Is it how much you work that determines your level of productivity, success, value and/or happiness?
Are long hours and stress a badge of honour?
Are there ways we can work more effectively to be successful, stress-free and, most importantly, happy in our work?
Conditioned beliefs and behaviours
In this fast-paced and driven society that we live in, it is easy to fall into the illusion that we're participating in a race. We are fed messages subtly, and not-so-subtly, via marketing, media and our social networks that tell us MORE IS BETTER and the quicker we become more, get more and do more, the better off we'll be.
Well, word to the wise… more is not always better. And more does not always = happiness.
If you run yourself into the ground with your work, and strive and strive for something ‘out there' that will make you better, more successful and happier – then chances are you'll never truly feel happy and satisfied inside. Ultimately, if your own needs and happiness aren't being met right now in the work you are doing, then it's time to stop for a moment and ask yourself very honestly why the heck you're doing it.
In the words of Ernst Hemingway… “When you stop doing things for fun, you might as well be dead.”
Life isn’t some moment in the future that you’re working towards. It is a very short gift you were given when you were born, and it’s happening RIGHT NOW! The only moment you have available to experience true happiness is now.
So, the million dollar question is this…
How do we work in a way that meets the needs of our employers, clients and stakeholders (keeping them happy by being good, productive and successful employees/business people), but which also allows us to thrive by have a rocking, raving great time while doing so? That is, how do we have happiness in the moment, at the outset, not just aiming for it at some point in the future.
I speak and write on this topic because of one key reason. Yes, I am interested in your “success”, whatever that word means to you. But I'm most interested in your happiness. And I'm passionate about smashing the idea that “productivity + success = happiness”. We are constantly drenched in messages and conditioning that sells us an image, particularly in the western world and in corporate business, that promotes this very idea of striving to work more, and harder, so we can be recognised, valued and attain success under the illusion that those things will give us happiness. What they actually give you is a sense of being seen and being validated, and a feeling of self-worth and security, and the flow on is a hit of happiness. This cycle, however, can be extremely exhausting, never-ending and lacking the true fulfilment that most people seek. That is because we are using an external experience to generate an internal feeling of happiness, and external experiences are outside of our control, they are fleeting, impermanent and unpredictable. Would you knowingly link your own joy to such variables?
The model that our world needs now, the new emerging world of more conscious, awake business people, is one that will operate from this new equation that so many of us around the world are already embracing:
INNER HAPPINESS = GREATER EXTERNAL PRODUCTIVITY & SUCCESS
Your happiness, dependent upon absolutely nothing external, is what allows you to be your best in all areas of your life, including your career. When you are happy within, you are more productive, more engaged, more committed and more motivated. As a result, success must come as a flow on.
To be happy within, we have to ditch the notion that long hours (how much you work) and stress are somehow ‘normal' and acceptable ways of operating, along with the illusion that there is no other way to get things done if we want to be successful.
Do you want to know the modus operandi of people who are productive, successful AND happy? These people understand the equation for personal happiness in the new world, and they are the ones who have booted the old-school work paradigm to the curb and are now thriving most.
Here it is…
Balance + Presence + Intuition
They operate in balance (work-life balance, and in-work balance), with presence and from their intuition.
Here's the kicker about this equation! When you operate in balance, it aids your ability to bring full presence to each moment in your work, and as a result you can much more effectively access and operate from your intuition, leading to better business decisions and results. On the flip side, if you're out of balance, it makes it much more challenging to be present, and without presence it's almost impossible to remain connected to your intuition.
We cannot expect to work all day every day like machines, pumping out results, and then think we're also able to be 100% on our A-Game. It is not possible. To be at your absolute best, you need to recognise your brain needs time in “off-mode”, that is, frequent periods where you disengage from work related thinking, thus allowing for mental rejuvenation and recharge.
But – most of us think a walk to the bathroom, or a chat to a colleague at the photocopier, is enough downtime from our tasks and we drive ourselves (and our brains) to a point where we operate on a sub-standard level mentally, without even realising it. Many of us take our work home with us in our minds, as we think, reflect, worry, plot and plan during our evenings and weekends.
Just like athletes schedule rest, and use it as a core part of their peak performance training, so must we as business people. If you want to be mentally sharp like a sniper in your work then it's time to take balance seriously. You need to be sharp in order to bring your full creativity, critical thinking, analytical thinking and decision making skills into the workplace.
Balance isn't just about taking holidays, or hanging on for the weekends, and it's not just evenings! It means rating yourself highly enough to give yourself “off-mode” time regularly throughout the day, even if only for 10 minutes at a time. Learning how to do this, switching off in the middle of work time, takes practise. It's just like exercising a muscle at the gym. You're teaching your brain and body to move from on to off mode on your request.
How many times are you with someone but you're not really with them. How often are we all lost in our thoughts… thinking about what just happened, what's happening next, where we need to get to, and worrying or plotting about something. If we're not doing that, it's most likely we're thinking about what we want to say next and waiting for the other person to stop speaking so we can get airtime. The more out of balance you are, the more tired and stressed you are, the more unconscious this non-present behaviour becomes.
The world cannot afford to go on this way. It's time for all of us to wake up and go back to the core of what's most important. The world needs enlightened human beings who are fully present with each other, actively listening and compassionately listening. And it’s most definitely needed in our businesses. Relationships in our world require this if we are going to move forward in more sustainable, collaborative, mutually-beneficial and healthy ways. And, ultimately, business needs each of us individually to be present if we're going to give of our full potential in a sustainable way long term. “Results” are great, but only if we can sustain them.
Presence is key for another reason – human beings long to be seen and to be heard. We are facing issues in our communities, society, businesses and political systems where people are not fully present with each other, and therefore not really receiving each others messages. This creates disconnects, disagreements, lack of understanding and a vortex where empathy cannot survive… leading to difficulties in reaching solutions, resolutions, negotiation outcomes and win-win scenarios for all.
Something magical happens between human beings when we are fully present with each other. Not lost in our heads, driven by our egos or our own agendas. That something magical is connection and understanding. This simple human gift, which we have almost completely lost sight of, can transform the quality of how we work and the outcomes/successes we create together.
When you give someone your full attention, they may not even intellectually understand why they feel so good around you, and why they want to work together you collaboratively. But the deeper part of them resonates with your presence, because you are meeting one of their core, fundamental human cravings… to be seen and to be heard.
Watch then as your relationships deepen and the quality of your interactions bear fruit in your career/business because of your ability to be fully present with the people you interact with.
And, when you're fully present, guess what happens… you notice your gut instinct about people, situations and challenges – it becomes much louder and clearer. That is because when you are present, your mind is not as noisy, and that noise no longer clouds your ability to hear your intuition. Intuition feeds decision making, it nourishes creativity, it is an essential business tool inherent in who you are.
External, physical, hard, quantifiable evidence is highly valued in our modern world. And rightly so. It's essential. But, that is only half the equation. You are the other half. You were born with a gift, and that gift is your intuition. It is what separates exceptional performers from average performers. It is what creates outstanding businesses and impressive leaders. Intuition is heart-led, feelings based guidance. And if we want to create businesses that not only survive, but thrive, and do so in a sustainable way economically, politically, environmentally – not only getting bottom line results but also allowing people to be happy and healthy along the way then we MUST prioritise and encourage each other to operate from and act upon our intuition in the workplace.
When you bring balance, presence and intuition to how you work, it transforms not only your experience of work and your life, but it also comes across strongly to all those you interact with, creating a positive impression on those who witness you operating through this new-world equation. Your reputation and relationships will thrive as a result.
- What action can you take now to bring greater balance to your work/career on a day-to-day basis? Do you have a healthy, sustainable work-life balance at present? Do you have a quality in-work balance (breaks throughout the day where you put your mind in ‘off mode')?
- When you are next in contact with someone at work, notice how present you really are? Notice what your mind is doing? Practise giving that person 100% undivided attention.
- Where in your work or wider life have you disconnected from your intuition and feelings? What gut instinct have you ignored or suppressed?
- If you’re a leader or manager – what are you doing to encourage and enable your people to operate in balance, with presence and from their intuition?
Happiness first, productivity and success flow on
If you operate in balance, with presence and from your intuition, you will experience a much higher degree of inner peace and happiness as a result. Due to that inner happiness, feeling like you are empowered and on-your-game in your work, you will naturally be most productive and success flows on.
I’m reading Ken Robison’s Finding Your Element right now. Happiness is 10% circumstance, 50% genetic temperance, and 40% voluntary. That is truly amazing. Only 10% is outside. As within, so without.
During my lunch break at work, I read a personal growth book. It calms me and puts me in a different mindset instead of stressing over work. I look forward to it so I get my work done before I read.
To me, genuine happiness is when my areas of well-being feel meaningful and I wake up each morning to do SOMETHING in them that makes me happy. Exercise, read, talk to friends, create actives, write, sing music, etc. I agree that happier people get more done because it isn’t a rat race. It’s FUN and WORTH IT. Your focus on balance, presence, and intuition hits home too. Intellect helps us work smarter too. I aim for the golden mean of both of them, but I always lean more toward intuition. The mind is a great servant, but a terrible master, right?
Have you ever seen David Wallace’s video called This Is Water? I think it is a great connecting video on this topic. Please check out the lecture video or graphic one on Youtube. It’s about how we choose how to think and pay attention and derive meaning from experience. Learning is really about how to exercise control over how we think and act. =)
Thank you for your comments and insights. Great use of your lunch break – doing something you love that makes you feel great! Reminds me of when I was working in a job and I used to write and meditate during my lunch breaks, which made a huge difference to my mindset, focus and inspiration during work hours.
Thanks for sharing the David Wallace video! Synchronistic timing as I was just searching online the other day for a quote to include in a presentation, about a bird and a fish, it goes something like this: Bird says to fish “How’s the water?” and fish says to bird, “What water?” Love it! What we believe and think, and what we pay attention to, complete determines our experience of life. And as you say, learning how to use our minds (instead of our minds using us) is one key way to shift our experience of any aspect of life 🙂 PS. For anyone else reading this who wants to watch the David Wallace video… here it is: http://youtu.be/6z5TIFr5XMo