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How To Show Your Love For Animals Effectively!

How To Show Your Love For Animals Effectively!

I love animals and especially my cats, Ophelia and Siren. These feelings pulled me to help out at my local cat shelter. It broke my heart to see homeless cats out on the street, and it felt great to go to the shelter and play with rescued cats. I donated to the cat shelter, knowing it would help even more animals in need.

It’s very natural for us to show our love for animals this way. Our brains are wired to pay attention to our immediate environment. Now, there was a nagging voice at the back of my head that told me that animals endure suffering around the world. However, I shunted away that voice whenever it began to grow loud and told myself that I was doing the best thing I could to help animals.

Yet when I talked to my friend Marsha, a fellow volunteer at the cat shelter with years of experience, she pointed out that even though I was already doing a lot to help these cats, I could use my time and money to help many more animals, and feel even better about my impact.

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A Dilemma

She posed an ethical dilemma: Say I was walking to work and saw a kitten drowning in a pond – deep enough to leave me soaking wet, but shallow enough to not pose a more serious threat. But, the kitten is in urgent need of help, and saving that kitten would ruin my smartphone. Would I dive in to save her?

Imagining my cats, my intuitive gut reaction was “Of course!” I wouldn’t even hesitate.

Using that intuitive response, Marsha highlighted that my emotional self was clearly committed to animal welfare. She pointed out that there are many animals right now whose lives I could save for much less than the cost of my smartphone (for example, by donating to the right animal charity). And this would even cost much less time and money than I was putting into the cat shelter.

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This adaptation of Peter Singer’s famous thought experiment made me realize I could do much more to help animals. My actions could have been hundreds of times more impactful if I used my resources as effectively as possible. Wasn’t it clear to me, as an animal lover, that effectiveness is what animals deserve? If I could help more animals with the same money and time, why wouldn’t I do it? What could I say to the animals I didn’t help? “Sorry, but I don’t care about you because I can’t see you in front of me?”

Questioning My Perspective

I still felt conflicted. I knew what Marsha said made sense, but it was tough to accept. If nothing else, I just really enjoyed stroking the cats at the cat shelter. Marsha said she understood my perspective, as she has a cat herself. She thought about this question deeply in the past, and decided to split her volunteering and her donations in order to balance her own well-being and happiness, and do the most good for the world at the same time.

She spends most of her time volunteering for the local cat shelter. She also does small actions that help larger numbers of animals for a few minutes each week in-between other tasks.

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However, she intentionally sends her donations to the most effective charities. These are charities that have been evaluated to have the most impact per dollar. After all, the animal shelter gets plenty of donations from people who don’t have her more effective giving perspective, and donating wouldn’t give the same personal satisfaction as volunteering at the shelter.

She donates based on the recommendations of Animal Charity Evaluators, a nonprofit organization that offers in-depth evaluations of the most effective animal advocacy charities. It has recommended The Humane League, Mercy For Animals, and Animal Equality, and you can see its current top picks here.

Updating My Beliefs

This plan of action made a lot of sense to me, and I made a conscious effort to update my beliefs and actions based on new evidence. I started donating to the three charities recommended by ACE, as well as ACE itself, so that it could continue conducting research and providing advice to advocates on behalf of the broader field of animal rights.

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At the same time, I continue to volunteer at the cat shelter. Being with those wonderful, furry balls of love helps motivate my animal advocacy and fill my heart with the desire to do good for animals everywhere. Now I truly have it all – I’m able to both spend time with cats in the shelter while making a much larger impact on addressing animal suffering through my donations to effective charities.

Featured photo credit: Doria Morrel/Flickr via flickr.com

More by this author

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

Cognitive neuroscientist and behavioral economist; CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts; multiple best-selling author

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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