Wisdom Theme 2: How we act
‘If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try getting into bed with a mosquito.’ - The Dalai Lama, FDCW Patron.
Human lives are composed of nothing but billions of actions – actions of body, speech and mind which take place every minute of the day from the moment of our birth until the second when we take our last breath. How you choose to act, therefore, defines and colours the very quality of your life and experiences.
Before taking a major action, such as choosing a job, where to live, or entering a new relationship, most of us will reflect quite carefully on whether it is likely to bring us the happiness we seek. Even when just planning a holiday, we investigate whether it will bring us the comfort, outdoor activities or good company we feel we need. First we think, and then we act. However, we perform countless small actions every day which do not receive this kind of focused attention.
Many small actions are driven by habit. This is most likely why we visit certain shops or restaurants, seek out or avoid different types of people, or read a particular newspaper. From our earliest years, we build up patterns of behaviour, and these bring corresponding results. Just as it takes an apple seed to grow an apple tree, the results of our actions will correspond to the causes that we create. But how often do we review whether our habits and patterns bring the results we seek? Do they still make sense? Will they actually lead to happiness and satisfaction?
How we choose to act is not only important for our own welfare, but also for that of others. Through our actions we have the choice to nurture friendships, families, community and society – or to bring pain and disharmony. Every little thing we do sets in motion a chain of events. The deeper we probe into this, the stronger is the call to pay intense attention to how we think and subsequently behave, because the consequences can be so complex and far reaching.
Both reason and experience show that certain actions help bring about a greater sense of well-being, while others just create mayhem and misery. Once this is acknowledged, we can no longer simply blame 'the world' or forces outside our control for our circumstances, but must acknowledge our own role in how things are, and take more responsibility for how we behave. Paying attention to the four actions of kindness, honesty, generosity and right speech will lay a solid foundation for contributing to the happiness of ourselves and others.