Balancing Between Saving the World and Savoring It
Nurturing ourselves during difficult times.
Posted March 3, 2021 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch
Psychiatrist Victor Frankl developed a form of psychotherapy called “Logotherapy." He found that what helped him and others survive a Nazi concentration camp was to find a sense of meaning amid suffering. He discovered that the main drive in life is not for pleasure or power, but meaning. His classic book, Man’s Search for Meaning, encourages us to move toward greater mental and emotional health by discovering what brings meaning to our lives.
If you’re a caring person concerned about our world, perhaps you find meaning in working to improve our current condition in your small corner of it. At the same time, you might realize that time passes quickly and you want to enjoy your life. You may want to relish the beauty of nature and our planet before it deteriorates further, as well as enjoy time with your loved ones.
E. B. White summed up the dilemma succintly: “Every morning I awake torn between a desire to save the world and an inclination to savor it. ”
How Much News to Expose Ourselves To?
Reading the news these days can be disturbing, with bleak reports about climate change, pandemic deaths, and divisive politics. Some people respond to unnerving news by trying to ignore it, fearful of sinking into hopelessness. Others experience troubling news as a call to action, perhaps attending demonstrations, signing petitions, or volunteering to help change things. A fortunate few find a meaningful way to earn a living contributing to our world.
Finding a balance between our desire to save our world and our desire to savor it is a daunting task. I wish I could offer a simple answer, but here are some things to consider.
Living a Balanced, Meaningful Life
Making a positive contribution to our world can offer meaningful comfort by allowing us to be a part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
If you’re doing good things in our world, that’s admirable. But as White implies, it would be wise to pace ourselves so that we enjoy our life and don’t burn out. We won’t be much help to the world, nor to ourselves, if we run ourselves into the ground.
An antidote to burnout and compassion fatigue is to balance our lives with nurturing activities and people. A walk in the park, a bike ride, exercise, artwork, meditation, yoga, or whatever nurtures us can recharge our batteries and boost our immune system.
If your work is solitary, you may especially need to add nurturing connections to your life. Being wired for connection, we fare better when we’re not isolated.
Don’t Overlook the Small Things That Make a Difference
It’s a daunting task to nudge our world in a positive direction. It’s important to not overlook the small, yet meaningful ways we can make a difference in our part of the world. “Think globally and act locally” has long been an operating principle for those wanting to improve life on our planet.
If you can balance your life in a way in which you can cultivate inner resources that help you maintain a warm smile, a spring in your step, or kindness in your voice, you’re more likely to touch people positively than if your mood is dour. As you balance your life with activities and relationships that are nurturing, you will generate more inner resources, thereby allowing you to touch others with a kindness and caring that might buoy their spirits.
There’s no simple formula for how to balance saving our world with savoring it. But the more skilled we are at taking care of ourselves, the more that our caring can be sustainable. Self-care creates the foundation for helping others.
Each of us needs to keep re-finding our own balance. The more we nurture ourselves and savor the beautiful things in life, the more inner resources we have to offer others.
© John Amodeo