3 Tips for Improving the World Through Hope

Do you ever check out the morning or nightly news and think there’s no hope for this world? So many bad things are happening and we’re hearing about them all through an endless news cycle. It can seem there’s too much bad and not enough good in the world.

But before you let your hope for a better future be extinguished, you should view the matter through the eyes of best-selling author Ilchi Lee. He discusses how important hope is to the Earth and mankind in his books Earth Citizen and Earth Management: A Dialogue on Ancient Korean Wisdom and Its Lessons for a New Earth.

Here are some tips for having hope and how to better the world with it even when things seem their darkest.

Think Outside the Box

In Earth Management, Lee shares a story in his life about a time he had no hope, and how a pile of trash changed all that for him.

When Lee was younger, his life wasn’t going well—he felt he had become an embarrassment to his family and his future wasn’t going the way it was expected to. He had no hope left that things would ever work out for him.

As he was walking in his neighborhood one day, he saw a pile of garbage underneath a bridge. That trash reminded him of himself.

“The word trash refers to something that has been used and then discarded, something no longer worth using. I felt completely hopeless, like trash,” he wrote.

That’s when Lee had a novel concept—he could create hope by finding a purpose for that trash. He could turn it into compost fertilizer, which would then do something good for the world and the people in it.

Despite the odd looks from others, Lee hauled that trash until his body was sore and bruised from the weight of it. He dug deep holes, filled them with the trash and soil, and planted pumpkin seeds in it. Over time, those pumpkins grew big and plentiful, and Lee shared them with his neighbors and the local cows.

He had found hope in the unlikeliest of places—a trash pile—and it all began with one unorthodox idea. That act turned his life around by giving him a sense of pride and teaching him that hope could be found anywhere.

You Must Act

It’s not enough to have an idea or to have hope; you must act upon that idea. You may hope you’ll graduate from college with flying colors, but unless you act upon that desire by studying, you’re unlikely to achieve that vision.

It’s the same concept when it comes to improving the world—if you aren’t willing to roll up your sleeves and do the necessary work, you won’t be able to change anything. Lee learned that with his pumpkin endeavor. Hauling all the trash and digging those holes was back-breaking work, but Lee kept at it because it was important to him.

“Since then, if I believe something is right, I act on it right away. Even now, the only important thing for me is if what I’m doing is right, and if it is something our society needs. If it’s the right thing and it’s needed, I just do it right away,” he wrote.

Don’t Worry About Tomorrow

Sometimes we can get so caught up in long-term planning and how things can go wrong over time that we let ourselves get talked out of trying in the first place.

Do you ever wonder how long-distance runners can run such amazing distances? For most people, the idea of running a marathon, 26.2 miles, is unthinkable. But what long-distance runners do is break the task into bite-size pieces. They only worry about what they are doing that day. They worry about the run that they’re doing at that moment—not the run they’ll have to do the day of the marathon. And when they are running their marathon, they focus on the mile they are running at that moment—not the miles still ahead of them. They stay in the moment. That’s something Lee does as well to keep his hope going.

“There is something I always say to myself. ‘There is no tomorrow for me. I only exist in the here and now. That is why I must do whatever I can right now,’” he wrote. “If you keep habituating yourself this way, you can do ten years’ work in one year. I have been working like this for the past thirty-six years, and that is how I got to where I am today.”

That’s what living in the moment can do for you—it removes your biggest stumbling blocks. Think about how much hope you can spread and how much good you can do for the world once you get your biggest foes—negativity, inactivity, and disbelief—out of the way.

The Impact of Negativity on the Brain and 4 Tips for Incorporating Positivity

Have you ever known some people who seem to have the power of positivity on their side? It seems as if there is nothing they can’t accomplish—no task too big, no challenge too overwhelming.

But then there is the opposite type of person, the ones who seem overcome with negativity. They seem to believe they are destined for failure, so much so that there is no point in attempting anything challenging anyway.

Best-selling author Ilchi Lee is a big believer in the power of positive thinking and how we can retrain our brains to get the life and world that we want. It’s a common theme he discusses in his books Earth Citizen and Earth Management: A Dialogue on Ancient Korean Wisdom and Its Lessons for a New Earth.

“I am not a neuroscientist, but I have seen firsthand exactly how powerful the human brain can be, and I have been amazed at how people’s lives can change when they begin to realize that they have the power to use their brains as they truly wish,” Lee said in Earth Citizen.

Thinking negatively and voicing those thoughts can be a source of stress that overrides your brain and diminishes your confidence. Even being around negative people can do the same. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Like anything else, negative and positive thinking can be learned. But first you have to make a choice—what type of person do you want to be?

Think About Completion Instead of Success

When a person focuses on success, they set themselves up for negative thoughts. There will always be someone richer, smarter, prettier, or thinner than they are.

“People who seek success feel good only when they are better than others, and they feel very bad when they don’t do as well as others,” Lee wrote in Earth Management.

But by focusing on completion, for instance, you open yourself to positive thinking. If you decide you want to run your first ever 5K race, for example, you might feel pretty bad about yourself if you focus solely on success. You won’t take home a performance medal—those will be won by seasoned runners who have been running consistently and training for much longer than you have. If you compare yourself to those runners, you’ll feel horrible about your time as your cross the finish line. The negativity will creep in.

But if you think of your experience in a different fashion and you focus on completion, you’ll feel great about yourself and your accomplishment no matter what time you end up getting. You’ll appreciate that you were able to set a goal and finish it, and you’ll marvel over the things your body is able to do.

Spend More Time with Those We Love

So much about our world creates an isolated existence. Many of us go to work at jobs where we interact more with computers and machinery than we do with people. Then when we come home, a lot of us spend our free time staring at our computers, tablets, and phones. This kind of behavior can lead to negative thoughts and feelings of isolation.

“When we are not alone, but together, when we have harmonious relationships with the people around us, we can become happier, and we can better solve the problems we face,” Lee said.

Lee points to forming close relationships with our loved ones as a way to stay more positive. In particular, spending time with children can bring a lot of positivity into our lives. Seeing their faces light up over the simplest of things can banish negativity almost instantly.

Get Back to Nature

Many of us don’t spend enough time outside, in a place that speaks to our soul. Think about how you feel when you spend time on a beach, hearing the waves crash around you, and watching the glistening water. It’s hard to feel negative when seeing a sight like that. And it’s hard to feel overly sorry for yourself because it helps you to realize there is a much bigger world out there. You and your problems aren’t the center of the universe, even if it feels like they are at times.

Nature can be an instant pick-me-up that can put positive thoughts and feelings back in your heart. “Our bodies can actually commune with the energy of nature through energy training, and they can achieve a harmonious, balanced state,” Lee said.

Keep Trying

Like anything else you’ll do, practicing positivity is a habit. It’s okay to fail—we all have negative thoughts sometimes. But the key is to keep trying, to never stop attempting to be the best, most positive version of yourself you can.

“Life is meant to push onward and upward, always evolving to a higher, more well-adapted form,” Lee writes in Earth Citizen.

5 Ways to Make Ripples in the World

Trying to change the world when you’re just one person is an overwhelming prospect. But instead of getting frustrated when you see you aren’t able to make a tidal wave of change, focus on creating small ripples instead.

Best-selling author Ilchi Lee shares some ideas about how to be a good citizen of the world in his books Earth Citizen and Earth Management: A Dialogue on Ancient Korean Wisdom and Its Lessons for a New Earth. Here are five ways you can make ripples in your own life that will spread throughout the world.

1. Grow Something

Nothing can give you a greater sense of appreciation for the Earth and what it can do than growing something. Whether you live in a rural area with plenty of backyard space for a full garden or you are an urban dweller with only a rooftop or windowsill to work with, it’s possible to grow a vegetable or herb. If you need to grow your produce in a small container, that’s ok too.

Just try it, and watch your wonder grow with it. You’ll feel inspired to take better care of the Earth by not littering and cleaning up litter when you see it. Or you might feel motivated to begin composting.

If you have enough for a bountiful garden, you can increase the ripples you make by sharing some produce with a stranger or a loved one.

In his younger years, Lee learned a greater appreciation for the Earth by planting pumpkin seeds on top of a makeshift landfill, and he found he could feel and give joy by sharing those pumpkins.

2. Try to See Similarities in People Instead of Differences

One of the biggest sources of negativity and discord in the world comes from politics. We often disagree with—and sometimes downright dislike—people who do not think as we do. Instead of letting those differences drive us apart, however, we should let our similarities draw us together. It’s only when we think of each other as all fighting for the same overall cause that we’ll truly be able to work together for the good of humanity and the planet.

Lee addresses our basic similarities in Earth Citizen.

“The way I see it, there are really only three things that people want: health, happiness, and peace. When we fight over religions or political ideology, we are simply fighting over the ways to get these three basic things,” he wrote.

Remembering there is more than one way to achieve those goals may help you to focus on our similarities instead of differences. If everyone were to do that, this world would be a much more peaceful place to live.

3. Redefine Your Purpose

Everyone is driven by purpose in some way or fashion. That purpose might be to work toward their dream career, to save up enough money for the car they’ve always wanted, or even to look important to other people.

While you don’t have to abandon your sense of purpose altogether, to make positive ripples in the world, perhaps you should consider redefining it or expanding it. Once your purpose changes – once you purposefully seek to be the best person you can be for the world instead of solely for yourself—you’ll notice a change in your thoughts and your actions. You’ll become less self-involved and start working for the greater good.

As Lee said in Earth Management, “All behavior arises out of a person’s definition of their own purpose.”

4. Create Good Relationships

Many of us have good relationships with our families, and we likely have a true friend or two we have in our corner as well. But it’s time for many of us to expand our small circles. It will help us feel more connected to our fellow citizens. And those relationships can turn into collaborations that may ultimately help us solve the problem of how best to be stewards of this planet.

“When we are not alone, but together, when we have harmonious relationships with the people around us, we can become happier, and we can better solve the problems we face,” Lee said in Earth Management.

Creating and fostering a sense of cooperation, instead of singularity, will benefit our world in multiple ways.

5. Don’t Watch Too Much News Coverage

While many of these tips are things you can do, this one focuses on what you should avoid. Watching too much news coverage can be counterproductive to your efforts to make a positive impact upon the world around you.

“Pick up a newspaper or flip on the evening news, and you will be bombarded with information from innumerable experts telling you that the biosphere is crumbling, the economy is on thin ice, and our educational system is failing,” Lee writes in Earth Citizen.

The negativity of all the news being reported can make you think it’s a lost cause to try to do anything positive. But that’s false. Your small acts can have a big difference in someone’s life or for the prosperity of the Earth. And that’s worth the effort. So before you turn on that television and start feeling hopeless, go for a quiet walk in nature instead and recommit yourself to being a good citizen of the world.