Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Choosing Lifestyles: Fast Food Or The Real Thing?

September 3, 2001

There is a magnificent mansion with many dining rooms. Visitors to the mansion can pick and choose from attractive dining alternatives.

There is one banquet room with an excellent reputation for ambience, service, and exquisite food - a one of kind experience. Many start out looking for the main banquet but end up at enticing fast-food establishments along the way.

The mansion is the world. The different restaurants and food shops represent different lifestyles. The main banquet hall represents a principle-centered life leading to true security and happiness. The other dining rooms represent basic premises for living that lead to personal and interpersonal ineffectiveness.

Pleasure-centered: In the pleasure-centered room, people are gorging themselves. The food is served buffet-style - all you can eat. They feel secure when they are on a pleasure-centered "high." They make their choices based on what will give them the most pleasure.

They depend on their environment to satisfy their drives and instincts. Pleasures are short-lived. These people always need more. A spouse or friends are viewed either as companions in fun, spoil-sports or guilt-trippers.

Possession-centered: In the possession-centered room, security is based on reputation, social status, or possessions. To see how they are doing in life, guests compare themselves to others. The object of life is "getting ahead."

A spouse is seen either as a main possession or as a partner in the acquisition business. Buying, shopping, collecting, owning, showcasing, and possessing social status are driving activities that define self.

Work-centered: In the work-centered room, identity is based on occupational role and the satisfaction one experiences while working. The spouse is looked on as either helping or hindering one's work. Such people do well as long as they have job security, good health, and a supportive work environment.

Relationships, social life, and ideas other than work-related ideas take a back seat. This type is wonderful at justifying the "work ethic" as the cardinal virtue of life.

Spouse-centered: In the spouse-centered room, the spouse is looked upon as the guest's main source of happiness. Here personal security is threatened by the spouse's moods and feelings and by differences that arise between them.

These people see their spouse as their "best" and often only friend. They want to do everything together. They are often disappointed and frustrated by disagreements and conflict. They can be demanding, jealous, and smothering, and are constantly taking a reading on the relationship. They spend a lot of time trying to fix their spouse in order to fix their own happiness.

Enemy-centered: In the enemy-centered room, guests are controlled by actions of their supposed enemies. They seek out others who define the world like they do. They are defensive, paranoid, and over-reactive. They generate a lot of negative energy through anger, envy, and resentment.

They see their spouse as a source of refuge and sympathy. Negative feelings are often vented on the family members who feel victimized and scapegoated. Guests in this room spend a lot of time justifying their ideas and blaming their enemies.

Self-centered: In the self-centered room, the guests are preoccupied with their needs and their rights. They do their own thing. They judge everything by how it affects them. Their sense of security is constantly in flux. They are highly competitive - trying to be better, smarter, or "right."

They don't trust others to meet to their needs. They are not team players. They don't meet others' needs well. They see their spouse either as a possession or as a provider and supporter in basic needs. Self-interest and personal gratification make up the bottom line by which things are judged.

There are many other rooms - fame, church, friends, family, etc. - that create special dependencies and rationales for living. Each has its distortions of life. Each interferes with peace and well-being when their central premise is violated.

Principle-centered: In the principle-centered banquet hall, people live their lives consistent with basic values of integrity, honesty, fairness, service to others, personal excellence, and a desire for growth. Their strength is in their character. They recognize the difference between fast food and the real deal. They aren’t satisfied with appetizers but want the main course.

They discover truth and with integrity try to live up to what they know. They make commitments and set goals. They keep their word. They take responsibility. They see their spouse as an equal. They see money, possessions, work, status, and talents as enabling resources for the accomplishment of mutual goals.

They lead a balanced life and keep work, relationships, mental growth, leisure, and spiritually in perspective. They are not threatened by others’ successes. They recognize the needs of others and know how to work together for everyone's benefit. They communicate well.

Their quest for truth leads to God and a spiritual orientation to life. They draw on an unseen power and exercise a faith that directs, strengthens, and comforts them.

"Until man has found God and has been found by God, he begins at no beginning and works to no end. Nothing in the Universe or in man's life falls into place except with God." -H.G. Wells

Ideas for this column were taken from, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," by Steven R. Covey, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1989.