“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
A friend of mine just welcomed a beautiful infant daughter into her life. Every time I look at a newborn baby, my heart swells. It’s not just because they smell like what heaven must smell like, but the idea of miracles seems so evident. More than anything, I’m always overwhelmed by their potential. They’re brand new vessels of humanity starting their adventure, their entire life ahead of them.
I think about Rosh Hashanah in the same way. We have new lives ahead of us, too.
The month preceding Rosh Hashanah is Virgo, when we are given the opportunity to clear all of the negativity that we created in the previous year through the practice of T’shuvah. In my recent blog, I wrote how the month of Virgo is dedicated to assessing the past, taking inventory, and accounting for ourselves this past year. Through T’shuvah, we cleanse the negativity that we created in the past year and emerge anew, ready to receive the blessings meant for us. Rosh Hashanah begins on September 18 on the first day of the month of Libra. It is the anniversary of the day the world came into existence.
After all the work we did during the month of Virgo, we are newly born.
So now what?
Just because we worked hard doesn’t mean we’re finished. We’ve just ended an incredibly challenging year in so many ways. Yet even during this trying time, we can consider a better world and take the steps necessary toward doing some good in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
This is the ideal time to do three things: visualize, think, and act.
Visualize: Are you aware of your potential? You just put in some hard work identifying the personal areas you need to improve. Now is the time to dream of who you want to be and how you want to respond to the world. Did a relationship suffer last year because of your short temper? Picture yourself meeting with that person in the future. Make an effort to reserve quick judgment, ask honest questions, and truly listen to what they have to say. Picture yourself practicing empathy and putting yourself in their shoes. If you visualize your reactions first, you’ll be much more likely to follow through in real life.
Think: Thoughts become reality. We all wrestle with something called confirmation bias. What’s that? Simply, it’s the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. Here’s an example. You and your manager typically have an up-and-down working relationship, and recently you disagreed on the timing of a project. After an exchange of opinions, maybe with some heated moments, your manager agreed with you—but you sensed they didn’t like being challenged. Over the next few days, you send updates on your progress, but your manager doesn’t respond. Your first thought might be: they’re angry, a little threatened, and maybe your job is in jeopardy.
Before you go too far… pause. There could be other reasons. In fact, there could be dozens of them. Perhaps they’re working on another deadline. Maybe they’re nursing a cold and not responding to any correspondence from the office. Maybe—and this has happened to all of us—they never received your updates.
When your mind jumps to a conclusion, ask yourself if the evidence supports it—or if you’re jumping to the worst-case scenario because you’re fearful. Most of the time, I’ll wager, it’s fear that’s messing with you.
Act: I love the metaphor of trim tabs. Trim tabs were invented by philosopher and engineer, Buckminster Fuller. They are the tiny rudders that are attached to the back of the larger rudders on ships and airplanes. For a large vessel to change direction, the force would put too much pressure on the rudder, causing it to snap. So he devised a solution to eliminate that kind of pressure. Fuller explained, “Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls that rudder around. It takes almost no effort at all. So you can just put your foot out, and the whole big ship is going to go.”
When you doubt that small actions make a difference, consider adopting your own trim tabs. Place a few dollar bills in the hat of a busking musician. Leave (anonymously) some flowers and a gift card on the front step of an ailing neighbor. Pay for a stranger’s fare behind you in the E-ZPass lane, or pay for the coffee of the person behind you in line. The opportunities to extend kindness are immeasurable; their outcome is incalculable. Your small acts of goodwill will turn humanity’s ship. Maybe not in one day, or even in 365 days, but you’ll inspire others with your kindness.
Every day, life gives us an opportunity to make a series of decisions, to take small actions that add up to great change. Think about who you want to be, where you want your thoughts to go, and how you want to respond. Take small steps every day. Visualize. Think. Act.
You’ve done the hard work during T’shuvah, cleansing yourself of the past and looking ahead. It’s time to put the new you in action and grow, just like that newborn, who makes all our hearts swell. Here is your opportunity to take steps to change yourself and the world around you.
Rethink Moment: Take a moment to reconsider your perspective on something that frustrates you. Is there another way of looking at it? Is there a bright side?