Lifestyle Design gets a lot of attention these days, and it deserves a closer look. At long last, folks are attempting to put things like success, happiness, and wealth into personalized perspective. They are asking the postmodern question, “if I pursue what everyone says is the American Dream, will that bring ME satisfaction?”
I wrote on a related topic in my post on stoic reality. The gist is that we do need personal definitions but we also need to realize that reality doesn’t care about your definition. Sometimes the things that are difficult in the short run bring more life in the long run. Sometimes we need to lean into discomfort, or even pain, in order to pursue more LIFE. Sometimes we need to risk personal disaster in order to live in line with our values.
The famous quote from William Wallace’s character in the movie Brave Heart comes to mind. “Everyone dies, few men ever really live.”
So, I advocate something I call Personal Culture. It requires you to create your personal definitions, but then test it against your values. The trick here is that most of us don’t really think through our values. It takes an intentionality that isn’t possible in the typical busy American schedule.
The Average American Life
(Note: I use the term American a lot before things I’m criticizing. I’m not bagging on the U.S. I love America. Out of all the ways we do government and culture, America has figured out the best over-all way. Since I myself, and most of my audience, live in America I’m using it to indicate typical way most of us live. )
The two biggest challenges facing most of us are fear and shame. I plan to write on these at greater length, but my mentor, Sam Williamson covered shame far more brilliantly than I can.
The thing that makes fear and shame so terrible isn’t the temporary grip on our emotions, it’s that they take hold deep in our identity and become a guiding force in our decision-making.
If we don’t live from God, we live from fear or shame…or both.
Guilt vs Shame
As I mentioned above, unless we heal the wound in our ability to trust God we won’t be able to slow our pace enough to develop an effective personal culture. Guilt is a soul level issue that can motivate us to make changes, but shame is at the level of our heart.
Guilt says, “I did something bad,” where shame says, “I am bad.” –Chris Skaggs
They require different weapons to combat. If you have debilitating guilt talking actually does help. Talking with a counselor can identify shame, even create ‘understanding’ of it, but it cannot heal it. That takes God.
Sam’s post will describe how to heal shame, permanently.
A major factor in walking the Cleric Path is living inside out, authentically, in line with your values. As the 1st book in the series, The Primacy of God, points out; abundance flows from God, through us/changing us, then out to other people. We must subordinate our lives to God or we are relegated to a life on the hamster wheel–trying to outrun our problems and succeed in our own strength.
When Christ said he came that we may have life abundant, I believe him (John 10:10).
Very few people I know, Christian or not, live a truly abundant life–including me. The Cleric Path is my journey to receive abundance. The vision is a bullet-proof Tarzan, who could manage a kingdom or lose everything and still function in my purpose. I want to be responsive to what Micheal Q Pink calls Spontaneous Wealth–those flashes of epiphany that seem to almost accomplish themselves which we commonly ignore for lack of time.
What’s the Differences?
The key differences between lifestyle design and personal culture are the direction of flow and the source of the answers.
- Clearly, I’m going to advocate for God as a solution, but hear me out. The secular answer to shame, for example, is to be self-compassionate, improve self-esteem, think positive, or recast our stories, etc. Basically, try harder/run faster on that hampster wheel. Which leads to more failure and more guilt. We must have a source outside ourselves to defeat something bigger than ourselves and believe me, our problems are larger than us.
- Instead of living outside in, where your actions arise from a desire to create a desirable environment, we must live from inside out. Want to stop playing whack-a-mole with your problems? Stop reacting to urgent crap and let your actions arise from who you really are.
Personal Culture (see also this post)
An effective Personal Culture has three elements:
- Mythic Reality Vision
- Intentional Pacing
- Authentic Actions & Rebounds
Mythic Reality Vision
We need to get a bigger perspective. When we worship our own intellect we tend to blind ourselves to things that are beyond the scope of our influence. The result is we live in a smaller story where the right thing to do is everything you can do to improve your existence. Sure we want to help people but what can one person really do, right?
Well, we lack the perspective to effectively make decisions in our lives. Only by seeing ourselves in the context of the story God is living, can we begin to glimpse the factors beyond our immediate circle of influence. On your most triumphant day at work, the most truly important thing you did all day, in God’s eyes, was smile at your barista.
While we’ll never be able to predict the unintended consequences of our actions, positive or negative, we can view life through a larger lens by consulting God about every situation.
If we can learn to trust God we can move at a slower, more deliberate pace. You actually get more stuff done. How? Well, when your actions arise from your authentic identity you feel more satisfied. You spend less time on urgent things that turn out to be meaningless (although sometimes you’ll swear its the opposite). You also gain a secret blessing called multiplication.
While the world is telling you to multitask (split your focus and do several things at once) God’s answer is to bless you with manifold outcomes to your single efforts. God is the original two birds with one stone guy. He has given his people crops they didn’t plant, and victories over armies without lifting a finger. He will bless you manifold if you do everything you do with Him.
Authentic Actions (Journeys & Rebounds)
Living outside-in is when you try to change your circumstances. You’re always reacting to your circumstances because that’s how you know what to do next.
Living inside-out means letting your actions arise from who you are and then living with the consequences. You actually end up living above our circumstances.
For example, God is always abundantly giving to you. If you lose your job you could drop everything and seek a new job to replace the income. Or, you could ask God what He’s up to. Are you now poor because you don’t have an income? Or are you now rich in time to work on things?
God does understand that you need to provide for your family, but if you live from the assumption that God has your back you gain the ability to look around for God’s blessing in the hardship. You are free from the myopic and self-limiting belief that without money you can do nothing.
I’m not actually advocating that you throw your hands in the air and take whatever life hands you. We are given stewardship over our bodies and our kingdoms, which means we are authorized to manage these things. In fact, Jesus told an entire parable about a rich man leaving talents with his three servants. It didn’t go well with the servant who buried his talent. His reason, BTW, was that he feared his Master and couldn’t risk losing it. If God gives you a hammer find a nail and start swinging–it doesn’t go well for that third servant.
So here are two Godly ways to pursue God’s abundance in your sphere of authority: Journeys & Rebounds.
Journeys – a mini-adventure to remove a constraint to the flow of good things from God through us to our unique audience.
If you want to improve your physical fitness, financial outlook, or organize your environment better you can take on what I call a journey.
A journey looks a lot like the sort of secular mission-driven effort to fix our lives through our own strength but there are a couple key differences.
- You take a journey with God and as a result, it should draw you into a more intimate relationship with your Father.
- While you are trying to accomplish the goal of the journey (changed situation) your goal is to reveal constraints (wounds) that impede the flow of abundance through you.
Rebounds are habits we undertake to make incremental improvements. Where a journey is more like a project to lose 15 lbs by efforts x, y, & z, a rebound is an attempt to replace certain bad habits with beneficial ones.
The goal, again, is to bring you closer to God.
Examples of rebounds:
- Prayer before meals
- doing 5 pushups on the counter before you brush your teeth
- keeping a gratitude journal
- parking further from the door so you get more walking in
And so on. The idea is to replenish you by doing things that make you more aware of God, more aware of your decisions, and to increase the bring more heart satisfaction.
More on Rebounds coming in a separate post…(Link?)