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How can ancient human values help us in modern age?

This may sound unnecessarily melodramatic, but hearing the Danish philosopher and psychologist Svend Brinkmann talk about liquid modernity changed my life!

His views about the self-help industry were an uncomfortable read, but a powerful and thought-provoking exercise. And the message behind his ten Standpoints as elements of a philosophy of life to remind us what is important and meaningful stopped me in my tracks, literally... (I was going for a walk at the time).

As a result of Svend's challenge, I've started reconnecting with intrinsic as well as extrinsic motivations, and inviting my clients to do the same. Not everything has to have a justification or end. Sometimes just doing something for the sake or joy of it is enough!

For a dose of Danish wisdom, listen to this podcast hosted by the Art of Manliness (fantastic source of wisdom btw) - The Problem of Self-Help in a Liquid Age.


Some key lessons from Svend Brinkmann:

Since the 1960s, society has become more liquid – greater consumerism, less permanence and stability. The motor of a consumer society means everything is constantly changing and we’re never really satisfied with what we have.

In the modern (western) world and popular culture, everything is up to the individual – individuals are encouraged to engage in constant self-optimisation, self-development, self-improvement. Yet is that constant change and development necessary?

The self-help movement (books, coaches, consultants) tell us we can solve our own problems and find purpose and meaning within – ourselves is all we need. But no matter how well we do, how well we perform, it will never be enough – it’s only temporary and there will always be pressure to be bigger, better, fitter, smarter, better looking.

Plus by only looking inside ourselves, we (who as humans are constantly exposed to trends/fads/group pressures and are influenced by them) are looking for stability in a place that’s empty and unstable!

The epidemics of depression, anxiety and stress in the western world are greater than ever as people are unable to find value, purpose and meaning in themselves only. The result? This emptiness begins to get filled with therapists, life coaches, buying things, etc.

Of course looking inside ourselves is useful, but it’s an unreliable grounding for our existence

Instead looking away from ourselves at what we’re part of and the core values that make us human – at the culture, traditions, society, relationships and responsibilities we have – can provide greater stability, act as coordinates in our lives and an antidote to the constant liquidity of our times.

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