The Best Thing We Can Each Build

By Sunday, March 23, 2014 8 0

Since starting out in 2007, Diamond-Cut Life has periodically honed and chiseled its focus. I feel like a jeweler, happily crafting ideas into posts here in my living room, like rough geodes into jewels.

Last year, I recrafted my blog’s subtitle from “more joy, less stuff”  to “how to be rich in what matters.”  In 2014, I’ve realized that my “who” needs sharper focus, i.e. who are the community of readers that I’m serving?

And the answer is: Diamond-Cut Life is for people driven by values, not greed.

People driven by greed tend to build material things, such as more deadly armaments to sell to other countries, more prisons that incarcerate ever-higher percentages of our population, and more fracking equipment and pipelines that extract and ship more of the fossil fuels that drive climate change.

Those of us driven by values, though, know the power of building ourselves. Power ultimately comes from within, including the power to reshape the world into a just and verdant place that works for everyone, not just for the wealthy.

The best thing that each of us can build is our personal capacity. That capacity can take many shapes. Here some key kinds of capacity we can build to live from our values and create a better world.

Capacity to sustain a loving, healthy marriage or partnership

Capacity to learn the new skills that constantly changing technologies and workplaces expect of us.

Capacity to generate, via the sun, as much electricity as our homes use.

Capacity to share and conserve resources via choices like living with others, driving sparingly, and heating our homes strategically.

Capacity to live below our financial means, happily and well, and if we have credit card debt, to climb out of it.

Capacity to enjoy and nurture the natural world, which belongs to all of us, no matter our income level or social status.

Capacity to make and eat tasty, healthy meals, especially with locally grown food.

Capacity to keep our bodies strong and fit, rather than succumb to Sitting Disease.

Capacity to travel in ways that support and respect other cultures, rather than consume them.

Capacity to grow our spirituality and sense of connectedness.

Capacity to survive the deaths of loved ones with heartful grief, rather than bitterness or despair.

 Capacity to adapt and evolve as climate change progresses. (Hint: focusing on needs, rather than ever-increasing wants, is a great way to both cope with climate change, and slow its pace.)

To live values-driven lives, the best thing we can each build is our own capacity. Power ultimately comes from within, including the power to reshape the world into a just and verdant place that works for everyone, not just for the wealthy. In what ways do you feel you have strong capacity? In what ways would you like to grow your personal capacity?


Next week I’ll announce the winner of “The World Until Yesterday”, the excellent book I’m giving away at month’s end. It’s by Jared Diamond (the Pulitzer prize-winning author of “Guns, Germs And Steel”.)

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  • Jess @UsedYorkCity
    March 27, 2014

    Oh I love how you were able to hone in your focus to your audience, very smart idea! As bloggers, I think it’s so important that we constantly examine our vision and how we’re getting that out to our audience.

    • Ursala Garbrecht
      March 27, 2014

      Thanks for the encouragement Jess. Knowing and honing our audience is a great way to build personal capacity. It’s capacity to know who speak to that will create meaningful and valuable connections.

  • Chris
    March 25, 2014

    Fantastic post! You really hit the nail on the head for describing wellness. It is so important to keep our health. :)

    • Alison
      March 25, 2014

      Thanks, Chris. I’ve been blessed in my life with unusual wellness and vitality, and I appreciate the way that chiropractors like yourself support wellness in our culture. A month ago (Feb 20, actually) I realized at 4:45 a.m. that I could actually walk to my carpool’s meeting place. It took me 50 minutes, walking fast — and it felt so good to have gotten brisk exercise before I started my work-day.

      You are right: wellness rocks. Keep up your own good work here in Portland, and thanks for stopping by.

  • Colleen
    March 24, 2014

    I like the question you pose at the end asking folks how they personally can grow their personal capacity. I’m actually working on that now, thinking hard about the skills I’ll need in my new ‘job’ as a parent. Knowing better how to create things is one. Both my husband and I want our kids to learn that we don’t necessarily have to buy things (or fun). Instead, we want them to learn, by example, how we can CREATE both. I’m taking classes next month to learn how to make natural soap (using a cold process that I can involve the kids in, too), how to paint large murals (bye-bye boring garage doors) and how to weave a floor rug using wool scraps. I like to think most people gravitate toward a certain kind of best-capacity, but we always can — and should — grow it and change it. Changing life-circumstances are often an impetus, but they don’t have to be. Trying something new can be good “just because.”

    • Alison
      March 25, 2014

      Colleen, I like your plan to create things by hand with your children. I confess I don’t (yet) know how to make soap, paint a mural or weave a rug using wool scraps, but I think our culture needs to retain these kinds of skills that used to be comonplace. It’s not only satisfying and meaningful to create things, but the skills we develop are transferable to other parts of life, like problem-solving, thrift, patience and resourcefulness. Moreover, the sociability of making things together builds our relationships, and close relationships are key to our personal wealth. You will be a great mom.

  • Mike
    March 23, 2014

    A good post as always, Alison. I liked them all but this part was my favorite, “Capacity to grow our spirituality and sense of connectedness.” Also, I like to think that we should build our enrichness within (not materially) then spread that outward to others.

    • Alison
      March 24, 2014

      Mike, the spirituality one is actually my favorite, too. And I haven’t yet written a post on growing our spirituality, that I could link to and use as an example! It’s a more complex and sensitive subject, though, than most. I’ll give it some thought and prayer.

      Also, I agree with you about spreading our internal riches outward to others. I see you doing that at Past My Curfew, and it’s definitely my intention to do that here at Diamond-Cut Life. Riches are for sharing.