The Seismic Shift

A seismic shift is happening. The change that is underway is profound and will seem to most to be revolutionary. What is this shift? The historic paradigm that our self-worth comes from what we own is ending. We’re moving away from valuing multiple cars, multiple televisions, plastic surgeries, and saving little. This shift will underscore the false consumption-oriented economy that we in the West think is the key to prosperity and happiness. Finally, it is sinking into our collective head that our borrow/spend behavior does not make us happy. Of course, this change is going to stupefy economists, governments, and business people who think prosperity can only come from a borrow-more, spend-more, and consume-more system.

The shift is toward a new vision of well-being centered on our relationships and real needs, rather than on our want-oriented, conspicuous buying of stuff. Our relationship to time and money is shifting away from earning money in order to consume, toward earning money to support a relaxed, centered, and enjoyable life.

These shifts will have a profound effect on our economy. We will be more conscious of saving versus spending and more sensitive to avoiding choices that are wasteful and unhealthy. We will see that well-being is about you, them, us, and even the Earth — not about just our individual selves. I was recently in Zambia and heard an African saying: “What I am is what you are.” Through -connections in churches, book clubs, poker games, pizza parties, walks in the woods, and yoga retreats, we will seek and find well-being. We will eventually find it also through contemplation, awareness, love, acceptance, and right practice.

The word “catholic” means whole and complete and eventually, religions will find their roots not in judgment, separation, or exclusiveness but in acceptance, love, compassion, and a drive to help all achieve well-being; in other words, “wholeness.”

All these shifts will cause housing prices to stagnate or go down. Companies that produce products to feed our materialistic vanities will be selling less, and consumers will begin to choose people, the environment, and personal happiness over consumerism. We will save more, spend less, and be with people in more meaningful activities. Those who become rich financially will be on the right side of this trend toward quality, sustainability, relationships, and well-being.

In other countries there is little to buy and little money with which to buy it, so entertainment is not shopping; it is being with friends and family. It is watching football (our soccer), dancing at a bar, watching kids play in the street, or sharing a beer and simple meals of food and conversation. And these people are happier. Why? Because they’re in relationships; they are with people who bring meaning, value, and comfort to them.

This “well-being without excess buying” goes completely against what corporations, advertising agencies, and even governments desire. They want us to consume; they want us to be addicted to bigger and more — to throw out the old for the better and improved.

Corporations will continue to go aggressively after our children, attempting to create present and future consumers. Go to websites like or, and click on their advertising links to see how scientifically manipulative the quest to own our kids’ minds has become.

But consider this: My son, Keeston, recently ordered a cheap item over the Internet. Of course, it sounded so cool and was at a price he couldn’t resist. But as he opened the package, I heard him exclaim, “This is crap! I am never going to buy over the Internet again!” My daughter, Akasha, recently bought boots with her Christmas money that were advertised as the brand she coveted. She found them online at a discounter with a no-refund policy, but she knew the boot and her size, and she knew they would fit. The boots that arrived proved to be nice-looking “knock-offs” that were too small and unreturnable.

I tell these stories only because stories and experience are the best teachers. My children learned very quickly from them — just as we are learning quickly from the excesses of the last 10 years.
Paul Sutherland is president of Financial & Investment Management Group. See excerpts from his best-selling book, Zenvesting, as well as his forthcoming book, The Virtues of Wealth, at To ask a question or chat, contact him at [email protected].

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