No man is free who is not master of himself.
No man is free who is not master of himself.
The world is changing.
We hear that a lot lately. Technology, society, East catching West, globalisation, consumerism, social media, virtual reality, robotics etc. Much is indeed changing.
But are we changing with it, or are we trapped, caught in our own story? A story spun by the very creators and enablers of the change. Much of what we refer to as change is simply the inevitable out turn of the industrialisation age. These early industrialists promised us: work hard, fit into the schemes of work we define, do what’s asked and you will be looked after, you will get what you want. Factories, mass production, even the idea of management, all born at this time.
Now, we’re caught, in this late-capitalist phase of our society. Our narratives about work remain oriented to this thinking. Work days and weekends. Home and the workplace. Career. Professions. Trades. Status. Money. Recognition. Security. Control. Management. Competition.
We learn, more or less successfully, how to mould ourselves to the categories already on offer in the world – factory worker, administrator, school teacher, manager, accountant, doctor…
For the most part we cope. Some thrive. Many however become disenchanted. Disenfranchised. The system isn’t working for them. The rewards may come, but they’re not enough, or they don’t bring happiness. The ‘have nots’ judge the ‘haves’ – the rewards aren’t fair, equal. Our hearts and souls are stunted by the repeated self-abandonment that fitting in can require of us. Square pegs, round holes. Freedom lost to a defined, managed, measured way to do, to be.
And now, a looming challenge is that many of those roles themselves have gone, are going, or will go in the next twenty years. Falling victim to the very possibilities the Industrial Age and its offspring the Technological Age, have created.
Time for a new way of thinking? A new paradigm?
One with enhanced caring and social responsibility perhaps? One that champions a calling maybe? One that redefines contribution and reward? One that places humanity ahead of hierarchy? Who knows? One thing seems clear though, we need to start to define and move to a new age.
The bucket list idea has been around for a few years now, popularised by the film of that name from 2007.
Essentially the notion of a list of the life experiences to have, or life achievements to attain, before you die. Before you ‘kick the bucket’. For example, ‘making this trip ticks one thing off my bucket list’.
You can even download suggested bucket lists – with places you should visit and experiences you should have whilst you still can. Someone else’s idea of what you should do, to live a rich and fulfilled life. Interesting concept.
Often these lists contain far flung places to visit or high octane adrenaline fueled experiences. Many cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. Visit Machu Pichu. Skydive. Swim with dolphins. Run a marathon.
What if we lived for the moment instead? What if we identified the day to day things that bring pleasure, happiness, joy to our lives and just do more of them?
Drink tea with a biscuit to dunk. Sit in the garden. Have a bath. Walk in the woods. Bake brownies. Buy those orange shoes we covet. Listen to a thunderstorm. Hold hands. Laugh.
Too few people notice the little things they enjoy and then set out to do more of them.
It strikes me the bucket list idea has a hole in it. If we’re focused on our death and on large scale, time costly, expensive big events, then life is leaking out of the hole every day.
Many of us write lists. The ‘to do’ list is a favourite.
Jobs for the weekend, reminders of tasks for the day job, lists of objectives for the project, even a list of things to buy for a birthday…
These lists tend to be full of tasks. Doing things. Activities to complete, assignments to progress, promises to keep.
How often do we create an emotional ‘to do’ list?
Today, I need to feel joyous, curious, excited and relieved. Tomorrow I plan some happy, a bit of stressed (because I will need that adrenaline) and a ton of relief, because I can foresee a few minutes of sad.
I recently attended an event where the group was encouraged to reflect on sources of happiness in their lives. We then shared and told stories of how and why that happiness had arrived for us. We pledged to each other to do more of that in our lives going forward (whatever it was for each of us). Having people bear witness seemed to help.
So, what’s on your long term emotional ‘to do’ list, and how do you plan to get more or less of the emotions you want or don’t?
What is it?
Like so many of life’s most important treasures, it seems almost intangible, hard to put your finger on, illusively difficult to describe. floating in the ether. Yet of immeasuable significance to us.
For when it is absent, all seems lost. Its magnitude then, monumental. Its impact, seismic.
An important element seems to be a goal. An intent. An objective. And then there needs to be choice. A sense that we can see alternatives. Pathways. When there are none, hope is lost. A will to get there seems to be the final ingredient. A desire to make the choice and a drive to work towards the aim, however difficult. We all lose sight of one of these from time to time – goal, alternatives, will. Perhaps hope is lost when they all leave us?
Why are the most important things in our human lives so hard to quantify, to describe, to grasp? Hope, belonging, love, freedom, will, happiness…
Many organisations pay attention to cognitive culture rather than emotional culture.
They attend to the known things such as values, goals, objectives, rules and policies. They measure employee achievement in terms of these and they pay attention to employee behaviour in this context; are you doing what is required and are you doing it the right way?
What and how. It’s what many appraisal systems focus on too.
Does your workplace measure the emotional culture though? Do they check in with you on how you’re feeling about work, today, this week, this month? Are people having fun, enjoying their work? Are you happy, sad, demotivated, excited, anxious, enthralled? Does your boss know?
In reality your emotional state is likely to have more impact on your behaviour that a set of cognitive ‘these are the behaviours we expect’. It is also likely to impact your productivity, your performance, your levels of engagement with your work, your sense of wellbeing – physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual – and therefore minimise your days off sick.
How we feel about our work feeds our sense of belonging and our sense of purpose. If we enjoy our work, we get a degree of excitement from doing it, a sense of improvement, achievement and personal growth.
How happy were you at work today?
Life may not be the party we hoped for …
but while we’re here we may as well dance