Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.
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'My life's dedicated to feeding a monster of my own creation’. That’s how a taxi driver described his life to me the other day when we were chatting during a journey. I was on the way in to the new BBC building to be interviewed on Five Live about our SEAL report. The driver wanted to know all about my job and how much I enjoyed it. He quickly grasped that though I spend long hours reading and writing I get so much satisfaction from it. Wanting to be polite I then asked him about the sources of satisfaction in his life. This is when he told me that his life was dedicated to feeding a monster. The monster he alluded to was the mortgage on his house and paying all kinds of bills associated with two cars and the numerous other purchases he and his wife make to live the dream life. Except it is turning into a nightmare. He has to drive six nights a week to keep the monster satisfied. He is a young man but feels he is becoming fat and unfit from such a sedentary existence and has little source of satisfaction in his life.
I’ve been running various workshops in a business recently and engaging lots of staff (mostly male operators or engineers) in discussions about Positive Psychology. And they generally love it. One of the quick activities on the course before getting into some of the more work-based material involves asking them in groups to speculate on why there is a rising tide of depression. Instantly people start saying ‘because you never have enough, you’re never good enough and you never get there.’ Following these discussions I can fill whole flip chart pages with the problems of celebrity culture, the negative media, marketing and so forth. What they describe fits exactly with much of the psychological research which shows that possessions don’t bring us much satisfaction as we get used to them.
I also ask people if they have these types of discussions with others in their life – either at the pub or in their family. Generally they say ‘no’. Yet clearly the amount of buzz in the room when the question is asked is testimony to the fact that this is a real issue for them.
IN the past how to find fulfilment and life satisfaction would have been addressed by the church but this has declined so much that religion is no longer a force in people’s lives (including mine). Politicians don’t appear to be addressing these issues either. Their mantra is economic growth.
Economic stability is important for people. So is work. If folk like my taxi driver decide to slay the monster and consume less than this will spell economic insecurity. Jobs will go. More people will be unemployed. Certainly there’s no easy answers but we certainly need to start talking about it.
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