Today we're going to reflect on the following quote from Mahatma Gandhi:
Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest person whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate taking next is going to be of any use to them. Will they gain anything from it? Will it restore them to control over their own life and destiny?
Is This Just A Guilt Trap?
Someone might conclude that this quote is asking us to conduct charity.
I would tell that person: NO.
It's asking us to think systemically. To think in terms of 2nd and 3rd order effects.
What is a 2nd or 3rd order effect?
I learned this concept from Ray Dalio.
We want to be 2nd order thinkers. Not 1st order.
A 1st order thinker might say to themselves: "Let me eat this candy bar. I'm starving" without considering the long-term impact.
A 2nd order thinker would ask themselves: "And then what?". If I do this thing now, what is likely to happen next? If I eat this candy bar now, how will it influence my health in the future?
So the 2nd order thinker does the hard thing first so that they can get the good stuff later.
But what does that have to do with Gandhi?
When we really take apart what he's saying, it comes down to whether or not your next action is constructive or destructive.
If you're going to sit and watch Netflix. Look back at that poor person's face. How does your entertainment help that person? How does it move humanity forward?
It probably doesn't.
If you spent that time doing something that truly nourished your soul.
If you become a creator. Not a consumer.
The second-order effects would eventually reach that very poor and weak person. By following your good – you'd change the world.
Normally, we would only think about the way 2nd order effects influence OUR own life. Now, we're wondering how our actions influence EVERYONE's lives.
It only takes 1 "holy" action to change the world.
By taking the right action toward the right goals you'll transform not only yourself but others too.
Isn't that a bit far-fetched?
Yes. It is a bit of an extreme example but maybe we can easily relate it to something closer to home.
Not everyone cares or is deeply touched by the suffering of strangers. Which is totally okay.
Instead, you can frame your actions in terms of the 2nd or 3rd order effects on the people you love.
Watch YouTube or spend time with my kid?
How does what you do now affect the experiences your loved ones have? Is the time you're spending doomscrolling instead of connecting with your family really worth it?
Eat that candy bar or eat healthily?
What does eating unhealthy mean for your family? Your friends? Will having a shorter life span negatively influence your kids in the future?
Ask yourself whether or not your next action would be of benefit to the people you love.
If the answer is no. Then maybe don't do it.
If your next action is hard but will most likely result in growth. Maybe you want to prioritize this action. Just a thought.