It only takes one person to make a difference

With all my reading lately thanks to my mom’s library card, I feel like I get a better understanding of how I think. I don’t really know what to do with that information quite yet but I do find it very interesting. So even though I feel like nothing is happening in my life right now (while I can be very patient for some things, I really do not like waiting to hear back from jobs and opportunities that have a life-changing potential) I decided to try to use this free time to read the books that had been on my to-read list for a while and to keep writing.

While I really wish I would know how to make people more compassionate and caring. After all, it could only make this a better world. One thing that would help a lot would be for people to look up from their navels every so often. They would realize most people all over the world are just looking for the same things.

Food, shelter and love.

There’s often another dimension that seems almost universal and it’s the need to make sense of life, either through religious practice, meditation, psychology, science or any other way available. However, we barely ever consider why we hold these beliefs. Most people are born into a religion, and will not consider the validity of other ideologies. I’ve always found this phenomenon very interesting, as not that many people actively choose their faith.

One quote I’ve read from Thinking Fast and Slow really hit home and got me thinking. ”For some of our most important beliefs we have no evidence at all, except for the fact that people we love and trust hold these beliefs.”

Take a moment to read it again.

I don’t know about you, but I had never thought about it that way.

In general, once we have an idea or a belief, it’s very hard for our brains to consider other options and usually, people will tend to look for facts and other people compatible with the beliefs they hold. It’s so much easier, and it prevents us from saying: I was wrong. But how can one understand other ways to think or to see the world if you don’t look into and listen to arguments about the total opposite of your beliefs? You may or may not change your mind but you will surely have made a more informed decision. ”Our almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance*” is astonishing. I do know I don’t know much and while I hold some beliefs at the moment, I am open to change my mind as I get new information.

Thinking Fast and Slow from Daniel Kahneman
Inspiring book

I find the book Thinking Fast and Slow from Daniel Kahneman extremely interesting. It’s no chick lit or mystery novel but it’s enriching and eye opening about things we do when we think we know something when in fact it’s our brains using a lot of shortcuts in order to make sense of everything. Now this sentence in itself is a bit challenging to understand, but if you are interested I highly recommend looking into Daniel Kahneman’s book.

Here’s another intriguing quote from the book to read and process: ”A general limitation of the human minds is it’s imperfect ability to reconstruct past states of knowledge or beliefs that have changed. Once you adopt a new view of the world, you immediately lose much of your ability to recall what you used to believe before your mind changed.”

Fascinating to see how true this is but also encouraging. If people get to meet each other and realize they all have the same priorities in life regardless of what they believe in or whoever they love, they might eventually modify their beliefs. And then forget they even used to think differently. With a bit of luck, this might actually be a good way to get people to be nicer to each other. Love and understanding are so important and not that hard to do. I don’t know if it’s something I’ll witness in my lifetime but if only one person starts to become more loving and compassionate, I’ll consider this a success. As I have been influenced by many people to reach where and who I am now, I do believe one person can make a difference. And you can be that person too.

Playing dress-up with some of my unicorn outfit
Proudly playing dress-up with part of my unicorn outfit

It only takes one person or one experience to make a difference

Have you ever met someone you found really inspiring? You would listen to them and try to take in everything they said? Realizing along the way that things didn’t have to be how they were?

Maybe you read an article about posture and confidence and started improving your posture. At first at home on your own and then slowly but surely you realized you were standing straighter and felt more confident out in public?

Or maybe you had made an extra effort that day, putting on your cute little skirt and someone took the time to actually mention how lovely you looked. How great did that make you feel?

For all of these situations, you probably stopped and thought, well this is different. I like it. Why didn’t I realize this before? It took only one person to make a difference in your life that day. And while you may or may not have realized it at the time, if you felt more confident, maybe you were brave enough to tell someone else they did great, you liked what they wore, or asked them on a date. You built on from one person making a small difference in your life.

How my uncle realized girls could also bring chopped wood inside for the winter

I’ve been quite lucky with the parents I’ve got as they never put pressure on me to conform to the girly stereotypes. Growing up, I played with dolls, cars and trains and I while I loved them all, my absolute favourite was to play dress-up and create clothes out of towels and fabric. My favourite outfit being a unicorn. My parents also never told me I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. And if I wanted to become a welder or a ballerina, it was ultimately my choice. So this means I grew up thinking I was worth exactly the same as anybody else. Nothing more, nothing less. I could do what I wanted. Be who I wanted and love who I chose to.

While I was lucky being brought up that way, I do know it’s not like this for everybody. And some countries or families are much more traditional than others. In many places, there are woman and man’s jobs. At one point during my travels, I was looking into workaway gigs (usually, you work about five hours a day in exchange for food and housing) and I was shocked to read one of the job descriptions. The description was not shocking in itself, but it was clearly split in two. Work for men and work for women. The options for women being cleaning and cooking. And while I can definitely do that, the building work specified for men appealed a lot more to me. I ended up going somewhere different and did not apply for the posting but it brought back some memories.

When I was back in Canada last time, I went for lunch at my aunt and uncle’s place. When I arrived, my uncle was busy bringing chopped wood into the storage for the winter. Knowing he’d had an operation before and always being up for a physical task, I offered to help. At first, he said he was good and I could go hang out inside with my auntie, but I could see it would take him much longer than it needed to. He usually had the help from my cousins, but he didn’t want to wait for them to get it done. So I picked up a box, filled it with split firewood and helped him anyway.

Before I helped him he had never considered that a girl could do it. Not even his own daughter. I had thought it was just funny at the time but looking back he clearly had gender-defined ideas and tasks. Not only him but most people do. Without even realizing.

Now, I’m not saying that he realizes that some of his ideas of gender-defined tasks have changed. But with just a small offer to help, he realized that I wasn’t this weak little thing and that I could actually help him. The funny thing was that when we talked about this later on with my cousin, she mentioned that she had offered to help many times, but he had always preferred asking his sons instead. He just needed an extra push from someone not taking no for an answer to change his mind. Now that he knows, though, I do apologize to my cousin, because she might be asked to help bring the wood in next time!

* All quotes from this post are from the fascinating book Thinking Fast and Slow from Daniel Kahneman

Do you have somebody or a book that made a difference in your life? If so, let me know, I’m always looking for inspiration!

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