Why What You Do Matters

You know, it’s heartbreakingly easy to fall into the trap of thinking that whatever you do, none of it really matters. That nothing in the world changes much either way whether you do one thing or another thing or no thing at all. That, cosmically speaking, your choices are not worth shit.

And maybe you’re right – who am I to tell you any different? Maybe nothing you do does matter. You can believe what you like. Nobody’s going to stop you.

But I’ll tell you this: whilst there might be no objective right or wrong thing for you to believe, there are choices are more empowering than others. As Wayne Dyer says, when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

“No man is an island.”

John Donne

Have you ever heard the phrase “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with?” It’s true. We humans are largely a herd animal. Most of the things we do every day aren’t done consciously. We don’t spend time deliberating them with our rationality. We just do them. Based on what? On copying what the other people around us seem to be doing.

There is no sense in cursing this lemming-like aspect of human nature – it simply is. It’s happening whether we’re aware of it or not, whether we want it to or not. It is reality. So what you must do is find a way to adapt yourself to it, like – in the words of Robert Greene – a spider to its web. Make this law of human nature work for you rather than against you.

And one uncommon way to look at this is to flip it on its head.

Instead of only seeing the passive side of it – feeling powerless when you realise how much what everybody else does is influencing what you do – you can choose instead to look at the active side – feeling powerful when you realise how the things you do are influencing what everybody else does.

Because you are influencing others, whether you’re aware of it or not. You must be. There’s no way round it. If everybody else can rub off on you, you must be equally able to rub off on everybody else.

That’s why what you do matters.

You won’t be able to remould the universe in your image overnight. But choices add up. A smile here, a kind word there, going the extra mile when there’s no urgent need to…

The things you do matter. They matter because we’re watching you. We’re looking for cues. We want to know how to live.

Teach us, by your example.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

Mohandas Gandhi, in a 1913 piece about snakebites (not the drink, of course.)

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