When Nothing You Can Do Makes a Difference
A 10-Part Series: Hope, Perspective, Strategies
If you've found your way to this page I'm guessing you're as concerned as I am about the challenges we face both individually in trying to live a healthy, meaningful life, and collectively in trying to care for our "extended self" and "all our relations."1
The more I learn about the scope and complexity of issues like ecosystem collapse and species extinctions on land and in the oceans, loss of culture, language, and skills, social justice, pollution, loss of topsoil, destruction of hydrologic cycles (the movements of water) and climate instability due to all of the above and more, the more overwhelming it all becomes.
Maybe you’ve felt the same way – going from mildly concerned to deeply alarmed, and then, feeling engulfed by insurmountable challenges, subsiding back into an uneasy state of numbness. “I’ll do what I can, and when I don't know what to do, I’ll try not to think about it.”
Should we be doing more than we are?
What can we do to make a difference—in our own personal lives and for the many issues we care about?
Where should we focus our efforts, assuming we have any spare time and energy to focus with?
What can we do to help ourselves if we are so inundated that we have no spare time and energy?
Is it selfish or wrong to want to live a meaningful, satisfying life personally, when so much is going on in the world around us?
Is working to raise a family, to get off the consumption treadmill, and to make some small difference in our own little sphere of influence, enough?
This 10-Part series of articles came out of my search for answers to these questions, and for the strategies I needed to make my answers stick. In it I’ll share:
- hope and perspective,
- distinctions and strategies for making more of a difference in your own personal life,
- and why I think that taking care of your own “small” stuff, is a viable way of also doing your part to take care of our Earth.
I haven't found all the answers — far from it. Sometimes I flounder, my perspective fails, and I lose hope.
And the strategies I've found don't always work, or they work but I forget to use them. I'm definitely the one who most needs to apply the lessons I write about in this Series.
But these strategies do work better than what I was doing before. With each rinse and repeat it gets a tiny bit easier, the possibilities expand, and each time I'm ready to stumble forward the next step is usually revealed just in time. When its not, it means I wasn't ready yet.
I hope that reading this Series will be as helpful for you as writing it has been for me. And I thank you for reading, for being willing to share your time with me.
Is there a difference between the Downloadable eSeries and the Posts here on the website?
The concepts, principles, and most of the content and formatting are the same in the Posts here on the website and in the downloadable eSeries.
However the eSeries is better edited and has a few extra examples that I hope will make it more user-friendly, as well as some different pictures and illustrations.
Think of the Posts as a close-to-final draft, and the eSeries as the finished thing. Well, closer to finished than the posts; if you find an error I missed, please let me know!
Download the eSeries & Cheat Sheet
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When Nothing You Can Do Makes a Difference
All the posts in this Series are listed below, beginning with Part One. There are ten parts in total.
There is Only One Place to Begin
(1st in a Series) Everything we need to create a more just, alive, abundant and beautiful world exists today. Why aren’t we using it?
One Moment at a Time
(2nd in a Series) Here is a way of looking at even the really big challenges that breaks them down to a manageable size.
Are You Acting on Life or Is Life Acting on You?
(3rd in a Series) How to focus your energy where you can be most effective, rather than wasting it on things that you cannot make any difference to.
The Power to Make a Difference
(4th in a Series) How your taking care of your “response-ability”—your ability to choose your own responses—increases your personal power and expands your influence.
Is it Important, or Merely Urgent?
(5th in a Series) By prioritizing what is important over what is urgent, you can live a more spacious, meaningful, satisfying life.
Are You Going After Your Goals the Hard Way or the Easy Way?
(6th in a Series) The idea that you need motivation and will power to reach your goals is part of a story that says if we use enough of the right kind of force, we’ll get to the goal. There is an easier way.
How to Go From “Distracted” to “On Track” with these 2 Simple Strategies
(7th in a Series) There are ways to set up your distractions on purpose so that they still lead you in the right direction.
On Making the Least Change for the Greatest Effect
(8th in a Series) In our make-it-happen culture, making a difference to anything means grunting and sweating, burning the candle at both ends, making herculean efforts. It’s an that approach keeps us in battle mode and sustains drama and conflict.
Why Your Most Important Responsibility is Taking Care of You
(9th in a Series) As within, so without. How we care for our innermost selves, each other, and our planet, are all linked. As urgent as it may seem to address those issues “out there,” it’s essential to begin “in here.”
Why Your Least Visible Work is Your Most Important Work
(10th in a Series) When you do the deep personal work necessary to give up conflict (internal and external), this invisible choice wields power out of all proportion to its humble appearance.
This footnote goes with the introduction text at the top of this page.
- I use the term "extended self" to remind us that you and I, as biological organisms, are not separate from our so called "environment." The trees that clean the air we breath are as important to us as with the lungs with which we breath it.
Similarly, I use the term "all our relations" to remind us that the trees, the insects, the fishes, the animals, and the people on the other side of the political or social divide are not as separate from us as we've been led to believe. Should we come to see them as truly our relations, caring for them would become the obvious thing to do.