Up until recently, I saw my life basically in two modes I switched between: Working and Not Working. Whatever I was doing was directly or indirectly with reference to Work.
What I define as Working mode, in addition to actually working, includes recovering from work, worrying about work, talking about work, reading the business news, checking emails, thinking about checking emails, thinking about other jobs, buying clothes for work, buying clothes because “I’ve earned it”…
The list goes on. The only thing that was certainly Not Working was sleeping (as long as I wasn’t dreaming about work).
For anyone being paid, whether by employer or by customer if self-employed, the paymaster sets the terms of their personal freedom, has first call on their life. And our culture is based on the virtue of work and the importance of economic growth. More is better. This leads to a belief system:
Live to work > work to earn > earn to consume > consume to satisfy desires > achieve happiness
Unfortunately, this vision has proved itself to be fundamentally flawed; it does not achieve happiness; quite the opposite. Economic growth is incompatible with wellbeing on a personal and planetary level. Directly with feeding the economy, each participant generously contributes to stress, depression, inequality, biosphere pollution, resource exhaustion, and much more. The economy wins when people work and consume more, but everything else loses.
It is a road to ruin that is becoming almost impossible to ignore. Perhaps the main reason it is still being ignored, is because everyone is so busy, pursuing a convincing lie about happiness and submitting to economic servitude.
But surely the existing cycle can be turned backwards, in order to reach a deeper source of happiness, and solve a lot of problems along the way:
Desire less > consume less > earn less > work less > live more > achieve happiness
Life turns from a switch to more of a dial, which the person is in control of, because they have released themselves from the misguided aspirations of the economic prison.
Live more: that’s where the hope lies for personal wellbeing. To discover what ‘living more’ means is a very personal thing, and it needs two vital ingredients: time and space.
Remarkable things happen when a person gives him or herself some time and space.
After an initial period of detox, they seem to start to consider what it truly means to them to “live more”. Then begins a process of imagining and constructing a life based on those insights, escaping from the gravitational pull of More is Better. I have seen it happen to myself, and to countless other people I have met in the last year.
There’s certainly no formula. Whatever happens tends to be unpredicable, deeply personal and utterly life enriching. It’s nature taking its course, a discovery and an awakening.
Detaching from a toxic belief system can be difficult, even painful, like any addiction. Ultimately, it will be necessary. What’s on my mind is: how might more people choose human growth over economic growth – their own path over someone else’s – while things haven’t gone too toxic and the choice is there?