least—dysfunctional. For a long while, I raged against an alcoholic and often-absent father and an overwhelmed mother, growing up in a chaotic, painful, and disenchanting household. I remained unaware of the immense impact my childhood had on me and how it helped mold the attitude, behavior, and choices I’d make as a young adult. When I hit rock bottom, I realized that my life had to change if I was to endure it.
And the only person who could substantially and truly transform it was… me.
Which is to say: transformations are an inside job. But what exactly does this mean for you? If you want to change your personal world—to change yourself—how do you begin?
Here are a handful of ideas that just might give you the nudge you need.
· Be the master of you!
Focus on your personal project of self-improvement. Learn to master your thoughts, visualizations, and actions. No matter what stage you find yourself in life, take a moment to breathe and look around you.
First, look over your shoulder. Look where you came from. See all that? That’s what has made you into the person you are to this day.
Now take a look at your current reality. Ground yourself and ask the tough questions. Do you enjoy what you do? Do you feel you’re pursuing a passion? Do you feel that you have a purpose? Is this the life you want? Is this the work you were meant to be doing? Are you the person you want to be remembered for?
Time to look forward. Because the future is a murky thing to see, practice visualizing it—physically and mentally. Imagine what you want. Imagine exactly what you want. A visualization board–a collage of words and pictures that represents your goals and dreams—is easy to make and an invaluable tool.
· Reframe your reality!
How do you perceive problems? If they constantly scare, upset, and give you loads of anxiety, the real problem lies in your perception. Worrying about an issue does absolutely nothing to solve it. Worrying just gives you extra pain—often unnecessary and always unhelpful pain that clouds your judgment and hurts your body. Too much stress can literally kill you.
Did you know that the Chinese character for “problem” and “opportunity” is the same letter? Everything depends on your interpretation. As Anthony Robbins said, life is 5% what happens to you and 95% what you make of it (how you deal with it).
Reframe how you see yourself. Reframe your self-concept and you’ll find that it transforms your world view and outlook on others, too.
· Be generous!
Be generous with your gratitude. Be generous with your wisdom. Be generous with your compassion. This begins on a personal level: be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up. When you falter or fail, encourage yourself like you would your best friend. Remember you are your best friend—you’re the only person who’s with you your entire life.
When you sow kindness in the world, you reap it back tenfold. Not just thanks to that awesome element called karma, but because being kind and good is super healthy for you. Just as stress kills you, kindness nurtures you. By spreading the love and gratitude, you’re also making the world a better place around you. You bring joy and inspiration to other people, and like attracts like. It’s the ultimate win-win situation.