A New Way to Think about Being Compassionate to Others

Oh, that’s the alarm. Oh, I’m so thirsty. Did I drink enough water last night? Mmm. Water’s so tasty. Time to check my phone. Notifications. Who texted me after 10pm? Oh good, it’s not bad news. Woo hoo! 20 new friends on Instagram! I’ll check Facebook, too. Why do I always have 20 notifications in Facebook when there’s nothing actually new to see? OK, I guess it’s time to get out of bed. Am I going to the gym today or yoga class? I can’t remember. Oh right, it’s the gym today. I really don’t feel like putting on a sports bra…

Those were my thoughts this morning in the first minute I was awake. Imagine how many thoughts I’ve had since then. I’ve thought about whether or not I’m working out hard enough at the gym, I’ve gone to the grocery store and bought items to make a protein powder pancake breakfast and some homemade trail mix. I’ve thought about my business Girl Friday Studio and what new photos I want to post on my Instagram. I’ve taken a shower, I’ve thought about this post, I’ve thought about…You get the point.

So, let’s talk about you. You’ve had 50,000 thoughts today. I’m not even kidding. This is the average amount a human being thinks in just one day.

You’ve had thoughts that have turned into actions. You’ve had thoughts that have turned into emotions or were stemmed from emotions. You’ve had thoughts related to your interactions. You’ve done your part to contribute to your community, family and friends. Let’s say you have been on this Earth for exactly 30 years (happy birthday, by the way). This means you’ve been in existence and contributed to this world for 10,950 days. That is a lot of days, a lot of stories, thoughts and contributes to this world!

You have loved. You have cried and you have laughed. You have been joyful, you have been sad. You’ve had a Mother and a Father, you’ve perhaps been a sister or brother, been a mother or father, a lover or a friend, and you’ve been a teacher (whether you know it or not, it’s true). You have changed the lives of the people around you just by interacting with them.

Do you get how important you are in this world? Do you see how special your time on this Earth has been? If you haven’t thought about it, just take a moment to feel how big you are in this world. How special you are. Because why? Because you have lived. You have had 50,000 thoughts every day and every single one makes you special and have led you to who you are today

So now (yes, right now), I want you to think about the person in your life who is the most important to you (besides yourself, no cheating). For me, I immediately think of my husband (and then I see people in the background like my Mom and Dad, my brother, my friends, all waving their hands like, “Here I am, too!”). In your mind’s eye, think of that one person. And then realize that there are 50,000 thoughts going through his (I say “his” but, you insert whatever gender, if any, this person may be) mind per day. Think about the interactions this person has had just today that you probably don’t even know about. Think about the interactions this person has had in his life. It’s impossible to truly know in detail what this person experiences, but you know his life is special, right? Simply because we just did this exercise for you, and now we know how big you are in this world, and now you realize how big your person is, too.

Now think of your neighbor. I know very little about mine. I know he’s in his mid-40s. I know he has a girlfriend who has a cute dog. I know they like takeaway coffee on Saturday mornings. But that is pretty much all. But then I think about the 50,000 thoughts per day rule and suddenly I’m in awe. He has a life. A gorgeous, amazing life that is full of thoughts and stories. And he is just as big as me, and just as big as my husband.

Now think of a stranger living in the city or town next to you. Same thought process. You don’t even know what this person looks like. But you know they have stories; full of love, laughter, tears and emotion. And they matter. They matter as much as you do.

If you continue down this path of recognition, there is suddenly empathy for the entirety of the human race. Each and every single person is big and has so many stories to tell. So many stories. Each person you pass in the street is living a full and complete life. You may not know their stories (how could you, truly) but you know they have them.

A lot of times this thought process leads many people to feel small. But, this is exactly the opposite of what I want you to think. You are not small in this world. You are big. You have 50,000 thoughts in a day, you have interactions with your community that shift it (whether you recognize it or not), and you matter to this world. You matter to me, you matter to your family, your loved ones, your friends, your community, your work, and your world.

With this new thought process in mind, can you go into your daily life with empathy? Can you love your fellow humans in the recognition that they also have stories behind their eyes? That they are just as big as you (not smaller, not bigger) in this world?

When we as humans recognize that separately we are big, but together we are massive, this world shines with the most compassionate love this Universe has to offer.