Upgrade To Career 4.0; Practice “Harnicissism;" and Become a Good Ancestor

In a previous post I wrote that a key pathway to psychological health and resiliency in today's world is learning to "forget yourself." This post describes ways to do that in three important realms of your life - your work, your personal relationships, and your life "footprint."

In the earlier post I explained that "forgetting yourself" doesn't mean neglecting your own legitimate needs or concerns. Rather, it means letting go of our human tendency to overly dwell on ourselves - our own concerns, needs, desires, slights, complaints about others, and so on. Psychological health and resiliency in today's world grows when you can do that and put your energies in the service of something larger than yourself: problems, needs and challenges that lie beyond your own personal, narrow self-interest.

That may sound like a paradox, but it's based on a new reality: Today's world is changing more rapidly than you can imagine and is becoming immensely interdependent, interconnected, unpredictable and unstable. In this new environment you can't create or sustain a positive, healthy life through the old ways of reactive resiliency, of coping and hoping to rebound.

That is, chronic unhappiness, dysfunction and overt emotional disturbance lie in store for those who remain too locked into thinking about themselves and who use old solutions to achieve success in relationships and at work. For example, trying to achieve power and domination over others, and thinking you can hold on to that. Fearing collaboration and avoiding mutuality with people who are different from yourself, or with whom you have differences. Looking for ways to cope with stress and restore equilibrium or "balance" in your life. And overall, being absorbed by your own conflicts, disappointments and the like. The latter are inevitable, and dwelling on them is a breeding ground for resentment, jealousy, and blame. That's a dead-end. The consequences are visible in people who are unable to handle career downturn, who experience mounting relationship conflicts and who suffer from a range of psychological problems like depression, boredom, stress, anxiety and self-undermining behavior.

In contrast, positive resiliency in today's environment is the byproduct when you aim towards common goals, purposes or missions larger than just your own narrow self-interests. That keeps you nimble, flexible, and adaptive to change and unpredictable events that are part of our new era. Then, you're creating true balance, between your "outer" and "inner" life.

Here are three ways you can move through self-interest. Each describes a shift, or evolution from the older, reactive form of resilience to the new, proactive form:

Upgrade your career to the 4.0 version; Practice "Harnicissism;" and Become a Good Ancestor

Yeah, I know -- those descriptions sound odd. In future posts I'll elaborate on each of them. But this overview will help stimulate your thinking about what they look like in everyday life.

Upgrade To Career 4.0
The most savvy men and women already know that today's workplace requires a high level of collaboration with very diverse people. You need to align your talents and skills with common objectives, whether a product or service. That means diminishing your ego in the service of teamwork towards that larger purpose, while constantly looking for opportunities for learning, growth and impact. In essence, that's the 4.0 career upgrade.

To oversimplify for the sake of contrast, the 1.0 career is doing whatever kind of work is necessary to survive. The 2.0 orientation is what most people think of as "careerism" - aiming for increasing personal power, authority and position within an organization. The rise of Career 3.0 during the last 20 years reflected a desire for more personal meaning and sense of purpose through work.

The more recent emergence of the 4.0 orientation goes beyond the self-focus of 3.0. It's a shift away from self-promotion and purely personal ambitions - whether for increasing authority or personal "happiness" - and towards effective, creative contribution to goals larger than the purely personal. It means looking for ways to have impact on something that matters, as you continue to learn and grow your capacities and talents.

From the 4.0 perspective, you move through self-interest, not into it. You're tuned in to the larger picture, in which you're one player, while finding ways to make a positive contribution to the service or product. It includes being aware of how you're perceived by others, and looking for ways to be collaborative rather than self-promoting at others' expense. As a CEO recently commented, "the definition of success is the company, not an individual."

Practice "Harnicissism"

Don't go looking it up, because there's no such word. I made it up to describe the second pillar. "Harnicissism" is shorthand for learning to harness your narcissism. I don't mean that everyone is narcissistic in the pathological sense. Most people have tendencies towards self-interest and self-absorption, and those are often reinforced and promoted by cultural norms and values. They impact and distort our romantic and sexual relationships, as I've written in another post here. Those same tendencies cripple effective interactions and relationships in general, and will undermine positive resiliency.

But in fact, research shows that we're not innately narcissistic. So, a second pillar of resiliency in today's world is leading yourself towards mutuality and equality - "power with" rather than "power over" - people in your sphere of relationships. From the perspective of "Harnicissism" you're aware that you're serving a larger purpose than just your own agenda: the "third entity," the relationship itself. It's that third entity that supports and strengthens your intimate relationship, that with your children, co-workers, or groups that you're a member of.

The shift, here, is from primarily self-interest, towards openness and mutuality in service of a shared goal. For example, it's a shift away from maneuvering, dominating or subtly manipulating to get your own way; to get your own needs and desires met at the expense of the other person -- or even, as is often the case -- at the expense of the relationship itself.

You can practice "Harnicissism" through transparent exposure and two-way openness, as opposed to being in relationships that are transactional and commercial, operating with a "return of investment" philosophy. In fact, research shows that more effective, productive relationships are forged through cooperation and mutual support rather than by power struggles. Those actions are fueled by both empathy and "indifference," as I described in previous posts.

Become A Good Ancestor

This third pillar of resilience refers to everyday actions that help support a healthy, sustainable planet - for your own life, your children, your community, and all humans, around the globe. Others who come after you will live with the "footprint" you leave behind. That's why I call this pillar becoming a "good ancestor."

That is, growing recognition of climate change, along with climate disasters like the Gulf oil eruption and political upheaval around the world has raised awareness that everyone's well-being, security and future way of life are highly interconnected. We've all become global citizens. Your individual actions and "footprint" will impact the health of the planet and the lives people who come after you.

Becoming a good ancestor represents a shift from selfish consumption of resources, from fear of others who are different, towards actions that help sustain the health and well-being of both the human community and the planet. For example, it's harder to enjoy and consume pleasures for yourself when you're highly aware of the suffering of others, whether from famine, natural disasters, polluted water, torture. All such events circle back to impact each of us. Actions that help you become a good ancestor strengthen your own capacity to deal with the disruptions and upheavals that are in store for all of us; with being able to handle a "non-equilibrium world with flexibility and positive actions.

All three of these pillars of resiliency rest upon being able to "forget yourself" in the ways I've described. They are the vehicle for acting with empathy, a broadened perspective, and sense of responsibility for not only yourself and immediate relationships, but for the human community and the planet. When you "forget yourself" through flexible, focused actions, you're better able to experience stability, success and well-being through tumultuous times, like a gyroscope that keeps a ship stable through choppy waters.

dlabier@centerprogressive.org
My blog: Progressive Impact
Web site: Center for Progressive Development
©2010 Douglas LaBier

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