How to Fight Do-Gooder Paralysis With Three Small Steps

You feel like you’ll never make a difference. But you can. Here’s how.

Photo by Lubomirkin on Unsplash

Ibelieve that everyone not only wants to do good, but is capable of making a real, tangible difference. Sometimes, that feels like a radical opinion.

As humans, we don’t like to change even if we know it’s going to do good for us, our community, or even the world, because we don’t think we can really make a difference. It feels futile.

Sure, I can become vegetarian — but my neighbors and billions of others still eat meat, so what’s the point?

Or sure, I can start going for a walk five minutes a day, but that’ll never actually add up to anything, so why bother?

The truth is that small changes over time compound. They have a ripple effect, both within us and in our community.

Want to make a change in your life but don’t know how? Here are three ways you can make a difference.

1. Mixing business with pleasure.

Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash

I have wanted to volunteer for years. I’ve even inquired in a few places, more than once. But something always stops me.

So many charities end up embroiled in scandals. Who can tell if volunteering is actually good? Plus, I never feel that one person volunteering one hour per week can ever really make a difference. There’s no point, so I don’t bother.

But then I started doing this running group, called GoodGym.

Photo by Daniel Funes Fuentes on Unsplash

The premise is you have a group of local do-gooders who jog to an area in the community that needs work, does the work, and jogs back to base. It’s exercise mixed with helping out your local area.

We built a path in a park I’ve spent a lot of time in before. There were 40 of us shifting 9 tons of sand and limestone in just under 45 minutes.

At the beginning, there was no path, and at the end there was. The results were impossible to deny.

I signed up because I wanted accountability with my exercising. But I continued with it because it was amazing to see a real, tangible, immediate difference to my community.

If you want to volunteer but you’re like me, find something that gives back to you, and that lets you see immediate results. It’s much more gratifying and you’re much more likely to stick with it.

2. Meat-free Mondays.

Going vegetarian or vegan is reportedly one of the biggest ways to make a difference for yourself, and for the planet.

Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

But it’s tough to make a huge change in our diets, so many of us put it off or deny it altogether. And small changes seem pointless, because the quantity of change needed overall is so overwhelming.

So we don’t even bother.

But actually, even replacing just a single meal per week with a vegetarian or vegan alternative makes a difference.

First of all, you’d save 2.4 kg of CO2 per week. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot, but consider that’s 124.8 kg per year!

Photo by James Sutton on Unsplash

Not only that, but processed meat especially has been demonstrated to have negative health consequences down the road, and it’s not great for your waistline in the meantime.

There are so many amazing meat alternatives these days, like Quorn sausages, or bean burgers. If you prefer vegetarian food that doesn’t try to pretend to be meat, there are so many cultures whose food isn’t based around meat or dairy like ours is.

Try a curry ,or get started with falafel for some meals which don’t try to substitute for meat or dairy but just are delicious.

3. Shopping with purpose.

Finally, one aspect of our lives we don’t tend to question is clothing. Many people don’t know that fast fashion has a really negative impact on the environment, not to mention the laborers who don’t get a living wage for their tremendous efforts to mass-produce our clothing.

Some people close their eyes because they’d rather keep buying afforable clothing, easily.

But it’s easy to take a step back and source or clothing elsewhere. If you have the time, you can shop second-hand.

Photo by Rema Rozay on Unsplash

It can be incredibly inexpensive to get good-quality clothes from a charity shop or thrift store, clothes which you’re saving from a landfill.

Every time you buy something from a store that doesn’t support inhumane labor practices, you’re voting with your wallet for better conditions.

Next time you’re looking for a top? Go to the thrift store. Save money, give back to a charity or local community, and contribute to saving the planet from yet another piece of clothing being discarded.

In conclusion, it’s so easy to believe that the changes we make are inconsequential or don’t benefit us.

Being a do-gooder is hard, because you have to believe, simultaneously, that the world is capable of being changed for the better, and that even small acts can help. Otherwise we’d neer take action.

But every single small change I’ve listed above has a direct, immediate and tangible benefit. Not just for us, but it benefits our community and even the entire world.

It’s 2019 and the news would have us believe that everything is terrible, we’re all going to die, and there’s no remedy. But I know we still have time to change.

Small changes have a ripple effect. They multiply over time as you do them again and again. And as they do, as more and more people try just one vegetarian meal, or do just one act of good for their neighborhood, or get just a single top from a thrift store, other people see what they’re doing. And they jump on board.

Biology MSc. Psychology nerd. She/her. Get my FREE 5-day Medium Starter Kit to make money writing about what you love:

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