As mentioned yesterday this months posts will focus around the ideas of redefining success out forth by Arianna Huffington in her book Thrive and the redefinition of the idea of success to be more inclusive of well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving and less focused on the duopoly of money and power.
This TED talks by Paul Gilding was presented to me as part of my coursework in Education for Sustainability and I couldn’t help myself but share it with you in the context of this months blog posts.
The first thing that got me about this talk is that Gilding speaks to us in logical and real terms, stating that yes indeed, ‘the Earth is full’. Full of us and our stuff. So full in fact that we are currently past debate about the level of ‘fullness’. We have filled our lives with lots of awe-inspiring, clutter-inducing ‘stuff’, and are ignoring the fact that we have over-spent our natural resource credit cards. He states plain and simple that no matter how much we fight the idea the idea of change and whine about how ‘we can’t stop economic growth’ the fact of the matter of it all is that we are pushing for ‘infinite growth on a finite planet’ and setting ourselves up for a fall. This idea is totally unsustainable.
While Gilding is adresses (in quite a scary and fatalistic way) what will happen to society in the next fifty years in the face of natural resource depletion and the collapse of the global economy my mind was relating this idea back to a smaller scale approach to sustainable living. Gilding states very accurately that ‘Mother Nature does’t negotiate she sets rules and describes consequences’. Quite often we see ourselves as separate to our ‘creator’ as individuals with individuals lives and goals, and a path in life. But when it comes down to the crunch you cannot fight mother nature, we are at her mercy in our own bodies. If you push your body past its limits and keep going at an accelerating rate your body will break down. This is exactly what happened to Huffington and it prompted her to change her lifestyle and write ‘Thrive’. While we often thing of sustainable and environmentally friendly living as something external to or larger than us, we are fundamentally our own system, which requires care in order to be able to achieve the bigger goals in life. As Gilding mentions above the best and most cost effective time to repair a system is before it collapse, but like Huffington, many of don’t realise how worn out we are before it’s too late.
Deciding to take responsibility for your own ‘success’ (well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving along with money and power) is a scary concept. Perhaps even fear inducing for some. But when you break it down Gilding style, and imagine how quickly you might change your lifestyle if like Huffington, your body gives up due to exhaustion, or you happened to get a serious disease, then you can see how easy change can come and that the ‘only thing to fear is fear itself’. You need to accept the fear and act. Act like your future depends on it because it does!
Perhaps the hardest place to draw a parallel between the idea of ‘sustaining yourself’ and Gildings discussion of ‘sustaining the world’ is that some of us aren’t personally blessed with the a limitless supply of cash or power. That being said if you are at your end trying to sustain your lifestyle, perhaps working several jobs to keep your family fed, and feel like you are about to collapse under the weight then it can be difficult to find a way to make change. But small changes in your life, like finding short periods of time to meditate (ten minutes is all you need) can reclaim a little of your well-being. In these short glimpses of you-time there can be flashes of brilliance that can result in life changes in the future. It may seem like ‘clutching at straws’ but small changes can have big impacts.
My favourite line in this TED talks pretty much sums up my feelings about the way the economy currently works, the idea that is ‘more growth more stuff and nine billion people going shopping is the best we can do’ (this could be the tag line of the New Year New Consumer theme)? If we each took a leaf from Huffington’s book, and shuffled aside the quest for money and power, slotting in equal place of importance well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving. We could soon find that we feel better about ourselves, happier, and healthier, and that there is more money and power to go around. Whether we have money or power gifted to us by another, or that in one persons decision to downsize from a full-time position to a part time one, that we end up with a new place of employment and a new job title. There are always solutions if we look hard enough.
Do you choose this moment to take responsibility for your own life? A stronger happier you is a possibility. Being a stronger, happier you has added benefits not only for yourself, but for your world and the future of the worlds species (including us!). Happy people have more to give and having your own life in balance will allow you to freely help others.
I hope you found this as inspiring as I did. If you have anything to add please comment below.
PS. Photo is a reminder to take time to stop and enjoy the little things.