Tag Archives: business

ARE YOU A POST MATERIALIST?

My son’s home from university and one of our conversations turned to the economy and how hard it is to find even part-time, entry level work. He’s sent out something like 80 applications, done some interviews, and over the course of months, has just recently landed something part-time. The talk eventually wound around to the idea that my husband and I are post materialists. Now that’s not a term I know and my son delights in sharing what he has learned. As a parent, I love these times when the kids get to educate me. “So what are your girlfriend’s parents then?” I ask him. “Materialists”, he answers as if I should already know that. I actually did know that.

Anyway, further investigation on my part revealed that Ronald Inglehart developed the idea of post materialism in the 1970s as a sociological theory to explain an ongoing transformation of individual values within a society. He argued that as western nations achieved a level of economic prosperity and physical security, its members transformed their values seeking more autonomy and self-expression. Ah, this sounds a lot like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As people meet their basic survival requirements, we move up the pyramid until we are striving for self-actualization. Maslow confined his theory to how individuals are transformed and Inglehart wanted to see how societies as a whole might be transformed.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, created by J. Finkelstein, 2006

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, created by J. Finkelstein, 2006

 

So to be a post materialist, you must first meet your basic survival needs (food, shelter, security). OK, done. Once that is accomplished you move up Maslow’s hierarchy and as you do, you start to realize you’re no happier than when you were struggling. This brings to mind Daniel Gilbert’s book, Stumbling on Happiness. I believe it was in that book that I first learned American happiness peaked in the 1950s. BEFORE I WAS BORN! Sixty plus years later, we have higher incomes, higher levels of education, better health care, bigger houses, more cars but we are less happy overall. Remember when we were told (and believed) that he (or she) who has the most toys wins? We played the game, we toed the line, we consumed and bought all the right stuff, we competed with the Joneses, and we became… less happy. Maybe we were even miserable because the promise of happiness slipped away as we had to go looking for a storage shed to rent for all the loot that was supposed to make us positively giddy.

Stumbling on Happiness

 

We looked around and saw it wasn’t working. We stopped playing the game. We got rid of the excess stuff and looked inside to see what would fill the void. We began to talk about “downsizing”. The value shift from possessing things to experiencing and self- expression took hold.

Inglehart recognized that younger people (raised in economic security) were more likely to identify with the values of post materialism. But older people who were raised with the struggle of material existence may or may not shift out of that paradigm. Actually, Inglehart’s ideas remain controversial. Surprisingly, we don’t have good statistical information to measure value changes in the US. The World Value Survey of 2000 (Wikipedia) did give some indication of post materialism worldwide. The highest percentage of post materialists were found to be in Australia with 35%. Canada has 29% while the US has 25 % of the population being post materialist.

So being a minority in the US, I will be moving this year and continuing my efforts to downsize. I will continue to reject the notion that he who has the most toys wins. I will refuse to believe that my worth as an individual comes solely from consuming. I will pursue balance and harmony. And I will remember happiness is a choice for the post materialist and materialist alike. Happy 2013!

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Filed under Books, Political, Spiritual/Mysticism

ON HABITS

habit

We all have habits. Some are good and some are not so good, but it’s amazing to consider how much of our lives are given over to them. We get up in the morning and activate those circuits and we’re off. If you doubt how much habits rule you, just try to change something. Do your morning routine or just a couple of things out-of-order and see how discombobulated you become. What’s that saying? We are creatures of habit.

In The Power of Habit, New York Times reporter, Charles Duhigg, discusses why habits exist and how they can be changed. The power to transform habits allows individuals, organizations, and societies to implement changes.     

In part one of the book, we learn about the habits of the individual. The author delves into the neuroscience of the habit loop and how cravings are created. The real insight here is that habits are not broken, rather they are transformed. The stimulus (or cue) for a habit, along with some kind of payoff will always remain. The individual however can modify the response to the cue and substitute a new behavior. This creates the “new” habit. Be warned, this is not a magic bullet. Changing habits still remains hard work.

The habits of successful organizations are covered in part two. Here we learn how keystone habits are fundamental to the organization and how changing these can have powerful ripple effects. Alcoa, Starbucks, and Target are examined in detail but take care. Not everything about habit change is positive. While Alcoa’s focus on employee safety is to be applauded, Target’s computer marketing data collection may set your teeth on edge. Don’t worry about Big Brother, worry about how you and your purchase information is being exploited.

Part three concerns itself with the habits of societies. The success of Saddleback Church and the Montgomery bus boycott are used as examples of how societal rules and pressures can be brought to bear to affect change. The author concludes with a section called the neurology of free will. This is a last foray into recent discoveries about neuroscience and asks the reader to consider the cases of a murderer and a gambler. Both have habitual behaviors but are treated very differently under the law. It’s a rather odd ending for the book and I wonder if the dichotomy the author was aiming for might better have been used as an introduction to the subject rather than a stomach punch at the end.

The book wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. It is not a self-help book and no one will be really motivated to implement change by it. It does make you feel change is possible. There are some good discussions about brain science and recent discoveries. However, much of the book is episodic and anecdotal. I wouldn’t use it in a business management setting, so I guess it’s sort of a general interest introduction.

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Filed under Book Review, Books