This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Natural Living Blog Carnival hosted by Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project through the Green Moms Network. This month, our members are talking about how they inspire others to make positive changes in their lifestyles. If you have tips to share, feel free to comment on all of the posts! And maybe you’ll walk away with a few tips you can use in your own life.
As ethical, environmental, and health bloggers, our guiding philosophy is Gandhi’s “be the change you wish to see in the world”. Above all else, we hope to inspire others to make positive changes in their own lifestyles.
Adria here, adding my voice to this blog carnival. Walk with me a step beyond Gandhi’s philosophy. Live your life as if the world is already changed. As if the world has already become your ideal vision. By acknowledging that you don’t live in a bubble where you are the sole vehicle for change, you give credit to those around you that they can make a difference.
Right now, as you are implementing your own important changes on the road to better health and more positive energy, people are noticing. You are already, in effect, leading by example.
Today I want to talk about what this really means and then leave you with some ideas for how you can become a part of this ripple effect. We’ll look at this through the guise of veganism because it is often such a touchy topic, but this advice applies to a healthy lifestyle, sustainable habits, and anything else you can imagine.
We live in an unhealthy world, and it may sound cliche, but every little thing you do truly does matter. If it weren’t for certain figures in my own life, I wouldn’t be here talking to you today. I’m sure you can think of similar stories in your own life.
How to Turn People Off
In the vegan world, there are two stereotypical examples that will rarely inspire change in others. The first is the angry vegan who is confrontational and the second is the pushover vegan who consistently sacrifices her own truth because she doesn’t want to “inconvenience” others.
I admit I have the tendency to nag. I’m a Virgo, what can I say? But what I’ve realized is that nagging is just the urge to control your surroundings. Relax and realize that things are unfolding just as they should be, and when you are not looking is often when change happens.
How to Lead by Example
Give then release.
Just like a physical gift at a party, don’t be attached to consequences. Share a valuable piece of information or advice when it’s pertinent, then sit back and let it sink in. Your friend will decide whether to use it or not. Information can’t be un-learned, so chances are it will sneak it’s way into their subconscious and they’ll use it months or even years down the line.
You are not doing anyone any favors by being wishy-washy. Demonstrate what it looks like to live your strong values, and it might actually seem appealing to others. If you go to someone’s house and eat meat because they are serving it but then later tell them you are vegan, I highly doubt they will value your decision. Because, to them, you are not valuing it.
Speak your truth.
Don’t apologize for your values. There is no shame in them, and worthwhile people will respect them even if they don’t yet see eye to eye with you. If you want help with speaking your truth, Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s podcast “Food for Thought” has some excellent episodes discussing this.
Don’t shove your own values on others.
One simple, powerful statement or just connecting the dots will go a lot further than a wagging finger. See my case studies below for a more productive alternative.
Find a point of connection.
If someone engages you and asks a question about your lifestyle out of genuine interest, there are few things to remember. First, it’s about them, not you. How can you connect with them where they are at? Really listen and only provide advice that is immediately actionable in their lives. They will be much more likely to follow through and do it.
Case Study #1: Living your truth opens the eyes of those around you
As those of you who have listened to Episode 9 of Vegans in Vegas Radio already know, I originally went vegetarian 10 years ago under the influence of my mother-in-law. She lives with compassion, not just to animals but to the humans in her life.
As a teenager dating her son, I spent a lot of time over there, and she regularly made us delicious veggie meals, including spaghetti with “meat” sauce and tofu with sauteed veggies and rice. It was all delicious, and I loved it without questioning what it was actually made of. I didn’t even realize her tacos were meatless!
Just by watching her live her life and through no evangelism of her own, I went veggie. After all, I’d already seen how effortlessly she lived her life according to her own values. I realized that if I shared those values, I owed it to myself to give it a try, too.
Years later, I decided to take the next step and go vegan. Suddenly I had the chance to lead her by example and return the favor.
But I also knew that to be effective, the idea had to come from within her. Or else the good old “not created here” syndrome would shut me out.
When she expressed an interest in cooking, I bought her a couple of my favorite vegan cookbooks as Christmas presents. I answered questions like how to bake without eggs or get over a cheese addiction.
But all of this was only when she engaged me. I admit that I probably did a little extra teaching, but no vegan battle-tactics.
Then, one day during a long road trip, she expressed interest, and I put on a carefully selected episode of Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s podcast “Vegetarian Food for Thought”.
We ended up listening to several episodes back to back, and, after many tears and a long discussion, she arrived at our destination a changed woman.
Still, she didn’t make the switch overnight. The move from vegetarian to vegan is almost as big a lifestyle shift as that from meat-eater to vegetarian. The important part was the change in her mental framework. It was only a matter of time from there on out.
Case Study #2: Your weight-loss success fuels your friend’s competitive side
I have a close friend who has paralleled my journey to weight loss and fitness. When we still looked like our “before” pictures, we would go out for Mexican food together a lot. We drank tons of frozen mango margaritas and ate cheese enchiladas and burritos and were pretty sedentary.
When I started to lose weight, she noticed. She had lost her eating and drinking buddy, and she saw all the healthy habits I was implementing. Instead of trying to pull me back down to her level, she took action. She became a runner and soon started to clean up her own diet.
Before I knew it, she was on the board of the local track club and asking me questions about a healthy vegan diet.
Now she looks awesome in a bikini, regularly runs half marathons, and has become a whole foods vegan. I never ever could have planned, or even expected, that!
Now your turn. What is one way you have led by example? Share your story in the comments.
Visit Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project to learn more about participating in next month’s Natural Living Blog Carnival!
Please take some time to enjoy the posts our other carnival participants have contributed:
Photo credit: Michael L. Baird.