AJ Jacobs thinks we can create a kinder world. He uses genealogy websites to dig deep into our ancestors, follow unexpected links, and find that, at bottom, we’re all related.

Understanding this relatedness can change our whole view of what it means to be part of a family. It changes our mindset, which is the first step in making a kinder world possible.

In Jacobs’ TED Talk, The World’s Largest Family Reunion, he gives us five reasons why this is important:

  1. Scientific value: Knowing we’re all related gives us data on how people migrate and how diseases are inherited. This data can give us tangible ways to help each other.
  2. Brings history alive: Knowing we’re related to the scientist Albert Einstein makes it personal and generates interest in wanting to know more about Al. But, we’re also related to the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, which could cause concern and lead us to study his behavior so we don’t end up behaving the same way.
  3. Interconnectedness: Knowing we all come from a common ancestor expands our support network. That’s comforting and can help us live our stressful lives with more ease.
  4. A kinder world: Human bias is to treat family better than strangers. We’ve done a lot of terrible things to each other because one group thinks another group is sub-human. We’re less likely to do that if we see each other as part of the same family.
  5. Democratizing effect: Knowing we’re all part of the same family eliminates any one of us claiming that we’re special because we have royal blood. That claim sets us apart from and better than others. We can’t do that if everyone is related.

The more inclusive the idea of family is, the better, because it changes our mindset. Do some genealogy work on your own family tree. See how far back you can go. See how the branches spread the further you go back. That spreading gives you tangible evidence that we’re in this together. And, that together we can solve the big problems now facing all of us.

Practice Tip: Create an Inclusive Mindset

This season, create an inclusive mindset about family. Look around you. Who’s different than you? Some people have different skin color, different religions, different political persuasions.

Now, look at the same people and identify how you’re similar rather than different. You’re similar because:

  • You both have skin to hold your body together.
  • You both need to believe in something larger than yourself. Even atheists believe they’re part a larger family, community, or world.
  • You both have political views that each value as important.

Focusing on how you’re similar, instead of different, shifts your mindset. The people you see haven’t changed. They’re still the same. But you’ve changed. Specifically, you’ve changed how you see them from “different” to “similar.”

That’s all it takes to create a kinder world.

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