THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Mar 19, 2015

Life Sucks And It's Society's Fault

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of you have commented on this series of articles, some with thanks, some with criticism, and some just plain missing the point.

So let's try being more blunt: if you want a better experience of life, live it!

Notice I did not say, "if you want more things out of life, go get them." I'm talking about the quality of your life experience, and not the quantify of toys you can accumulate. Contrary to the bumper sticker, the person who dies with the most toys does not necessarily win - unless, of course, you may be talking about winning the booby prize.

So many people seem to still be stuck on the measuring stick of the material--how much do you make, how much do you have in the bank, what kind of house do you have, what kinds of electronics do you own, where do you go on vacation, and all manner of physical world things.

Even more amazing to me is how many keep trying to blame some euphemistic society for their ills, and, in particular, the American society for having instilled in them the focus on things vs. quality of experience.

Measure Your Quality of Life by Quality of Experience, not by Quantity of Possessions

If you happen to have succumbed to the "Madison" avenue, TV version of success, then sure, you can blame the advertisements, the TV shows and the greedy bankers if you want. It still comes down to who drank the Kool-Aid, not who made the Kool-Aid.

So come on now: how about some modicum of reality here: Are you responsible for your choices or not? If not, you can stop reading this article and any others that follow. This work is not for you if you are looking for someone to blame. This work is for you if you are willing to acknowledge that you are the one making the choices, and that if life experience is going to improve, it will come down to choices you make today, tomorrow and the next day.

Here's an example of the societal conundrum (and please, I'm not trying to jump on anyone here, least of all the author of this email. This person had the courage to write and my experience suggests that being willing to talk about the issue is the first major step forward):

I just read your (article) and I agree with what you said. But my question to you is, how can you truly live the life you want to live when our society doesn't support it? What I mean is that if it were not for the need of money, and so much of it, in order to live decently would not their be more dreams being fulfilled without having to worry about being able to pay your bills? I am 41yrs old and every day I am constantly in my head trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, all the while knowing that what I want to do, which is to be able to experience all the things of interest to me for however long and still get paid a decent salary in which to live a modest life, all the while not feeling like some sort of failure because I didn't live up to societies brainwashing of what success is or responsibility for that matter. I just want to be free to LIVE life and not have to end up on the street in order to do that. So again tell me how can I make my dream come true?

- KJ

KJ's note is great! KJ has provided a foundation upon which we can begin to make some of this clear. Let's dissect the note, line by line:

"How can you truly live the life you want to live when our society doesn't support it?" Society? Which society? Who is this society and how did it come to have the power to decide what you can choose for your own life. Assuming we aren't talking about a life of mayhem, robbery and murder, you can pretty much find hundreds, if not thousands or millions of different approaches to life, each of them chosen by the person following the lifestyle. My suggestion: start by figuring out what you would like to support in your own life. From there, you just might begin to discover choices you can make that will move you toward what you truly want.

"What I mean is that if it were not for the need of money, and so much of it, in order to live decently would not their be more dreams being fulfilled without having to worry about being able to pay your bills?" What does "decently" mean? I know of people with no bills who still worry, and those with huge bills who also worry. Vice versa as well. For some, good enough never is. Of course, the underlying premise here is the main culprit. KJ has accepted the notion that a decent life is one that can be bought. My suggestion: focus on the quality of experience, not the quantity of possessions.

"I am constantly in my head trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, all the while knowing that what I want to do, which is to be able to experience all the things of interest to me for however long and still get paid a decent salary in which to live a modest life, all the while not feeling like some sort of failure because I didn't live up to societies brainwashing of what success is or responsibility for that matter." Probably the most obvious challenge here is with the phrase, "experience all the things of interest to me." Not only does KJ want to pursue things in life, KJ seems to blame "society" for his or her brainwashing. As I have written many times before, it all starts with awareness. In this case, KJ is aware that s/he has bought into something that doesn't work, and yet persists in trying to pursue it. My suggestion: start with your own awareness and begin to redefine your idea (ideals) of what a decent life could be. Remember, you can never get enough of what you don't really want.

"I just want to be free to LIVE life and not have to end up on the street in order to do that." Again, KJ seems to have confused living with having. My suggestion: work on gaining clarity about what living means to you, how you would experience living, and what would be true if you were actually doing that. From there, you can begin to make choices that will help you make progress toward your true aspirations.

"So again tell me how can I make my dream come true?" This one depends on what your dream might be. If it is a dream focused on possessing things, then perhaps that kind of dream is, for you, a nightmare. As before, what do you want out of life, really? My suggestion: stop complaining and start choosing.

One of our readers sent me an email with perhaps the simplest summation of all:

A group of us were playing the "if only" game - you know, if only I had a job, if only I had more money, etc. And the moderator of the group asked all of us "What are you going to do about it?" It dawned on me that I had a problem and it helped me to take control of my circumstances.

As we mentioned last week, sometimes it is enough to simply recognize what is present, determine what you might like to experience differently, and then get off your "buts" and do something about it. In my work over the years, I have often said that thought is not required, only action. That's a bit too simplistic in some ways, and yet there is great truth in this little aphorism. We'll explore this one in a future post.

Please do share your thoughts, comments and suggestions, either via the comments section below, or by emailing me directly.

I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.

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If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.

You can buy Workarounds That Work here.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at www.RussellBishop.com. You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.

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