Let’s start with an activity:
I want you to stop for a moment and reflect on the last half hour of your life.
Consider what you spent that time doing, and then speculate on WHY.
Perhaps you were hungry or thirsty – so you had lunch.
Or maybe you were cold – so you adjusted the thermostat or put on a jumper.
Maybe a loved one needed some support, so you spent an hour on the phone to them providing emotional care.
Maybe you were feeling stifled inside, so you took the dogs for a walk.
So go on, take a moment and reflect, I’ll wait right here for you…
What did you find?
Were you acting from a need for self-maintenance (hunger, thirst, anger, thermoregulation, panic)?
Or were you acting from a need for self-propagation (care, affiliation, sexual desire, exploration, play)?
Were you maintaining or growing?
These areas form the key psychological drivers in our lives.
Understanding our actions becomes even more important when we consider that we humans are creatures of intense automation (read: habits).
Over the last decade, top neuroscientists have posited that the overwhelming majority of what we do is driven by our sub-conscious selves… (which we often then mis-appropriate the credit to our conscious selves).
David Eagleman has a fantastic analogy for this in his book: Incognito; our conscious selves are merely a young prince or princess looking over the vast empire that we have inherited (our sub-conscious systems). With systems and complexity so deeply embedded, we cannot hope to truly grasp them all.
A side effect of all this self-automation is that we don’t often stop and reflect – just as I asked you to at the start. While this reflection is useful to ourselves, it is even more so for our businesses.
Consider, is your business prioritising self-maintenance or self-propagation?
Are you just ‘getting by’, or are you growing, caring, exploring and expanding?
One keeps you alive, the other expands you (and probably makes you and your staff happier).
Both are important, but too often we spend too much effort to merely feed ourselves and ‘keep the lights on’.
As our expansionary economy of the last decade cannot last forever, this question of balance will become more and more relevant in the coming years. Those that remain focused on merely keeping the lights on (often at the expense of company staff) may soon find themselves staring at a well-lit empty room.