There Is Only One Place To Begin

When It Feels Like Nothing You Do Makes Any Difference - Part 1

January of a new year and a new decade is already over, and most of us have been reminded that resolutions and to-do lists and bucket lists don’t come to fruition via wishful thinking.

And as catastrophic fires burn in Australia following unprecedented fires in California, Canada, Alaska, Greece and Brazil, as school children march in city streets asking for policy change, and as all of us face—or hide from—our concerns about what our future holds…

… you may have wondered, this January, whether you should be doing more, somehow, than just making personal resolutions about living a better life?

But how can we do more than we already are?

We have kids to raise, payments to make. We’re already—if we have the luxury of worrying about such issues—trying to eat more local food and recycle more and use less plastic and reduce the toxins in our homes and do the right thing by shopping ethically. Everywhere we look there are so many crisis’s, such staggering challenges, a lot of the time we’re flat-out exhausted, lonely, unsupported, and …

… it feels like nothing we do makes any difference.

Photograph by LoggaWiggler (Pixabay)

The quote in the image above was taken from “The Forever Fires and Australia’s New Reality[1]



Where Do We Start?

Maybe as you’ve become more aware of the many issues we face collectively, you’ve had a similar experience to mine: going from mildly concerned to deeply alarmed, and then, due to sheer overwhelm, subsiding back into an uneasy state of, “I’ll do what I can, and when I don’t know what to do, I’ll try not to think about it.”

Is there anything an individual like you or I can do to make a difference?

Where do we even start?

Where should we focus our efforts (assuming we have any spare time and energy to focus with)?

And is it selfish or wrong to want to live a meaningful, satisfying life personally, when so much is going on in the world around us?

Is working to raise a family, to get off the consumption treadmill, and to make some small difference in our own little sphere of influence, enough?

This 10-Part series of articles came out of my search for answers to these questions.

In it, I’ll share:

  • two things that give me hope (in Parts 1 and 2),
  • distinctions and strategies for making more of a difference in your own personal life (Parts 3 to 9),
  • and why I think that taking care of your own “small” stuff, is a viable way of also doing your part to take care of our Earth (Part 10).

Let’s get started.



There Is Only One Place To Begin

Regardless of what type and size of challenge we face, I only know of one starting point for tackling it.

That one starting point is myself, or in your case, yourself.

This is good news—hopeful news—because it means we get to start with the only thing we have full control over: our own way of being in the world.

It’s also bad news – it means we don’t get to keep blaming those greedy corporations, ineffective governments, the consumers who just don’t get it, or our own difficult circumstances.


The Story We Live In
Image by silviarita from Pixabay

The Story We Live In

We live, whether we are aware of it or not, according to a story[2].

Your story includes things like your identity, who you are; what kind of life you deserve to live; how the world around you works, and how you interact with it.

Our individual stories and our collective story include all kinds of assumptions and social agreements that we rarely examine.

Your version of the story was handed to you, initially, by your family and the dominant culture you were raised in. As you progressed through adolescence, you began to know the story well, and to either make it your own or to search for something different.

Now, as an adult, you have either settled into the story that our dominant culture assumes is the only story there is, you are still searching, or you have chosen to live a different story.

Because the thing about this story of you and your world is that it’s only one of many possible stories you could choose to live.

As I’ll try to illustrate in this Series, your story about who you are and what kind of world you live in—your way of being in the world and interacting with it—is your point of power for making a difference.



Image by John Hain from Pixabay

If You Knew You Could Choose

If you knew you could choose, what kind of story would you want to align your life with?[3]

A story of scarcity, in which those greedy corporations out there continue to pillage our home until it collapses? In which there is nothing you can do about those other consumers out there who don’t get it and can’t or won’t change, or about governments that refuse to act? In which our children and grandchildren will inherit an impoverished shadow of a world that may not be able to sustain them, or in which human life is only possible due to advanced technology, since too many natural resources have been destroyed?

Or would you choose to focus on the possibility that there could be a more beautiful story to live in?[4]

All of the technology and know-how needed to create a more just, alive, abundant and beautiful world exists today. Why aren’t we using it?

Various answers to that question fill books in their dozens, but I’ll try to sum it up in one sentence:

Collectively, not enough of us are using existing technologies of sharing with, connecting with, respecting, and nourishing each other and nature because we’re afraid to.

Why are we afraid?

Because enough of us still believe the story that says we live in a hostile world where more for you is less for me. In such a world, it makes more sense to amass resources than it does to share them. More sense to use them up now, before someone else does, than to steward them for future generations.

Collectively, our behaviour will not change until our story does. We need to choose to live in a different story, and the good news is that we can do this—we are doing this—one by one.

If you choose a more beautiful world, if you can comprehend and live a story of respectful sharing rather than fearful taking, then your example will help others see it too.

But you must start with yourself. If you try to make change in the world out there when the deepest inside parts of you are still afraid, still living in and enacting scarcity, criticism, judgement, blame, force, alienation in all its forms, then you’ll still be living in that old story.

You’ll still be aligning yourself with that old story. Holding it up, even as you try to take it down.

So that is the first of the two things I mentioned that give me hope – that there is something very powerful and meaningful that you and I, as ordinary individuals, can do. We can each choose to take responsibility for our own story.



Coming Up Next

The second thing that gives me hope has to do with the size of the challenges we face.

I’ll tell you all about that, in Part 2.



References & Resources

[1] This Series of articles is about how to increase your personal effectiveness so that you can reach more of your goals. It’s written for readers whose goals most likely include being able to make some kind of difference for the issues we face collectively. Wildfires are one of those issues and I pause, speechless, when I try to comprehend the devastation facing so many Australians right now.

[2] I’ve borrowed this way of framing this concept from Charles Eisenstein.

[3] The science and worldview we were taught in school still propagates the same story we’ve been living in for several hundred years. Two of its tenets are that we have no choice about the kind of world we live in, and that in this world we must look out for ourselves and our own, because more for you is less for me.

That science is now obsolete. But what 20th and 21st century science has to say about the nature of the world we live in and our relationship to it has not yet trickled into school curriculums or mainstream awareness.

If you are someone who is able to imagine and conceive of other possible stories than the one most of us inhabit now, your most important role is to live it, and to illustrate it for others to see.

[4] Those aren’t my words. I just finished re-reading Charles Eisenstein’s The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible. I highly recommend it and all his other work.



Kate Martignier

Kate writes at – an exploration into thinking differently and living a more natural, connected, and sustainable life.


  1. Thank you for your thoughtfulness in this historical moment filled with confusion, conflict and crisis . I (and many others) agree with you that we our captives of our stories. In the face of personal and social crisis, frequently our stories produce feelings of impotence and hopelessness . Yes, you’re so right, we have a choice, each and every moment. It is important to discover that we have a choice in how we live our lives. We can re-write our story by making new and different choices; living our lives differently. Less in our heads and more in life in this historical moment. Our lives include limitations on what we can do and what we can effect. Nevertheless, we have to make political choices on how we connect with and support efforts to save our planet and provide social and economic justice. Collectively, we have to create a life of courage to dare; that would be a great story.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Rafael. You are right, our lives do include limitations on what we can do and what we can effect. Understanding those limitations and focusing our energy where on what we CAN effect, rather than on what we can’t, is one of the keys to being able to change our personal story and participate in the bringing to life of a new collective story. More on that as this Series unfolds.

  2. Dear Kate, thank you very much for pinning it down: that IS the seemingly unsolvable problem. It takes so much energy to meander through this super complex situation, in day-to-day challenges and also in my own mind. My lantern is at the end of the day: we chose to be here, right now and right here. We want to experience and participate in this incredible ‘time’ – surely to witness and, inevitably, to effect. And sometimes, this arouses dazzeling joy – against all reason.

  3. Thanks for your comment, Eva. If we listen only to reason, nothing will change. Reason is what has brought us here; only unreasonable thinking and behavior will take us somewhere else. Everything that’s being asked of us in this transition is unreasonable. Unreasonable hope, unreasonable love, unreasonable compassion, unreasonable courage, and yes — unreasonable joy.

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