“Action expresses priorities.”Mahatma Gandhi
Wary is not exactly an uplifting word, especially compared to wonderlust. But wary is necessary. Wariness is actionable.
There are more wonders in the world than we normally notice, but there are also endless perils that need our attention.
marked by keen caution, cunning, and watchfulness especially in detecting and escaping danger
Wary Wonderlust is about living a wonder-full, difference-making life. Wariness is essential to the difference-making part of the philosophy.
Our day to day problems are in our face and hard to ignore. Our societal problems can seem so big and overwhelming that we take little to no action to combat them. We want to do something about all the perils but rarely have the energy or time to figure out what that something might be.
But we don’t have to go through life wishing we could make a difference. And we do make a difference. Our existence is no mere thing.
But to leave the world better than we found it, we must accept that we will be leaving the world.
How many people die with unexplored dreams and hopes? How would you spend your days if you truly accepted that your days are numbered?
Death gives everything perspective, if we let it.
By accepting our death, we can get real about what we want in life. When we get real with ourselves, we get real about our power and how we can use it.
You are going to die. What are you going to do about it?
How can I make a difference?
There are four steps to leading a difference-making life:
- Figure out what you’re wary about.
- Figure out your skills.
- Find where your skills and wariness overlap.
- Take action.
We’ll get into the four steps in another post, but before we do, I want to address a specific part of Wary Wonderlust.
a life philosophy characterized by realistic caution and a methodical desire for wonder
As I described in What is Wonderlust?, there are five main components to living a life of wonderlust: staying curious, reveling in human connection, cultivating creativity, exploring the natural world, and living deeply.
The wary in Wary Wonderlust does not come from a place of fear or paranoia. It comes from realistic caution, an honest awareness of personal and societal challenges. Wariness is about using our awareness and knowledge to escape harm and to help others do the same.
We cannot make a positive change in the world if we are constantly worried about things we cannot control or impact. We will not have the time or energy to use our power for good if we’re zapped by stresses we should be letting go.
Let’s think about this through a real world example.
We’ve all been late for something, right? Whether the alarm didn’t go off or traffic backed up or we mistimed our day, we’ve all been there. Maybe it’s was for work or a friend or your yearly check up. Think of a time you’ve been late.
No matter the circumstance that came to mind, I can guess how your tardiness affected you. Some combination of stress, anxiety, frustration, and guilt. But why?
Because you’re worried about missing the appointment?
Because you’re worried about disappointing whoever is waiting for you?
You think they’ll judge you or that you’re being rude.
Question those thoughts. What if they are 100% true?
You miss the appointment.
The person waiting for you is disappointed and thinks you’re disorganized, uncaring, and rude.
It’s an appointment, which means it was scheduled, which means it’s not urgent and can be rescheduled. Depending on who’s waiting for you, the disappointment and judgement may be scary. Dig into that.
If your fear is because they have power or authority over you, maybe it’s time to rethink that relationship. A boss or doctor who shames you for one missed meeting may be the wrong boss or doctor. We deserve friends and family that are willing to forgive our mistakes as we forgive theirs, and that includes being late. If that forgiveness is missing, a heart-to-heart about the nature of the relationship is in order.
Making a Difference
Realistic wariness happens when we’re truly aware of the worries plaguing us. That requires going deep and fact checking the stories in our brains. Oftentimes, we’ll find it’s not worth worrying about or we’ll discover an action we can take to improve the situation and alleviate the anxiety.
The same is true for the big, societal problems. For as long as there has been civilization, there have been concerns that need our attention. But we can’t be everywhere. We can’t do ALL THE THINGS.
Once we narrow down our number of worries, we must decide which ones we’re truly passionate about. Without passion, our attention will stray. Then, we must examine what we can do. Finally, we must do it.
Wariness is a lens through which you can view the world, honing your attention to the places where it is most needed. It takes time to think from this perspective, but the effort is worth the difference it makes, both in your own head and in the world.
My suggestions for focusing your wariness lens:
- Meditate. I like the Smiling Mind app. Free, informative, and a great introduction to practicing mindfulness.
- Take a breath. Anytime I start to feel stressed, I give myself the space to breath. There are several breathing techniques out there, but the one I’ve found most helpful is box breathing. Even one or two box breaths can give me the space I need to examine the stories in my head and experience a release or find an action to take.
- Curate your information sources. Too few of us consider all the places and times news and entertainment reaches us. I enjoy social media and cable news to a certain degree, but my life is much better and more factual when I choose reliable sources and am thoughtful about when I consume their content.
- Sign up for newsletters with action alerts from causes you care about. This goes hand in hand with number three. It’s easy to spiral after seeing an infuriating headline. All that anger has nowhere to go so it just hurts us. Choosing whose headlines we see is step one. Supporting organizations we care about is step two. Signing up for newsletters that keep you in the know are a great way to find where your skills, abilities, and passions overlap.
- Volunteer. Food pantries, animal shelters, voting stations, health clinics, youth centers, et cetera. Find an interest. Find an organization. Get involved. There’s always a need and you can have an immediate impact.