How Can We Turn Sadness Into Constructive Action?

Sadness is paralyzing. And there are so many problems we face, including problems of great depth and wide variety, that sadness is almost inevitable.

The scope of issues like climate change or political corruption are so large that it seems like one person cannot make a difference.

On top of that, some issues can be downright heartbreaking. Seeing images or video of suffering refugee children, or abused animals in pain, is difficult. Entire towns have been destroyed following hurricanes, earthquakes, or wildfires, which is unspeakably sad.

When thinking about these and other obstacles we face, the urge to curl up under a blanket can be tremendous.

And yet, these problems call for action. Devastated towns need to be rebuilt. Injustice needs to be confronted. Sickness needs to be treated or cured.

Can these disparate realities be reconciled? Can we keep from being overwhelmed by despair, to do what needs to be done to make the world a better place for all of us?

How can we turn sadness into constructive action?

Related questions: How can we turn ideas into actions? Why do we put up with unhappiness? When do you need inspiration? How can you help? Is it a cruel world?


What Are You Willing To Sacrifice?

Most of us want to be successful (whatever that means). We want to be a good spouse, a good parent, a good worker, a good friend. However, often these goals are at odds with each other.

For example, to be a good worker, you might have to put in overtime, which means less time with the family. As a result, you might not be as good a spouse or a parent.

And what if the goal is to not be merely good but rather great or even outstanding in a particular role? Then your ability to be good at other roles becomes even harder. You might be only acceptable, or even worse, at other roles in your life.

In fact, it would seem that if you want to be really good at something, then by necessity other areas of your life will suffer.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that you can only be good at one thing. It is possible to be good at many things. However, the larger the list of things at which you are good decreases the number of things at which you might be great.

Therefore, it is important to set priorities. Determine which aspects of your life are the most important to you. Correspondingly, what are the areas that are not as important? Not that they aren’t important at all, just that they are less important.

This can be really difficult. There are probably some things that you really like that you have to be willing to sacrifice, in order to be better and more effective at what you decide is the most important. Perhaps you are willing to sacrifice your career for your family. Maybe you sacrifice sleep for a hobby. Or maybe a more fulfilling job is given up for a more lucrative one.

For your theoretical list, what are your most important goals? And what are you willing to sacrifice to achieve them? What are you not willing to sacrifice?

Related questions: Is happiness the most important purpose in life? How do you define success? Why do we put up with unhappiness? How do you set priorities? What material possession means the most to you? What gives you purpose?


What Is The Value Of Inefficiency?

Everyone wants to be productive. Our jobs demand it, our busy lives require it, and our brains crave constant stimulation. But is there a value to wasting time? Of inefficiency?

Generally, different people use different methods to maximize their time spent on things. To-do lists. Productivity software. Comprehensive calendars.

If we feel overworked, that might stress us out, so our solution is to try and maximize our daily routine. Perhaps you can shave a few minutes off of making breakfast. Showering at the gym might save some time. Listening to audio books or podcasts during your commute allows you to make better use of wasted time.

However, there is some value to unstructured time. Having a tightly-packed schedule where every minute is accounted for is subject to disruption. An unexpected event can throw an entire day into chaos.

Beyond that, there is some indication that proper functioning of the brain requires some down time. After all, what is our need for sleep if it is not inefficient? For roughly eight hours each night we lie still in the dark, as our brains, through dreams, process events from the day or worries we might have. That’s not very good use of time!

Our higher-level, strategic thinking is not something that can be done while running errands or performing routine tasks. For that, you need to devote time to thinking. And sitting and thinking doesn’t appear, from the outside, to be very productive.

In addition, people need to have some time that is spent just relaxing. Just as a muscle can only work for so long before it needs to rest, our brains need breaks occasionally to function properly.

What is the proper balance between thinking and doing? Between productivity and relaxation? What is the value of inefficiency?

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