Have you ever thrown a rock or pebble into the still waters of a pond or lake?
Did you notice how the little waves ripple away from the centre in circles and continue on and on?
Emotional contagion, the transfer of emotion between individuals happens every day in our lives. Little things we do create ripple effects that can sometimes result in good things and sometimes make bad things happen to other people, even people we have never met.
Suppose one morning you happen to see a friend who is grumpy and somewhat unhappy, and you give her a big smile and say hello. Since smiles are contagious, she gives you a smile right back and suddenly feels better. If so, she may smile at someone else. The ripple effect can continue to others, all from that one smile you gave. Positivity is like a virus it transmits human to human.
One evening on a lonely country road, an old man was standing on a bridge, high over a deep river. He had just dropped a pebble to see how long it would take to hit the water below. As the stone hit the water, he watched the ripples fanning out. Just then a van started crossing the bridge. The old man turned and watched as it slowly came to a stop, with its engine still running. The old man noticed the name painted on the door: Jack Green Lighting. Walking up to the window, he saw a man slouched over the steering wheel, breathing heavily.
He opened the door. “Is anything wrong?” the old man asked.
“Yes,” the driver said quietly, “I think I am having a heart attack. I cannot breathe. I am trying to get to the hospital.”
“Let me help you,” said the old man. “You shouldn’t be driving. The hospital is a good 20 miles from here.”
“I know,” mumbled the man. “I’m Jack Green. I’m a widower. I was all alone at my factory, after all my employees had left for the day when I suddenly started getting severe pains in my chest”
“Don’t worry, Jack,” said the old man. My name is Peter and “I’ll get you to the hospital.”
Peter opened the door, moved Jack over to the passenger seat. Peter took the wheel and drove as fast as he could to the hospital. When they arrived, Peter rushed Jack into the Accident and emergency. Jack was taken immediately to intensive care.
Peter waited throughout the night to see what happened to Jack.
He knew what it was like to be all alone, without family or friends in times of need. He, too, was a widower. He had lived alone since his wife had died several months before.
After 9 hours the doctors came to tell Peter they were able to save Jack life. They told the Peter that Jack would have died if he had arrived at the hospital just a few minutes later.
A week went by. Jack was getting well. Several of his employees came to visit, as did Peter the old man. While everyone was gathered around his bedside, Jack took Peter hand and said to all the people around his bed, “This guy saved my life. We were perfect and he saved my life. And I want you to know, he created a ripple effect that has impacted all of our lives. By saving my life, he saved our business. By saving our business, he saved the jobs of thirty families, who all have children and grandchildren. We all owe Peter so much.”
There was silence as all eyes turned towards Peter. Peter smiled, but there were tears in his eyes. He leaned over the railings around the bed and whispered to Jack, “I must tell you something, Jack. It’s actually you who saved my life. Just about the time you drove up in your van, I had made a decision to jump off that bridge. I was about to end my life.
But now I have learnt how important every life is to every other person, and how our small actions can literally change people’s lives. One ripple can have such impact. (Anon)
Drop a word of cheer and kindness: just a flash and it is gone;
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on,
Bearing hope and joy and comfort on each splashing, dashing wave
Till you wouldn’t believe the volume and impact of the one kind word you gave
James W. Foley
Let’s look at COVID-19 as it disrupts so many of our lives and we should ask ourselves are we the ONE. The one who can make life better for others by our small actions. By one smile, by one positive action, by one kind word, by our attitude, by our willingness to care more, love more, be more. Will we be the one to throw the stone and create the ripple effect?
Here is a way to start – COVID-19 CODE:
C-care for others; To make a big difference in someone’s else life you don’t have to be rich, brilliant or courageous. You just have to care.
O-observe the rules. In a pandemic we look out for others and ourselves by ensuring ‘We’ act responsibly and are not the one who is transmitting the virus
V-visualise success; We are what we think; We become what we visualise. This current challenge will end. See it. Believe it. Help by taking the right actions.
I-Invest in yourself; Make yourself a priority once in a while. It’s not selfish its necessary. When we love ourselves more, we can love others more?
D-Dare to be you; Dare to pursue your goals, as all success is a result of boldness and a willingness to follow that path where you dare to go.
When you follow the COVID-19 code you will change your world and so many other people’s world.
Drop an unkind word, or careless: in a minute it is gone;
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on.
They keep spreading, spreading, spreading from the centre as they go,
And there is no way to stop them, once you’ve started them to flow.
Drop a word of cheer and kindness: in a minute you forget;
But there’s gladness still a-swelling, and there’s joy a circling yet,
And you’ve rolled that wave of comfort whose sweet music can be heard
Over miles and miles of water just by dropping your one kind word
James W. Foley
Once you decide to make a commitment to change and take action to make that change, you’ll notice things you never did before. For example, make the commitment not to complain because it’s pointless. Show more affection to yourself and others. Or just simply be yourself. Little by little you will notice the impact of that change and how your previous behaviour was affecting your life. When you decide and take action to change it’s important to look at things calmly and rationally. Just like when you actually throw a stone in the water, the first ripple will be small. The impacts will be very small at first, and many times we give up too early. Just like walking up the stairs we have to take one step at a time. However, as time passes and you make more changes, you’ll see how the effects grow in size and significance
THE MENTAL FILTER – 3 things to consider
- Think of three small things you can change i.e. Try to smile at shopkeepers more, shout less at the kids, spend 5 more mins asking your partner/friend about their day.
- Consider the ripple effect these three changes may have for your life and for the lives of others.
- Choose one change and start today.
I can take you to success. I coach ordinary people every day to do extra-ordinary things. I coach extra-ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things. The difference is those who have a dream, and are prepared to follow said dream, are extraordinary, and just need a structure and support system to kick off that journey, which will finish with them sliding in fast sideways to the grave, totally worn out from the relentless living of their dreams, screaming out loudly “Wow holy sh*t, what a ride!”
If that is you – start today! If you are looking for coaching on change for yourself or your organisation, or would like more information on the work we do on Personal, Professional, or Organisational Change, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
About Dr Maurice Duffy
Irish. Author, Professor, Coach and Business strategist. The person Australian Captain Steve Smith credited with helping him back from his cricket ban. Coach to two Ashes wins. Coach to CEOs, Politicians and some of the best know international sports starts including Olympians. BBC ‘Thought for the Week’. Coached business leaders and organizations in 80 countries. Works with charities to do with Mental Health. Lives in North East England with his wife and 11-year-old son.