Better Living is about creating your life from the inside – out. Starting with the essence of YOU. My intention with this post is to get really clear on whether you are living your life, or trying to maintain a lifestyle.
An easy way to understand this distinction is to see what has happened in the media over the past few decades. There was a time when People was limited to one page in Newsweek Magazine. The only celebrity “entertainment” television show was entitled, aptly enough: Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Now, the marketing of celebrities and their lifestyles is a multi-media mega industry. Whether you decide to watch the shows and buy the tabloids and magazines or not, no one can make it through the grocery line without seeing “celebrity news” stories plastered across the headlines, with corresponding pictures of their homes, fashions, and jewelry. And the insidious effect of this media saturation is that it has elevated the attainment of rich lifestyles (i.e. MORE) as the true pursuit of happiness.
How “happy” can you be if you are trapped in a too expensive lifestyle? How happy can you be if your lifestyle is costing you an excessive amount of time, extracting a toll on your emotions and on your physical health? Where is the happiness in exhaustive risk, stress, and pressure? How happy can you be when you are spending more time commuting to and from work than being with your loved ones? The tax on your life is significant, and it comes with compounded interest as the pressures increase.
Working hard is a wonderful thing, please don’t get me wrong! I dedicate another post to the importance of discovering what you value, and orienting your life around it. But that’s my point: Hard Work as an expression of what you value is in integrity with better living. Slavishly working to uphold a lifestyle is NOT.
Your lifestyle should support your life, not the other way around.
My cautions about commutes and stress are not in reference to folks caught in the economic downturn, who have lost their jobs and access to healthcare and are in crisis mode. However, it is still important to acknowledge that the propensity to live beyond one’s means preceded the stock market decline and the housing slump. The presumption that a “thing” will make someone happy is an endorsed part of popular American culture. Immediate gratification delivered through a credit card acquisition is more of a lifestyle seduction than a better living choice.
Return to the better living blog activity in which I asked you to create your ideal day. It’s a safe bet that what you listed included people, work, activities and feelings. Objects (or should I say “acquistions?”) were not as numerous or as important as events. Again, better living is about your life, not your lifestyle!
Break the “lifestyle support cycle” by trusting that what you wrote for your ideal day really is most important to you…and let’s start reorienting your life around these fundamentals, not the lifestyles of neighbors or celebrities.
Mary Ellen Sailer, Ed.D.