I’ve often heard people say “think global, act local” and while the phrase made sense, I never really paused to think about its downstream impact until recently. As a thought experiment, I wondered what would happen if we “think local, act global”. I didn’t have to think very hard to realize that colonialism, the global spread of silicon valley mindset (chasing unicorns, quick-builds and fast-exits), and performative social media interactions are all examples of thinking local and acting global.
Thinking local and acting global makes it easier to lean into our self-protective tendencies. Easier to accumulate more and more material safety for our immediate habitat at the expense of the others that we may not (or may not want to) see. The impact of our actions becomes distant and invisible. We especially don’t stick around to see the long-term effects. It becomes easier to do and harder to feel. Our actions, emotions and impact become siloed.
When we do the opposite to think global and act local, we instinctively lean into the following behaviors: An awareness that humanity is interconnected in unbreakable ways, and a sense of agency over actions and outcomes in our local habitat. When combined, these ways of operating strengthen our empathy and sense of ownership.
Thinking global and acting local, we may initiate and experiment with small scale localized actions to see what works. We may feel inspired to share learnings with others who are better positioned to add value to their own habitats. Our local becomes an incubator for the global. We gain the capacity to contribute not only to our own context, but also to our collective intelligence so others may be able to support their local contexts. An apt metaphor might be everyone adding logs to the collective fire for shared warmth. It becomes easier to not only do but also to feel. Community organizing and our approach for Polio and Covid vaccinations are examples of thinking global and acting local.
Which version of our world feels better to live in? How will we choose to think and act?
“To become a different kind of person is to experience the world in a different way. When your mind changes, the world changes. And when we respond differently to the world, the world responds differently to us.” ― David Loy: Professor, writer, and Zen teacher