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Changed Goals

2. Changed Goals. Relational Thinking leads to changing the priorities and goals of our lives and all of our relationships. At the government level, Robert Kennedy pointed vividly to the inadequacies of using GDP to measure the quality of life in a nation. Relational Thinking challenges the assumption of the prevailing economic paradigm that it is best to pursue economic growth at whatever social cost, and then pick up the pieces of poverty and broken families afterwards through tax and redistribution policies. An alternative approach, which puts relational priorities first, would seek to protect families and communities while pursuing growth, and thus avoid the need for subsequent redistribution and social intervention.

Changed priorities in schools would mean no longer aiming to maximise the potential of each child, expressed in terms of economic or individual achievement. Instead, the first priority of schools would be to ensure that by the time young people leave, they are able to relate well to others, prepared to take responsibility, ready to contribute to the wellbeing of their family and community (both local and global), and knowing what it takes to build a lifelong, committed relationship with someone of the opposite sex.

Alternative goals based on relational thinking in the criminal justice system would have far-reaching consequences. Instead of the system aiming simply at retribution, or at rehabilitation of offenders, the primary goal would be to reconcile relationships between offenders and the victims of their crimes, permitting them to be restored into responsible membership of their community.

Relational businesses would no longer have the primary goal of maximising “shareholder value”, at whatever cost to the other stakeholders. Recognising that there is more to sustainability than short-term profits, a relational company would seek to maximise relational wellbeing among all the stakeholders. Financial returns remain important, but are no longer the “bottom line”; profit would be seen as an important element in building good relationships.