Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Voluntary Simplicity, an Antidote to Worry about "The Number"

The press is filled these days with stories that focus on just how much one needs to have accumulated to "retire" successfully. There is even a book titled "The Number" that talks about how people are very focused on just how large this nest egg must be to sustain their lifestyle. We are bombarded these days with messages in the media urging us to plan ahead, invest and attend to accumulating more and investing more and obtaining more and never really ask...

What for? To what end? Is this what will make me truly happy?

There is fascinating new research in the positive psychology movement that shows truly that after basic needs are met that more money does not mean more happiness. Research shows that that accumulating is not the path to fulfillment.

So what does make people happy?

Research done by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of Finding Flow shows that being engaged in meaningful activities that use your skills and abilities leads to greater life satisfaction. Richard Johnson, PhD who has studied life satisfaction in "retirement" has found that having a life purpose and giving back, contributing to others, are key elements in life satisfaction. Cornell University conducted a study and it found what people miss most in retirement is purposeful activities with others.

So chasing the Number won't get you where you want to go.... what will?

An exciting alternative you might wish to check out is the Voluntary Simplicity Movement.

Wikipedia defines "Simple living (or voluntary simplicity) is a lifestyle individuals may pursue for a variety of motivations, such as
spirituality, health, or ecology. "

People choose to live simply for reasons of social justice, personal taste, fairness or economy. It is also referred to as downshifting. An example of this, is moving to a smaller home after the kids are raised because you just don't need all that space. Shopping the resale shops to buy the clothes you need, recycling, basically focusing on experiences and relationships rather than accumulating things.

The movement has been around since the 1980's, Duane Elgin's book, Voluntary Simplicity is the book that started it all. But now with attention to global warming and people concerned about their carbon footprints and sustainability there are increasing opportunities to learn about it, and explore this lifestyle choice.

Here in Madison, Sustain Dane sponsors classes teaching ways to live simply.

There are classes starting this month!

Voluntary Simplicity Course forming - call Ann at 819-0689 if interested

Dates: TBD (sometime in April)

Location: TBD - west side of Madison, also Willy St. Co-op possible locations

Sponsors: Sustain Dane

Contact: Ann Scheerer 608.819.0689 Email: Sustain Dane
Web site:

Course description:
This 9-session discussion course explores the meaning of voluntary simplicity, explores the material and psychology distractions that prevent us from caring for the earth, consider how life might be enriched through the practice of simplicity. Contact
www.sustaindane.org for more information.

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