Think of your actions as votes; vote for the world you want.

Typically we think of votes as part of an election for a political candidate. Even though each individual's own vote is negligible, it makes sense for each person to vote for their preferred candidate. If people choose not to vote, or to vote against the outcome they want in response to a bribe or temptation, that can produce unwanted results. A classic example of this is described in the Story of the Devious Politician.

Perhaps you won't be voting in an election anytime soon, but consider this: There are other kinds of votes too, that are not part of an election. Here are some examples:

If a driver throws trash out of his window while driving down the highway, that is a vote for a mess to adorn the roads.

If a parent smokes a cigarette, that is one vote toward an early death. (Moreover, because children tend to follow the example of their parents even when warned otherwise, it is also a vote for the parent's child to have an early death.)

If a person regularly covers their errors and embarrasements with falsehoods, that is a vote for a world in which information received from other people cannot be relied on.

In a family, if a parent or child is habitually rude or insensitive in their communications with other family members, that is a vote for turning their home into their "unhappiest place on earth."

Some actions have a bigger impact than others, so sometimes an action is like casting many votes at once. The last example above is an illustration of that. People tend to remember negative comments more vividly than positive ones. So to create a positive atmosphere in a home, it is necessary to have at least five instances of encouragement for every one instance of criticism.

Sometimes an action can apply two different kinds of votes at once: a main vote and a side-effect. This often occurs in interpersonal relations, and it is especially common in families.

For example, a parent may decide to criticize their child's behavior in the hope of bringing about a desired change in the behavior. The side effect might be a vote against peaceful harmony. But which of those votes have added up to the biggest tally? If there is a positive atmosphere and a helpful intent, the vote for change may well be effective with little negative repercussion. But if the home lacks a positive atmosphere, the criticism will not be accepted and the negative attitudes will merely get worse.

It is a very good practice at the end of a day, to reflect on your actions, and especially to think about your interactions with other people during the day. What kind of world are you voting for?


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