It’s Just Not Working

It’s not working. Let’s face it: most of us know that already. Some of us are afraid to say it. Most of us aren’t sure what to do about it. But let’s get it out in the open: it’s just not working.

Many people in the United States, as well as in many other parts of the world, are working longer hours, sacrificing sleep, and are able to afford less and less. Levels of stress are high. The higher levels of stress are resulting in greater risk for coronary disease, diabetes, and mental health concerns like depression and anxiety disorders. In the United States, we medicate ourselves to mask the symptoms, but “the system” sucks us into leading lives that are increasingly out of control. Fundamentally, the system is broken. We know it. It’s harming us. But even saying that, what can we do?

In her commencement address at Smith College, Arianna Huffington stated. “If we don’t redefine success, the personal price we pay will get higher and higher. And as the data shows, the price is even higher for women than for men. Already women in stressful jobs have a nearly 40 percent increased risk of heart disease and a 60 percent greater risk for diabetes.” She concluded, “Right now, America’s workplace is practically fueled by stress, sleep deprivation, and burnout.”

Under the banner, The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Power and Money, Arianna Huffington and a network of influential women are imaging how human living can be different. The two measures of success in the world today are power and money. If you have both, then you’ve made it! Or have you?

I’m not a person with substantial power or money. It’s also not my place to judge those who do. But grasping for things, wanting more, and desiring to have the esteem of others lead to unhappiness. Things don’t last. When you have more, there’s always the potential for wanting even more. And esteem from others? Let’s be honest, in the end, few of us are remembered by people other than our closest companions.

Perhaps it’s time for us all to think out loud about what success really means. Could success be related to a happy, healthy life? Can success be measured by a our level of contentment? Is the successful person actually the one who can stop and smell the roses, pause and savor food and drink, and rest securely in relationships with others? Doing these things probably doesn’t result in power or money. But do they result in a full spirit and a longer, healthier life?

Those who regularly read e-merging probably do so because spirituality is an important part of their lives. Or perhaps you are looking for ways to make spirituality a more significant part of your life. From my perspective, that’s something to be lauded. But I wonder what it would mean for society if more and more people began talking about their values for spirituality, their experiences with spiritual practices, and the ways life changes for them in positive ways because of spirituality? Could people talking about their own happiness and sense of fulfillment draw other people to explore what Huffington is calling the Third Metric? Would honest discussion among friends and family members lead more people to consider that money and power really aren’t the source of happiness?

I think most people already know that money and power don’t bring happiness, fulfillment, or contentment. The problem is that contemporary society functions on the premise that money and power are the most important things in life.

Ultimately, my values are pretty simple: the most important thing in life is human well-being. Well-being, contentment, and a deep, abiding happiness are available to all people and always have been. When we discover the power of our own happiness, other things don’t matter so much. That’s when we are able to break out of the cycle of wanting more money and power. We can break that cycle, one person at a time, if we choose to.

© 2013, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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