Sustainability Starts with Oneself

If you want to save yourself or change the world, look inside first.

If you are like most people, chances are, you have things in life that you're dissatisfied with.

For example, you may be struggling a bit with your health, having a bit of trouble maintaining great relationship, or you could be a bit short on the financial front.

And then, there's also the things that are outside of you. For example, you might disagree with the way your city or country is run, you might find our way of exploiting the planet deplorable, or you might find the current state of social inequity distasteful.

In fact, with everything that's happening around us, it's easy to resort to blame or, if you're more proactive, activism, to get things changed. After all, our organizations and surrounding are chiefly responsible for the state we find ourselves in today.

For example: 

  • When it comes to health issues, many of them can be traced back to our genes.
  • When it comes to relationship problems, many of them have to do with the circle we find ourselves in
  • When it comes to the environment, our corporations are usually at fault.

Except that none of that is exactly true. In fact, sustainability actually starts with you.

Sustainability Is An Inside Job

Think about it for a moment: when you're unsustainable yourself, your self-concerns are already keeping you strapped on time, so how much more time can you allocate in helping others before you run out of your own fuel?

Similarly, if your income is barely enough to cover all your expenses, how much more money can you allocate in helping out families, charities and other organizations before you end up homeless?

Moreover, if you have a series of unsustainable traits and habits, wouldn't you just be propagating them to your community and organizations if you continue as usual? How exactly will that make you or the world a better place?

If anything, just like it'd be awkward to promote environmental protection when you yourselves have little connection to the wild, it'd be equally awkward to talk about the larger sustainability issues when your personal sustainability is at stake.

Whichever way you think about it, the first principle here is that you ought to be sustainable at the personal level, so that one day, you can hopefully carry on the weight of your community — and then extend that to the larger world.

Taking Care of Yourself vs. Taking Care of Your Surrounding

Now you might be asking: "isn't blatant self-interest a primary reason why we have so many problems in this world?" And in many cases, you'd be right.

For example:

  • One of the reasons why we're now facing a climate crisis is because we prioritize our monetary gain over the environment.
  • One of the reasons why we're now seeing an epidemic of chronic diseases is because we prefer treating symptoms rather than treating causes. 

But because of that, your goal has just become a bit grander. Namely:

Not only do you need to make yourself more sustainable, but you also need to do it in a way that does not degrade of your surrounding as well.

In other words, yes, you need to help yourself, and yes, you need to move beyond your narrow self-interest. So you need to do both.

Either way, your priority remains on making yourselves as sustainable as possible. After all, your actions — be it your habits, your consumption pattern, your lifestyle or your diet — are a big part why the world is what it is today.

Honing Your Craft

Once you realize the importance of sustainabilizing yourself without destabilizing your surrounding, here are a few things you can do to start moving towards that goal:

  • Develop characters and vision that inspires yourself and give others hope
  • Cultivate awareness of the problems and the potential problems around you
  • Learn to plan and schedule your days and habits, so as to live a life of freedom, balance and harmony.
  • Avoid superfluous use of your time and resources (such as lavish spending and wasteful habits)

And as you do so from the morning to the night, you still need to continue to educate yourself and culminate the true know-hows — so as to not fall victim to ignorance, pseudo-solutions and tempting ideologies.

But once you're able to act sustainably, you'll be able to take care of others and propagate your messages of sustainability to your community and the outer world in a way that truly benefits the humanity.

And as you do, you'll progress from a wandering being, a self-focused being to a self-loving being and a selfless being. You'll acquire a global consciousness that allows you to "transcend" as an individual (a term coined by psychologist Abraham Maslow).

But if you ignore it, you could end up like a blind leading other blinds on how to behave and act, propagating mistakes, short-term thinking, wrongdoings and half-truth to the world.

After all, being a sustainabilitist is all about having a solid foundation, and a solid foundation starts with oneself.

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