Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Duff McDuffee - Good News: You Can’t Have it All

Excellent bit of wisdom and ballsy compassion from Duff.

Good News: You Can’t Have it All

written by Duff McDuffee on August 6th, 2009

jamesray349-200pxMany personal development gurus posit that you can and should have it all, that every area of your life can be perfected without any need for compromise. Consider this quotation from personal development guru James Arthur Ray’s website:

“You really can enjoy total abundance financially, relationally, mentally, physically and spiritually…” ~James Arthur Ray, Master of Hyperbole

The total abundance James Arthur Ray is really enjoying is an abundance of total bullshit. Not surprisingly, Ray’s tagline is “As seen on Oprah, Larry King, and The Secret,” sources not exactly known for their journalistic integrity.

Nothing real exists in “total abundance.” Not atoms in the Universe (approximately 1080), not the amount of money in circulation, and not even “abundance mentality”–which is sometimes present and sometimes not, no matter how often or intensely you visualize your goals. Perhaps Ray is referring to mathematical abstractions? “You really can enjoy counting a total abundance of integers. The possibilities of multiplication are unlimited!”

The Ubiquitous Matrix of Lies in Personal Development

The personal development world is full of such lies, exaggerations, and hype–what is remarkable is that we haven’t gotten angry about it, and that folks like James Arthur Ray continue to stay in business. Perhaps this is simply a reflection of “the ubiquitous matrix of lies” our consumerist culture exists within, as Charles Eisenstein eloquently called it. But the difference between “Coors rocks Harrisburg” and “You really can enjoy total abundance financially, relationally, mentally, physically and spiritually…” is that nobody believes the first is true. The Coors slogan is an “obvious and unremarkable lie, beneath the threshold of most people’s awareness,” but we want to and often do believe gurus like James Arthur Ray. We want to believe that we can indeed have a perfect life, free from pain and suffering, and full of wealth “in all areas of your life”–especially financially.

“Isn’t it remarkable that lies are still effective even when no one believes them?” says Eisenstein, and it is worth considering here. Even when we don’t believe the lies of the personal development gurus, we still spend more than $8.5 billion dollars (as of 2004) every year in the U.S. alone on “self-improvement books, CDs, audiocassettes, infomercials, motivational speakers, videos, multi-media packages, public seminars, workshops, holistic institutes, personal coaching, and more.” We clearly believe we can improve our lives dramatically–and perhaps even totally–or else why would we be spending so much on these products and services?

The Ultimate Aim of Life: Getting Stuff?

James Ray says that you can have it all, and this is a good thing. In other words, the ultimate aim of life is to have everything you want–including all the money and stuff you want.

This is a very different view from the current positive psychology paradigm. In The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky claims that getting what you want externally in life has little to no effect on happiness, and that indeed even our happiness–the ultimate aim of life in her view–is only 40% in our control.

Which is it? It can’t be both. Either external circumstances affect happiness or they don’t. I’m more likely to believe the research than the master of hyperbole on this one. So if getting everything that you want in life is not a critical factor at all with regards to happiness, then Ray and his followers value getting what you want more than happiness! In terms of classical economics, this pursuit would be defined as irrational, and indeed the pursuit of what we want despite our happiness is all too common in personal development culture.

Go read the whole post.

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