4.3. How Bad Do You Really Have It?

Thinking in terms of inconveniences, burdens, and hardships is a helpful tool.

I like to distinguish between inconveniences, burdens, and hardships.

I don’t have an exact definition. I couldn’t tell you where exactly an inconvenience turns into a burden, or a burden turns into a hardship.

But the point isn’t to precisely catalogue everything that sucks in your life.

It’s to understand and appreciate the gradations of suckiness that exist in the world.

It’s easy to lose perspective. There are 7.5 billion people in the world…and you’re only one of them.

How bad do you really have it, in the big scale of things?

According to the United Nations, about 2.7 billion people—over one-third of the whole world’s population—struggles to get by on less than two dollars per day.

That’s a hardship.

Over a billion don’t have access to clean drinking water. Every 3.5 seconds, somebody out there dies of starvation—and most of those deaths are children under the age of 5.

When you look honestly at the things you have to put up with, in your own life…I bet you’ll discover that the vast majority of them are inconveniences.

Some nagging health problems. Some interpersonal conflicts. Some discomforts. Some draining, unpleasant obligations. Some disruptions to your plans.

You don’t have to like those things. They can be really irritating. But call them what they are: inconveniences.

We’re never going to be free of inconveniences. As long as there are 7.5 billion of us, we’re all going to have to put up with our fair share of mishaps, mistakes, and misunderstandings.

We’re all going to have to deal with a few burdens and hardships, too—even the most privileged among us.

We all know this. But we forget it.

We forget where we really stand, in the big picture.

We start to feel entitled to living with no inconveniences, no discomforts, no disruptions to our plans and ambitions. And that any of these things we might have to put up with are a grievous injustice.

We start to feel like redressing our inconveniences should be a bigger social priority than alleviating the burdens and hardships that so many others have to bear.

It’s an understandable and common fallacy to fall into. But that doesn’t make it okay.

People die when we pretend that our little piddly inconveniences are more important than somebody else’s burdens and hardships.

So the next time something gets under your skin, ask yourself: what is it really?

Is it a genuine burden or hardship? Or is it one of those many inconveniences that just look like a big deal?

The next time you’re thinking about controversies around politics or our social problems, ask yourself what people are really arguing about.

Often, they amount to one group of people, trying to get some much needed attention and relief to some really debilitating burdens and hardships…and another group of people resisting it, because it would cause them some inconvenience.

Thinking in terms of inconveniences, burdens, and hardships is a helpful tool. It’ll make you happier—and a more compassionate, engaged citizen.


This is the 63rd in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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