Leading cultural change, one of the big tasks is to change collective beliefs.
One of my big discoveries of my experiments with avoiding flying and food packaging is that what I expected to feel like deprivation and sacrifice ended up becoming two of the greatest changes in my life.
Living by your most important values, especially when they override less important values that you were doing without thinking, improves your life.
While avoiding packaged food and avoiding flying aren’t life-or-death decisions, they affect a lot in your life. I knew my book would come out in my year (now 17 months and counting) of not flying, so I wouldn’t be able to tour.
Here is one of the biggest problems with suggesting “every bit helps” and tips to do minor things:
It implies changing your behavior is hard or undesirable. My experience told me that big changes led to big improvements. My new food habits became delicious, healthier, cheaper, more convenient, and connected me to my community more. A small change wouldn’t have led to improvements.
In other words: suggesting small changes reinforces the beliefs that created the problem. It undermines cultural change. For that matter, it undermines individual change.
Another problem is that it makes people feel they did something meaningful when they did something negligible. For example, I’ve seen advice to reduce travel pollution by closing your laptop lid on a flight faster. Compared to the pollution of flying, the pollution from the laptop is negligibly small, but the advice may lead people to think, “I flew, which pollutes, but I also closed my laptop lid, so I probably broke even.”
I recommend big changes to reduce pollution. Whatever challenge you see at the beginning is nothing compared to how much you’ll improve your life.
I predict that the bigger your challenge that reduces pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, resource depletion, and son on, the more you’ll see your life improve.
Why improve your life only a little?
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