There is a powerful meme in American culture, that we should always be growing into greater and greater prosperity, and prosperity means continually having more and more money, a larger house, and more and more things.
This idea is out of alignment with real human experience in several ways. Studies have been done that show that human happiness increases up to what most Americans call a moderate income, and then it goes down. My observation is that once our basic needs, food, medical care, housing are met; What determines our experience of prosperity and happiness are time, meaning, connection, and security.
Time means having the time to fully enjoy and feel our life, our bodies, and our connection with others.
Meaning means doing things that have meaning for us and our community – creativity, growing, and making a difference for others and our world
Connection is positive shared relations with others on an ongoing basis.
Security is knowing, not having to worry about losing our basic needs and the things we most cherish in our lives.
While there are some Americans who lack basic needs, a majority of our culture lives in poverty in all 4 of these other areas, most especially in time. Some people choose to live an alternative life and are rich in some of these areas, but at the cost of constantly being on the edge of not meeting their basic needs. Many people work at “jobs” where little of these needs are met except for some, but not complete, security. There are many good people who live in dead relationships both with their partner and themselves because they don’t have the time to do anything but manage tasks, their life and relationships have become a business. Money does not meet any of these needs effectively, except for a certain amount of security. In addition there are two basic negative costs to the American life style, stress from always feeling there is more to do than can be done, and an overwhelm of people that comes not from too much intimacy, but from too many interactions with people we have no care and connection to.
Going to do an unfulfilling experience of “work” to make money that will buy you happiness, by letting you experience the things you do not get at work, is not effective. And when what is purchased for you hard earned dollars is not the meeting of real needs, but simply symbols of those needs, the results are even worse. It is a fairly large waste of precious energy, and leads to the experience you are on a treadmill you will never get off.
So we can move into a different world where our time and activities meet multiple need simultaneous, where we do what gives us meaning and connection with those we care about and our expanding relationships lead to greater security, and shared work and ownership leads to less cost and effort – more time. The key to a prosperous life that works is when work and community, when relationship and getting our physical needs met, are no longer separate, but part of one fabric.
So what are the choices that we can make in our lives that lead us into greater prosperity? Here is a little list:
- Any time we work less at a job that doesn’t meet any major needs but money, we become more prosperous
- Any time we use our skills in a position that meets more of our connection and meaning needs we become more prosperous
- Any time we use our skills to help people we know and care about, we become more prosperous
- Any time we can share goods rather than purchase them, we increase our connection and decrease our need to “work” in a disconnected way.
- Any we can get needs met by people in our community that either we would have paid for, or would have increased our overwhelm, we increase our prosperity.
- When we ask for and get our real needs met, rather than purchasing “replacements” (food for love, media for connection, drugs and alcohol for peace and ecstatic experience, etc.) we are more prosperous.
- When we form relationships that we can trust in times of hardship with an understanding we will meet each other’s needs, we have real “social security”
- When we are able to use the skills and move towards the visions that are most precious to us in a way that serves our community, we are more prosperous.
- When we are able to share tasks with others we are connected to, rather than each doing them ourselves, we are more prosperous.
- When by sharing we have to less “filler” tasks that take up our time and give nothing back, we are more prosperous.
- When we live in less expensive housing that takes up less space, and in exchange live close to those we know and care about, we increase our prosperity in multiple ways.
- When we learn to ask for our most important needs, rather than feel we should do it ourselves, we open the door to prosperity.
- When we get help on tasks which are hard for us, and give help on tasks where we are skilled, both we, and our community, become prosperous.
- When we are able to receive our needs from those we care about, rather than “shopping”, we become more prosperous.
What choices can you make to be prosperous?