I’ve had the idea to write this blog post for a while, but I’ve been putting it off. I’ve finally committed to putting this on (virtual) paper, and it may be because I need a reminder for myself. Today, let’s take a look at the water ripples you create.
Everything you do
Everything you do in this world creates a wave of energy that emanates from you and expands outwards to infinity. The energy you send off has an effect on everything you interact with, and goes even beyond. What you say and do leaves your signature on this planet. There may be impacts you don’t even know about.
Here are example from my own life, which may sound a little silly, but show how one thing you do can have a trickling effect.
A silly training game
I needed to train a new employee on my team (at my last job). The job had a few techno-geeky aspects to it that weren’t necessarily required to do the job, but if you learned them, you’d get a much better understanding of the bigger picture. I decided one day to assign arbitrary and fun ‘nerd level’ points to my trainee as she learned new technical details. (If you’ve ever played a role-playing game, you’re familiar with the concept of leveling-up.) I assigned higher levels randomly, just for fun; it was a shared joke between us and had no impact on her official performance reviews.
I returned to that previous workplace for a visit a few weeks after my trip to Spain. When I got to my old desk, I overheard that my trainee was now mentoring my replacement, her own trainee… and that she was also assigning nerd levels! Who would have thought an imaginary training game I invented was going to be used with future employees?
In 2008, I worked with a team where I was sort of like their leader, but they didn’t need to do exactly everything I told them. In this job, there were reports that we needed to print daily. These reports printed on only the top half of a sheet of paper, leaving the bottom half totally empty. Those who know me know that I don’t like wasting paper like that. So, I found a way to print these reports to fill up a whole sheet of paper. But I never insisted that my staff print the reports the same way.
A couple years later, I visited a colleague in that old department. I took a moment to observe the employees (who used to be “my” employees); I saw that they were using my paper-saving method to print the reports. That means that if they printed two reports per day, they would save one sheet per day, or about one package of 500 sheets in a year and a half. I smiled when I realized that because of a simple action I took, more trees are staying put in the forests, where they belong.
Let’s come back to our daily life.
Imagine one morning you storm into the office, stomping your feet as you cross the halls. You let out a loud “ugh” as you slam your purse onto your desk. “God, some a__hole cut me off this morning. What a jerk!”, you exclaim. Guess what. Your negative energy has just created a bad mood bubble around you. People next to you have picked up that agitated feeling and they may even be escalating it. “Oh, my God, people are so stupid! Some creep totally pushed passed me this morning while I was in line for coffee,” replies Pat.
Pat might then proceed to pen an email and say “Ack, look, another message from Chris in Accounting. What does that dummy want now?” Pat’s response to Chris may carry that snarky tone, and voilà, the nasty mood that began with you has now spread to Accounting.
Yes, people are going to do things that you disagree with, but you have a choice in how you react to them. You have a choice in the kind of ripple effect you create.
I’m working on it
I’ll admit it: I’m not perfect in the way I put these ideas into practice. I can sometimes use passive-aggressive comments (“Oh, well, I’d certainly not do something as stupid as what he did…”)
I’ve been using the sitting practice/meditation for a number of years so that I can be aware of the energy I’m putting out in the world, which also helps me to not get caught-up in other people’s negative vortex. I believe that I’ve done so much work looking inward (and clearing inner demons I’ve talked about) that if I do create a negative energy wave, its impact to others is minimized. I want to create more positive ripples (like memorable bonds between employees) than hurtful ones (like the grumpy morning driver).
One last example
Here’s a situation that shows how far-reaching each and every one of your actions can be, without you even knowing it.
My mother struggled financially while my sister and I were growing up. Not many things were working out in her favour, and she was growing more worn-out and more overwhelmed as the years went on.
One winter day, she went out to the grocery store to get the week’s provisions. On her way back out of the store, her shopping cart’s wheel got stuck in a little pile of snow. She pushed a few times and it would not budge. Mom was so exhausted and so overwhelmed already, that her jammed cart seemed like an unsurmountable problem. We’ve all had times when we were too worked-up to see a simple solution to a problem. Well, this was one of those times for her, multiplied by a hundred.
Depressed, tired, and completely defeated, Mom was just about to abandon the shopping cart and the food along with it. She had spent all her money to buy the food in that cart, and there was no more cash to replace those groceries. However, by that point she didn’t have the energy to care anymore, and she was going to walk away. She was ready to give up.
However, a stranger happened to walk by and see the cart stuck in the small mound of snow. Just as my mom was about to walk away, the man picked up the front wheels and moved the cart a few centimetres so that it had a clear path. He then continued walking without giving the incident much thought or even saying hello, while Mom stood in amazement of the random act of kindness she’d received.
Today, my mom speaks about that man and calls him a guardian angel. She says that she was really on the verge of giving up on life that night, and the domino effect would have been huge. The effect on my sister and me would have been tremendous as well. Nobody knows where we would be today if one man hadn’t decided to lend a helping hand that night.
So, do you want to fling nasty words at a stranger, or do you want to help move a shopping cart? What kind of ripples do you want to create?