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What is Downshifting?
by Michael Bloch
Downshifting and the post materialists
While many are seeking to climb the material ladder in life, others have reached the upper rungs and found out it's not all it's cracked up to be, choosing to set a different course - downshifting.
Even if you haven't reached the upper rungs, if you're struggling in this economic climate to keep up with all the "gotta haves" that perhaps you really don't need, step back, take a deep breath, separate from the pack and consider downshifting. The environment will certainly benefit from you doing so.
Downshifting, a term currently used most often in Australia, is the concept of living in voluntary simplicity; usually with environmental sustainability in mind although not necessarily the focus or primary motivator. People who take the downshifting route are also called "post materialists." While some have been making these changes for years, it's only relatively recently that downshifting has acquired the label. An Australian Institute survey in 2004 found that nearly a quarter of Australian adults aged 30-59 have chosen to downshift over the previous 10 years.
People downshift their lives for mainly 5 reasons:
*A desire for a more balanced life with less stress
*Clashes between personal values and those of the workplace
*Wanting a more fulfilling life
*Environmental concerns/rejection of consumerism.
Downshifters for the most part don't drop out of society or the workforce altogether; many high paid executives simply change their work focus from big business to lower-paying jobs in the non-profit sector. Not all downshifters are burnt-out execs; the study found that the tendency to downshift was equally prevalent among blue collar workers as it was among white collar workers.
Downshifting challenges the concept of the very common Deferred Happiness Syndrome. This is the tendency for people to function in situations they find negative for extended periods in the hope of attaining a goal or dream; one that is often not achieved.
A lifetime of toil with the prospect for shattered materialistic dreams is a nightmare possibility, yet many of us seem to continue to fling ourselves headlong into it knowing full well the goal may never be realized.
Something that's important to remember about materialistic goals is to question them - are they really your own goals or what marketers have told you they should be? It happens all the time - I know as I've been heavily involved with Internet marketing for some years. We're the opposite of psychologists in many ways, yet we employ the same sorts of strategies - we know your pain points, how to stir up your fear and we know how to get you excited - and we utilize this knowledge to encourage you to buy. Unlike psychologists who seek to unburden you, many marketers seek to weigh you down with trinkets and toys that you don't really need, let alone want. It's these things you "gotta have" that have played a huge role in destroying our environment.
Don't fear not having tons of stuff or stacks of money. Many of those who downshift report that the fears they held about sustaining themselves did not materialize; they instead experience a new sense of personal freedom and renewed joy of living. They are also no longer as easily swayed by politicians or trends as their values have changed to those of the general populace.
Downshifters tend to reject items related to social status, plan spending carefully, eat out less and take less holidays away from home - because their current home becomes a holiday destination of sorts. Often they'll move from their current home, choosing to purchase a house in an environment suited to their hobbies or need for peace.
In a nutshell, downshifting is about less consumption, being happier for it and the rejection of "keeping up with the Jones'." It's a process that doesn't occur overnight, but is usually refined over a number of years.
We're being continuously warned that the environment cannot sustain our current rate of consumption, so downshifting by choice now will allow us time to get used to getting by with less, and being happy about it - which will be a hard lesson that all of us who don't start taking action very soon will have to face in the future anyway.
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About the Author
Michael Bloch Green Living Tips is an online resource powered by renewable energy offering a wide variety of earth friendly tips, green guides, advice and environment related news to help consumers and business reduce costs, consumption and environmental impact.
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