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What does it take to be “green” in the workplace?

What does it take to be “green” in the workplace?
Aretha Franklin in 2007

Recycling and energy-efficient lighting don’t even begin to do it for me. They only touch on a few of the physical areas of impact our organizations have on the planet and the creatures that live on it. I’m not saying they don’t count at all, just that they don’t count for much in the great scheme of things: massaging symptoms rather than tackling causes.

What I believe it takes to be a true environmentalist in the fetid jungles of the business world is best summed up in the lyrics of the song made famous by Aretha Franklin: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find out what it means to me . . .” To be truly “green” means, first and foremost, cultivating a genuinely respectful attitude to the world around you and the people you deal with.

Respect for natural cycles

Our high-tech way of life has come to be based on the notion that we can impose our will on the world, ignoring the natural cycles that have governed its workings for millenia. We want what we want — and we want it NOW — whatever that costs in energy output, pollution, human effort, or loss to others.

I wonder how much could be saved, in costs and environmental and human impact, if we were more willing to show patience; if we respected the fact that ideas — like fashions, markets, and demand — behave more like living creatures than abstract, economic “forces?” They arise, grow, decline, and eventually die; only to be replaced by some fresh evolution to fill their niche.

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When costs must be saved, what about first looking around for something that is close to dying (or at least long past its best) and stop administering life-support? Wouldn’t that be more sensible that doing what usually happens today: fixing on something just starting out, and which does not yet have a legion of hangers-on whose reputations were made in pushing it? That’s like killing the next generation in the hope of keeping the last one alive a little longer.

Respect for natural processes

There’s often a basic flow to a process, just as there is to the natural world itself. Take debt as a highly topical example.

At a certain point in their lives, most people become capable of handling some debt successfully. Their lifestyles and income are sufficiently stable. They can see far enough ahead to be reasonably certain of paying off loan and interest. The lender too has a good enough picture of their circumstances to be able to estimate the risk involved.

All this is well known. So why did so many lenders throw it aside? Why did they rush people into loans before they were ready to handle them successfully — or load them with more debt than they could manage?

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The whole sub-prime mess began because lenders decided to ignore the natural growth of their market. It was to slow and too unexciting. Instead, they engineered new types of loan, convincing themselves they could off-load the dangers onto others and run with the cash; that risk could be “diversified” out of existence, or nullified by the irrational belief that house prices would not — could not — ever fall.

Then they cut short the process of weighing the risks by ignoring lending standards, falsifying incomes, and tempting people into the murky waters of complex mortgages by low “teaser” interest rates and assurances that the last thing you needed to buy a house was any money of your own.

Respect for all the resources of our world

The total disregard some organizations show for the physical environment and natural resources when the smell of profits wafts on the air is well documented. But what about other resources: time, energy, creativity, and intelligence?

Those resources aren’t infinite either. Demand that people work excessively long hours and you drain them of energy, creativity, and the ability to respond to events with intelligence. Crush them into obedience and you destroy their hope. Suck up all their time in the pursuit of your profits and you will end up with employees as exhausted of potential as any worked-out mine or over-exploited landscape.

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Pollution can also be non-physical. If you pollute people’s minds and hearts with ignorance and lies — all in the cause of greater short-term profits — you will have much the same impact as an organization that dumps toxic waste into rivers or fills the air with poisons.

It used to be said that you could not fool all of the people all of the time. Given the heroic efforts in that direction made by “spin doctors,” the media, and politicians of every hue, I wonder if that is any longer the case.

Respect for people’s lives

Respect for life is the fundamental aspect of being “green.” When you respect the physical environment, you are also showing respect for all that lives within it. When you respect the lives of those who work for you, directly or indirectly, you are bound to respect life in its wider aspects as well.

By acting with respect towards today’s employees, suppliers, and customers, leaders would also be showing respect for a far larger constituency: the untold numbers of people whose lives are impacted in some way by their business decisions, the majority of them not yet born.

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If “love your neighbor” is nine-tenths of the basis for morality, “respect those impacted by your business decisions” is just about all the teaching needed to act ethically.

You cannot respect your investors and shareholders and still manipulate or falsify your accounts. You can’t respect your customers and still cut corners on quality to drive up profits. You can’t respect your suppliers and use your buying-power to drive them into iniquitous, one-sided contracts. You can’t respect people and lie to them through misleading advertising or fleece them with sharp practices. You can’t respect your employees and simultaneously exploit, over-work, and cheat them — let alone fire them at a moment’s notice — to drive up next quarter’s profits and enrich yourself and your friends with bonuses and stock-options.

Respect-free management

Macho, hard-driving management is very short on respect for anything save money. As with the physical environment, exploitation and pollution frequently produces a short-term boom for a few, while laying the basis for a later, long-term mess for others to clear up. Like an alcohol or drug-induced “high,” coming down afterwards can be terrible — and steadily more horrific, the longer and more frequently you depend on such artificial stimulants.

Our business world has been gorging on similarly artificial stimulants of late. Now we have the hangover and the period of “cold turkey” that must always follow binges of that type. But without a deep-seated change in what society accepts, they will pick themselves up and do it all again.

Attending to “green” credentials without cultivating greater respect for our impact on others by non-physical means is superficial at best: like changing your clothes without changing your lifestyle or the attitudes that feed it. If you truly want to be “green” in your working life, first cultivate a lot more R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Photo credit: Aretha Franklin by Ryan Arrowsmith. Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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