Tag Archives: growth

How evolved are you?

One of the big challenges faced by our modern society is that our world is evolving much faster than we are. The enormous fossil fuel binge of the past century has changed everything – mostly for the better – but our brains have not managed to keep up.

In general, we are still stuck with our primitive mindset of scarcity, even though technological progress has created abundance all around us. This mindset triggers a primitive urge to grab and consume our slice of the global pie at almost any cost.

In the future, we will gradually evolve to a mindset of abundance. This more enlightened society will realize that we have enough pie for a happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable life. We will also find that the global pie becomes much bigger if we stop squabbling over the pieces and, instead, focus on baking more pie.

From this line of thought, I believe that our mental evolution can be directly traced to our consumption patterns. Particularly, whether we consume more or less than we produce and whether we consume more or less than our planet can produce. This gives four kinds of people in the world today:

Currently, that lovely green box in the top-left corner is a rather lonely place – especially in the developed world. We definitely need more people to migrate in that direction.

Speaking of migration, the box in which you find yourself at the moment is not so important. The important part is the direction in which you are moving. As long as you are heading to the green, you are on the right track 🙂

 PS: Why should you take lifestyle advice from a random guy on the internet? Good question. Take a look at the effects that these guidelines had on my life and decide for yourself.

My constitution

The previous post raised this curious idea of drawing up your own constitution.  As a simple example, this post will outline the constitution that has served me very well for several years.

Here goes…

I grant myself sole responsibility over this body-mind that I have been dealt. This responsibility includes protection, nurturing and development and shall be carried out within the confines of planet Earth.

We all owe it to ourselves and to society to look after ourselves. As an added bonus, taking good care of yourself invariably reduces your environmental footprint.

I grant myself authority over the labour of my body-mind. This labour shall be carried out from a clean and effortless mental state and there shall be no unjustified delays or unhealthy excesses.

One of the saddest things in our modern world is that most people are conditioned to chase happiness through consumption rather than creation. Getting control over your creative powers is key to living a happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable life.

I will maximize the quality of my human interactions, while controlling the quantity. Every interaction must fill the other person’s bucket, even if it is just a drop.

The bucket analogy comes from a simple little book by Tom Rath. It simply states that we should strive to impart goodness on everyone we interact with. This is a very good general rule for life.

I will employ a strict zero waste policy to cut out the self-destructive misuse of mental capacity. Every self-destructive mindset shall immediately be quashed with a WTF thought.

We only get a finite amount of mental processing power over the course of our lives. Using this processing power to generate valuable new ideas is optimal, spending it on stuff like routine tasks and entertainment is neutral, but wasting it on self-destructive thought processes is just idiotic. Such a waste of our finite mental capacity truly qualifies as a WTF moment and can be dismissed with a somewhat embarrassed smile and a shake of the head.

I will continuously accelerate my evolution towards the fully rational emotional being. Performance and experience enhancing emotions are strongly encouraged, but primitive self-defeating emotions will be gradually starved out.

Humans are undoubtedly emotional creatures. Unfortunately, several emotional responses that served us well over the vast majority of our evolution have become totally out of date in our modern world. If we are to live happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable lives, we need to eradicate the primitive emotional responses that make us depressed, self-destructive, financially irresponsible and environmentally unsustainable.

So, that’s it. Five simple points that keep me on the straight and narrow. What would your constitution look like?

PS: Why should you take lifestyle advice from a random guy on the internet? Good question. Take a look at the effects that these guidelines had on my life and decide for yourself.

Who are you?

Imagine that someone randomly stops you on the street and demands to know who you really are. Not simple stuff like your name and occupation, but serious stuff like what you stand for and the principles by which you live your life. Would you be able to give a confident answer? Or just a blank stare?

During the busy day-to-day of the modern homo sapiens, few of us ever stop to consider such fundamental questions. This is a shame… Defining who you truly are and who you aspire to be can be the difference between being a ship on a steady course or a piece of driftwood randomly tossed around by the tides of life.

The best way I’ve found to answer these questions is to draw up your own constitution. A constitution is formally defined along these lines: “A body of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is acknowledged to be governed.” It might not be self-evident, but a body of fundamental principles is a very cool thing to have in your life.

Why not give it a go? Take a piece of paper and write down about five fundamental principles according to which the ideal version of you would be governed. If this exercise really makes you think, you might even want to commit these principles to heart so that they are always at hand to keep you on track to the best version of you.

PS: Why should you take lifestyle advice from a random guy on the internet? Good question. Take a look at the effects that these guidelines had on my life and decide for yourself.

The greenest consumption choice: Information

The right information at the right time can be incredibly valuable, not only in the moment, but for many years to come. In addition, modern information technology makes information highly accessible, affordable and environmentally friendly. Shifting some of your consumption from “material” to “information” is therefore a great way to make your life a few shades greener.

It has been said that we live in the “information age” or “the age of the mind”, but very few people really understand the implications of these phrases. The first implication is that your ability to use your mind to process information is critical to your success in this world we live in. In the marketplace today, the lowest paid workers exchange their time and energy for a little bit of money, the middle-class exchange their skills for more money and the elite exchange creative ideas that solve real-world problems for huge amounts of money. The reward gap between those who have mastered information and those who have not is huge and constantly growing.

The second implication is that it has never been easier to get the most out of life. Since information is critical to most things we do in this “information age” and a tremendous wealth of information is accessible to everyone with an internet connection, we have everything we need to be happy and successful. Naturally, it is up to you to pick out the wholesome information from all the junk out there, but this gets progressively easier with practice. The sooner you get started as an avid information consumer, the better.

The third implication is that we have a great opportunity to address our environmental problems through information. Habitual information consumers will have little time or inclination towards primitive material pursuits. A big fancy house, a small fleet of cars and lots of miscellaneous stuff simply become unnecessary and cumbersome to a mind that has successfully evolved beyond the primitive pursuit of material possession towards information acquisition, processing and sharing.

The next post will share some simple guidelines for assessing information quality in order to streamline this crucial mental evolution.

Filed under: Consumption patterns – Consume information

Crunch some numbers

People (and counties) are constantly measuring themselves up against each other. This can be a good thing and lead to some healthy progress, but unfortunately, we tend to measure progress and prosperity in all the wrong ways.

People (and countries) still value conspicuous consumption very highly. For individuals, this can be reflected in a massive house, many fancy cars and a walk-in wardrobe with enough clothes and shoes to open a small retail outlet. For countries, it is that all-important measure called GDP.

Now there is nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, but if most of the contestants in the race are running in the wrong direction, you have a problem. The real goal is a happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable life, but unfortunately, most of us are constantly becoming unhappier, unhealthier, more broke and an ever-growing burden on the planet.

The fundamental mindset that has gotten us running in the wrong direction is called consumerism. As we have discussed before, consumerism does not bring any happiness and presents a big threat to our environment, our economy and our social structures. We really have to start running in the right direction.

The correct measures of individual success are linked on the right-hand sidebar of this blog under “lifestyle calculators” and the correct measure of success for a country is called the Happy Planet Index. Please determine how you are faring in this crucial race and then please make a commitment to at least start running in the right direction.

Filed under: Introduction – Key concepts

Your limiting resource

When I talk about a limiting resource, I mean that single thing that, if you just had more of that, would instantly make you happier and/or  more productive. What do you think your limiting resource is? Simple, right? Money.

Not so fast though… As we saw before, money most certainly does not bring happiness. Neither does money bring increased productivity, at least not when it is applied for pure consumer spending like in most developed nations. You see, only investment can make a country or a person more productive, while consumer spending actually hurts productivity by bringing clutter and debt.

The investment / consumer spending ratio in developed nations truly is horrendously low. This is why non-OECD countries will surpass OECD countries in GDP in 2015, why the almighty G7 countries run a trade deficit of half a trillion dollars, why OECD countries run a humongous 8% of GDP budget deficit, and why developing nations have surpassed developed nations in renewable energy investments in 2010 already.

Nope, money most certainly is not our limiting resource. For most people, the limiting resource is time. Americans sleep 8 hours, work 8 hours, eat and commute 3 hours and watch an astonishing 5 hours of TV per day. This sums to 24 hours and clearly tells you why most people live for the weekend, wishing away 5 out of every 7 days of their lives.

You can get more time by looking after your health, getting organized, removing clutter, and getting rid of huge time-sucking black holes like the TV. You can get more out of your time by staying in good shape, building your skillset, fostering your relationships and setting up simple, but effective working environments.  

Doing these simple things will bring you happiness and increased productivity. Seeking to spend ever greater sums on consumer goods, however, will have the exact opposite effect.

Filed under: Introduction – Key concepts

Growth vs. prosperity

This is a very important distinction to be made on our way to a more sustainable life. In practice, growth means “more”, while prosperity means “better”. Sustainable living demands that we consistently choose prosperity over growth. 

Unfortunately, our society has become totally obsessed with growth. We see 5000 advertising messages per day screaming at us to buy more stuff, our malls are filled with “bargains” trying to get us to buy things that we don’t even need, and low-cost-low-quality consumables of all kinds are now so common that it has become the norm to replace our entire arsenal of miscellaneous stuff yearly.

With regard to the environment, growth implies that we consume more and more planetary resources (both because growth-oriented consumables are so cheap and because they break all the time), while prosperity implies the exact opposite.

When looking at the economy, low quality, growth-oriented products derive their price from the planetary resources they are made of, while high quality, prosperity-oriented products derive their value from the labour needed to develop and produce products of real quality.

And when it comes to personal finances, high quality, long-lasting products will often actually work out cheaper in the long run becuase they have a very long lifetime and tend to run much more cost-effectively.

Choosing prosperity over growth therefore implies that we will take less from the environment while simultaneously increasing the number of jobs in the economy and raising the standard of living of individual consumers. Pretty handy combo, right?

So, next time you are out shopping, make our world a better place by choosing prosperity over growth.

Filed under: Introduction – Key concepts