Setting intentions and self-reflection for all LifePhoto by: Stock Photo

 by Richard Landry —

By taking three quick moments for self-reflection every day, we can cultivate greater joy, resilience, and effectiveness in our work for Life.

There’s an old Buddhist proverb: “Good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end.” This somewhat enigmatic phrase provides a powerful clue about how to live a life of joy and resilience in the face of very difficult odds, which is the place where we, as activists in the service of Life, find ourselves.

Working to save animals and habitat might feel at times like soul-draining work, given how little those in power seem to care about these matters, which affect us all and generations to come. In fact, a sense of powerlessness, and “activism fatigue,” is one of the great enemies of effective action. It strips us of the joy and energy that living things and natural places inspired in us to begin with. Often, seeing the relentless destruction around us can cause us to lose heart. And when we lose heart, we lose our will to work; and with that goes our effectiveness.

“Good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end” is heart-healing advice for those of us who find ourselves in this tough spot. We are in this fix because we naturally want to see the results of our work—today. Instead, we see bad things happening, along with good; and an uncertain trajectory into a future where we might not see the fruits of our labor after all—maybe not in our lifetimes; maybe never.

When the situation is ambiguous like this, there’s only one thing we can count upon: the power of our own intentions. We can harness that power to see us through the tough spots and help us stay the course.

“Good in the beginning” is advice on how to reaffirm and tap the power of our intention at the beginning of each day. We take a quick moment—a minute, even less—to remind ourselves of why we are doing the work we are doing. We can even use an image—a picture of a favorite animal, nature spot, or person—to ground our intention to make it real to us as we start our day.

“Good in the middle” is advice on how to work with the ups and downs that naturally come with action on behalf of wildlife and nature. Further advice on this point states, “Act without a gaining idea.” In other words, we can let go of the notion that we must ourselves see success with our own eyes in order to carry on. We could instead act for the joy of it, knowing that what are doing in the moment is the highest and best use of our time, regardless of whether we see tangible results that day or not. This is something we might find we need to remind ourselves periodically through the day—just a simple moment to pause and remember.

“Good in the end” is advice for coming back to ourselves and reaffirming our purpose while honing our effectiveness. We take a brief moment just before sleep to review the events of the day and express gratitude toward ourselves for having hung in there despite the ups and downs of our work. We note gently where we could do better. And we take joy in our capacity to heal our hearts and greet the next day in a spirit of resilience.

“Good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end” is the path of the spiritually grounded activist for Life. We know that the cause of our environmental ills—and their solution—lies within our hearts. So we care for our hearts, helping them to grow bigger, stronger, and more resilient. And with this kind of brave heart, we create new possibilities for Life on Earth.

Richard Landry is a social innovation consultant to environmental organizations and a member of the Earthfire Institute Advisory Council.

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