Lifestyle is the behavioral patterns, attitudes, and interests of an individual, community, or group. The word was first introduced by Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler in his widely-read 1930 book, The Case of Miss R. With the implied meaning of “the primitive self” it has come to mean individualism. It is an umbrella term that can include a person’s attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and personality traits. It has been described as one of the pillars of Western society. One might also call it the foundation of Western civilization, because the essence of a truly modern economy is its ability to produce a consumer culture based on an extended family structure and a widespread sense of community.
In this article I will present some definitions and examples, together with a description of the general trend of lifestyle improvement and its relation to the concept of the “Lifestyle Pyramid”. The pyramid has long been used by advertisers, marketing gurus, and social scientists as a method of simplifying complex social situations, such as those faced by women, in terms of societal status, occupations, cultural norms, and economic pursuits and goals. The concept of the lifestyle pyramid was first introduced by W. Edwards Deming in the 1970s, based on the theory that there were three basic layers of an organization – top, middle, and bottom. According to Deming, each layer contains many different habits, skills, perspectives, and preferences, while none of these core elements was at any point connected to the other layers.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the word lifestyle now refers to a set of personal values and actions, with a wider range than before, and especially representing a broad range of human interests. It usually refers to a specific culture or sub-culture. The word was first popularized in the works of the American sociologist Alfred Adler. In his pioneering study, “Social Elite Management: An Alternative Approach,” Adler argued that a “lifestyle” had emerged among wealthy families which differentiated them not only in their achievements, but also in their social behaviors.
As a definition, the word lifestyle most often involves a particular way of relating to and living in the world. Adler believed that the key elements in a successful lifestyle were moderation, purpose, and reflection. For example, according to Adler, a lifestyle of enjoyment, meaning, and social interaction, might be described as “doing things for the sake of doing them.” On the other hand, a lifestyle content, such as working or making a living, might be described as “doing things because doing them tends to bring satisfaction.” Another example of a lifestyle content might be a person who is committed to lifelong learning, who values beauty and longevity over short-termism and superficiality, who looks to science and technology for solutions to age-related challenges, and who is socially liberal, tolerant of differences, appreciative of the good in people and society, and committed to social justice and the promotion of social welfare.
In a related field, lifestyle design, Adler defined four distinct styles that he felt represented contemporary attitudes about living. The first, the minimalist lifestyle, “seems to reject most of the things that are now considered normal and natural.” Minimalists value seclusion, minimalism, and a focus on the Here and Now. The second, eclectic lifestyle, “seeks a multiplicity of aesthetic objects, even at the expense of creating a deeper connection to the physical world.” These days, the eclectic shopper goes to great lengths to buy things that have a cultural or other resonance, instead of simply going with a given color or price range.
The last, the Iron Mountain or Black Mountain culture, Adler defined as a counterculture against the collectivism of the hi-tech elite. Iron Mountain commune members eschewed owning cars and clothing for something more basic and natural, such as knitting clothes, eating local produce, using pottery, collecting art, and building simple cabins. The cabins were built on the land themselves and could be rented out for holidays or rained in. It was the perfect “badge of honor,” as Adler put it, for people who wanted to live “beyond the grave.”