When we go to school, we’re encouraged to apply ourselves. After all learning happens through practice, exploration and application. When a student applies him or herself, they uncover their potential, hone their skills, build their abilities and experience achievement.
For this we praise and celebrate them.
In equal measure however, we shake our heads when we see our youth so driven by instant gratification.
Fast food, fast friends, fast media all create an immediacy that is easy to like, yet hard to detach from.
When fuelled too much, it fosters destructive behaviours and poor physical and mental health.
My daughter will never know, nor tolerate, television as I knew it when growing up. As a child who has grown up with iPads, Netfilx and iView, she has zero tolerance for adverts and knows there are gadgets and apps that enable her to watch what she wants when she wants. Television has no appeal. Why on earth would she wait for a set day of the week or time in the day to view her favourite show when she can view it now.
Much about the way we all operate facilitates and reinforces this. I don’t have to wait to get to the computer to check or manage emails, they’re right here on my phone. Too busy to make dinner tonight, easy, hop online and place an order and it will be there when you get home. Wondering what Jo’s been up to lately, simply check her Facebook feed.
So while we desire and praise application, much of our way of being rewards and reinforces instant gratification.
This same dichotomy permeates the workplace.
I’ve had countless conversations with clients who struggle with the demand to be agile, responsive, flexible, do more with less, fail fast and grow even faster. Everything is urgent. It’s necessary and its needed now.
At the same time we want engaged workforces – teams with deep expertise, applied capability, and positive attitudes and behaviours who contribute meaningfully to a dynamic culture, build great places to work, and help us become great organisations to deal with.
The inherent tension between responding to the multifaceted pressures of market forces, shareholder demands, customer needs and team dynamics leaves many of us feeling pulled in all directions, energetically depleted and mentally frazzled.
Like instant gratification, an emphasis on urgency and instant results has its destructive side. Driving a rate and pace of work that is fundamentally unsustainable, it critically undermines longer-term culture shifts and can reduce engagement initiatives to mere lip service.
Engagement and culture take time to build. They require clear vision, alignment, ongoing reinforcement and application of the behaviours and ideals we say we value. It takes practice and patience as the journey unfolds, connections form and something bigger than any one individual evolves.
The benefits of a longer-term focus and sustained application are clear. Yet finding ways to foster this is the eternal conundrum, especially in environments where instant results, instant gratification, have become the norm.
Operating in an industry where reactivity is common, pace is frantic and expectations are high, the team at one of M.A.D.’s clients walk this tightrope daily. Since commencing weekly Work and Wellbeing sessions with us in October, they’re realising the benefits of slowing down.
Right from the get go they found our 30-minute sessions each week helped them to energise and focus. Over time they have reported greater individual self-awareness and better teamwork and collaboration.
This is exciting. Sustained application of some simple practices over a period of time enables people to better deal with the daily demands of a hectic workplace. Such practices better equip them to respond flexibly while staying focussed on what’s most important.
So while the juggling act doesn’t necessarily change, our engagement with it does.
When we take a relatively small amount of time each week to apply ourselves to a practice of quietude and patience, our ability to move more effortlessly from one state to another, self regulate, and channel our energy to where it matters most improves exponentially.
Interestingly, application helps us to be more discerning when it comes to instant gratification.
Perhaps its worth slowing down in order to speed up. To find out how, contact us at M.A.D. Mindworks.
Katherine Mair, M.A.D. Creator