Sustainability From the Inside Out

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I am not a scientist. I am a visionary and I look at trends and see patterns. One trend that I see is a move towards more sustainability in the fuels we use to make things happen in the world. We want to heat and cool our buildings, move around our communities, and travel the world. We want to keep our manufacturing and food distribution going and keep the lights on in our cities. We are trending towards fuels that do not use up or destroy natural resources, and fuels that we can use without causing environmental degradation, either by their use, or in the process of their disposal. Everyone is aware of this trend, even those who seemingly oppose it.

A pattern I see is a continued reliance on unsustainable fuels we use to make things happen inside ourselves. We want to create and produce. We want to connect with others, learn and grow. We want to be healthy and happy, and maybe make a difference for someone less fortunate than we are. All too often the fuels – or motivators – we use to accomplish our goals and dreams are both limited, in that we will run out of them eventually, and toxic in their use and in their disposal – in a word they are unsustainable.

As we turn our attention to sustainable fuel sources in the physical world, we can also begin to be aware of the fuels we use in our minds to motivate and inspire us. No one has to do this, and many people won’t. Yet, the advantages of switching to sustainable fuels inwardly are phenomenal. Sustainable inner fuel:

  • is, as far as we can tell, limitless; we won’t run out of fuel, no matter how much energy it takes to accomplish our ideals.
  • is healthy; it has none of the side effects of more toxic fuel sources in the body.
  • is pleasurable; we will enjoy life much more when it is fueled sustainably.
  • does not harm others; in fact sustainability, in this case is often contagious and is good for everyone.

Before we go into what inner fuels are sustainable and which are not, let’s look at why this might be important. What does sustainability on the inside have to do with sustainability on the outside?

The fuels we choose inwardly have tremendous impact on our sense of wellbeing. When we choose positive, proactive and sustainable motivators we foster a positive outlook on life and feel better about ourselves and others. We are less stressed out physically, mentally and emotionally. We are more resilient and are able to ride the tides of life without falling apart over small setbacks.

When we are consistent in our choice of positive inner fuel we set a new standard for ourselves. We get comfortable and used to feeling better, so that any discrepancy, any slip back into unsustainable fuel, feels so uncomfortable that it is a loud inner reminder to make a more sustainable choice. As we feel better and better about ourselves, we begin to gently create healthy boundaries and stop leaking our energy to situations that have drained us in the past. We become less tolerant of unsustainability, less accepting of conditions that are toxic, less willing to poison ourselves with stress hormones.

This newfound self-regard translates out into the world and we become less accepting of conditions that will harm our bodies and our planet. We have an overflow of self-respect that turns into respect for others and for all life. When a critical mass of people feel this way, the entrenched social-political policies and economic priorities will crumble. We will look up and wonder how we ever could have been so blind as to become dependent on non-renewable, unsustainable fuel sources.

Each one of us has a choice each moment of each day to choose sustainable fuel for ourselves, or to continue using the fuels that wear away our bodies and our wellbeing.

The unsustainable inner fuel sources that we have become addicted to are: fear, judgment, deadlines, anxiety, competition, bribery and comparison, in short, any motivator that relies on adrenaline to move us forward. So, when we procrastinate to create an artificial time crunch for a project, or when we mentally castigate ourselves for being lazy or not productive enough, or when we take any action based upon what we are afraid will happen if we don’t, we are choosing fuel sources, motivators, that are unsustainable in the long run.

These fuels are unsustainable because, just like fossil fuels, they are finite. Our bodies were designed to go into a fight/flight/freeze reaction when our physical safety was threatened, not to live in that survival mode all day, every day. Adrenal fatigue, mental burn out and emotional numbness will set in after sustained use of these fuels, tanking effectiveness and creating feelings of being out of control and helpless. And, just like nuclear fuels, the by-products of stress in the body create toxic build up that wears on the organs and compromises the immune system. These fuels pollute inwardly just as surely as oil, coal and uranium do in the outer world.

We cannot keep going on like this. So, what are the fuels we can look towards? Sustainable inner fuels are: Purpose, Connection, Service, Joy, and other pro-active values, the values that represent the best part of being human. There is a tremendous difference between doing work because we have to or because we should, and doing work because we feel a calling to it or because we enjoy it.

It is tempting to think that we have to wait until conditions in our lives change before we can access those sustainable fuel sources, but this is falling into the trap of unsustainability. Our greater purpose in life has less to do with what we do in the world than it has to do with how we do it. If we decide to see part of our overall purpose as bringing kindness or joy to the world, we can do that no matter where we find ourselves, and we can do it every day. We will change the world by doing so.

Maybe your Purpose is to be friendly. Maybe you know how to connect with others and help them feel appreciated. Maybe your Joy is about singing, which you can bring everywhere you go. Maybe you like to volunteer with teenagers or anonymously give to those in need. When we choose Purpose, Connection, Service and Joy as our motivators, we impact the global condition. We change the world for the better from the inside out.

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