One of my favorite people to fly with at my “day job” is an Austrian-born, naturalized U.S. citizen. You’d never think he was anything but American, at least until you get into a conversation with him. As Americanized as he is, his European roots are pretty close to the surface and a lot of his opinions are, well, very European.
Perhaps that’s why I enjoy his company. I live with someone who is more American than apple pie and defends even the most outrageous customs and life choices here in this country. I don’t. I grew up in an American trailer park – four all together, thank you very much – but my sensibilities definitely lean toward a less independent and more interdependent lifestyle, i.e. European in nature.
That’s why I was so taken back with a comment my Austrian-born friend made not long ago that put me in a the class of a “typical American.” I’m far from “typical” in my opinion, but that’s another topic not to be discussed at his time. I happen to mention to my friend that I had brought along some “Greek yogurt” with me on our trip. He launched into a tirade about how gullible Americans are. “Oh, it’s the next big thing and it’s no different than any other yogurt, but the advertisers say it’s better so you Americans have to run out and buy it. Europeans would never be misled that way.”
Wow…and I only bought it because it was on sale! Okay, not completely, I mean I think it IS creamer, but I digress. It got me to thinking. We Americans pride ourselves on our independence and independent thinking, but we ARE lulled (not so subtly) into buying things just because it’s the next “thing” to have. Contrast that with the interdependence that Europeans experience with each other, perhaps because of the close proximity of so many different countries, yet they don’t seem to be as easily swayed. How can that be?
They might not, actually. I’m sure that you could be reading this thinking just the opposite is true about Europeans and Americans, and have all kinds of evidence to prove your point. It really doesn’t matter. What I got out of this discussion – and the subsequent pondering I’ve been doing on the subject over the past few weeks – is that we aren’t going to please everybody no matter what we decide!
Just because a product or way of doing something is supposedly the thing to have or do doesn’t make it right for us. Madisyn Taylor recently wrote about “going against what it popular.” She goes on to say, “…part of the way that something becomes popular is that many of us don’t take the time to determine what’s right for us; we simply do what most of the people we know are doing. In this way, our decisions about life are made by default, which means they aren’t what we call conscious decisions.”
I’d like to suggest a game for you to play this week. Just for the fun of it, question everything you do for a day. I don’t mean you have to stop and analyze everything so you don’t get anything done. Just take a breath and ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing. Do you really want to do it? Why are you buying a particular product? If you discover that you are at a loss to explain your motivation then perhaps you are being manipulated by societal pressure, someone special in your life, a lack of self-esteem or self-confidence, or just a victim to marketing.
In other words, take back your life, because I can assure you of this: You are doing something in your life, buying something on a regular basis (or lusting after it), or acting in a particular way that just doesn’t feel right, yet you continue to do it. Really, you say? Great – you are the person to whom I’m speaking in particular. Take the challenge and then write me to tell me why I’m wrong. Wanna play?
In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,
P.S. Happy New Year! May 2014 bring you all the joy, love, laughter and prosperity you can accept!