I think the world would be so much better if we all were more thoughtful about the choices we make. It’s easy to just go with the flow and let life happen to us, but if we do that, we will be worse off as individuals and as a collective. It’s important to question and consider what we’re doing with our time, why we’re doing it, and how we’re doing it.
What we do with our lives generally gets quite a bit of our attention. It’s one of the first things people ask in conversation (“What do you do?”) and one of the primary ways we find purpose and meaning. Whether you’re a freelancer, stay at home parent, administrative assistant, or CEO, it’s important for each us to be thoughtful about what we do. What am I good at? What do I enjoy doing? What are my goals? It is the first and most obvious step, but this doesn’t mean it’s easy or unimportant.
But being thoughtful about what we do isn’t enough — we need to consider why we’re doing it. This encourages us to complete the sentence, “What I do is important because…” or “I am motivated to do this because…” or “This is worth all this time and energy because…” If we aren’t thoughtful about the ‘why,’ we are more likely to experience burn out or disillusionment because, when things inevitably get hard, we need to have motivation that goes beyond our current circumstances. It also helps us identify situations where we need to move on to something else. The ‘why’ gives us what we need to get through or tells us that we need to get out.
Being thoughtful about how we live is what really trips us up. It’s the area where we are often the most thoughtless. We do things a certain way because we’ve always done them that way. Or because it’s the cheapest* option. But what are the consequences of the way we do things? I think the reason ‘how’ gets overlooked is because, if we’re really thoughtful about it, it could affect us negatively in the short term. It means potentially choosing a more expensive* product because it’s more environmentally friendly. It may result in things taking longer or choosing a less convenient way to get things done. It means looking at things holistically, beyond short-term wins. It forces us to think outside of ourselves and consider the broader effects of our actions.
The thing is, being thoughtful takes a lot of energy. It’s actually really exhausting. And, unfortunately, in the world we live in today, it feels like every single choice we make has a myriad of unintended negative consequences, from driving our car to buying a tomato. So, in order to not get totally overwhelmed, we need to (1) choose our battles, (2) take small steps, (3) encourage others to join us, and (4) do our best to improve systems.
But don’t for one second think that your actions do not matter!
*Just because it’s the cheapest option for you today does not mean it’s actually the cheapest option! Things that are cheap up front can be incredibly costly in the long run for you — and in the short and long run for other individuals, the environment, and our communities.