Decorating the Prison Cell or Evolving?

I spent the first 15 years of my working life following the western model of success and achieved a lot. At the end of it, I realised that I’d actually had one year of experience 15 times.

So much of what I’d done and learnt had gone around in circles. For me, this realisation was unpleasant. I’d been proud of my investment in personal and business growth. But really, I hadn’t changed or learnt much after the first year or so.

The cause of this “ground-hog-day” one year of experience 14 times instead of 15 brand new years of experience was not lack of investment. I’d put in many hours and significant money attending training workshops and hiring consultants to improve my spiritual, emotional, mental, family and health. But really, in the language of Krisnamurti – “I’d been decorating the prison cell.”

What does “decorating the prison cell” mean?

It means that we hold onto a pattern, process or method of thinking and then try to improve ourselves, have less stress and achieve more spiritual, mental or family enjoyment by changing ourselves or others. The prison metaphor is the pattern of thinking, locked into a way of thinking and still trying our best to be happier, healthier, and wealthier.

Stress is not caused by what we think. Changing what we think changes our outer appearances – maybe even temporarily feels different, reduces stress for a week or so, but it can’t last. Unless we change how we think, all changes in ourselves and others are unsustainable. This will be an important word in the future. Sustainability will be the  buzz. “is it sustainable?” Will be the question one asks of business choices, behavioural change and relationship dynamics. If it’s not sustainable then it’s the ego at work. If it’s sustainable then it’s a key to exit from the prison of our own mind.

This is what I mean by one year experience fifteen times instead of fifteen years experience. When I caused ego based results (western thinking) without consideration of the problems I was creating I didn’t reduce stress nor grow my real wealth. What I did was to solve one problem in one are of my life and simply cause one somewhere else.

By partitioning separating work from life I was trying to create Work-Life Balance. The very notion of it locks me into a prison created by my own thinking. The suggestion, no matter how subtle is that I can work to exhaustion and somehow balance it with life. I can be completely dumb in my self-leadership and it’ll be ok, just go home and recover. But one cannot act ignorantly in one area of life without it impacting all others. The partitions are temporary and false. An out of balance person at work will be out of balance at home.

“A balanced person is balanced in all seven areas of life”

In the delinquent notion of work-life balance, work is work, life is home, kids, relationship, friends, school, sport, health, and holidays. Work included my business, money, deals, travel, indulgence and late nights making sense of it all.

During this time of split work and life, I began a pathway to a dead end. One foot was on a snow ski heading left the other foot was on a snow board heading right. As my work became more exciting and demanding so too the stresses built up. Decisions had to be made faster, more people were involved so there were frustrations I needed to deal with. It was fun, exciting, challenging and I loved every horrible minute of it.

On the other hand, my home life became more fun too. I had more children, more events, more friends and more social engagements to attend. I loved every minute of it. But this is stressful in a different way.

Trying to counter one stressful place against another stressful place, meant that I needed a middle ground to handle it. I tried meditation, running, yoga, zen, swimming, dancing, food, alcohol, shopping, singing, jumping off cliffs and mountaineering. The tryfectyr.

Day by day they separated further. I began to be three people: a stressed fun loving, business guy and a stressed happy fun loving family guy and the other one looking for peace. At first it seems like those three are compatible until you start to realise that they were all three growing in different directions. And me, I was trying to manage them, I sat between them, falling down the cracks as the gap between those three worlds widened.

So I decided to find a way to bring those elements of my life back together and in harmony again. And here’s what I found:

Positive Personal Change Through Higher Consciousness

In order to find a way to bring work, life and my sense of inner peace back together and work in harmony again I decided to go find someone in the world who already mastered it. I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. I travelled: India doing yoga, Bhutan looking at happiness, Nepal to experience Tibetan Buddhism and Shamanism. I journeyed to North America and sat with Elders and Medicine people to understand their teachings. I visited Japan, Indonesia, Colombia and Mexico. I worked in New York looking for the teachers. Zero, no hero.

It was difficult to find what I was looking for. Some of the teachings demonised the material world, some fantasised about the benefits of power, others projected long tentacles of unrealistic humanised behaviour from thousands of years past when iPhones didn’t exist and passwords were still easily remembered.

You see the question we have is not an old question: Yes, “how do we balance work, life and inner peace” is an old dilemma, but how do we do this in 2018 when Netflix, trophy pets eating organic chicken and a digital footprint read by thousands but unknown to the user runs our life. It is a beautiful new world and the skills to handle it must equally be considered in the light of the new cost of time.

T-TIME – The New Value / Cost

What is a minute worth to you? What was it worth to you ten years ago? What was it worth to someone 100 years ago. We can’t say time is standing still and we certainly can’t say that it’s getting less valuable. Time is becoming the most priceless commodity on earth. Want to create a new business or product? Give people the benefit of getting more done in less time. It’s critical and to this spiritual discussion, vital.

Meditation, for example, is proven to be a fabulous help, however, I visit the Himalayas where some monks have been practicing meditation for 70 years and still have high blood pressure… and other monks are extremely unhappy even after years of doing it. Yes, meditation is incredible but, it’s not a panacea for the era of hyper accelerating change and a few minutes in the morning isn’t going to turn your life around for even one full day at work.

The growth in the internet, 24-hour television and mobile phones means that we now receive five times as much information every day as we did in 1986.

But that pales into insignificance compared with the growth in the amount of information we churn out through email, twitter, social networking sites and text messages.

Every day the average person produces six newspapers worth of information compared with just two and a half pages 24 years ago – nearly a 200-fold increase.

All this information needs storing and we now each have the equivalent of 600,000 books stored in computers, microchips and even the strip on the back of your credit card.

The extent of the information revolution and digital age has been calculated by Dr Martin Hilbert and his team at the University of southern California.

The researchers, who reported their findings in the journal Science, found that there was now 295 exabytes of data floating around the world – that’s 29,500,000,000,000,000,000,000 pieces of information.

While this is enormous – 315 times the number of grains of sand on Earth – Dr Hilbert points out it is still less than one per cent of the information that is stored in the DNA of a single human being.

The ability to process all this information with computers has doubled every 18 months and with telecommunication devices has doubled every two years.

But despite it showing enormous growth, Dr Hilbert said we are far from saturation point and nowhere near dealing with the amount of information contended with in the natural world.

Dr Martin Hilbert, of the University of California, said: “These numbers are impressive, but still minuscule compared to the order of magnitude at which nature handles information.

“Compared to nature, we are but humble apprentices. If we tried to store the name of every star in the Universe we could only file one per cent.”

The discovery?

Life is getting faster, time shorter, sitting on your butt meditating might not be the perfect way to calm your nerves if, 30 seconds after you stand up, the pace of life is so overwhelming that it shatters all the silence you got from two hours of sitting.

Value Your time 

Consider doing the groceries as an example: what else could you be doing in the time you do the shopping? Well, it’s easy, just go online, browse, shop, buy, get delivered. And, next time, it’ll remember what you did so it’s easier and easier.

But lets stretch your imagination: You’re at work, it’s time for a meeting. You plan an hour. What if I could help you get that meeting done and dusted in 10 minutes? What would you do with the 50 minutes spare? Meditate? I don’t think so…

Cars are getting faster, boiling water is getting faster, internet speed is getting faster (or it was in Australia until the last election) and dating is getting faster. Admit it, or be left in the dust. The world is getting faster, time to do stuff is getting shorter, the person who can do more in less time without stressing themselves to the max will win. Even Usain Bolt is/was getting faster. So, what are we going to do with Work – Life balance? How are we going to make this happen faster?

Here’s the quick list:

  • Work on prevention and not cure (stay peaceful)
  • Agree that hard work is bad management
  • Rate health higher than any other priority
  • Stop balancing or counterbalancing work with life
  • Micro holidays, Mobile Meditation,
  • Think Different – Think Consciously

To be continued …