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Our Mission is to make sure that you and or your business EXPLORE, DREAM & DISCOVER all you can be.
Sunday, May 6, 2012
Life as journey and not destination...wantology?
The Outsourced Life By ARLIE RUSSELL HOCHSCHILD Published: NY Times May 5, 2012 IN the sprawling outskirts of San Jose, Calif., I find myself at the apartment door of Katherine Ziegler, a psychologist and wantologist. Could it be, I wonder, that there is such a thing as a wantologist, someone we can hire to figure out what we want? Have I arrived at some final telling moment in my research on outsourcing intimate parts of our lives, or at the absurdist edge of the market frontier? A willowy woman of 55, Ms. Ziegler beckons me in. A framed Ph.D. degree in psychology from the University of Illinois hangs on the wall, along with an intricate handmade quilt and a collage of images clipped from magazines — the back of a child’s head, a gnarled tree, a wandering cat — an odd assemblage that invites one to search for a connecting thread. After a 20-year career as a psychologist, Ms. Ziegler expanded her practice to include executive coaching, life coaching and wantology. Originally intended to help business managers make purchasing decisions, wantology is the brainchild of Kevin Kreitman, an industrial engineer who set up a two-day class to train life coaches to apply this method to individuals in private life. Ms. Ziegler took the course and was promptly certified in the new field. Ms. Ziegler explains that the first step in thinking about a “want,” is to ask your client, “ ‘Are you floating or navigating toward your goal?’ A lot of people float. Then you ask, ‘What do you want to feel like once you have what you want?’ ” She described her experience with a recent client, a woman who lived in a medium-size house with a small garden but yearned for a bigger house with a bigger garden. She dreaded telling her husband, who had long toiled at renovations on their present home, and she feared telling her son, who she felt would criticize her for being too materialistic. Ms. Ziegler took me through the conversation she had with this woman: “What do you want?” “A bigger house.” “How would you feel if you lived in a bigger house?” “Peaceful.” “What other things make you feel peaceful?” “Walks by the ocean.” (The ocean was an hour’s drive away.) “Do you ever take walks nearer where you live that remind you of the ocean?”“Certain ones, yes.” “What do you like about those walks?” “I hear the sound of water and feel surrounded by green.” This gentle line of questions nudged the client toward a more nuanced understanding of her own desire. In the end, the woman dedicated a small room in her home to feeling peaceful. She filled it with lush ferns. The greenery encircled a bubbling slate-and-rock tabletop fountain. Sitting in her redesigned room in her medium-size house, the woman found the peace for which she’d yearned. I was touched by the story. Maybe Ms. Ziegler’s client just needed a good friend who could listen sympathetically and help her work out her feelings. Ms. Ziegler provided a service — albeit one with a wacky name — for a fee. Still, the mere existence of a paid wantologist indicates just how far the market has penetrated our intimate lives. Can it be that we are no longer confident to identify even our most ordinary desires without a professional to guide us? Is the wantologist the tail end of a larger story? Over the last century, the world of services has changed greatly. A hundred — or even 40 — years ago, human eggs and sperm were not for sale, nor were wombs for rent. Online dating companies, nameologists, life coaches, party animators and paid graveside visitors did not exist. Nor had a language developed that so seamlessly melded village and market — as in “Rent-a-Mom,” “Rent-a-Dad,” “Rent-a-Grandma,” “Rent-a-Friend” — insinuating itself, half joking, half serious, into our culture. The explosion in the number of available personal services says a great deal about changing ideas of what we can reasonably expect from whom. In the late 1940s, there were 2,500 clinical psychologists licensed in the United States. By 2010, there were 77,000 — and an additional 50,000 marriage and family therapists. In the 1940s, there were no life coaches; in 2010, there were 30,000. The last time I Googled “dating coach,” 1,200,000 entries popped up. “Wedding planner” had over 25 million entries. The newest entry, Rent-a-Friend, has 190,000 entries. And, in a world that undermines community, disparages government and marginalizes nonprofit organizations as ways of meeting growing needs of working families, these are likely to proliferate. As will the corresponding cultural belief in the superiority of what’s for sale. WE’VE put a self-perpetuating cycle in motion. The more anxious, isolated and time-deprived we are, the more likely we are to turn to paid personal services. To finance these extra services, we work longer hours. This leaves less time to spend with family, friends and neighbors; we become less likely to call on them for help, and they on us. And, the more we rely on the market, the more hooked we become on its promises: Do you need a tidier closet? A nicer family picture album? Elderly parents who are truly well cared for? Children who have an edge in school, on tests, in college and beyond? If we can afford the services involved, many if not most of us are prone to say, sure, why not? And the market expands to fill increasing demand. The director of research and development at the company eHarmony, for example, the champion of the marriage market, has envisioned expanding the company’s operations into later stages of adult life, and into workplace and college relations. EHarmony now operates in Canada, Brazil and Australia, as well as across Europe. The more members of diverse communities hunger for counsel, comfort, dates, support, the more outfits will spring up to extend services for those who can pay. The cycle takes another turn. Paradoxically, the more we depend on market services — and market logic — the greater its subtle but real power to undermine our intimate life. As the ex-advertising executive and author of “In the Absence of the Sacred,” Jerry Mander, observed, “With commerce, we always get the good news first and the bad news after a while. First we hear the car goes faster than the horse. Then we hear it clogs freeways and pollutes the air.” The bad news in this case is the capacity of the service market, with all its expertise, to sap self-confidence in our own capacities and those of friends and family. The professional nameologist finds a more auspicious name than we can recall from our family tree. The professional potty trainer does the job better than the bumbling parent or helpful grandparent. Jimmy’s Art Supply sells a better Spanish mission replica kit than your child can build for that school project from paint, glue and a Kleenex box. Our amateur versions of life seem to us all the poorer by comparison. Consider some recent shifts in language. Care of family and friends is increasingly referred to as “lay care.” The act of meeting a romantic partner at a flesh-and-blood gathering rather than online is disparaged by some dating coaches as “dating in the wild.” We picture competition as a matter of one business interest outdoing another. But the fiercest competition may be the quiet continuing one between market and private life. As a setter of standards of the ideal experience, it often wins, whether we buy the service or not. The very ease with which we reach for market services may help prevent us from noticing the remarkable degree to which the market has come to dominate our very ideas about what can or should be for sale or rent, and who should be included in the dramatic cast — buyers, branders, sellers — that we imagine as part of our personal life. It may even prevent us from noticing how we devalue what we don’t or can’t buy. As Michael J. Sandel, a Harvard professor of government, notes, a prison cell upgrade can be purchased for $82 a day in Santa Ana, Calif., and for $8 solo drivers in Minneapolis can buy access to car pool lanes on public roadways. Earlier this year, officials at Santa Monica College attempted to allow students to buy spots in oversubscribed classes for $462 per course. The school’s trustees dropped the proposal only after large-scale protests. Even more than what we wish for, the market alters how we wish. Wallet in hand, we focus in the market on the thing we buy. In the realm of services, this is an experience — the perfect wedding, the delicious “traditional” meal, the well-raised child, even the well-gestated baby. As we outsource more of our private lives, we find it increasingly possible to outsource emotional attachment. A busy executive, for example, focuses on efficiency; his assistant tells me, “My boss outsources patience to me.” The wealthy employer of a household manager detaches herself from the act of writing personal Christmas-present labels. A love coach encourages clients to think of dating as “work,” and to be mindful of their R.O.I. — return on investment, of emotional energy, time and money. The grieving family member hires a Tombstone Butler to beautify a loved one’s burial site. Focusing attention on the destination, we detach ourselves from the small — potentially meaningful — aspects of experience. Confining our sense of achievement to results, to the moment of purchase, so to speak, we unwittingly lose the pleasure of accomplishment, the joy of connecting to others and possibly, in the process, our faith in ourselves. There is much public conversation about the balance of power between the branches of government, but we badly need to confront the larger and looming imbalance between the market and everything else. A society in which comfort, care, companionship, “perfect” birthday parties and so much else is available to those who can pay for it? What would we say if a wantologist put us on a couch and asked, “Is this the kind of society we want?” _______________________________________________ BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY BY FOCUSING ON THE DESTINATION WE LOSE THE EXCITEMENT AND REWARDS OF THE JOURNEY.
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