Most of us have heard the quote “be the change you wish to see in the world.” We get it, right? Or do we?
Have you actually stopped your busy life and really thought about what it means? I don’t think I really got- got it until today, when I heard a story. Because the story moved me, I wanted to share it with you. Maybe some of you have already heard it. Either way it’s definitely a nice, short, and “sweet” tale to keep handy.
A mother from India was very worried about her overweight son’s addiction to sweets. No matter what she did, she could not keep him away from sugary treats. Running out of ideas and absolutely desperate, she decided to bring her son to the well-respected, Mahatma Gandhi. Because Gandhi was so well-known and wise, she thought if only she could get Gandhi to tell her son to stop eating sweets, maybe then, her son would listen.
So mother and son made the trip and waited in line and waited some more. When it was their turn, the mother explained her son’s story to Gandhi. She then asked him to please tell her son to stop eating sweets as they were harming his health. She knew that her son would stop if Gandhi said so. Gandhi listened to her request and thanked the woman and son for coming. He then said, “Please come back in a week.”
The mother didn’t understand but left with her son. She was at least pleased that Gandhi agreed to see them again. After a week passed, she and her son made the trip again. They waited in line. The second time, not so patiently.
Once they could see Gandhi, the mother’s worries went away and hope filled her heart. As they approached him, he remembered them right away and thanked them for coming back. He then said firmly to the little boy, “Son, you must cease eating sweets.” The boy nodded, and the mother had a confused look on her face.
Gandhi replied, “Because dear miss, I did not know if I, myself, could accomplish what you asked me to ask your son. I needed a week to try it myself before I could say anything. For if I could not do the task myself, how could I ask him to do it? We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”
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This story is a great reminder for all of us in our work and in our lives, especially those of us who are in positions related to well-being. Discipline and knowledge can be communicated most effectively through messengers who practice what they pass along. We all know this. We see it in our everyday lives. Most of us can spot the teacher who is the fake, and we all feel beauty and grace in the presence of someone who is doing the work.
As I begin my wellness coach training and will soon be coaching people for a living* (I already have 21 people signed up for the month of March!), there is no better time than now to recommit myself to being the change I wish to see in the world. Lately, my own readiness to follow the principles I believe in is apparent, and I am doing it. While discomfort sometimes arises with that reality, I have made the choice to not step down, and I am starting to feel the health benefits that occur from not turning away from the hard stuff.
The most effective way we can help others around us is truly to model the behavior we wish to see. Thank you Mahatma Gandhi for this lesson. I am deeply humbled and nervous and excited all at the same time to embark on such a journey in my own life.
To those reading, I hope that you, too, can create moments in your life where you feel like you can embody your vision of well-being and make your life principles into a reality.
Or if anything else, next time you want to ask someone to do something, take a minute to stop and think if you, yourself, are able to do it.
*First, wellness coaching has little to do with telling people what to do. Second, I do not necessarily believe that Mahatma telling the boy to stop eating sweets would do the boy any good, in reality. However, I do greatly appreciate the wisdom that Gandhi highlights with the importance of “practicing what you preach.”