06/01/2015 05:34 GMT | Updated 07/03/2015 05:59 GMT

Be the Change in 2015

"If you wanna make the world a better place

Take a look at yourself, and then make a change." ~ Michael Jackson

Forget New Year's resolutions, simply listen to your heart and follow your purpose!

Over this past year working as an inspirational speaker, I have been privileged to talk in front of numerous engaging audiences about what matters to me the most. Subjects extremely close to my heart, such as mental health recovery, mental health stigma, well-being and animal welfare. One of the biggest compliments said to me after a recent event I will remember always - "that was brilliant, because you are real!"


Picture taken by Nicky Armstrong

I will speak out for mental illness, the disadvantaged, the voiceless and the environment whilst ever my heart is still beating, but what I also realise is being hateful and judgemental to other people's opinions, life style and who I may see as the perpetrators of unjust, immoral or inhumane behaviour is not the answer. This can be extremely difficult at times and I don't always get it right, yet I know from my own personal experiences gentle persuasion has far better results than the feeling of being controlled and persecuted.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1999 I stopped my 20 a day smoking habit and the only reason for doing so was because I'd simply had enough. Tired with breathlessness after climbing a few flights of stairs, sick of smelling the lingering stale of tobacco in the car, living room and in my wardrobe, I decided it was time to screw up the fag packet and quit. But prior to this I boycotted any no smoking cafes and refused to listen to anyone's suggestions of a healthier life style without cigarettes. I dug my heels in firmly, even ensuring I smoked double my usual quota on March 14th - National No Smoking Day. I liked to feel the decisions that I made were my own, without thinking I had been backed into a corner by a holier than thou brigade.

No one, or any country can point the finger at another without three fingers pointing back at themselves.

I've been a lover of animals all my life, I hate to see them come to harm or treated cruelly, but like everyone else I am human, which means I am not perfect. Regrettably at twenty I bought a second hand fur coat, a size 22 and reeked of moth balls. It didn't stay long in my wardrobe, because even though I tried to convince myself the animal had probably died years ago, it still didn't feel right. I am now a vegetarian after years toying with the idea and although I have never been a huge meat eater, it has been part of my diet. I've probably unknowingly worn cosmetics tested on animals too, but that doesn't mean to say I can't sign petitions to encourage the demise of this practice. What I'm trying to say I suppose is people change, but not through condemnation, by encouragement!

I know the type of world I would wish to live in and without a shadow of a doubt this will be the same dream for the vast majority of us. I understand it would take a miracle to change traditions, beliefs and set ideas that have been interwoven into our societies for centuries, but I do happen to believe in miracles! I also realise it may take more than my life time to see a world governed by compassion, love and kindness; it doesn't mean to say I can't help start the ball rolling though!


"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world"~ John Muir

Everyone has to do what they can in their own way, in whatever manner seems right for them and when the time feels appropriate. We may never get everything we want from life, we may not always get everyone to see our point of view, but if we can be the change we want to see in the world, if we take positive steps in our lives towards this, then others will be inspired to follow!

We all have unique talents and abilities, so if we look into our hearts for guidance what a difference we could make. No road is easy, but you will know you are on the right track when no matter what anyone says, no matter how difficult things become, you continue your journey knowing it's the right one. When we all stand together, united hand in hand, we will definitely enforce thechange we wish to see!


"I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth; I am a citizen of the world." ~ Eugene V. Debs

S.M.Toni Face Book