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Undone-Positive Thinking, Finding Your Passion and The American Dream

September 22, 2010

D&B Consulting

There are two books out recently that talk about how the ubiqutious  promotion of positive thinking and the pursuit of the American Dream have undermined America. In Bright-Sided – How the Relentless Promotion of Postive Thinking Has Undermined America, Barbara Ehrenreich  begins by describing how after diagnosed with cancer, she was repeatedly bombarded with the message that  having cancer was a gift. Grieving her loss of health became politically unacceptable in this environment espousing that with positive thought you can co-create your reality.

It is this same refusal to calculate the downside or worst case scenario (and perhaps greed)  by our financial institutions, that resulted in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Riding on the wave of positive thinking with the goal of financial prosperity, the financial institutions collaborated with individuals, allowing many to live beyond their means so that they were not prepared for any changes in their financial situation. Then with the economic downturn, many lost their jobs and were forced into foreclosure and bankrupcy. Those in the real estate and related industries were particularly hard hit, many through no fault of their own.

In  an article in the NY Times, conservative columnist David Brooks discusses  this book: Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream. 26 year old David Platt, the author,  who leads a megachurch in Birmingham Alabama.  In the book he discusses his disillusionment with the corporation-like magachurches that offer  what he refers to as “consumer Christianity.”  This American Dream comes with a focus on the self which is contrary to the Judeo-Christian beliefs in the Bible.  Religion and spirituality are no longer about human compassion, forgiveness, feeding the poor and caring for the sick, but more about “What’s God going to do for me today?”

What went hand in hand with the pursuit of material pleasures and the  entitlement to financial and material prosperity, came the cry to find your passion in your work and your life.  So we see people who are not happy doing a job well, contributing to society, and using their unique skills and abilities.  They are not happy because of the impossible expectation that in this life you are entitled to always feel joyful about your work.  Gone now is the satisfaction that comes from doing honest work using your skills and abilities, paying your mortgage, taking modest vacations and perhaps even sending your children to private schoools.  We want more.  The sky is the limit, we are told.

But wait – recent studies show that people are now saving more which, ironically, is helping to keep us in this recession.  So perhaps  in  the next  few years we will see a trend toward living in a modest home, and  satisfied with the simple pleasures of having a job we do well, a  regular paycheck and no credit card debt.

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