We open the news and “Oh no! Not again!” Another disaster, a pandemic, a war, a robbery and a murder. I used to want to save the world, and now I don’t know how.
Research shows that we are living in the best time for humanity since the first appearance of the human species. This is not a hearsay or some wishful thinking, surveys show that indeed the percentage of people living below the poverty line is lower than ever, child mortality, illiteracy, wars are drastically reduced, more people than ever in history have access to basic goods, our life expectancy has increased, we suffer from less disease and have access to information, education and more freedom than man has ever known.
And although we have recently emerged from a pandemic and wars are raging around us, and environmental disasters continue to occur worldwide, the above statistics continue to apply. So why don’t we see it?
Media. We are bombarded daily with news and news, the vast majority of which are bad or at least disturbing. The wonderful everyday events are usually not even presented and there is a distorted picture of reality, because this is what attracts attention.
We are led to believe that deep down the world is going to hell, and that is the widely held view. Our brains are tuned to be able to identify the views that agree with our pre-existing views. The system is called Reticular Activating System and if we have “set” it in this way, it will give us these results. If we feel unlucky, proof will come to us constantly that we are unlucky. If we believe we are not good at something, we will self-affirm. So if we believe that the world is headed for destruction, we will only listen to and process the information that confirms just that.
What cognitive errors intensify the problem in our minds?
Give me the Strength to change what I can, the Patience to endure what I cannot, and the Wisdom to know the difference between them.
I’m practicing the Wisdom that I can’t change everything. The world around us has both sorrows and joys and many of them we cannot affect. And when we realize that, it can be healthier for us.
I practice my Patience and my critical thinking: we are not bad people if there are burglars and they burgled an old lady. Some things we cannot change immediately, but we can contribute to changing them in the future. I look at what is happening realistically and measure my Strength.
At the time of writing this article, wildfires are raging in Greece. I ask myself the following questions:
Can I change everything? No. Some of them I have to put up with.
Can I change any of these? Yes.
Am I interested in being able to contribute? If no, well, we can’t contribute to everything and it’s good to accept that. If yes, see the next question
What can I change? For example in the wildfires: I can learn what to look out for in the forest, I can immediately call the fire department when I see smoke, volunteer to help, send materials/money to those affected by the fire, pick up trash, etc.
What is easier to start now? Choose what is easier for you and start. Start with something small and easy for you and proceed according to how much you want, how much you can and how much it pleases you.
And at the same time:
I pick my battles. What is it that I am passionate about? Where can I offer my help better? Am I interested in humanitarian help? Do I care about the environment? Find something you love and give what you can: your time, your money, a helping hand, a smile, a good chat, whatever you have. The rest will be taken care of by other wonderful people like you, be sure of that.
I offer what I can. Helping improves our psychology, sense of belonging, mental and physical health, self-confidence and self-efficacy. It also helps fellow human beings, the environment, society and really has a huge impact.
I am becoming the change I want to see in the world. “Be the change you want to see in the world” said Mahatma Gandhi and he started by changing himself to help millions of Indians who were living in miserable conditions.
I am improving, developing, becoming what I would like others around me to be, treating people, animals and the environment as I want to be treated. I can’t be perfect, but I can contribute to a world in my own unique way.
I keep my brain healthy:
Feeling small/helpless is common, having unpleasant current affairs affect my own reality is also common. That doesn’t mean it’s good for me, nor is it acceptable. I can protect myself and act purposefully.
And I can, starting with my own strength, save the world!
Love responsibility. Say: I, I alone will save the earth. If it’s not saved, it’s my fault!