When we know better, what keeps us from doing better? Better believe it, it's our beliefs.
There was a long period of time where I ate almost exclusively vegetarian. I wish I could say it was for moral or environmental reasons, but truthfully I just didn’t like meat. At least I had a deeply held belief that I didn’t like meat.
Fast forward to now, where I still am not a fan of all meat products, but I do eat it regularly. You see, my belief has been transformed over the past decade or so, mostly thanks to my mother in law’s cooking, to where I now believe there are certain meats I actually enjoy.
The irony to this little anecdote is that while my taste for meat has evolved, my knowledge about the associated environmental and land use issues, animal cruelty and human health implications has also grown. I know enough to never want to eat meat again, but yet I still do.
The reason for this is actually pretty simple. Information does not drive human behavior, it is what we believe about ourselves and about the world that leads us to do what we do.
You might be thinking, well if you know that meat production is extremely inefficient with natural resources, is a huge contributor to greenhouse gases and is taking up wildlife habitat all over the globe, don’t you also believe people shouldn’t support it by buying meat?
The quick answer is yes, but the real answer is that beliefs are not islands. While I do believe very strongly that we should buy less meat, I also battle with a belief that individual actions won’t solve these systemic issues. The belief that my choices won’t make a difference, overrides the belief that I shouldn’t eat meat for environmental reasons.
This is where the work lies.
And it’s not just around the issue of animal products.
What allows us to continue doing something, despite our knowledge and awareness that it is not good for us (or life in general), is a matter of mindset.
In the face of global scale crises like climate change, pollution and famine, we have to belief that what we do can make a difference.
When we believe that ordering the Impossible Burger vs. the Whopper is having an effect in the world outside of our own digestion, that is when real change becomes possible.
So how do we bridge the gap between having the information that inspires us to do things differently and actually doing things differently? The same way you eat an elephant (or hopefully a tof-elephant) one bite at a time.
What allowed for my shift from being vegetarian to cooking beef stew, was a long series of baby steps.
At first I would take a small portion of flank steak so I wouldn’t offend anyone at a dinner party. I wasn’t a very good vegetarian and did little to ensure I had a balanced diet, so I also began to notice a change in how I felt after eating meat.
A big part of why I didn’t like meat to begin with was because the idea of eating flesh was disgusting to me, so I worked to push those thoughts out of my mind when I was served a helping of bacon.
So now, as I begin the work to move in the opposite direction, back to where I started as a vegetarian, I am taking one little step at a time.
The process may be slow and does require effort, but it’s not impossible burger to change our beliefs.