Let’s talk about improved productivity being a benefit of mindfulness in business. Take a moment to think about when you are most productive, whether at home, at work or in the community. I think it would be fair to say that productivity increases when you are engaged in whatever you are doing. Engagement is mostly the result of a perceived reward, therefore something that you value. Of course, this can vary quite considerably, even within the same role or activity.
The majority of people work because they need to earn. The more your earnings have the capacity to fulfil your dream, the more engaged you’ll be in your role. Those dreams can be varied: paying off a home, buying a car, going on a holiday, acquiring the latest technology, and keeping up with the latest fashion are examples of those dreams. While fashion, cars and technology regularly change, and there is always somewhere new to travel to, there will always be an ongoing ‘carrot’ to keep you engaged. Of course, when the home, with all of its add-ons, has been realised (which for most people happens by mid-life), then the perceived rewards fade, especially since the energy to start on a bigger dream just isn’t there anymore. This is commonly referred to as a mid-life crisis. The knock-on effect is less engagement and productivity at work. Going to work is what you do to fill in the time until retirement.
With the emergence of millennials, the need to work is still about earning, although it is less about acquiring things, and more about experiencing things. The ‘experience’ costs less than ownership and so the need to earn has less emphasis. I heard on talk-back radio a journalist explaining that in my home-state of Queensland, the consumer spending figures for the last quarter saw a significant drop in retail sales, yet an equally significant increase in ‘cafe’ expenditure. If how we spend our time and money is an indication of what we value, then people in my home-state are saying they value their social life more than accumulating goods. Of course this means they don’t need the same amount of money to live, and are content to have part-time employment. That said, they can be very engaged and productive, but for shorter periods of time.
What we value is reflected in how we spend our time and money. In the two examples above, the shift in values (what was important) saw a change in behaviour (how they spent their time and money). In the former, material possessions were mostly the priority. In the latter, relationship experiences are more important. In both scenarios business loses out. In the former model (typically baby boomers) the business may have a stable workforce, but substantially less productive the older they get. In the latter, business may have a more productive workforce (albeit for shorter periods of time) but higher staff turnover. The cost of recruiting and training staff, along with the effects of interrupted client management, can place significant burdens on a business.
The key question at this juncture, is how does mindfulness make a difference?
The two ‘rewards’ identified as motives for how people spend their time and money and consequently, how engaged and productive they are in their work, are externally sourced. The reward of feeling good about ones self requires the external reward of success and or acceptance.
The primary reward of mindfulness is stillness, which is the natural result of choosing inner-peace. In the mindfulness model, inner-peace is the the thing you value most and impacts on how you spend your time and money. Let me explain.
In previous blogs I explained that mindfulness is remembering there is a more self-loving alternative to our habitual way of living (the approach to life that causes most of our suffering). Having created a clear picture of what that more self-loving alternative would look like, you aren’t driven to create it so much as maintain a recollection of how it would be more beneficial if you acted more self-lovingly. This would also include an awareness of the short and long term ramifications of continuing to do what you are doing habitually. Fundamental to adopting this mindful approach, is the establishment of a greater sense of ones self-worth.
At EAP, this is achieved by helping people identify the narrative from their formative years, that undermines their sense of self-worth. By applying the EAP alchemical approach of finding the gold in the lead, the story (childhood narrative of poor self-worth) is seen less as what defines us and more as the framework for the gifts that we have developed to fulfil our purpose. Being free of this narrative we naturally become more self-accepting and self-loving, which makes living mindfully a reality. Our enhanced sense of self-worth becomes the filter through which we see the world, meaning we begin to see and relate to others and the planet with more awareness, which results in our being more compassionate, and kind.
Living mindfully means you are more aware of how you can be of service to others (in business this would be employers, clients and colleagues), to yourself (being committed to work/life balance) and to the planet. This being your primary focus, you naturally find yourself ‘spending’ your time and money in service. You might take the time to more actively listen to people. In being more self-loving you might choose employment that pays less but allows you to live in a more self-loving way, doing more meaningful work. You’d be committed to achieving work/life balance.
Now your motivation is about how you turn up and make a difference in the world, a difference that reflects the love you have for yourself, the love you have for humanity and the care you show for the planet and its critters. When you are committed to living mindfully, you will be living on purpose. That can only result in you being engaged and therefore productive.
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