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Living Two Lives: What To Do About It

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    July 16, 2013

    You know that something is very wrong.

    Even if you ascribe to the recovery meme and ingest the current narrative that the economy is about to take off and that stocks and houses will once again make us all rich, you know deep down that the story of perpetual exponential growth has an ending.

    Maybe not immediately, but someday, certainly, the doctrine of endless growth will have to end. And you know that in all likelihood it won’t end on human terms, in a manner of our careful choosing, but on some other terms set by exhausted ecosystems and depleted resources interacting with our highly complex economic and financial systems.

    How exactly does one fashion a new lifestyle that is in alignment with this view? Is it even possible?

    Or perhaps you don’t even buy the recovery meme, but you know that endless money printing is not the path to prosperity and that the current appearance of recovery is just an illusion, all but certain to end in tears as it always has in the past. Holding this view, perhaps you have the sense that there’s a more resilient and higher quality of life out there for you, but you are not yet there.

    Living Two Lives

    If you are like millions of other people (and how I used to be), you find yourself living two lives; the one you inhabit each day and the one you feel that you ought to be living.

    While it is true in every age that humans have sought to find greater fulfillment and better alignment between their values and livelihoods, for many this striving takes on additional tones of urgency during a period of time such as the one we are in now.

    We have been working hard recently to better define, understand, and work with the various components of what it means to live two lives and are pleased to announce that the first public offering of these efforts will be at the upcoming Kripalu seminar next weekend.

    I am personally very excited about the potential of this new material to open up rich discussions and shift personal narratives.

    To begin, simply being in a safe place among kindred spirits openly talking about the this topic of living two lives will, all by itself, be powerful. Just being open about it and naming the dynamic publicly will provide its own form of relief while opening new doorways to explore.

    We’ll introduce a newly-developed form of framing that consciously explores where our individual actions are in alignment with our thoughts and values and where they are not.

    It begins by asking Where are we acting to address the things over which we have control? Many of us are already doing these acts of mastery, be they in the physical realm such as gardening or energy retrofitting a house, or in the emotional realm by taking responsibility for and control over our emotional reactions to events. By noting these areas we can celebrate our positive contributions to our lives and future resilience.

    It progresses to then explore Where we are acting to address things over which we have no control? These acts become a form of ceaseless strivingbecause no matter how much or how well we perform these actions, the larger outcome will turn out however it was going to in the first place. Operating in this way leads to stress, frustration, anxiety – a decidedly powerless and unhappy place to be.

    The third stage focuses on where we are not acting in areas we can control. This is a form of giving up, and it is a very powerless place to be in every respect, save the intensity of the emotions that it fosters. Despair, hopelessness, anger, or even rage are quite common emotions that occupy this territory.

    And last we look at where we find ourselves not taking any actions to address the things we cannot control. This is a very powerful place to be, and it is represented by the idea of letting go – and is often accompanied by emotions of peace and new-found freedom. Our culture, being as tilted towards the masculine as it is, typically focuses far more on taking action (mastery) than letting go, but each is just as powerful as the other and each has equal value when applied to different situations of our lives.

    The Serenity Prayer and Buddhism both speak to the wisdom of letting go, and yet I find precious little direct, useful conversation in our culture about exactly what that means. And so at the seminar we will put our heads together to shine some much-needed light on this area.

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    The courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.

    Of course, the whole weekend seminar will cover a lot more territory, all of which we are working to integrate with this new discussion about leading two lives, and it really dovetails nicely. I am personally looking forward to participating in the discussions and learnings that result.

    Moving Into Alignment

    So returning to the beginning of this post: We all sense that something is very wrong with our society’s dependence on exponential growth. Many of us find ourselves ‘living two lives,’ bifurcated between working within the current system but believing we need to be behaving very differently if we desire a prosperous future for ourselves and our progeny. How do we bring our behavior into better alignment with our beliefs so that real change, real productive forward momentum, can bloom?

    That’s the sweet spot of next weekend’s seminar. We dig into the need for change, identify the barriers and obstacles that make change difficult, vision the specific behavior changes and action steps that will benefit you most personally, and explore how best to bring your life into alignment with this vision.

    If you think you’d benefit from this opportunity, there is still time to register and attend, and I’d be delighted to have you there.

    Your faithful information scout,

    ~Chris Martenson

    P.S. For a bit more on the dynamic of Living Two Lives, here’s the intro that I wrote for a recent Martenson Insider article that generated an excellent discussion on the site.

    At the Rowe seminar in 2013, when we asked the participants what they hoped to get out of the event, we heard something very different from prior years. Where the first years of the seminar could be characterized by tactical requests such as I want to know how to store food and how and where do I buy gold, this year we heard something very different.

    One of the more pressing requests was I feel like I am living two lives, how do I manage this?

    What was meant by this was living with the perception that their old life, marked by a normal job and regular routines like filling up the tank with gas, shopping, and attending parties where the weather , kids and sports were discussed, was not the one they wanted to be leading.

    In many cases people were leading second lives marked by passionate interests in new things like bees, gardens, and discussing future scenarios that were not fit for polite conversation unless one happened to be a Hollywood screenwriter.

    Nearly everyone shared the perception that their true calling was to be fully in their ‘new life’ but that they could not yet get all the way over to it. Yet. Also common was the desire to be more fully connected to their local community as was the perception that critical mass was still some ways off.

    In many cases people wondered if perhaps there weren’t a lot of other people feeling similar things but that nobody was really talking about it yet and so they went unnoticed to each other.

    Underneath it wall was a lurking dissatisfaction with ‘normal life’ and a desire to get on with something new, more engaged, dynamic and just plain fun.

    Once this view is adopted, the old world can seem drab, uninteresting and even tedious. Where are the dynamic conversations about real things, the willingness to try new things, take risks and live more fully if not intensely?

    And so we all are waiting to some extent, and that comes with a sense of powerlessness, like a farmer wishing for rain.

    Images: Flickr (licence attribution)

    About the Author  

    Executive summary: Father of three young children; author; obsessive financial observer; trained as a scientist; experienced in business; has made profound changes in his lifestyle because of what he sees coming.

    First of all, I am not an economist. I am trained as a scientist, having completed both a PhD and a post-doctoral program at Duke University, where I specialized in neurotoxicology. I tell you this because my extensive training as a scientist informs and guides how I think. I gather data, I develop hypotheses, and I continually seek to accept or reject my hypotheses based on the evidence at hand. I let the data tell me the story.

    It is also important for you to know that I entered the profession of science with the intention of teaching at the college level. I love teaching, and I especially enjoy the challenge of explaining difficult or complicated subjects to people with limited or no background in those subjects. Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

    Once I figured out that most of the (so-called) better colleges place “effective teacher” pretty much near the bottom of their list of characteristics that factor into tenure review, I switched gears, obtained an MBA from Cornell (in Finance), and spent the next ten years working my way through positions in both corporate finance and strategic consulting. From these experiences I gather my comfort with numbers and finance.