Thursday, February 6, 2014

Individual Sustainability and Success

I recently attended a conversation at the Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy and the discussion in one session revolved around the idea of individual sustainability as a prerequisite to social sustainability. The idea is that an individual must become self-sustaining before a social sustainability can take place. This makes sense to me and seems to correlate to the idea of "private victory before public victory," often stated by Stephen Covey. The idea is that a person must become independent before he or she can become interdependent. 

In that session, the presenters Eric Pappas and Olga Pierrakos shared a definition of individual sustainability, which I thought was absolutely stunning. In my opinion, this definition could easily be a definition of individual success. At any rate, here is the definition taken from their handout:
Living a sustainable lifestyle includes creating harmony, interconnection, and relatively high levels of awareness in one's own values, thoughts, and behaviors, as well as maintaining and increasing control over one's physical, emotional, social, philosophical, and intellectual life. The general dispositions that support individual sustainability are awareness, motivation, and the ability to engage in intentional self-development. As well, individual sustainability includes possessing a well-developed and demonstrated value system that acknowledges the interconnectedness of all global biological systems and our appropriate place in the Natural World.
What a great definition!


Who Should Teach People to Become Individually Sustainable?
One of the questions asked in this session was whether higher education should busy itself in engendering individual sustainability. I asked the question: if not higher education, then who will do it? If we agree that teaching people to live harmonious, productive, self-regulating lives is a good idea, then how can we as a society teach them to do it? I personally believe that people must be taught these skills in all areas of their lives. People should learn primarily in their homes from parents, siblings, uncles, aunts and grandparents. We should learn these skills in our churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples. We should learn them in grade school, in the community, and even in the general media.

But, of course, not all of these areas can agree on what to teach, and not all areas will do the teaching. But we should do our part to enable everyone we can to be a success. Ultimately, it becomes the responsibility of the individual to create and live a life that is sustainable and successful. Still, I am hopeful that I am teaching my daughter to be a self-sustaining, conscientious individual. And I hope that I am doing all I can to live an increasingly sustainable life.
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