Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Meaning of Economy Recovery: Taking a Few Initial Steps

I originally wrote this posting yesterday, but slept on it a bit and offer this revision:

From pundits to real estate agents, I have heard many people speculate about how long the economic crisis will last. While I certainly don't wish long-term suffering for anyone in the States (I have a family member of my own recently laid-off) or overseas (where the poor suffer the most from broken economic systems), I do hope recovery is not quick. Unless we have sufficient time to identify what went wrong, why and how, I don't think consumers or institutions will change their ways.

The word "recovery" has a special meaning to me as a member of a 12-step program where we seek to recover from unhealthy, destructive behaviors and mindsets. I think of how so many households over-indulged in spending, or too many of us didn't recognize the impact of our consumption on others. We were addicted, in a sense, to the pursuit of more things no matter what the cost of acquiring them. In order to recover from an addiction, a person has to go through a series of steps that involve recognition of the issue and a commitment to changing one's ways. True recovery is never quick or easy.

I offer up the 12 step philosophy to help us recover a sensible, sustainable, serene approach to meeting our wants and needs as individuals. Some of the steps refer to a Higher Power, which may be off putting to readers who aren't people of faith. But the point is not to promote religion so much as to help us recognize our ultimate lack of control. A paradox of "recovery" is that in admitting your lack of power you actually gain an ability to get your affairs in order.

Although there are twelve steps, they don't always come in order. I offer up a few that I think ring true for those of us who have over-indulged or failed to plan well. I hope I don't sound harsh or moralistic. Instead, just as I promote budgeting in my book, I want to share an approach to financial matters that has helped me. By looking at our consumption with humility, not despair, we can "recover" from our past habits to stabilize and thrive: something I wish for our economies and our families.

Step 1- We admitted we were powerless over irresponsible consumption - that our lives had become unmanageable

Step 2 - Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sane consumption

Step 4 - Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

Step 5 - Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs

Step 10 - Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it

Step 11 - Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out

Step 12 - Having had a awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs

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