I often hear people say, “We can’t change how the system works!” Or “We can’t change how the nation runs!” Or “We can’t change the world!”
It may be true that big changes in systems, or nations, or the world, are unlikely, especially with just one person’s small effort.
But if everyone thinks this way, then where is any change going to come from?
Over many generations, we have seen many positive changes in the world. There are more democracies. Some countries, such as China, have greatly reduced poverty suffered by their citizens. We have seen great advances in health care, with a resulting increase in life expectancy. The rate of many types of crime has dropped significantly, if we compare with previous centuries.
One person’s effort usually cannot change a system very much, but every person’s small effort, combined altogether, can potentially change a system.
Here is another reason why a small effort is much bigger and more powerful than it seems: the impact of your small effort is not just to produce a small change in the system itself. The larger impact of your effort is that it will be an act of leadership. It will encourage other people to start making small changes themselves. It can start a chain reaction, where your small effort leads to thousands of people joining in, producing a very big effort!
If everyone were to think that recycling a plastic drink bottle is useless or pointless, then nobody would recycle. Our environment would be more polluted, our landfills would fill up, and our resources would run out.
If everyone were to think that speaking out would not lead to any change, then everyone would remain silent. Oppressors and bullies would continue on their journey, and cause even more harm!
If everyone were to think that donating to communities suffering from poverty or disaster would not lead to any change, then everyone would keep their money and time for themselves. The poverty and disaster would needlessly continue and get worse, because nobody would be there to help.
In social psychology, we call this phenomenon “the tragedy of the commons.” This happens when everyone assumes that they don’t have to contribute to the public good. So nobody does contribute, instead everyone just takes. As a result, the public good becomes depleted and disappears. In this analogy, “the commons” literally referred to a shared public field, which farmers could use to feed their cattle. If everyone takes more than their fair share, which is very easy for any individual to do, then the field will soon be depleted and of no use to anyone. But if everyone contributes a little bit, by sharing, and by tending the field a bit, then the field will thrive, for the benefit of everyone.
No matter how insignificant your effort seems, as long as it is associated with healthy intentions and positive motivations, contribute your work. We need more brave people, with a healthy attitude, to help change or improve our community. Be brave! By making a small effort, you will inspire others to join you in the task of improving the world!
Be the change that you wish to see in the world. (Mahatma Gandhi)
Words are a form of action, capable of influencing change. (Ingrid Bengis)
Affirmation: I enrich my life when I contribute my small efforts for the good of others.