Business Can Lead us Out of Divisiveness Through MindfulnessFeb 24, 2022
From the upcoming book “Profit with Presence: The 12 Pillars of Mindful Leadership”.
I have a vision, or a dream and a hope if you will, of the business community being a catalyst for mindfulness as a way to help solve many of the problems facing the world today.
Regardless of your political ideology, the divisive environment of the world today is bad for business. We need to stop judging, and start listening to each other, and focus on finding solutions and compromise on major issues. Ideologies are personal and, except in rare circumstances, do not belong in the business discussion.
Business is the source of funding for virtually all political donations, and thus, business has the unique ability to influence the debate by simply insisting on collaboration between political groups as a precondition to funding. Currently, each side is engaged in a race to the bottom by outspending the other side totaling 14 billion dollars in the 2020 election alone, and driving an increasingly large wedge, deafening the moderate debate that drives business. The moderates do not have a party.
I can imagine businesses incorporating mindfulness in their vision statements and providing mindfulness training for employees, starting with the CEOs. These employees take mindfulness home to their families, to their church services on Sunday, and to their school board meetings on weekday evenings.
Through business, every aspect of culture is impacted by the calming and collaborative effects of mindfulness. There will be many solutions needed, and its mindfulness that will keep us open to alternative ways of doing things, open to listening to the other side, and having the focus and resolve to work things out for the common good. This is the mindful business movement, and it’s already begun. Our company, LC Real Estate Group, made up from both sides of the political divide, has adopted “Mindfully Creating Community” as its vision statement, and we are still in business and thriving while being happier and healthier.
Mindfulness means to intentionally focus nonjudgmentally. Our attention spans are at an all-time low, at a time when we need to focus on confluence of factors driving a higher level of risk, stress, and divisiveness. Believe it or not, the internet is only 25 years old and what it offers to accessibility and messaging is undeniable, and frankly scary.
Politics is a divisive mess with no end in sight, and the Coronavirus Pandemic has divided anyone who hasn’t already picked sides. The economy is uneven and inflation is at a 40 year high. The high-income earners have done even better during the pandemic, and the most vulnerable are worse off. The environment is warming and the science community calling for immediate action, and we seem paralyzed. Skepticism and disgust for “others” is at an all-time high.
Our society is on information overload, and an analytical low point at the same time. We simply cannot process the abundant amount of information coming at us from all directions, so we analyze virtually none of it. I hear time and time again, “I can’t meditate” or “I can’t read”, and what I hear through that admission is that we can’t focus. We have trained ourselves to scroll, like, and be drawn to divisiveness and to avoid empathy. We judge and stereotype rather than listen and analyze because its quicker.
Others give us opinions and we call it news. Worse, the left listens to its facts, and the right listens to its own facts and the two can’t even agree on what a fact is, never mind how to go about solving the many problems facing society today. Different opinions are healthy, different facts are ludicrous.
Business has driven a technology boom that has changed our prospects for material success in ways we could only dream of achieving. Think about what we have achieved in the last 100 years with the industrial revolution, globalization, and the virtual world. Amazing. Despite technological success, socially, we continue to lag behind in technological success. In fact, technology has retarded our social progress.
When I was in college studying economics, my advisor Tom Duchesneau had me read “The Moon and the Ghetto” which described a society who could fly to the moon, but could not solve social issues at home. That was in 1980, and the technology has improved while the social problems have gotten worse since then.
Everything is faster, except our ability to process the changes. Consciousness has adapted to this fast-paced world by becoming unconscious of almost everything, because it’s not capable of focusing on multiple stimuli at the same time. Multi-tasking is an unconscious event, as our consciousness skips from one thing to another, never fully integrating any of it. We have sacrificed depth in order to take in the breadth of what’s coming at us.
And it gets worse. Now our supply chains are interrupted and prices are spiking. Home prices and rents are increasing at unsustainable levels. There is a “Great Resignation” going on where people are leaving jobs at an unprecedented rate, and many of those who haven’t left yet are demanding to work remotely, causing organizational and communication issues many employers are ill-equipped to deal with effectively. Yet they must.
As I have written on the topic of remote work, mindfulness is a culture that can help businesses navigate the trend towards remote work. What else can mindfulness add to the business dialogue?
Business has led to technologies that steal our focus one sliver at a time, to get us to focus on what they have to sell via advertisements, social media, etc. Business has done an amazing job at utilizing technology to steal our focus, yet business is not the problem. We are the problem because we have not kept our “internal systems” up to date with technology, or been able to come together to influence public policy in this area, and in fact, our passiveness to this pervasive invasion is the problem. It’s us who need to change, and when we change, business will change to meet the moment.
Business does need to recognize that what is occurring is not sustainable, and business needs to join together to stop funding divisive political rhetoric, and start rewarding legitimate debate and bipartisan legislating. The simple truth is that the political divisiveness is bad for business for both the left and the right. South Africa was at the precipice of civil war, not much different from the United States is facing other than it was worse, and it was the business community that came together and forced the politicians to come together and mend fences.
It does not appear that the politicians in the US are going to do this on their own, and business’s affluence increases its influence, so the business community has the means to get the politicians attention—mindfully: It can’t be influencing left OR right; it has to be together left AND right for it to work. We may think we are going to crush the “other side” into submission, however, both sides are customers and crushing customers is not a sound business strategy. Business serves both sides of the political spectrum and all races and genders. Balance and compromise is good for the customer base, and good for business.
Each of us individually, one by one, needs to take back our focus. We need to notice when we are not present, we need to listen to each other, and stop judging everyone with scant evidence. Businesses can only be mindful if the people in those businesses are being mindful. The immense problems we are facing are solvable, just look at how far we have come in the last 100 years. They just are not solvable at the same level of consciousness that the problems were created, as Einstein warned us. We need to grow and maintain our consciousness.
Are the technical problems solvable? We can go to the moon; we can solve anything we put our “collective” minds to. Are the social problems solvable? You know they are; the only question is if we are willing to give up our arguments and grievances for real empathy, compromise, and progress. It’s totally possible.
This book is about how you can take back your focus and make a real difference for yourself, your family, your business, your community, and the world. Business has a critical role. Far from being irrelevant or counterproductive, business can be the lynchpin that promotes mindfulness, reduces divisiveness, and provides the solutions to the myriad of problems facing us today. Join the mindful business movement and become part of the solution. Find peace, happiness, meaning, and fulfillment along the way…
I wrote a book, Profit with Presence: The 12 Pillars of Mindful Leadership, which goes in to further detail about this topic and more.
Although the world is currently abuzz with the term “mindfulness,” some believe mindfulness is a fringe activity to be practiced before or after the workday, if at all. Too few business professionals take the time needed to be present and aware throughout the workday, which is counterproductive. Mindfulness is not only a path to personal success, but a sound business strategy.
My hope is to positively impact the world through infusing more mindfulness into business -- and it starts with each of us individually. Together, we can create a future where mindfulness is deeply embedded in our work culture, leading to greater well-being, productivity, and meaningful success for all.
- Dr Eric Holsapple
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