Posts Tagged 'lifestyle'

The Inconvenient Truth of the Diamond-Cut Life

Bad news here for the advertising industry, but good news for human beings and all other species. Research from many countries shows that after people’s survival needs and some reasonable pleasure needs are met, consumption piled-higher-and-deeper does NOT create more happiness. Rich is not great. Greed is not cool. Working harder might be moving you backward.

Inconvenient, at least for 20th century notions of economic growth and GDP, but true.

Hence my embracing of the diamond-cut life (partly inspired by Jared Diamond, whose latest book is Collapse). If happiness can be symbolized by a diamond that gets cut from the surrounding cultural rock of over-consumption, which things cut from our lives can best craft the diamond? What are the best uses of our time?

I want to hear from other people about their experiences. What’s true for me is that I am genuinely happy, as my household consumes significantly less than the average U.S. home. The real rock we’ve cut away is the need to impress anyone on material terms. Our house is small and modestly furnished but we host lots of visitors. I buy my clothes at Goodwill and look just fine. Our only car is a 15 year old Nissan Sentra that mostly guards the house while we take the bus to work.

Think of how little control corporations would have over us if we decided to put “time management ” in service to human happiness and conserving the earth’s resources rather than doing more work in less time to make more money to buy more stuff. Which reminds me of a favorite group whose motto is “More fun, less stuff”: Center for New American Dream.

The Inconvenient Truth of the 168-hour Week

“I do care about global warming, but I’m too busy to (fill in the blank)”. I hear this cry often in one form or another. The blank can be many things: buying local produce, changing light bulbs to compact fluorescents, using public transit, using a clothesline instead of the dryer.

Feeling too busy to do things we know in our guts are the right things to do is like a modern epidemic. I sometimes fall into the too-busy trap, too. It can be a form of excited misery. . . . also of self-importance. But my freshman English professor in 1979 gave me a tool I still steadily use to unhinge the trap.

“You have 168 hours in your week,” Mr. Wenzl said. “Write down how you spend them. Add it all up: sleeping, eating, classwork your job if you have one, socializing, exercising, everything. Then tell me you don’t have time to study.”

My classmates and I were appropriately humbled.

I use an Excel spreadsheet these days (it saves time). Bingo — the 168-hour reality check. With all the many things I do, including periodically relaxing and doing nothing, I am clearly still able to take the bus, buy local, deal with the clothesline and do other things to minimize my carbon footprint. So I do.

I would extend a friendly challenge to everyone in the U.S. to add up how they use their 168 hours. And then write in and tell me it isn’t possible for you to take action on global warming. I bet taking action makes you happier, too.