“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.

Mother Teresa

FIERCELY AWARE: The Call to Get Fierce: 1.3.6

Jump in and Start the Ripple

Creating your future, and our shared future, in a way that reaches for human goodness requires that we jump in with both feet.   As you elevate human goodness, you will make the world a better place through your own unique character strengths.  Your actions will encourage others to do the same, effecting change on a much larger scale than you might have ever imagined.

We can’t help but be influenced by those around us.  Have you ever gone out to dinner with a group of friends and thought to yourself, I won’t eat that much – I am not really all that hungry.  Fast forward and somehow you find yourself not only eating the salad you ordered for your petite appetite but also nibbling the fried green tomato appetizer Sue ordered, the French fries that came with Lisa’s hamburger and the coconut cream pie that Ben couldn’t resist.  (And you don’t even like coconut!)  Believe it or not, research suggests that if we dine as a party of four versus alone, we are likely to consume 75% more calories!  We simply follow the crowd.  And frequently without even realizing it.



Research from the University of Rochester has shown that we can be subconsciously influenced merely by overhearing conversations. When participants in a study were asked to solve word puzzles within earshot of a highly motivated participant (a role played by an actor), their performance was 37.5 percent better than those who “overheard” an unmotivated participant.  Even more interesting, when participants were asked if anything affected their performance on the puzzles not a single subject indicated the overheard conversations had been an influence.  Imagine the implications for this research in open space offices!

No doubt, we are continuously shaping one another’s lives. The seeming barrier between us is much more permeable than it appears.  I am in a book club that meets once a month.  The members of the group are in various stages of juggling full lives, overflowing with family, work and community activities and demands.  We meet on a weeknight and, honestly, most of us show up tired after long days. But it is extraordinary what can happen.  If just one person shows up with an energetic and fun-loving attitude she alone can transform the mood of the entire group.  We go from low-key to laughing riotously in nearly no time at all. It could be the required dosage of chocolate offered in multiple forms that accompanies these gatherings that stewards the levity, but I am pretty sure there is something else going on.

But here is the thing…our effect on one another ripples beyond our immediate circle of friends, students, colleagues and other contacts.  Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler have shown that the ripple effect continues through three degrees of separation. If I change any number of personal choices and behaviors it’s not just those with whom I am in direct contact who will experience a shift but, also their friends, and their friends’ friends. Studies show that unhappiness, violence and meanness ripple through networks but so does love, altruism, and happiness.  Every moment we fiercely choose the latter we may well be impacting thousands of people.

If you are saying, “Bring on the pond, I am ready to make a ripple!” Part 2 begins here!