What if you were to see yourself as a light, a light with the capacity to elevate those around you? Would you approach your life differently? Would you care for yourself differently?
I started mulling over these questions a few days ago, after reading a dedication to Steve Irwin, the late crocodile hunter, in a cookbook by the lively British chef Jamie Oliver. Jamie writes, “Dedicated to Steve Irwin, 1962-2006. I was so inspired by his verve for life and his ability to connect with people of all ages around the world. And, most importantly, how he taught us all to appreciate this incredible planet we live on!”
I am not a chef.
And I am by no means an outdoorsy kind of gal.
I live in New York City. I eat most of my meals at restaurants, and the closest thing I have to a garden is a small potted plant that sits on my windowsill. Yet encountering the passionate joy of people like Jamie Oliver and Steve Irwin motivates me to be more alive, more zestful, and more committed to the engagements and tasks of my daily life.
“Elevation” is the term morality researcher Jonathan Haidt uses to describe the temporary enlivening of heart I feel every time I read Jamie Oliver’s dedication. When it comes to making lasting behavioral change (i.e., bravely pursing meaningful work, practicing patience, showing up as a good friend), Haidt’s research suggests that moments of elevation are more effective at eliciting change than any amount of knowledge, research, or information. Haidt hypothesizes that the process of elevation involves three steps: (1) witnessing an act of moral beauty—i.e., Jamie Oliver’s and Steve Irwin’s way of being in the world, or any act of courage, kindness, or virtue— which prompts a (2) temporary physiological shift that warms, opens, and tenderizes the area around your heart, followed by (3) the motivation to similarly engage and emulate.
A flash of insight that impacts the heart is perhaps the most powerful source of courage available. Jamies Oliver, Steve Irwin, and Haidt’s research present a simple truth: We have the power to elevate each other. The enthusiasm with which we approach our lives, even the most mundane chores of daily living, impacts those around us. The challenge is this: How do we stay elevated? How can we keep a brief flash of insight that comes from reading a dedication shining bright?
This month, appreciate the many ways you can elevate yourself and those around you. Challenge Steps:
- Write down your commitment. What are you committed to? Your commitment may be general. For example, “I am committed to inspiring hope in others by being a loving presence.” Alternatively, your commitment could be very specific: “I am committed to elevating others through sharing my love of knitting.” Read your commitment out loud to yourself first thing every morning.
- Hold yourself accountable. We cannot elevate others if we ourselves are not elevated. Get specific: What do you need in your life to be light-filled? Rest, play, exercise, healthy foods, a spiritual practice, inspiring literature, and time with friends and family are not “nice-to-haves,” they are essentials. Take a few minutes to consider the prompt, “In order to stay elevated, I need…. in my daily life.”
- Stayed committed Safeguard these activities as you would safeguard an obligation at work, or a commitment to your kids. Give yourself permission to craft a way of life that elevates you so you can elevate others.