Monday, April 4, 2011

Lesson #22: Be The Change You Want To See

Anyone can look around and focus on devastation and damage.  Wars, crimes, deaths, environmental destruction, social injustices, natural disasters, these are all part and parcel of this thing we call "the world." How does one not get overwhelmed by the challenges and hardships of trying to live this life with some semblance of joy or peace? Simple: be the change you want to see

If you want to see wars come to an end, then stop attacking your neighbor.  If you care about the environment, reduce the way you drain natural resources.  If you want people to act honestly, then live your own life with integrity and truth.  If you want to stop feeling depressed, then stop using Facebook and Twitter to complain about how miserable life is.  And if you want people to respect you, then treat your own mind and body with dignity.

Most of us have been conditioned in this culture to think it is someone else's fault is we are feeling upset, angry, betrayed, scared, depressed.  We have been taught that is helpful to express our grievances in public venues.  My experience is that people who are actively involved with changing the world don't feel helpless, and don't need to complain.  People who do meaningful soul enriching work are not as likely to be overwhelmed with doom and gloom on a personal or global level because they are taking part in the solution and being the change they want to see.

I have found this to be extremely helpful in my own life.  When I felt overwhelmed and devastated by the impact of HIV/AIDS, I took action by working in service organizations that promoted wellness and support, and eventually became a volunteer for the HIV Vaccine trials.  When I felt saddened by the loss of daytime soaps on network television, I joined up with Roger Newcomb to promote and celebrate the original and exciting "Indie Soaps" that are now produced exclusively on the Internet.  When I see toxic complaining online, I react by sharing a positive quote or idea, and producing a series like 40 Lessons of 40 that will (hopefully) demonstrate an alternative and empowering way of using social media.

It is because I practice being an agent of change that I am not afraid of turning forty and confronting ageism.  No one can dismiss me if I don't dismiss myself.  No one can disrespect me if I don't disrespect myself.  No one can see me as obsolete if I don't see myself that way.  Getting older has taught me the value of giving what I see lacking in any given situation.  I hope it can be your key to freedom as well.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, grief and loss, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at

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