Lifestyles with Well-Being at the Centre
As I reflect on 2019, a stand-out for me has been the increased attention being paid to Well-Being. Whether it is the shocking (and growing) number of NZ families living in poverty, the teacher unions pay settlement focussing as much on educator well-being as on remuneration, or the focus on bullying and harassment in the public service, our tolerance for Ill-Being appears to have finally reached its limit.
Clearly it is time for action, time to stop doing what we have always done, and start to proactively navigate towards lifestyles with Well-Being at the centre. An important step to achieving this though, is to understand why there has been such an increase of Ill-Being across our society.
I am no expert in how or why we have reached a stage in Aotearoa, New Zealand where we have 23% of our children living in hardship. What I do know though is that for many years we have had a growing gap between the rich and poor in our country.
Earlier this year I wrote this blog post “Understanding the nature of change” exploring how change happens stepwise but the impact of change has a doubling effect. I believe we are now seeing the ‘doubling effect’ impact relating to poverty in New Zealand.
When I was a child there were relatively few people living in hardship in New Zealand. Because the number was proportionally low it was, I’m assuming, easy for aid agencies such as local churches, community groups and whānau to step in and help. Today, due to the impact of exponential change the proportion of people living in hardship has grown to the extent where our old systems can no longer cope and we need to make some radical changes to ensure the Well-Being of all New Zealand families.
In October my blog post “The unforeseen impacts of technology” explored the impact of living in a time of the greatest technological advancements in the history of humankind. So much of what we do each day is being mediated by technology. Whether it is the distraction of social media that keeps us away from authentic connection with others, the ‘always on’ state driven by emails coming into our smart phones every hour of the day and night, or the increased technologically-enabled efficiency that allows us to cram so much more into each day, whatever it is, our day-to-day activity as human-beings has changed significantly in the last decade.
“We overestimate the impact of technology in the short-term and underestimate the effect in the long run” - Roy Amara
Once again it is stepwise change with the ‘doubling’ impact that has contributed to wide-spread feelings of Ill-Being. In the last decade just about everything in our lives has been impacted by technology and most-often we have added technologically-enabled extras into our lives without thinking about what we should take-away.
Wellness in the workplace
As technology increases efficiency in the workplace it raises expectations around what one individual can achieve. Added to this is the ‘always on’ culture enabled by smart-phones and leaving many employees unable to ‘leave’ work, even when they are home with their families.
Reported incidences of workplace bullying are on the rise. My hunch is that some of this is symptomatic of the increased expectations around digitally-enabled work outputs, and increased worry about future job security, resulting in competitive rather than collaborative, supportive company cultures.
Technology-enabled campaigns such as #MeToo has substantially changed people’s attitude to behaviour which in the past might have been dismissed as ‘boys being boys” or the protection for the bully via ‘old-boys’ networks. People who find themselves the targets of bullies now know they are not alone, nor to blame for what is happening to them.
Unfortunately, for many of these people taking action against their employers results in them being exited via payments that come with binding confidentiality agreements. Whilst they may get financial compensation for the harm they have suffered, they face potential disadvantage with regards to future employment.
Lifestyles with Well-Being at the centre
In the past I have caught myself saying that the increased attention on Well-Being or the lack thereof, is a direct response to the technology-driven change which is impacting every area of our lives. Actually that is not true. It is not the technology that is doing it, it is how people are using technology, and how people are allowing technology to use them.
With regards to poverty, New Zealand has enough money and resources to enable everyone to live a comfortable life. However people seem to only want our poverty problem fixed if it doesn’t take anything away from what they have. Until this changes 148,000 children will continue to live in hardship in New Zealand.
As we approach the holiday season it is a good chance to step back and start thinking about what we can do to improve our Well-Being and the Well-Being of those around us. The stepwise change that results in an exponential impact starts with one person making one change, which in turn leads to a second person making a change, which leads to four people making a change and then eight people etc.
We are not going to improve our Well-Being overnight. Acknowledging there is a problem is the first step, with the second step being each and every one of us doing whatever we can to make the world a better place for everyone. It is from a small seed that large trees grow.
Til next time,
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