"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished." ~ Lau Tzu
Why do we always seem to be in a hurry? Where are we going that requires such eagerness to act in such a way? Why do we sacrifice our highest priorities for the least likely means of finding true happiness? If we want to become more productive, then what is it that we are trying to produce?
I recall telling my then 4-year-old child , when he asked why I was away from home so much, that I had "to work hard for money to support our family and pay for all the things we have." After two years and one profound life change later, his quick response, "I'd rather have my Daddy than money," rings absolutely clear in my mind to this day. How could more time away from my family be better for my family? I had unknowingly made money my highest priority and my son became the impetus to turn that around...
Given a moment to think about it, the vast majority of people, regardless of financial status, would list family, health and overall happiness or well-being as their highest priorities in life. In my investment advisory practice, I have yet to hear any of my clients say that money is their highest priority. In fact most of my clients, and people in general, don't even list money as a priority at all... yet our actions speak otherwise.
To extend upon last week's post, Mind vs. Brain Part I: We are only Human, let's define what I would regard as "self-destructive" behavior. When possible, I like to defer to other sources of wisdom to clarify my thought. In this spirit, here are some excerpts from An Interview With God, where "God" responds to the question, "What surprises you most about mankind?"
That they lose their health to make money... and then lose their money to restore their health.
That they live as if they will never die and die as if they had never lived.
That they get bored with childhood, they rush to grow up, and then long to be children again.
"If the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn't." ~ Emerson M. Pugh
So what happened to us? Is this misalignment of priorities and pursuits a natural evolution of the human brain or has it always been wired for the same basic behavior? As I stated in the 2007 post, Know Thy Risk, humans are wired for simple, survival-oriented pattern recognition. This wiring has been referred to as our rat brain, which prefers problem-solving heuristics, or mental shortcuts that link patterns to potential rewards (Heimer).
These shortcuts and patterns were quite effective in aiding primitive man to find food but have since evolved from a pursuit of necessity to modern man's flawed pursuit of short-term physical-world rewards, such as money, material objects and social status.
To give primitive man some credit, he (or she) used their rat brain out of necessity -- the pursuit of food was a question of survival and essentially never-ending -- not one of a discretionary and material nature. Now that we have evolved where most humans on the planet no longer need to spend all of their waking hours looking for food and meeting the other basic needs of shelter and clothing, there is more time to move beyond the basic necessities of life and into pursuits that provide meaning beyond the physical world -- our self-awareness and self-actualization. But do we seek those metaphysical rewards or do we continue to seek rewards that are largely absent of meaning and purpose?
"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Now that we have personal computers, cell phones and the Internet, we have become so productive and time-efficient that we have created more time for our meaningful pursuits, right? If we are more productive, then why are we not happier? In my humble opinion, it is because we are chasing the kind of rewards that do not bring long-term well-being. The business world has a definition of productivity. Why don't we individuals have one for our personal use?
Corporations seek to produce more units of output with the same units of input. In other words, business owners and shareholders look to improve the bottom line by leveraging technology and squeezing more work out of the employee for the same pay. Have we simply adopted this economic definition of productivity and applied it to our personal lives? If so, does this definition align with our priorities? Shouldn't we, as individuals, seek the kind of profit that produces true and long-term happiness -- the kind that places meaning before money?
To arrive at your own definition of productivity, you should ask yourself what it is that you want to produce and transform the definition into action. Do you want to produce more time with your family? Do you want to produce greater physical, mental and spiritual health? Do you want to create true happiness or well-being? Once you arrive at this definition, you must align your priorities, pursuits and productivity accordingly. Then you must form habits that maintain that alignment...
We will address those habits and some corresponding actions in our next installment of Mind vs. Brain posts, so stay tuned...
What do you think? Can you share your own story of aligning priorities, pursuits and productivity?
Source: Heimer, M. "Outsmarting Your Brain." (subscription only) Smart Money. January 2005