Are productivity goals eating into your happiness? If so, read on.
Productivity is not a one-dimensional process of increasing output. In any field of endeavor, a more holistic approach to productivity must take into consideration the effects it has on the minds of those working towards increasing productivity. For example, we may be hugely productive in the eyes of the world, but it may be creating negativity within us in the form of stress and other undesirable emotions. The external and the internal results of our actions may ultimately run counter to one another. A more wholesome approach to productivity takes into account whether we are able to maintain inner happiness regardless of the results of our actions while working towards bringing something of value to the world. How can this be achieved?
Often productivity is associated with and quantified by hard results, but any such gain is offset by a hidden cost if the focus is purely on the outcome. Physiological adaptations to stress are tremendously powerful in short bursts but can spark a whole host of long term health issues if sustained. A more holistic approach to productivity takes into consideration two other components, the strength of the intention manifested as thought and the degree of focus on the action without worrying about the result. These factors when included in the measures of productivity, make assessments more meaningful as it protects the most precious resource involved, which is human capital. Machines can easily be replaced, but well-trained humans with the right intentions are hard to replace. A key point to remember, however, is that the results of our actions may or may not be in line with the intention. The focus on results is the primary source of stress when working towards greater productivity.
The mind is a powerful tool which modulates the stress response. It is universally accepted that stress extinguishes our sense of happiness. Clinging to the hope that the outcome would be in line with what we are expecting is the fuel that ignites the stress response. The magnitude of stress that is experienced is directly proportional to the stress we put on the thought of the results yet to manifest. A great deal of mental energy is lost in the stress cascade originating from the mind and this pours into the physiological body comprising of the hormonal axis which then impacts easily measurable variables such as blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar levels etc.
The concept of productivity may also be understood in the framework of the channeling of energy from the mind into creating a new object, process, event etc. though action. According to the first law of thermodynamics, energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be transformed from one form to another. A scientist or an inventor, for example, transmutes his or her mental energy into a physical form that is useful to the world. This may not be a spontaneous creative act but often it is a series of intermediary steps that follow a spark of creativity coming from within. What sets highly productive individuals apart from the less productive ones is not lack of creativity but the lack of awareness in identifying the right ideas and the focus to follow through on those ideas. So to increase productivity, the channeling of positive energy from within is essential. A spark of creativity can sustain the fire of action for a long time as long we always maintain a positive outlook
When implementing an idea into action, if awareness happens to shift to the result of an action, we begin to cede room in the mind by moving away from the present moment into the future. The void created by the movement of awareness towards the expected result in the future is not a stable state that can be maintained silent, open and still till the results trickle in. There is a constant movement of thoughts in and out of that space. Awareness is a dynamic and a momentary process which cannot be pinned on one thought indefinitely. By thinking of a future result, we move away from the present and that movement is enhanced and propagated by other similar thoughts. Before we know it we may end up far away from where we began, which is the focus on present action.
Any action happens over time, whether over seconds it takes for us to raise our hands or the days, weeks or months it may take to complete an important project. Whatever the scale, time may be broken into momentary bits, just as images projected on a movie screen can be divided into hundreds and thousands of still frames. If we see only one still frame from a huge stack of images, we may not visualize what happens at the end of the sequence through that one single frame, but we will have a greater appreciation of what each image frame contains. It may then change the perspective on how we look at the rest of the images to follow and since the focus is not on the end of the sequence of images, naturally there is no thought of the result. By focusing on momentary action and not placing emphasis on future action and expectation of a particular result, awareness is not weighed down.
Happiness is always in existence like the air around us, and it is our inherent state of being. We don’t experience it as a continuous presence because our awareness enslaved to the limitations of a particular thought or thoughts. The mind is a limited container which draws from the inexhaustible source of happiness within us, but just as the lungs can only hold a very limited amount of the infinite amount of air around us, the mind holds a small fraction of that happiness. We further dilute the little happiness that the mind can hold by adding various flavors of negativity. Just as the rotation of the earth makes it possible for darkness to take the place of the light of the sun, the movement of our awareness from the source of happiness within to the world outside creates a potential space for the darkness of negativity to settle in. We cannot recreate happiness when it is already pre-existing, but we can prevent its disappearance by not losing awareness of it while working towards any goal. By doing so, greater productivity will become a joyful undertaking.