By Julio Olalla and Robert Dunham
Technology not only shapes our thinking, but it currently arises out of a foundational attitude that everything is a resource to be used. We use nature, and even ourselves. Used for what? We need to put the human being and our lives back into the center of our concerns. We must recover our valuing life and a good life as more sacred that our projects and our measures.
Our experience with students over the last decades is that these are not insurmountable barriers to our way of being. In a matter of days we can begin to shift our experience and rediscover our hearts, our emotions, our bodies, and our care. We can begin to see the world with new eyes. We can begin to walk a new path, a path with heart.
We can then begin to reflect in a new way. We can allow our concern to pay our bills to exist without it stopping reflection on what is happening in our world, what is happening in our own experience, and what a good life really is. We do not claim that we, or anyone else, have the final answers to our challenges. But we do say that honest reflection will open a new way to the future for us. When we look at our own standards for a good life, a meaningful life, and look at the common stories of needing more wealth or consumption, we can begin to authentically feel what is needed.
Our view is that what is needed is health, meaning, and taking care of what we care about. So many of the decisions made today are not producing healthy people, healthy organizations, healthy communities, or a healthy world. Why? Why would we choose anything other than a healthy future? Profit is not valuable if we produce an unhealthy world, an unhealthy life. We need to re-center our values around a healthy future, and face the stories that demand sacrifice of that health. We cannot live a good life sacrificing health for “more.”
We also see that as a culture we must open and honor new central conversations. We must take responsibility for the reality that our choices in the aggregate create our global future. With new public conversations we can better understand the future that we are creating, the interconnectedness of our choices, and open new possibilities for our choices. This is a matter of voice, and we cannot wait for others to have the right conversations, we cannot wait for our leaders to have the right conversations. We must take our conversations seriously, and look to design them since they create our future, rather than assume they are just impotent chatter. Education should fundamentally be about developing these voices, creating these conversations, and opening these questions whose answers will shape our futures.
With new conversations among people who bring heart, who call for a standard of valuing the gifts that life provides, we can open a new conversation of the future where “growth” is not the only answer. We can organize for a good life, harmony with nature and each other, and a rediscovery of meaning in the cultivation of human virtue, celebration of human excellence, and the joy of connection and community.
By reviving the question “what is a good life,” we can begin to look how to have our technology, our systems, and our economics support a good life rather than just increased consumption. A new economics can measure value-creating transactions supporting the self-cultivation of a meaningful life, where the inner life again has value, and we value our social activities of taking care of what we care about.
We hope to promote new conversations for creating our future that not only addresses the coming predicaments, but also the presumptions of what it is to be human and what is a good life. We cannot produce a new future with the old common sense, with the old answers. So we cannot rush into our new answers, and we can’t afford the old answers. We don’t have time to rush. We must reflect deeply and commit to new conversations for our future.
This will also revive another missing conversation. The conversation of citizenship – what is a citizen, and what are the responsibilities and practices of good citizenship? We will next address that concern in the context of a good life and healthy future.
Julio Olalla is founder of Newfield Network, a leading school of coaching in the world, and is considered one of the best coaches in the world. He is author of From Knowledge to Wisdom.
Robert Dunham is founder of the Institute for Generative Leadership, and delivers programs in leadership around the world. He is co-author of The Innovator’s Way.