The Paradox of Prosperity- Does More Mean Less?

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In his book, ‘A Whole New Mind, author Daniel Pink tells us that  “The paradox of prosperity is that while living standards have risen steadily decade after decade, personal, family, and life satisfaction haven’t budged.  That’s why more people-liberated by prosperity but not fulfilled by it-are resolving the paradox by searching for meaning.”

As Americans, we have one of  the highest standards of living, yet we rank somewhere in the middle in terms of fulfillment and health.  We have more than enough stuff to make us happy and yet most of us are not feeling it.  Ever notice the people around you in the grocery store checkout, happily waiting in line, bright, beaming faces, so full of life? Yeah, me neither.

We have cell phones, Blackberry’s, and any number of devices that ‘virtually’ connect us to one another.  Are we better off, more related, or connected by having an abundance of things and electronic devices?

For the better part of human history, life for most people was defined by scarcity.  Simply having enough food or finding shelter for the night was enough.  The industrial revolution produced a breakthrough in the amount of goods we enjoy from frozen food to furniture. For most of the twentieth century, our greatest aspiration (Americans) was to own a home.  Today, roughly 66% of Americans own homes, and, incredibly, 13% of that total are second homes!  It was not that long ago that only the rich could afford to own a car. Today, in the United States, there are more cars then drivers.

Can you guess what industry is among the fastest growing in the United States?  Self -Storage! Growing at a faster pace than the movie industry, self -storage is a $17 billion annual business.  When we are no longer able to store all our stuff we simply throw it out.  In fact, we spend more on trash bags then ninety other countries spend on everything! Said another way, we spend more on ways to dispose of garbage than all of the goods consumed by half the world.

Many of us are feeling the challenge to find meaning and purpose in our work, relationships and in life. How do we do this?  Being really honest with ourselves is a good starting point.  Here are five practices I have adopted in order to bring greater meaning to my work and purpose to my life:

  • Practice of Being Present; I enhance my connection to the people in my life moment to moment. I practice being present with whom or what is in front of me. When I notice I’m not, I simply return to being present.
  • Honest Introspection – Are you at work on what you love or are you simply going through the motions? Ask yourself ‘What is the thing I’m at work on that I can’t wait to get back to? There are things, people and projects you have a passion for. What are they? Start with the question and find the support you need by engaging others in your quest.
  • Do Good Work; whatever it is that you’re doing, do it brilliantly. Even if what you are doing is not what you would like to be doing in the future, – it is what you are doing now! You can find purpose and meaning in your work if you simply look for it.
  • Assume a Connection; Listen and speak from your (our) connection as human beings; our ‘oneness’.  Practice saying what you need to say in order to feel a sense of connection and completion with people.  Don’t ‘dump’ on people, but do share in order to expand your .relationship with them.
  • Nurture your Spirituality; are you neglecting this aspect of yourself, your spirituality? If so, try connecting with people or groups that are that are aligned with the principles of Oneness, Compassion and  Connection.  Is there a group you are putting off being a part of?  If so, follow your intuition, do what you know you need to do.

For me, finding meaning and purpose beyond the creature comforts and my addiction having to have more stuff is one of the pathways to living a fulfilled life. I hope that what I’ve shared here will help you on your own path to deepening your sense of purpose at work and finding more meaning in your life.

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