Personal Culture vs Lifestyle Design

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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.

Cleric Path

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Intentional Pacing

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:

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.

  1. You take a journey with God and as a result, it should draw you into a more intimate relationship with your Father.
  2. 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.

About Journey Plans

For more on Journeys see this post.

Rebounds:

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?)

 

Personal Culture: The Journeys to Improved Self and Life

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Personal Culture: The Journeys to Improved Self and Life

I consider myself an adventure writer on the path of the Postmodern Cleric. I define “a cleric” as a person who pursues wisdom by adventuring with God, and sharing what he/she learns to help others. Writing is my way of sharing what I learn.

I know postmodern is a loaded term these days, but I simply mean the pursuit of effective ways of living based on wisdom.

Wisdom is simply the ability to apply knowledge effectively.

When I look around me, I see tired people running as fast as they can in the hopes of catching a break. We’re all busy. It’s not a wise way to live and I think technology has been a blessing and a curse contributing to our inability to slow down because we don’t use it well. But technology is just one aspect of our modern lifestyle. We need to take a look at what I call our personal culture and decide if the life we’re living is the best it could be.

Lifestyle design is all the rage these days but I’m advocating something a little different with personal culture. In addition to working on the areas that create dissatisfaction, we need a changed perspective about our lives. We must view our lives as an adventure with God, and the problems we face as opportunities to learn and grow.

If you feel like you’re playing whack-a-mole with life’s emergencies just to survive the good news is that there’s a way through it. One deep problem can cause a multitude of symptoms which leaves us treating an endless list of issues. The opportunity here is to dive deep on a few crucial battles and actually correct several problems with the one effort.

I call them journey’s and here’s a list of my current journeys.

Lifestyle design does make sense, we used to all have the same definition of the American dream but we’ve had a mega-shift in the last thirty years (ending the industrial revolution) and we need a new map to success. We now need a more individual/personal definition of success. Hence the question, what do you really want your lifestyle to be like?

The big difference between lifestyle design, which is what most of the ‘Gurus’ out there are touting, and personal culture through journeys is that we are taking the journey from outside in–not living our lives outside in.

Inside out life is choosing our actions based on our unique identity and living the results. Outside in life is letting our circumstances dictate our actions. Anytime we look at how our life is and how we wish it were and then make a list of actions that we think will move us toward that lifestyle we’re living from outside in. Anytime we’re living outside in we’re reactive to the tyranny of a thousand urgent things that come up. There’s no way to focus hard enough on achieving an external goal without losing focus on something else that’s equally important to you.

Most people who achieved wild success in one area of life sacrificed another area. This is the group most of the gurus below too.

  • Join us on the minimalist farm surrounded by friends, homeschooling our kids, growing healthy food (we won’t mention that we owe the IRS and can’t afford to take our kids to the doctor.)
  • Learn how I made my first million before age 30, (nevermind my 3 divorces and 6 kids I never see.)
  • Learn how my husband and I paid off all our debt including our house in ten years (it just gave me diabetes and my husband heart disease.)

There are people who seem to have it all, but they didn’t do it by picking 12 goals and pushing day and night on all of them. They did it by discovering the single, authentic thread that connects their passions–that grand adventure which produced results in multiple areas of life through effort mainly on it.

Journeys (See also)

Journey–A mini-adventure to remove a constraint to the flow of good things from God through us to our unique audience. The Key here is that you’re doing it with God.

It’s going to seem like I’m completely reversing myself with this next part, but there’s a subtle yet important distinction between lifestyle design and taking journeys.

In order to discover our authentic path we need to take some journeys to explore some of the problems we notice in our life. So we are looking at the things in your life that you’re dissatisfied with and planning your pursuit of a solution.

I realize that I’ve been shouting from the rooftop not to use your circumstances to determine your actions and that’s true for how you live your life. What I’m saying is to prayerfully consider the areas of your life that aren’t reflecting the abundance God promised you and then sitting with God to ponder what the two of you are going to do about it.

sand-3325309_1920When you take a journey it’s experiential learning. When you learned to ride a bike you learned how to avoid falling down. You also lost some of your fear of falling down. You can gain several lessons from a simple skill building exercise. So how much can you learn by having God mentor you through an effort to move cities, lose weight, change jobs, or write a book?

What’s important here isn’t whether or not you succeed at any of the goals, it’s what the journey reveals about your authentic self, how God wants to relate to you and learning to see yourself through his eyes. A single journey could take years. Expect to fail several times along the way because any journey worth taking will reveal the deep issues holding you back.

Consider this: Every smoker has been told that cigarettes harm your body. They choose to smoke despite believing that it’s not good for them. If you loved yourself perfectly would you tolerate a habit that harms you? If you quit smoking do you think it might uncover a place in you where you don’t really love yourself?

I’m not trying to pick on smokers here. We all have self-destructive habits. Mine is unhealthy eating. At this point it’s not even about being physically fit anymore, I’m just angry that there’s someplace in my soul I hold God out of because if I let him in, his love would heal it. Why can’t I receive that healing? I don’t know yet, but I’m on a journey to find out.

The disease is always not receiving God’s love and accepting who he says we are. We’ve been masking the symptoms (or living with them), our whole lives. It’s time to pressure the symptoms until our flesh cries out at the place of brokenness.

We aren’t just looking for heart wounds when we journey. It can also reveal our adventure or our battle. It can repair our understanding of relationships with other people. It can reveal our true life’s calling. All these things come when we address the issues in our lives in relationship with God, instead of trying to fix the problems ourselves.

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4 Types of Journey

Heal a Wound:

In his groundbreaking book, “Wild at Heart” John Eldredge covers this topic far better than I can hope to reproduce. This is the single toughest topic for men to take on and it requires a level of vulnerability with yourself and God that is foreign to all but the most courageous of men.

In short, the words and actions of those we look up to as we’re growing up can place a mark on how we see ourselves, other human beings and God. Unless or until this shattering is healed a man walks through life broken hearted and unable to receive the full abundance God designed for him.

Gain Understanding:

Again from the book, “Wild at Heart,” there is always a lie that accompanies a wound. We get the wrong idea about the critical things in life. The message of the wound is that you, personally are unacceptable. It may be more subtle, like “you are a mistake,” “screw-up,” “a failure,” and so on, but it all adds up to be something we hate to hear and embrace. Some men live to prove that lie is false and others surrender to it, but either way, it becomes the defining reality that you accept about yourself.

The reality is that in Christ we are acceptable. When being justified and restored to relationship with God becomes the defining thing in our lives we can accept God’s larger-than-life opinion of who we are. We can walk forward with a whole heart. Even if you accept that this is true, it can take a journey to make this truth a part of your DNA.

Battle for Freedom:  (from addiction/etc.)

When wounds aren’t healed for a long time they become encased in scar tissue. We’ll call it the flesh. We achieve a state that’s no longer bleeding but not yet repaired. We treat the pain of wounded place by not looking at it, ever, under any circumstances. The pain of the wound continues and we’ll do anything to treat the pain–short of healing the wound.

It leads to chemical addiction, eating disorders, porn addictions, rage fits, and so on. Battling something in your life that you’ve learned to live with can expose a deep wound but it also creates lasting victory. When you dry out a drunk using a process like alcoholics anonymous you get someone who’s potentially less destructive to themselves and their world but still an alcoholic. They often relapse repeatedly or exchange one addiction for another. If you journey to the source of the addiction you can have a lasting victory.

Clarify your Identity/Relationship with God:

There’s something unique about every single human being. It’s the goal of your enemy to convince you that what sets you apart is actually what makes you a freak and unable to have deep relationships with others and God. It takes vulnerability to be in a relationship and if you see your superpowers and mutations you’ll pull back from offering your uniqueness to others. You’re left feeling rejected for the very things only you can contribute to the community around you.

We must take our identity from who God says we are because we’re built in his image. That means cultivating a trust in him because he’s going to have a vision of you that’s more glorious that we’re ready to accept. It takes a journey to remove the color-distorting glasses we’ve worn our whole lives and stand unapologetically in our full magnitude.