6 Tiny Tips for Saving the World

October 10, 2018
Man sitting at a table in a coffee shop at his laptop holding a coffee cup
“Do your little bit of good where you are;
it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” 
- Desmond Tutu
In today’s world, the idea of being a “good person” can (and has) overwhelmed many people I know. “Why even bother trying?” they ask. “It doesn’t change anything.” The good people in my life are hurting, weary souls. And yet…when the news is difficult, bad, sad, worrying...they still try harder to save the world. Sometimes to the point of exhaustion.
Maybe that’s just too much pressure. No one, by themselves, is going to save the world. Take it from me: my life’s goal is to achieve world peace. 
(So far, it’s not going well.) 
So, my fellow good people of the world, maybe we need to advocate for starting a little smaller. Let’s start with little, everyday things we can do to improve our own little corners of the world.
Tiny tip: Be one with the moment at hand. 
With all our alerts and notifications, we are constantly planning ahead. That’s not a bad thing—I’m a huge advocate for planning ahead. But let’s not lose touch with the moment we’re actually in. Especially if that moment involves another human being. Consider giving someone your undivided attention and truly listening to them. Think about how good it feels to be the recipient of such attention. And it’s a small thing that doesn’t need to take a lot of time. In fact, for all of us multitaskers out here, studies have shown that we actually accomplish more when we focus on one thing at a time. Imagine that: being a good person AND getting more done! That’s the kind of multitasking I like!
Tiny tip: The world does not revolve around you. 
Okay, so we know this, right? Then how come so many of us operate as if it does? We post on social media for the “likes”. And then we read the comments. (And then we respond to the comments.) Maybe we could stand to Rationally Detach from social media. There are no nonverbals or paraverbals to go with written comments, so anything we read (or post) might be taken in a way that it wasn’t intended. Which brings me to my next point…

Tiny tip: Assume best intent.  Always. 
Ever gotten an email from a supervisor that says, “Can you stop by my office?” How many of us automatically assume that we did something wrong? Let’s try to reframe that thinking. Maybe our boss wants to tell us something we did well. Or maybe our boss wants to coach us on how we can be even better. And let’s not just limit this to supervisor-employee interactions, but our interactions with every single Human. I don’t think anyone wakes up in the morning and thinks, “I’m going to be a bad person today.” Most of us are just trying to survive and get by the best we can. The person who let the door slam in my face? Maybe she is going through a personal crisis and didn’t even see me. We can support the idea that humans are inherently good and want to be helpful—as evidenced by the recent response to disasters and violent crises in our world.
Tiny tip: Get in touch with your inner toddler. 
Despite the cliché of the “terrible twos”, studies have shown that toddlers are inherently helpful, and generally try to have fun with whatever they do—which can make mealtimes frustrating for parents. Not everything is a joke, of course, but maybe we can take this away from the toddler mindset: don’t take ourselves so seriously. Have fun. Most situations—while they can be important—aren’t life or death. So maybe we can go easy on ourselves and laugh at ourselves a bit more. Laughter has, after all, been shown to decrease stress and improve overall health. What good is being a good person if we aren’t healthy enough to enjoy it?
Tiny tip: Embrace the little things—and DO a few little things!
Hold the door. Take time to listen to someone. Or just sit with someone. Say please. Say thank you. Treat others with care. Write “hi” on a post-it note. There are countless little ways to be kind that don’t take a lot of effort.
Tiny tip: Remember that good people deserve goodness too!
Let’s not forget to take care of ourselves. Ask a friend to listen. Or to simply sit and be present with you. Find time for self-care: go for a hike, read a book, and get back in touch with your inner self. And, especially in human services and health care fields, where vicarious trauma can run rampant, reach out for help when you need it. Needing professional help isn’t a sign that we’re not good people, but it might help us reach our greater potential for goodness. 
When we connect with our potential, we can better help others reach their potential.  And that’s a wonderful way to help spread the goodness (or better still—achieve world peace).