sharing economy

Steps to Real Prosperity

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?


The Problem with Work

“Thank God it’s the weekend”, “I hate my job”, “2 weeks with no work, what could be better”, “back to the Salt Mines”, “I only have to work 15 hours a week” (in response – “You lucky dog!”.)

Work is something to be either avoided of suffered through.  This is so much of our cultural landscape, we take it for granted. It is often seen as part of the natural suffering of “being an adult”. This is truly sad, that using our gifts and skills to serve our community has become something like punishment for many of us. Why is this?

Work as we understand it, usually means leaving the place we are most comfortable and doing something out of harmony with our bodies, our minds, our hearts and souls, and our community of friends. No wonder we dread it.

There are a few lucky people who simply do what they are most passionate about in a way that fits their nature. Yeah for them! However those folks are a small minority. There are a some folks whose jobs are close to torture and a huge number whose jobs are numbing and disconnect them from their heart and spirit. There are also a lot of people who would say they have “good jobs” who are far from fulfilled. They may work at a place where the goal is something they feel positive about, and they may basically like the people they work with, but they may suffer many of the following::

  • even though the goal of the workplace may be good, what they actually do may have no direct meaning to that work (scheduling, accounting, cleaning, secretarial work, etc.)
  • Conversely they may do something that is meaningful, but do so much they feel way overstressed. Our workplaces tend to be divided into “superstars” who are stressed, and bunch of people who support them and have jobs with no intrinsic meaning
  • They may spend 25-75% of their workday dealing with “logistics” rather than actually accomplishing the goal of their workplace
  • They may work with good people, but where most everyone does not have time to have actual connection and support each other through the workday
  • Their company may have high ideals but chooses to make numerous compromises “to pay the bills”.
  • They may spend a majority of their time on a phone or computer, without real space for exercise or rest
  • They may spend most of their time multi-tasking which keeps them from being present with what they are doing and who they are doing it with
  • Their day may be full of 30 second interactions with people they do not know, and do not care about. (many of the people I know come home from work – wanting to escape from people AND craving intimacy – this is the result of days filled with non-meaningful contact)

And this list could go on and on.

Yes, this is why 90% of us dread work. And we may think that is the only way things could be. But it is not. “Work” gets commodified through money, and our rules about money in our society. But what would happen if rather than using money as our only means of sharing energy with each other and getting things done, we simply served our community, our friends, our neighborhood, and others did the same? This may seem like a wild dream, and yet “primitive cultures” lived that way for thousands of years, and they may not have had Starbucks and internet shopping, but I think they were happier.

I am part of the Lane Service Sharing Network, a “time bank” where we give and receive with one another, and money is not our measure of exchange. We do not have to give and receive from the same person, and we keep a basic balance of the time you have given, and the time received.But our emphasis is meeting our needs and serving our community, not on staying perfectly “even”. And we do this within a community we care about and who cares about us.

Our goal is to work less and contribute more, and create a world where others can do the same. Join us!