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water ripple

We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.

~ Herman Melville


Have you ever heard of the ripple effect?

If you’ve ever thrown a pebble into a pond and watched to see what happened, you know that the pebble doesn’t only disturb the water and space closely surrounding the pebble. The resulting ripple from the weight of the pebble hitting the water travels far beyond the immediate vicinity of the pebble.

Depending on how large or heavy the pebble is, the ripples may continue to move out into the far reaches of the pond long after the initial effect is silent and forgotten. There’s no way of knowing just what all the effects of that pebble were. A splash against a rock on the other side of the pond ten minutes later may actually be a delayed effect of the ripple you caused. A duck startled by the loud “plunk” of the pebble may flap its wings frantically, causing the whole flock to be disturbed, further upsetting other members of the pond ecosystem.

Just as a pebble causes a ripple effect in a pond, so your everyday choices in life set in motion a chain of reactions. Less significant choices have less significant effects; more significant choices have more significant effects. Once a decision is made, there’s no effective way to stop the resulting impact.

Sometimes, when we are going through some sort of struggle or dealing with a negative situation, we think that there is no possible reason for it, that we’re suffering unfairly or for no cause. But maybe, have you considered that you might be experiencing a ripple effect? Possibly your own ripple or someone else’s. Consequences of bad choices can take years to fully play out.

That’s why you will never know just how many lives and in how many ways you may have impacted all through one single choice. It only takes one action to set a series of reactions into motion.

As Melville says, we can’t live for ourselves. It is folly to try to pretend that our actions only affect ourselves. We are like an interlocking chain, an interwoven quilt. Our lives touch so many others, many more than we ever realize.

But here’s the good part. A ripple effect doesn’t always have to be negative. Our choices can have immeasurably positive impacts as well as negative.

What are you doing to leave a positive ripple effect in your sphere of influence? How will your daily choices impact others in the next week, six months, two years, five years, ten years?

And how much will you wish you could undo at the end of ten years, or twenty, or at the end of your life?

I want my ripple effects to be positive. I want to look back on the past twenty years or my past life and have the joys and accomplishments and fulfillment far outweigh the regrets.

But how does that happen?

Just one single choice at a time.


Join the conversation and add your own personal reaction to this week’s quote–I’d love to read it!

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash