Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Collective Values and Styles of Living

I'm seeing how the Lifestylism tagline doesn't really encompass my vision for the concept. It's great that we're "creating the lives we want" by making choices that reflect our real values in a more holistic way, attempting to integrate our work, leisure, learning, spiritual needs, and relationships when we project our lives into the future. The potential gaps in this approach:
  • makes the assumption that we have a clear sense of what we value in these areas
  • assumes that when our choices are aligned with our values, the result of those choices will also be good for our communities and society as a whole
  • implies that choices aligned with our values will actually yield "lives we want", when most of us tend to want way too much to begin with
  • ignores the interconnectedness of our choices with the decisions and values of the people and organizations around us
These issues are ones I attempted (poorly) to articulate when I worried about lifestylism being inherently selfish. There's something in the collective values of communities and organizations that hasn't been covered here yet, but it's of vital importance. Lifestyles seem intensely personal, but communities and organizations also have values and styles of living that may or may not reflect their values very well.

What triggered these thoughts was an excellent article from Dave Pollard, who I read often, but haven't linked to yet. This one is a great introduction to his take on personal responsibility in the way we set up our lives: What I'm Doing to Help "Save the World".

6 comments:

Garth said...

I echo your frustrations you currently have with your tagline with my attempt at defining play. You are right in that often definitions are so broad that they become meaningless. But without first looking from further away it is hard to find something to focus on, and I guess that is my hope.

Is lifestylism inherently selfish? I guess if our understanding of our own lifestyle is all about "me" than it is. But what if we think about others, about community as you seem to be implying in your musings?

I look through a paradigm, a lens in which I view everything (my worldview?) I do entitled the four "c's": character, community, communion, & commission. For example, when I teach others a particular topic such as conflict management - how does it affect the character of my students? how does it affect their understanding of community? how does it affect their communion with what they believe to be true (belief in God), and finally how does it affect their commission - their purpose on earth?

You are bang-on with your discussion leading to the fact that there is something in the collective values of communities and organizations that is often overlooked but clearly important. Why do I live where i live? Why do I participate actively in a chosen sport such as mtn biking? Why do I attend a church or a small group or hang out with a particular group of friends?

Your last sentence resonates with me the most - lifestyles are intensely personal but clearly the communities we have grown up in and the new ones we have entered into affect how we lead our lives as well. Our values are shaped by our understanding of self (self-actualization), of others, of God, & our purpose!

G

Brian said...

Hi Jeremy,

Quite interesting indeed. I might suggest that the word "selfish" is not always a "bad" or "negative" word. There are definitely times in life when being inherently selfish is the most productive and caring thing we can do.

Perhaps what you might want to do is to take some time building your own personal perspective on what lifestylism means to you. Certainly not a "definition" - that's a waste of time - but a perspective would be quite valuable.

Lifestylism, for me, also exists within what I often refer to as the "confluence of everyday life" - a place where unexpected things happen - things that surprise us - things that we have little or no control over. Lifestylism might be considered a responsive and dynamic process that helps us to deal with the constantly emerging situations and circumstances we find ourselves in. It's an ongoing and evolving system of relationships, connections and associations.

I see the ideas you have talked about related to lifestylism being something very close in kind to learning:-)

Jeremy said...

Hi Garth -- thanks for this excellent comment. I keep re-reading it and then leaving because I never seem to have enough time to respond properly.

Yes, our social environment definitely shapes our sense of what is important, and what we value -- I sort of missed that in the original post.

I guess I was trying to go one level deeper to explore how people interact with the collective values in their communities (from families on up to global communities). The potential conflict and intersection between our personal values and the shared societal values is fascinating...it's kind of bending my mind right now.

"Want" is selfish, and I think that's fine. But what if what I want is good for me, but bad for everyone else in some indirect way. Western society seems to have moved toward a individualistic value system that might be captured by the old "do what you want as long as it doesn't bother anyone else." Again, at the individual or small-group level, that seems ok...but what if everyone goes that route and the compounded choices add up to something that wrecks society?

Jeremy said...

Excellent advice, Brian. Thanks for freeing me from the pressure to define this concept -- that would likely be a recipe for frustration and eventual disengagement.

Yes, it is about learning. And it's certainly about choices and values. I'm bent on context and a holistic view of how we see our identities projected into the future. We get so fixated on these erroneous beliefs that our lives could be better if only X changed (job, relationship, income, location, home, etc), without any sense or ability to see how changes cascade through the rest of our lifestyle over time.

It's a personal branch of complexity theory, I suppose. It's the interconnectedness of choices and implications that is so interesting and beguiling.

Garth said...

Jer - your response to Brian got me thinking. I'll quote you to begin,

"We get so fixated on these erroneous beliefs that our lives could be better if only X changed (job, relationship, income, location, home, etc), without any sense or ability to see how changes cascade through the rest of our lifestyle over time."

It seems to me that too often we tie our identity to our job (or our self-worth to our paycheck, house, etc). I think we forget that a deeper thread runs in each of us - a deeper purpose or mission for a lack of a better term (maybe a calling would suffice).

I love to teach and naturally am good at teaching. But I am more than simply a teacher - what is at the core of me?

Perhaps my passion or calling is to inspire others to pursue their calling. Now I could live out my purpose in almost any job but it just so happens that teaching is really good medium to inspire others. But I could still inspire others working at a gas station or as a guidance counselor or as a firefighter - it may be more difficult but definitely still possible.

Abe Lincoln's passion or calling was to preserve the union - he did that as a president but he could have done that in other ways as well.

MLK's calling was to bring about a more realized racial equality between blacks & whites. That calling surpassed his job or occupation - it was his life and ironically his death that caused change to occur.

Instead of getting our identity caught up with what we do - we should instead focus on who we are! We should do a self-inventory of strengths & weaknesses, of interests & desires, about what makes us passionate! What do we feel called to do?

Sorry a little bit to preachy...couldn't help myself!

G

Jeremy said...

Garth, if that's preaching, then keep it coming!

You wrote: "But I could still inspire others working at a gas station or as a guidance counselor or as a firefighter - it may be more difficult but definitely still possible."

We talk about this at work all the time, because this is what Bridges is in the business of -- trying to help students match their interests and skills to the world of work (usually through an educational lens). We wonder what would happen if everyone got excellent career guidance, support and mentoring -- who would be left to pump gas, clean houses and do all of the other tasks that will never be self-actualization for the vast majority of people?

I liked this last bit of your comment: "Instead of getting our identity caught up with what we do - we should instead focus on who we are! We should do a self-inventory of strengths & weaknesses, of interests & desires, about what makes us passionate! What do we feel called to do?"

Bridges also does this stuff, and all of the career planning applications have these kinds of inventories. This one is pretty decent. The problem is that they tend to be "administered" to kids like medicine without the support mechanisms to help them connect their interests, skills and personalities to possible courses of action, whether they be work, leisure, volunteering, or whatever. We have a very narrow view of future planning that tends to only leave room for "what do you want to be when you grow up?" Career only! As if that was the most important thing...