I recently read a wonderful and inspiring book, entitled “The Promise of a Pencil,” by Adam Braun. In his book, Adam shares how he left the safety of a corporate job, and pursued his dream of starting schools in impoverished areas all around the world. His story inspired me, because it is the story of how an individual person can literally change the world, one small step at a time. Starting schools around the world changed the lives of millions of children, the lives of thousands of individuals who joined the cause, and of course, Adam himself.
In the very last paragraph of the book, Adam speaks to the lessons he learned, lessons he would like to pass on to his own future children:
“I’ll tell them that the most direct route to happiness is through creating joy for someone else, and that change doesn’t happen through hard work alone. It requires strength of imagination. It relies on that ability we each possess to suspend belief in the restraints of today to enable the possibilities of tomorrow. Most of all, I’ll remind them each morning that we make a choice to bring positivity or negativity into the world, and that within every single person there lies an extraordinary story waiting to unfold.”
I reflect on his words, and I find great wisdom in them.
Recently, at home, we have been having lots of conversations around the dinner table about popularity, and what it means to be popular. Of course, fundamentally, we all want to be loved, accepted, seen. The draw of fitting in to a group of people, even if it means sometimes sacrificing some of our integrity, can be powerful, no matter how young or old we are.
But what if we could shift our focus from how we are seen and accepted by others….to how we see and accept those around us? What if we could shift our focus from being loved…to the act of loving someone else? What if instead of wondering why we were excluded…we reflected on how we could be inclusive of other human beings?
What if, instead of wondering when and how and why we will one day fit in, we realize that fitting in isn’t how we are going to change the world? We are going to change this world by shattering the norms and expectations that exist inside and outside of us. We are only going to create profound movement by fully embracing and manifesting our true potential and calling–even if nobody else is interested, or they think we are a little weird.
In short, we are going to change the world when we stop worrying about the acceptance of others, and commit to living each day with the intention to stay fully true to who we are, and what we are placed here on this earth to do. That may or may not make us popular. But perhaps we are not here necessarily for popularity or acceptance. Perhaps we are here to make a specific difference, in our unique ways.
And maybe as we blaze our own trails, we slowly gather a group of like minded individuals who want to blaze their own trails too.
These words probably don’t make too much sense right now to the ears of seven and eight year old children. It’s hard enough to understand as a grown adult. But I read stories like “The Promise of a Pencil,” and I realize that we all have to make a decision about which priorities are going to guide our life, and how we choose to focus our eyes.
So for today, and in the week ahead, I invite you to consider the role that acceptance plays in your life. How much of what we do is motivated by the desire for acceptance? How can we balance that with staying true to our inner nature and purpose?
With gratitude, Monisha