We care about this planet. We worry about it. Feel for it. We ache when it aches, we mourn when it loses, and the endless influx of doomsday scenarios and heart-wrenching news is almost enough to make us stop and wonder, ‘Why am I even bothering?’
Cynicism in the environmental space has become one of the sneakiest issues of them all. At the end of the day though, one CEO asks, how is this serving us? How are the worry, doubt, and negativity building a better world? The answer? It’s not.
Cynicism is More Comfortable Than Optimism
The answer is simple — it’s easier to look at all of this, throw our hands up and be angry at the bad guys, and let that be the end of the story. What’s hard is seeing these stories, and in spite of them all, acting anyway. In spite of the mountains we have to climb, putting one foot in front of the other, and not looking down.
Moxie Is Foxy
Anne Therese Bengtsson, creator of the Hey Change podcast and founder of Role Models Management, knows a thing or two about passion and frustration. She’s used her transformative journey to instead focus on learning, improving herself, admitting when she’s wrong, and taking small actions every day that add up to a big difference.
“The podcast is just a platform for me to share things with others as I grow and learn, and to show them that everything is a learning curve — we don’t have to be perfect to try something out.”
During our interview, Anne told me where she started in her youth, and what led to a perspective shift that caused her to see her role in the world in a more positive and productive light.
“When I was growing up, I was really reluctant to change. I planned everything and thought everything had to be a certain way, and when things didn’t work out, I freaked out and tried to fix it.”
Anne realized where she was putting her energy wasn’t serving her best, and that was the catalyst that took her from cynic to relentless optimist.
“I wasn’t working at all with the energy and transformation of change, and at one point, I just kind of had an awakening. I read a quote that said, ‘Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable,’ and it gave me a new perspective on life.”
Putting Your Happiness First As a Means to Change
For years, it’s been common practice and decency to put everyone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of our own, to shoulder the world’s problems, keep our heads down, and focus on others.
New thought leaders are challenging that logic, and saying if you don’t work on your own happiness first, you don’t have much hope of fixing anything else in the world.
In an interview with Google X engineer Mo Gawdat on her podcast, Anne talks in detail about prioritizing happiness as a means to lasting change.
“We need to find ways to be happy and to understand that as a human being that it is my right, and it is my duty to be happy, because only then can I do good in this world. I think sometimes we kind of have that backwards, that we should postpone happiness.”
Sometimes Connecting Means Disconnecting
“Deciding to live a life in happiness is like getting fit for the summer. It requires determination and prioritization.”
— Mo Gawdat
In a world of instant news and autoplay videos, it’s hard to tune out the negative, but that’s exactly what needs to happen if we’re ever really going to change anything.
“Something I learned in marketing is that fear and sadness and negativity will make you feel like you can’t do anything. You get paralyzed by it, it’s just how the human body works. But if you can feel empowered and inspired and optimistic, then that’s what gets us to take action.”
If you feel bogged down, overwhelmed, and like you don’t know how to even begin tackling the world’s problems, know that you’re not alone.
First, focus on saving your own sanity, and staying positive so that you can take forward action every day, rather than be paralyzed into inaction by overwhelm. Limit your exposure (dramatically) to news sources, and read only what you need to stay informed.
If you’re in sensationalist Facebook groups or find yourself getting sucked into comment wars, leave the groups, and stop reading the comments. Censor what you expose yourself to, and you’ll find it’s much easier to put one foot in front of the other each day.
It All Starts With You
“We need to start talking about the environment and our planet in positive terms. I’m a self-proclaimed climate optimist. I think it’s really important that focus on possibilities, not just problems.”
It’s easy to watch the news and agonize. It’s easy to feel the fury, the sadness, the desperation well up, and threaten our niceties and common decency with judgment and comment wars. What’s not easy is seeing all of that, and acting anyway.
“We’re constantly learning, everything is a journey. We can eat tofu, and not have to say we’re a vegan. It’s a journey — one step at a time.”
Start with what you can do, no matter how small it is, but the most important thing is to just start.
Do you find it hard to remain positive in our current environmental and political climate? Continue the conversation on Facebook or Instagram with @AvocadoMattress or #AvocadoGreenMagazine.
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