Imagine a pond, still and quiet under the morning sun. A swan waddles up to the edge and taps his beak into the water. The small, seemingly insignificant touch creates a ripple. It slowly grows and expands, until finally, it reaches the opposite edge of the pond, and reverberates backward.
We, as human beings, create the same ripple in the world. By nature, we are social animals. What does that mean? That means we need each other to survive. In solitary confinement, we go insane. Newborns are helpless. They need the love of another to survive. We are simply built to connect.
With the endless to-do lists and pressures of modern life, it’s easy to forget that the way we show up affects those around us. When we bring love to the barista at the coffee shop, she will then spread it to each person she serves. When we raise our children with patience and kindness, they grow up touching the lives they encounter in that way. When we lead at our jobs with competence and empathy, we empower colleagues to do great work. They, in turn, do the same. We have a circle of influence that goes far beyond just the people we directly interact with.
It is what we do and who we are for the people around us that determines our ripple effect. Here are four influential factors on that effect:
Energy: Oprah is reported to have had a sign saying, “Please take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space,” hanging in her makeup room.
We can ask ourselves powerful questions. What kind of energy do we carry into our interactions? Do we bring a calming presence? Do we create a space for people to be themselves? Or are we on auto-pilot? Or: do we constantly feel stressed and anxious? Studies show that parental anxiety and neuroticism greatly affects those who live in the same household, and that children’s anxiety can be decreased by lowering our own.
Our ability to be mindful and present directly correlates with the depth and quality of our relationships.
Self-confidence: Also known as self-love, this is the root of our worthiness. It is the confidence we bring to any endeavor that determines our action, or lack thereof. Then, the action we do—or don’t—take ultimately creates our results. When we come to an understanding in the depths of our soul that we all deserve love, happiness and success, we can achieve greatness. And courage becomes contagious.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us…And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~ Marianne Williamson
Vision: Our vision for ourselves and the world encompasses our dreams, aspirations and values. Getting clear on what it is we stand for and the direction we wish to take our lives gives us power.
Leadership by Example: It has been said many times, and in many different ways, that it is not so much the words we use, but the actions we take that defines our character. Have we constructed our lives and time in a way that reflects our values? Do we take care of our body the way we want our loved ones to? Do we communicate with love as we wish others would to us? All of these are learned behaviors and habits that can be retrained.
When we take steps toward our own personal growth, we alter the trajectory of the effect we have on the world. The truth is we are all powerful, but it is our conscious choice to the degree and direction we take our power. What will you do today to become a positive influence on the world around you? With action, or lack of action, you are making a decision about the ripple you create.
Author: Kristy Arnett
Image: Courtesy of Author, Flickr/Brenda Lily
Editor: Travis May