-Contributed by Big L
I guess it’s hard for people who are so used to things the way they are – even if they’re bad – to change. ‘Cause they kind of give up. And when they do, everybody kind of loses. – from Pay It Forward
Pay it forward; a concept I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.
To me, it’s not just about receiving and giving acts of kindness (although that’s nice), it’s about sharing your insights and struggles so other people can reflect on and benefit from what you’ve experienced. It’s about not giving up or shutting up. Because like the quote says, when you do, you’re not the only one who loses.
Here are five reasons why I believe we should pay it forward more often:
1.) There is positive meaning to be found in even the most uncomfortable things we experience. I know, easy to say when my life is bountiful and easy right? But things like sick pets, outlook-altering experiences, and hard lessons definitely count – and I’ve had those recently. Anything that upsets the balance and order in your world in a big way, counts. Those things can be uncomfortable, yucky, scary, and even devastating. But I believe there are always benefits within them. They always make us better for the next time and they give us the gift of having overcome adversity, learned something new, and solved a problem.
In other words, there is always a nugget of insight; something we’ll carry with us beyond the negative stuff we felt while we were in the thick of it.
2.) We all possess the power of communication. Again, easy for me to say because I’m a professional communicator, right? But when things happen to me – lessons are learned, hardships are endured, mistakes are made, perspectives are altered – I can’t help but pause and think “Hmmm. What is the lesson here? How can I help make the world (or at least my world) a little better through this experience?” You don’t need to work in public relations to ask yourself that. We all have the ability to speak, write or express ourselves in some way. That’s a big, powerful tool.
3.) As a society, we share a lot of sentiments. Despite how alone we might feel when going through something icky, the truth is there is someone – and probably many, many people – who can relate. Sure, the exact circumstances of the death, sickness, break up, job loss, failure, or change will be unique. But the self-talk, thoughts and emotions associated with it are most likely not. Sadness, worry, fear, disappointment, regret, uncertainty, and anger? They’re a common human condition. When we’re in those places, very rarely are we actually alone.
4.) Life is a continuum. In other words, where I am in life – physically, emotionally, mentally – is not where everyone else is. Even if someone had the same experience as me at the same time, I may have moved through it faster or differently than they have. I may have discovered something they overlooked. Therefore, they could probably benefit from what I learned along the way. Certainly the people who end up in that place after me could benefit from my experience.
Think about it:
You’re visiting a new city. You check your map and notice there are multiple routes to get from your hotel to the restaurant you want to try. Because you don’t know the area, wouldn’t it make sense to ask a local for the best way to get there? If they know about traffic, construction, one way streets, or sketchy neighbourhoods, don’t you want to know? You could figure it out on your own, most definitely, but you’d appreciate their insight, yes?
I rest my case.
5.) Sometimes, it’s not about you (or me). Sometimes, really bad things happen to really good people. Sometimes, we get the short end of the stick. Have you ever wondered if sometimes, we’re dealt a shitty hand so that we can teach or save someone else in the process? I have. I’ve wondered whether untimely death, critical illness, divorce, and hardship have happened to people I know so that they can lead the way for others. For me, or for someone in their family, or maybe for an anonymous person who reads their blog post or overhears their conversation at Starbucks.
So far, my thought process ends there. But as I reflect on the life lessons happening within me and around me right now, I can’t help but wonder: how can we all do a better job of paying it forward?