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Managing Your Eco-Anxiety
According to the article What to know about eco-anxiety:
Eco-anxiety refers to a fear of environmental damage or ecological disaster. This sense of anxiety is largely based on the current and predicted future state of the environment and human-induced climate change.
Honestly, all of us who think about sustainability likely suffer from eco-anxiety to some degree. But, according to the research, there are some things that you can do.
One thing is to get educated. You are probably well educated about what’s wrong, but not many understand what’s right, what sustainability actually looks like. Thankfully, that’s an easy to learn. Nature shows us what sustainability looks like. Living things thrived on Earth billions of years before humans emerged, and will continue to do so in spite of our impacts. Sustainability in Nature is about adapting and evolving, creating conditions conducive to other living things. It’s about relying on things that are abundant, rather than things that are scarce, and relying on each other. If you want to see what sustainability looks like, just go for a walk in a forest or a prairie and take a closer look. Just ask Nature.
Another thing you can do is become more resilient. You know what to resist (over-consumption, single-use plastics, fossil fuels), but how might you bounce back from change and disruption? Life has been facing change and disruption for billions of years. At the beginning, life emerged in seemingly toxic atmospheres. Life adapted and evolved and diversified to spread across every continent as well as all of the oceans, figuring out how to survive bitter cold, blazing heat, and the incredible pressures found at the bottom of the sea. Learning to discover and apply Nature’s strategies for resilience to your work, as well as your personal life, can make you more optimistic and, well, more resilient.
Finally, you can foster a closer relationship to Nature. You can go outside more often. You can
bring Nature inside. You can also recognize that you are a part of Nature, body and soul — you can’t not be. When eating, breathing, and digesting your body is participating in Nature’s endless systems and cycles. You are also born with an innate understanding of Nature, the way it works, and your role in it. This paradigm, the one you experience when you’re enjoying the outdoors, is your Natural Paradigm. Learning to live from your Natural Paradigm can give you new clarity and understanding of our world while building your resilience.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to rediscover your Natural Paradigm, I invite you to download the [free] Tiny Transformation Workbook which will give you a tiny peek into the Natural Paradigm and then a tiny experience of intentionally living from your own Natural Paradigm.
Growing your Wild Wisdom
Wisdom might be described as the intention to use accumulated knowledge and experience to make good decisions and judgements, and to behave in ways that are appropriate for the moment and the long-term.
Everyone accumulates knowledge and experience as they go through life, but not everyone gains wisdom in the process. What’s the difference?
People who gain wisdom over time pay attention. They intentionally and constantly observe what is going on around them, as well as within themselves. Later, they reflect on their observations and seek to gain new insights and understanding about the world, others, and themselves. With these reflections, they imagine how they might make better decisions and judgements, and might behave in ways that are more appropriate. Beyond that, they not only intend to follow through on what they imagine, they act on it. Of course when they act, they observe and reflect. Wisdom is gained by following the Continuous Learning Spiral.
Our current dominant cultural paradigm — what I’m calling the Conventional Paradigm — favors action and reaction over reflection and imagination. Who’s got the time for that? Instead of using our accumulated knowledge and experience to learn ever more, we look at them as personal assets to hoard and to keep ahead of or suppress the competition. The older we get the more we think we know — especially compared to others. Being open-minded, learning from others, imagining new ways to be in the world, and striving to become a better person suggests that you’re not already on top of your game. It’s better to show confidence than curiosity. That’s how it works in the “real world”.
By contrast, Nature’s Paradigm values curiosity, exploring and engaging with systems, and seeking synergies. Nature flourishes by continuously learning. Since you are a biological being, you are born with Nature’s Paradigm and the capacity for Wild Wisdom. You are operating from your Natural Paradigm when you experience wonder and awe, when your imagination runs wild, when you are inspired by others (including non-humans), when you are authentically listening, when you are humble.
You can grow your Wild Wisdom by re-discovering, strengthening, and practicing living from your Natural Paradigm — especially when you’re engaging with the “real world”. In the process, you’ll flourish and contribute to a flourishing world.
If you’d like to explore this further, I invite you to download the [free] Tiny Transformation Workbook which will give you tiny peeks into the “Conventional Paradigm” and the “Natural Paradigm”, and then a tiny experience of intentionally living from your Natural Paradigm.
For the past several years, the Amani Institute has invited me to teach a course called BioEmpathy as part of their flagship program Social Innovation Management. They include this course in their program because they want their Fellows to be able to bring a deep connection and understanding of Nature to their social innovation work. And it has to go beyond inspiration — it has to be actionable.
Each time I’ve taught that course, I’ve gained new insights from the Amani staff, the Fellows, and from Nature. And each time, I gain a deeper sense of what BioEmpathy is all about, and why it is so important to all of us.
Those of you who are familiar with Design Thinking and human-centered design know the importance of empathy. It's not enough to imagine how your potential user might, or should, engage with what you're designing. You have to try to sense and understand what your potential user is thinking, feeling, hearing, saying, doing, and experiencing. You have to have empathy.
Those of you who are familiar with life-centered design, regenerative design, and biomimicry know the importance of respecting, including, and learning from Nature. It needs to go beyond inspiration. You have to try to sense and understand what Nature is thinking, feeling, hearing, saying, doing, and experiencing. You have to be able to sense sustainability. You have to have bio-empathy.
We’re all born with empathy and bio-empathy; however, our current dominant cultural paradigm — what I’m calling the Conventional Paradigm — teaches us that we need to be selfish and exploitative of other people and Nature to succeed in the “real world.”. Luckily, when we are living from our own Natural Paradigm — such as when we’re out in Nature, spending time with loved ones, or being creative — we naturally experience and express empathy and bio-empathy. We might describe this as feeling whole and connected, open and expansive, generous and joyful. You have a deep understanding that you are you, you are us, and you are Nature, all at the same time, You know you can’t not be.
I have come to believe that to make real change, we — individually and collectively — need to express and experience empathy and bio-empathy in the work we do. We need to recognize and let go of what I’m calling the Conventional Paradigm, and shift to living from our Natural Paradigm.
If you’d like to explore this further, I invite you to download the [free] Tiny Transformation Workbook, which will give you tiny peeks into the “Conventional Paradigm” and the “Natural Paradigm”, and then a tiny experience of intentionally living from your Natural Paradigm.
Why is it that so many of us are working so hard to address the multiple environmental and humanitarian crises we’re facing, yet we’re not making the headway needed?
I believe that to make real change, we — individually and collectively — need to see and understand the world, how it works, and our role in it, very differently. We need to recognize and let go of what I’m calling the Conventional Paradigm, and shift to living from our Natural Paradigm.
Although I may be using new framing or terms, I am certainly not alone in this thinking.
“A sustainable economy won’t mean much if we are still driven by a desire for unceasing consumption and mired in unhappiness and alienation.”
~ Navi Radjou
“Nothing about the inherent nature of business dictates that irreversible environmental damage, poor labor standards and conformity in leadership are prerequisites to profit. Successful stewardship of our businesses can exist alongside responsible stewardship of our communities and planet. Future generations are counting on it.”
~ The B Team
“If you want to “save the world”, you must first “find” your own consciousness, otherwise everything you do, regardless of good intentions, will be unconscious, will reflect and reinforce the unconsciousness of the world. It is the consciousness of the world that you are trying to save.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as in being able to remake ourselves.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
So we need to shift our paradigm so that we, collectively, can begin to undo the damage that we’re doing.
But we also need to shift our paradigm so that each of us, individually, can live in a way that is more inspired, more creative, more wise, and in alignment with our own values, everyday — even at work.
If you’re curious how this might work, I invite you to download the [free] Tiny Transformation Workbook which will give you tiny peeks into the “Conventional Paradigm” and the “Natural Paradigm”, and then a tiny experience of intentionally living from your Natural Paradigm.