Her Modern Take on the Golden Rule Extends to the Planet, Too

golden hour at the beach

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Kim Polman has kept The Golden Rule in mind throughout her life: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. “I have always wondered why it is so hard for people to get along,” Polman tells CircleAround. “I thought about what kept the peace in my family, and finally concluded that it must be the ancient principle of the Golden Rule.”

Polman is the co-founder of Reboot the Future, a foundation working towards a “compassionate and sustainable world.” According to Polman, the Golden Rule is at the heart of this organization as it promotes the message through activism, leadership training, educational programming, literature, and more. 

She and Stephen Vasconcellos-Sharpe, the co-author of the book Imaginal Cells: Visions of Transformation, wrote a modern, more applicable version of the Golden Rule: Treat others and the planet as you would wish to be treated. It is through this philosophy that Polman and her foundation have been able to connect people to their environment.

CircleAround asked Polman to provide some more ways that people can apply the teachings of Reboot to their everyday lives. Here’s what she had to say.

1. Apply the Golden Rule to Any Situation

It sounds simple, but Polman knows the application and embodiment of the Golden Rule takes practice. It’s also not something you may see results from directly, either. But she assures that it can help inform your decisions on a daily basis.

She gave three examples that are intertwined. “If you’re a fisherman, how are you fishing? Are you scooping up all the fish you can find, picking out the ones you want but hurting the ones you don’t, and throwing them back into the sea?"

"Or are you working to create a more sustainable harvesting method? If you are an investor in a fishing company, what kind of fishing company are you investing in?"

"If it’s a fishing company destroying the environment to make a quick profit, can you find another company to invest in that’s less harmful?"

"And lastly, if you consume fish, are you learning enough about the way fish is caught to make informed decisions about your food?”

According to Polman, bringing your decisions back to the Golden Rule can create a healthier and more positive outcome than taking the easy way out. It may also make you feel better about the issue at hand, too.

2. Do Unto Others, but Also Take Care of Yourself

If living by the Golden Rule means treating others as you’d want to be treated, then that includes treating yourself well, too. Being aware of what makes you feel good, healthy, fulfilled helps you be aware of what others need. 

“We do need to love ourselves,” Polman explains, “and there is this balance that we have to constantly deal with, satisfying our own needs, but then also helping others. That balance is different for each one of us. So we need to respect that in ourselves, but also in others.” There are three requirements to living this: listen to others to learn what they need, have courage, and take action when possible.

“There are many good books to read on the topic of caring for yourself, others and the planet,” Polman adds.Her favorite three examples include How to be Human by Ruby Wax, Good People by Anthony Tjan, and Pope Francis’s Encyclical on Climate Change.

3. Educate Yourself About Nature’s Ecosystems

Polman stated that learning about the rainforest, coral reefs, mycorrhizal fungi networks underground, and more, are not only fascinating, but important in terms of how to appreciate our beautiful planet so that we can save it.

“Mammals give birth to babies that are helpless”, she explains. “We have to nurture them. We have to feed them. We have to train them. Although goodness is innate, it does need to be encouraged as a child grows up.  We constantly struggle with the other side of us which is about survival.  This can sometimes turn very nasty. We have a choice every day to harm or to help, and how we raise our children can affect those choices for the rest of our lives.”

This simple principle has been around for 1000’s of years. It is a bedrock principle that should not be forgotten. Even neuroscience proves that this is the basis of true happiness.

Through studying and embedding this principle, we can better understand how the Golden Rule is not just a philosophy — it’s a way of life. For Polman, that’s enough to provide a positive outlook for future generations and the world they will eventually become part of.


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