Every time I look at the news, it seems like we are closer to a major catastrophe. There is no shortage of suffering in the world, and it’s often caused by negligent or bad decisions.
Through interactions with people and media, I have access to an unlimited amount of problems. When I engage with them, I expose myself to potentially infinite worry, stress and concern.
Considering that there is so much genuinely wrong in the world, how do I live a productive and happy life? It’s an important question, because my attention is finite and I want to spend it on things that really matter.
3 steps to balance
I try to keep my concern grounded in an accurate understanding of the world and in proportion to my power to create change. I seek a balance of:
- Understanding why the world is the way it is and identifying how I fit
- Focusing on a specific problem and opportunity for influence
- Acting in the most effective way I can to create the change I envision
Start by understanding why the situation is what it is. Research the issue in a detached manner. Look at it from an outside perspective. Look at it from the other point of view.
Trying to create change before coming to a well thought out understanding of the causes, both in yourself and in the world is usually ineffective or has unintended consequences. How can you develop better understanding?
Understand the world
There are almost 8 billion people on earth. Each person’s mind is made to solve problems. Tensions arise when we solve them in contradictory ways. We’re all imperfect, and we each have the potential to improve. We can each be better tomorrow than we are today.
I don’t assume that people who don’t share my views are bad people, or stupid, or barbarians. It’s highly unlikely that they see themselves in any of these ways. I believe they have their own interests, hopes and fears. Their lives shape their worldviews. I look for the past events that might have caused them to believe and say what they do. Though it can be hard, I try to understand before I react, to listen before I judge.
I know everyone is on a journey of personal growth. I assume others have their own visions that are shaped by their values. I look for the principles by which they live their lives. Those principles have root causes, too, events of the past that continue to echo now. We’re each continually shaped by our circumstances and choices. Everyone can change, and everyone does. Change is inevitable.
Understand the self
When I encounter a situation in the world, I find it helpful to look at my reaction to it. If I’m worried or afraid, I try to pause and ask why. What am I really worried about? What aspect of the situation causes fear?
What do I think would be better? If I could wave a magic wand and create change instantly, what would it look like? Would that change really solve the problem?
When I notice myself worrying, I try to understand what the worry is telling me, and what it’s accomplishing. Is it pushing me to act? Is it pushing me to understand more about the world? Or does it come from shame or guilt, self-punishment for my perceived flaws, or judgmental seeking of flaws in others?
Identify areas of influence
After seeking an understanding of the world and my relationship to it, I narrow the field of problems to find the one where my motivation and interest lead me to contribute. I know it takes endurance to create change, and I’ll be likely to continue the work when I’m passionate about it. I focus my concern on a limited amount of problems where I believe I’ll have the greatest impact.
Find your greatest potential impact
When I am concerned about something in the world, I look at where the power resides and consider what kind of actions are likely to create the change I believe would improve the situation. Then I think about how I am situated to influence those actions. Do I have skills I can contribute directly? Can I contribute money to enable others to contribute their skills? How can I use my voice? Can I join with others to make a greater impact?
Here’s what I’m working on:
Giving the world music that:
- Gives people energy, insight and inspiration to follow their dreams and make the change they wish to see in the world
- Creates a space for people to connect with other like minded people through the music experience
- Connects with human emotions and experiences in a way that makes people feel seen and understood
I do this through a unique mixture of qualities:
- Positive, optimistic worldview
- Poetic, philosophical lyrics
- Indie pop/chamber pop style. Voices, trumpet, synthesizers, live instruments, modern, distressed sound.
Create change together
It’s very difficult for any one person to make a large scale on their own. Everyone needs help to make change. We can make change as contributors or leaders of a group. As leaders, we can lead groups that exist already or create new ones.
As I offer my gifts boldly to the world, I trust that others are doing the same. I trust that others are competent in their fields, just as I am competent in mine. I trust that others have worked hard to do accumulate their skills and reach their positions, and they will do their best to carry out their roles. I trust that the great sweep of history, including my contribution, tends toward nature’s great balance.
There is truly no shortage of problems or worry for any of us. The world’s problems are both vast and detailed. It’s important to realize that we are each 1 person out of a vast number. We can each see the entirety of the world’s problems, yet it’s impossible for any one person to influence them all.
We each have influence over something. A practical approach to concern seeks to balance understanding as much as possible of the whole, with the greatest specific impact of the individual: identifying, acting, and expanding our potential to shape the world.