The man was enormously successful by America’s contemporary standards of material accomplishment: a meteoric rise up the corporate ladder; a 4700 square foot house in an exclusive suburb; over $200,000 annual salary; a beautiful wife and two intelligent, well-behaved children. Yet all he could talk about was the knot in his stomach that wouldn’t go away, and the sheer loneliness and emptiness of his existence. He had no true friends, did not know how to talk with his children, he and his wife were distant and angry, and he didn’t feel his work or life had any meaning. Is this success?
We have worked with too many men and women like this man: working, pushing and achieving, yet feeling on the inside like a rat stuck on a wheel going nowhere fast. Americans work more hours and take less vacations than any culture in the world. While our standard of material life may be the envy of the world, our inner life is the object of comments like that of Mother Theresa, who said she had never seen such emotional poverty as she saw in America.
Joe Dominguez, deceased author of the best-selling underground classic “Your Money or Your Life”, and a rare voice of sanity amid mindless consumerism, was fond of asking participants at workshops, “Are you making a living or making a dying? If you’re making a living, at the end of each day you should feel more alive, more rejuvenated, more connected with others, and more grateful to be living the life you have.” By this definition, many Americans are making a dying: feeling exhausted, cut off from others, numb and depleted, while chasing illusory material goals whose gratification is fleeting and empty.
We would like to add an additional phrase to Dominguez’ question: are you making a loving? That is, is your lifestyle conducive to creating more love, more meaningful connection with others, more time playing, connecting and bonding with those closest to you? Or do you find yourself like so many others today, strapped for time, connecting with others only in superficial or electronic means, or not even bothering to try because you’re too exhausted?
Certainly there are emotional fears and blocks that keep many people from living a more loving life, but by far the most popular reason people give for not ‘making a loving’is a lack of time. To hear people talk today, you would think that the revolution of the earth has been shortened a few hours since they were born! We’re always amazed by the number of couples who claims they are serious about creating a closer, more loving relationship but claim they don’t even have ten minutes a day to invest in that pursuit.
As individuals and as a culture, it’s time we stop feeling victimized by time and take responsibility for the fact that we have chosen and created every second of our lifestyle. Dominguez brilliantly expanded upon the concept of “time is money”: he had people calculate the actual hours of their lives each purchase costs them. For him, money is nothing more than an exchange of life energy. When you go through his calculations, it turns out that for most people a new car costs around seven hours of life energy a week; a vacation costs eleven hours a week; a bigger house costs over twenty hours a week.
This analysis helps you really understand your priorities in life. For example, if you’re willing to trade seven hours of your life to drive a new car, compare this to how many hours (or minutes) a week you currently devote to:
- being physically affectionate with those close to you
- looking directly into the eyes of people
- talking to others about meaningful topics
- creating community
- engaging in spiritual practices
- doing non-task activities with your partner and/or children
- live in-person contact vs. electronic (telephone or email) contact with friends, family and/or loved ones
- unstructured leisure time
In short, do you have a lifestyle conducive to creating more love, happiness and fulfillment? If not, the following items can help you begin to take specific steps to creating more love in your life:
- remember that you have created your entire lifestyle by a series of past choices, and you have the same power to create a different one
- your lifestyle choices are unlimited, and there may be many more fulfilling choices than the one Madison Avenue has created for you
- if you’re not creating as much love in your life as you’d like because of a time crunch, re-evaluate your choices and begin planting the seeds of a new lifestyle today! For the experiences of love that you give and receive in the future will directly flow from the choices you make today
- keep a “time diary” for a week or month. This will show you clearly the activitiesin your current lifestyle that are not consistent with your life priorities and goals, and you can then choose to reduce of eliminate them
- examine whether you have sabotaged opportunities to create more time and/or love in your life by quickly filling up your free time or making purchases which require you to work more hours.
The tragedy of modern life is that with all of our technological progress, many people feel unloved and exhausted, and see more work and more money as the only solution. But thinkof the most connected, most loving days of your life: how many of those depended on lots of money? Probably none of them. By consciously creating a lifestyle that is conducive to creating more love, and removing emotional obstacles to receiving that love, you can indeed have it all: making a living AND making a loving every day of your life.