I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot lately as I move through the world. It feels important to me as a mantra, a shorthand for my values and my purpose. I want to have a positive impact on the world, and I always have to remember that can also happen in tiny micro-interactions or situations that no one else witnesses.
When I say “things”, I mean everything: places, objects, situations, people. What does it mean to leave everything better than I found it? Obviously, it means different things in different contexts, but generally speaking, this kind of prompt running through my head helps me know what needs to be done.
With a messy bathroom at a café or restaurant: I’ll pick up the paper towels off the floor and change the toilet paper roll if it ran out.
With a friend who is upset about something: I’ll listen carefully, stay really present, and try to say comforting things.
With a client who feels overwhelmed and confused: I’ll help set them up with new systems & routines that work more smoothly.
No matter what situation you’re entering, what would it mean to leave it better than you found it? You could also think about this the other way: what would it mean to interact with a situation so that when you leave it, you’re better than when you found it? Would that help you show up more fully, listen thoughtfully, and consistently try to learn and grow from every interaction? I think it would.