With notepad in hand, spend an hour or so reflecting on how you would like to civilize your world on three levels: 1. Your own lifestyle, 2. Your immediate community, and 3. A global problem or need.

1. Civilizing your own lifestyle

To stimulate your own thinking in this area, I'll give you examples from my own life of what I mean by this:

• It feels uncivilized to me to begin or end the day without at least a brief prayer and meditation, reminding myself of my biggest priorities.
• It feels uncivilized to leave a store without having noticed what the clerk looked like and without exchanging genuine regards with him or her.
• It feels uncivilized to be rude to telephone solicitors. (I never buy anything over the telephone, but I wish them better luck on their next call, or sometimes I try to convince them to get a better job.)
• Littering feels uncivilized, and so does throwing away plastic bags rather than reusing them.
• Making a joke or sport out of killing anything-even fleas, ticks or mosquitoes-feels uncivilized. Likewise, getting angry at an inanimate object like a malfunctioning computer or flat tire, feels uncivilized.
• It feels uncivilized not to take reasonable care of body, mind and spirit. For me, that means daily yoga, walking, reading, and meditation.
• It feels uncivilized to read or watch television while I eat a meal.

These are just a few examples. Review your own lifestyle and jot down a few specific 'civilizing practices' that you will abide by for at least a month. Don't be afraid to be creative or to do something that might be a little awkward at first. For example, you can ask the names of all the cashiers you deal with that month (or read their name tags) and tell them it's nice to meet them. Just make sure you mean it. If they look at you like you're a weirdo, just explain that it's actually a practice you are doing in order to be a better person. You may be surprised by how much friendliness you uncork.

Bo Lozoff in It's a Meaningful Life