values

A New Year’s Goal: Focus on Lifeworth

Full disclosure: The author’s of this book are respectively my Dad (Dana) and uncle (Hal). They published it about a year ago, and it’s been selling like hot-cakes ever since. And no, I don’t get a commission. Although maybe I should?

Buzz Bishop just wrote a post about setting a New Year’s Goal, instead of a resolution. It makes a lot of sense, and fits with my strengths-based approach to life. There’s always going to be some negative stuff in our life that we want to change (the normal focus of New Year’s resolutions…losing weight this year anyone?). Focusing on it doesn’t necessarily make it go away. Setting some positive intentions and working towards some goals is often a much better use of our time and energy.

Lifeworth Cover

If you haven’t read Lifeworth: Finding Fulfillment beyond Networth yet, it’s probably the perfect way to kick-start a 2013 goal setting session.

If you’re anything like me, you sometimes find yourself trapped on a bit of a hamster wheel, always trying to grow your “networth”, and forgetting all about your “lifeworth”.  You figure that one day, someday, you’ll be happy, relaxed and fulfilled. You just have to work a little harder, make a little more money, pay off the mortgage….

Of course, we never get there. We constantly compare what we have with everyone around us, or ads on the TV, and so we rush out to buy the newest thing, thinking that it’ll be the final and missing piece to the void in our life, a void built by an endless fixation on materialism in our culture.

Thankfully, Dana and Hal set out to find people living for a purpose, and with passion. People like Alan Hobson, who survived cancer and climbed everest. People like John Davidson, who pushed his son in a wheelchair across Ontario to raise money for Duschenes Muscular Dystrophy. People like Katy Hutchinson, who has turned her husband’s murder into a gift of forgiveness and love unlike anything you’ll read. People who weren’t content to ride the “eat, sleep, work” merry-go-round their whole life.

If you’ve ever asked yourself “is this all there is?” or “am I living the life I want to live?”, then this book definitely needs to be on your reading list.

And for 2013, try and focus on what makes your life worth living.  Hint: it’s probably not an extra couple of hours at the office, or a 2% gain in your stock portfolio. 

Values vs. The Economy

And so is crime. And car accidents. And divorces. Do you know what’s bad for the economy? Carpooling. Buying seeds and growing your own food. Living in a smaller house, with less stuff.

How then, are we to reconcile this obviously irrational dynamic? How can we possibly change a status quo so perverse?

We’ve got a couple of options, chief among them is the notion of finding ways to describe value in more ways than one (the almighty $$). And maybe not getting so hung up on what’s good for “the economy”, when it’s obvious that what’s good for the economy is often very bad for people.

I’m sure folks are familiar with Bobby Kennedy’s speech from 1968, but it bears repeating here.

“Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.  Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product – if we judge the United States of America by that – that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. 

It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them.  It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. 

It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities.  It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. 

Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. 

It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

Think about it for a second from the perspective of a business or home owner. You pay bills. You pay to fix the leaky roof. You pay to dispose of garbage (pollution). At the end of the month, you take your expenses and subtract them from your income, to see what your net income was (and hope it was positive).

On the contrary, our governments add the expenses to the income. The economy grows when an oil spill needs to be cleaned up. The more trees that are cut down, the better the economy does. Car accidents? Great for the economy. Think of the ambulance driver, firefighter, doctor, lawyer, car repair guy, insurance company… awesome. We should be getting in more car accidents.

Or perhaps we should be talking about other forms of value. Natural capital, Social or Human capital, Built capital, and yes, Financial capital. I believe the clear direction forward for our communities is learning how to measure all forms of capital, and if we can’t measure it, at least appreciating that it exists and is important in decision making.

And maybe, just maybe, we could stop talking about the “economy” as if it’s a living, breathing thing. It’s not. It’s a system that we’ve devised to account for value in society… and right now it’s not doing a very good job.