In the study and assessment of all things pertaining to sustainability, we are groomed to identify the root cause of any given situation, those fundamental structures at the very core of the issue, and their cascading extensions throughout all interrelated systems. With this in mind, I would have to say that myopic decision-making is humanity’s most significant flaw.
How is it that we, as evolved intelligent beings, continue to exist in societies that have far too long been compulsory to narrow-minded short-term decision-making, treating symptoms, not causes, as if a bandage over a bullet wound will stop the bleeding?
If we strip it all down to bare naked truth, there are only really two qualities that any one of us must possess to live sustainably – mindfulness and compassion.
How do we inspire change in these antiquated governance and commerce structures? How do we circumvent defeatism and cultivate our prowess as global citizens? How do we collectively grow communities that propel our social and cultural evolution?
It begins with mindfulness – tapping into our innate awareness and considering the impact of every one of our actions. If we strip it all down to bare naked truth, there are only really two qualities that any one of us must possess to live sustainably – mindfulness and compassion. Being mindful and compassionate in our decision-making is at the very core of a sustainability mindset, and it makes a substantial difference in how we interact with the people and environment around us (that we often take for granted).
One effective strategy for activating and expanding our capacity in this regard is to begin a regular meditation practice. In fact, one could argue that meditation – in its many varied forms – is the root of mindfulness and compassion. It is an invaluable tool that enables us to develop awareness and positively alter our decision-making and morality at the most fundamental level. This has been so for thousands of years, only recently permeating into mainstream society and occasionally seen in corporate culture, with behavioral and neurological research validating its efficacy.
Perhaps some of you are scratching your heads, asking how meditation could possibly aid our sustainability endeavors. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying stop what you’re doing, sit on a cushion, meditate, and all will be fine. Quite the opposite, in fact. We must be proactive, expand our perspective, and work diligently to change our default behaviors. We must transform our mindset.
While many solutions are offered on how to live and conduct business sustainably, without deep-seated mindfulness and compassion, the widespread adoption of and sincere commitment to meaningful sustainability practices may continue to idle behind our ever-consuming distractions and capitalistic motives. That is not to say that there aren’t extraordinary and purposeful sustainability measures being taken by individuals and organizations worldwide; there most certainly are, and the number is growing. However, complacency and business-as-usual are still the disposition of many and the foremost obstacles to creating truly sustainable societies.
While some turn a blind eye or sweep these issues under the rug and try to forget that we’re at the precipice of Earth’s sixth mass extinction, I don’t believe all inaction is intentional or for lack of caring. We are all understandably overwhelmed with the multiplicity of threats emerging from our environmental degradation and social injustices. The growing body of research on climate change anxiety indicates that most younger generations feel powerless – among a slew of other emotions – but we are not helpless. Instead, we must rise to the challenge of restructuring the faculties we have control over, our own thoughts and actions. Research suggests that taking action in the fight against climate change may help people overcome their anxiety.
In either case, whether you’re one to look the other way and carry on or you are overwhelmed by the daunting challenges humanity presently faces, mindfulness practices are brilliantly effective at enabling positive change. It helps people develop clarity, equanimity, sound moral judgment, and compassion. But we must be committed and willing to do the work.
By improving our state of being and expanding our perspective, we can ease our anxiety, renew our connection with ourselves and the world around us, and view necessary change not as a threat but as an opportunity to adapt and do better to live within the boundaries of Earth’s limits. If we can reshape our mindset, sustainable living will simply become the standard way of life.
I am a systems-thinking future-focused strategy & management coach striving to share knowledge on and propose solutions to the risks we face in the present and potential future state of our world. I am passionately driven to work collaboratively with organizations and aid them in developing sustainability mindsets and roadmaps to increase their adaptability, resilience, and long-term sustainability. If your organization has yet to take its first steps toward future-proofing, please don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com to discuss how we can get you started or schedule a free consultation here.