How many times have you read those words on the back of a shampoo bottle and skipped that last step, either because you know it’s a waste of shampoo and precious water or for myriad other very valid reasons?

According to the Urban Dictionary, these words are defined as: “To mindlessly repeat past patterns or behaviors without critical thought.”

What if we looked at those simple words differently from the potential for thoughtful, critical analyses instead? What does that look like?

Try Listen, Act, Repeat on for size….

You may have awakened on April 25, 2015 morning to the horrible news of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal or to the news of a community in your own state broken down by senseless violence or to the news of the devastating tsunami on December 26, 2004 and on and on. Immediately, you are touched in your core as you hear about the devastation, and you hurt in your heart for other humans suffering.

You listen attentively. And begin to think: “What can I do to help?

These moments of capturing human compassion can be the utmost authentic and true to unify us on this planet, reminding us that we all breathe air, that we all love another being (at least one), and that we all bleed red.

So, now what?! What do you do?

Where do you turn? This is where the Listening gets even more important, no, critical.

Listen to yourself. No one can decide what you should do or how you can best help another person but yourself. Be honest with your resources and your skills. Do you have money to donate to aid organizations or to support the effort? If so, thoroughly research those organizations and find those that most align with your values and that have solid experience and programming to deserve your donation.

Do you have time or necessary skills? How much time can you give and in what capacity are you willing to serve? What if you land in that community as a skilled physician, but what is really needed is someone to help offload shipments of supplies? Are you able to roll up your sleeves and dive in?

Listen to those immediately around you. Chances are you have friends and family around you who also want to help in whatever ways they can. Can you build a project, large or small, to help that affected community from where you are? Can you build awareness on social media to inspire others?

Are there ways to bring that compassion together constructively so that we are united in strength, rather than paralyzed in despair? What is your own community saying and why? How will your actions influence and affect those immediately around you? Deciding to work in West Africa for the Ebola crisis is a frank example of a decision that could not be made without considering how to manage your 21-day return quarantine for your family and colleagues.


Listen to those outside your circle. Where will you be most helpful or where might you become a liability? After Typhoon Haiyan, the Government of the Philippines requested that all assistance teams arriving carry their own supplies, food, and water so as to keep limited resources in communities for those community members.

Are you helping best by jumping on a plane or traveling to that community because you have the best experience, skills, and resources and you are completely prepared physically and mentally? Or, might you best assist by traveling across your own city helping immigrant families from that affected country who may have lost family members in the current event?

Act with these thoughts present and conscious in mind.

Then, Repeat. Go back to Listening and never be far from it. Only through iterating, listening, trying, failing, succeeding, and iterating again can we hope to find the “right” ways forward.

Remember, all of our ripples, both positive and negative, travel far. We all strive to make them as positive as we can. And, in the spirit of our mission at emBOLDen Alliances’, translate compassion, that hopefully ever-renewable resource, into maximum positive impact and lasting change for communities globally.

It turns out you can learn life lessons about turning
into action from everyday objects,
even a shampoo bottle.

“One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being
human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.” -Nelson Mandela

This article was first published in 2015; updated 2019.

Copyright emBOLDen Alliances.