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In my last post I coined the word “LifeStyle” to describe our whole of life living in the world for all our life (a word to cover both archetype and vocation).

As LifeStyle is meant to cover our whole adult life it needs to accommodate learning and change.

There are two sorts of learning or changing I think. The first is getting better at stuff – a particular skill. The second is about including more of who you are – in some therapies this is called ‘integrating the shadow’. The basic idea being that there are parts of ourselves we don’t like, and we spend energy suppressing and attempting to ignore these parts. When this energy can be used to engage with life instead of being directed to fighting ourselves our lives are better (free, less conflicted, having more ease. The feeling when this happens is usually one of elation.).

1. Getting Better at Stuff
Any LifeStyle will have skills that can be improved.
The simplest map of this process that I know has four stages: unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and finally unconscious competence.

If you do some kind of emotional care you will probably need to get good at listening. At first you may think you are good at – but soon find out you aren’t sometimes. Becoming aware of this can be surprising and depressing. And you start noticing how often you don’t listen. You then adopt conscious strategies (not interrupting, clarifying, paraphrasing etc). And eventually you find that you listen well without having to be deliberate about what you are doing.

My favourite map for getting better at stuff is by Dreyfus and has five levels of skill to ‘skilful coping’ roughly equivalent to unconscious competence. (There are levels beyond this for those who wish to innovate and find news of doing what is done in a particular domain: the person who introduced the lay up into high jumps (going back first over the bar, rather than ‘stepping’ over it) was more than an unconsciously competent high jumper. Picasso was more than an unconsciously competent painter.) The stages are:

Novice. Where you ‘do what your told’ – follow specific rules consistently. Eg in golf: keep your head down while you swing.

Advanced Beginner. A sense of the different aspects of the situation. In driving using the clutch and accelerator together while staying aware of other cars, while staying in your lane.

These first two stages are about knowing the rules and following them well in a real situation.

Competent. Having a sense of what you want to do and achieving this with some reliability in normal conditions. You can generally learn your part and deliver it as part of a performance.

Proficient. You are able to cope with the unexpected. Usually this means having ‘rules of thumb’ for coping with the unexpected. In counselling if you get surprised and don’t know what to say – and you feel a response is called for: If all else fails reflect (saying something like, “So what you’re saying is . . . “ or “It sounds to me like you’re feeling . . . ).

These two stages have moved beyond rule following to taking the situation into account.

Expert. There is a good intuitive grasp of a wide range of situations that you respond to without being deliberate (“spontaneously”). Here you have a grasp of the principles or philosophy underlying the discipline. You may like to play with the different approach to using spices in cooking: can you use the contrasting approach of Indian cuisine in European cooking; could you use the subtle enhancement of flavour used in Italian cuisine with an Italian dish?


2. Including More of Who You Are
Focusing on one thing, means not focusing on everything else. Which can lead to you becoming tunnel-visioned. To be refreshed and live with more joy means including the parts of you that have been excluded. The most common form of this is a mid-life crisis. Here are some examples of what it means to transform your LifeStyle.

If you live the LifeStyle of a devotee (devotion to “god”, a great purpose) it is likely you will emphasise choice and focus. This usually means a neglect of your instincts. Members of religious communities often have trouble with sexual urges, anger and gluttony. Coming to terms with these leads to a devotee with greater humility, who has more gentleness – more flexible and ‘centred’.

Those who pursue a caring LifeStyle, often come to realise they have been neglecting their own needs (most tragically by burning out). As they integrate their own needs into their caring they find a better sense of boundaries and that more of themselves is present in their caring; there is the sense that they are meeting the one cared for – not just someone providing care.

Those who pursue a LifeStyle of a maker, can neglect their relationships. Artists can become absorbed in their making and forget appointments or not pay attention to the needs of their loved ones. Gradually an artist can make the art a part of their life – rather than giving their life to it. Then the art nourishes them and enriches them, rather than it being draining.

These are examples of what it means to ‘integrate the shadow’: it leads to you becoming something of a different person. Which is qualitatively different to getting better at a skill. It means some change in who you are.

I hope this post gives you some idea how you can pursue the one LifeStyle throughout your life; and how it can keep nourishing you.

Any and all comments are most welcome.


My conviction and experience is that life is better when we are whole. We don’t have the hassle of suppressing parts of ourselves; we flow and we may even have a kind of elated calmness most of the time. I think this is a very good thing.

And we don’t have many ways of talking about this wholeness. The two most popular I know of are “archetype” and “vocation”. This post is about these things.

They are two (not very) different ways of talking about our wholeness. They are both big enough to include expressing yourself with integrity, in relationship with others. “Archetype” probably has more feeling of personal depth and integrity; and “vocation” probably has more feeling of the harmonious social expression of ourself. The best term I can think of to embrace both “archetype” and “vocation” is ‘LifeStyle’. (It feels a bit lame to me, suggestions are very welcome in the comments.)

The reason I like LifeStyle is that it embraces our valuable uniqueness and our social life. Which means that:

  • it embraces the inner and outer (subjective and objective; introversion and extraversion),
  • it embraces the whole of our life (from birth to death – we don’t need to move through one LifeStyle to another one), which means,
  • it is big enough for the expression of all of who we are,
    which means it can include the integration of our shadow.


Are there six billion (and counting) LifeStyles?
Yes and no.
Our uniqueness is valuable – the idea that we should be all the same I find unattractive. But if we were all entirely unique we’d have nothing to say to each other. And intimacy is precious. But if we were all just the same we’d also have nothing to say to each other. Intimacy a particular kind of meeting of our differences (which can lead to a very deep sense of our connection and shared humanity).

Is it possible to come up with a manageable number of LifeStyles, that are big enough to include all of who we are; our social life, and be useful (neither too many or too few)?

I think the answer may be yes. (See what you think.) For me each LifeStyle needs to be, big enough to include three aspects of who we are (thinking, feeling, acting) and take account of our different ‘worlds’ (heaven/the transcendent, humans/the social, earth/the ecological). This means that the LifeStyles are fairly primal – they should be part of the experience of people always and everywhere.

Which lead me a thought experiment: each LifeStyle should have been part of the first human group. What would this group require? I think they would require, knowledge (acquiring and passing on information), health, a way of organising themselves (governance), and fun.

So I initially have four groups of LifeStyles, those concerned with: knowledge, health, governance and fun. These are then divided up by which ‘world/s’ they are more directed to: heaven, humanity or earth. There are LifeStyles like that of a devotee, more focused on heaven, there is the LifeStyle of the farmer, more focused on earth, and the LifeStyle of the teacher, focused on humans.

I’ve arrived at a list of twenty-six LifeStyles, briefly described below. Let me know in the comments, if you think they make sense, and if you would add to or subtract from the list.

LifeStyles concerned primarily with heaven
Devotee and Pilgrim. The difference being the sense of time – the devotee having more sense of dwelling in the timelessness of spirit, and the pilgrim having the sense of travelling through time.

LifeStyles concerned with the relation of heaven and humanity.
Prophet and Priest. The prophet bringing god’s perspective to people, and the priest bringing people’s concerns to god.

LifeStyles concerned with people.
Those concerned with people and other people.
Host/ess and Interior of Home Orderer.  Hospitality both in relationships and physical space.

Those concerned with knowledge.
Subject matter expert (including Historian – the expert in the past of the group). Generalist. Sage (useful application of knowledge).

Those concerned with knowledge and people
Teacher. Learner.

Those concerned with human’s health.
Nurturer, Healer, Carer.
The nurturer is like the parental role – providing and maintaining the conditions needed for flourishing.
The healer restoring those who are sick – this includes altering the environment as well as helping the individual making adjustment.
The caring role is aimed at being with the person not restoring – perhaps at the end of their life, or perhaps providing presence and actions throughout life for someone born with a disability.

Those concerned with group order.
“Leader”. Someone who takes decisions about the current relationships and future direction of the group.
Second in command. The trusted companion to the leader.
Policeperson, lawyer, bureaucrat. Those needed to enforce the code that has been formulated for the order of the group. The policing of persons to comply with the code, the lawyer with knowledge of the code – its various parts and their interpretation, the bureaucrat implementing the code in an impartial manner.

Entertainer and Actor. The Entertainer does things on stage with the same name as off stage. Actors adopt another persona – they play a part (more or less rigidly scripted).
Higher creatures play, and so far as we know people have always done ‘useless’ things – just because they enjoy them. (Most games don’t effect our chances of survival.)

Lifestyles concerned with the relation of humans and earth.
Farmer/Gardener. Cook. Home-Contructor.

Lifestyles concerned with the earth
Naturalist. The Wild One who lives on the fringes of civilisation.

That’s my list of LifeStyles. I think it is a small enough list to be useful. I think each one is big enough to include all of an individual’s life and a recognisable social role. I think they are probably specific enough to provide useful guidance to individuals – guidance that can address the whole person, not feeling vs thinking vs instincts and so on.

This post is exploratory and tentative. I’m very keen to hear any and all comments.