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How Do the Seven Deadly Sins Relate to Workplace Productivity?

How Do the Seven Deadly Sins Relate to Workplace Productivity?

As early as the 14th century, the Seven Deadly Sins began being used as a theme in European artwork, which in turn helped them become an integral part of the culture of the Catholic Church. They’re used to illustrate man’s tendency to sin after the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden. Today, they are usually recognized as pride, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, greed and slothfulness. Keep reading to see how these no-no’s could relate to how productive you are at work.

Lust, Greed, Envy, Wrath and Pride

Have you ever found yourself doing anything you could to get ahead in the workplace, even if that meant sacrificing your own morals in the process? We live in a “me-centric” culture and while there’s nothing wrong with doing everything you can to keep your skills sharp and your knowledge current, be careful that you don’t spend more time lusting after the news of a co-worker’s recent promotion and instead wondering why you weren’t the lucky individual who was granted that opportunity. Remind yourself there’s no need to wonder what might have been and that you’ll get more accomplished by showing yourself and others that you’re an asset to your job. Whether your task is to clean toilets or pitch new products to customers, do it to the best of your ability. Rather than getting caught up in what others are doing by lusting over their accomplishments, focus on making your output the best it can be.

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Greed can take many forms at your place of work. It could manifest itself as you pile your plate high with food after your manager has thoughtfully ordered food delivery, but more commonly may rear its ugly head when, contrary to the previous example, you weren’t the one who missed out on a promotion, but were the individual fortunate enough to receive it. Try not to let monetary promotions go to your head, or even worse, decide that because you’re now earning more money, that’s a great excuse to be less productive than usual. Finally, don’t let greed consume you so much that you stretch yourself thin and ultimately try to take on more than you can handle because you’re trying so hard to stand out at work. The more you try to manage at once, the more likely the quality of your work will go down. That could cause you to be distracted and make your boss wonder if someone else is more suited to the job.

Envy is closely tied to lust and unfortunately, it can drive a wedge between you and co-workers, especially if the feeling of envy is due to an inter-office relationship. It’s almost impossible to display an absence of emotion once someone else gets a reward you feel should have gone to you or is in a better situation romantically, unless you’re from another planet and not entirely human. However, feeling envious can also greatly reduce your productivity. Try to compromise and respect the person who’s making you envious. Perhaps you can learn something from him or her. Put yourself in a great position for being awarded the next promotion that’s on the horizon or project yourself in such a way so that everyone around the office sees you in a more appealing light.

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It’s natural to feel full of pride once your hard work has finally been recognized, but be careful not to spend so much of your time accepting congratulatory handshakes from colleagues that you let your work fall by the wayside. It’s also important to keep yourself grounded and not begin thinking that just because you’ve made headway at work, you’re too good to do certain tasks that may be boring or labor-intensive. When you show you’re willing to pitch in wherever’s necessary, that will prove to co-workers that you still see yourself as a person who’s on their level and aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty even after getting some sort of recognition.

Wrath can be likened to a poisonous snakebite. Once it enters your body, it has a consuming effect that can weigh heavily on your mind and make it nearly impossible to do anything worthwhile. No matter what’s responsible for your feeling of wrathfulness, get to the heart of it as quickly as possible and replace that vile feeling with one of cheerfulness. Soon, your cheery disposition should translate into higher productivity.

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Gluttony - 7 Deadly Sins

    Gluttony and Slothfulness

    No matter how many cups of strong coffee or Five-Hour Energy shots you consume in an effort to boost your energy during a day that seems like it will never end, you can’t realistically expect to be champing at the bit to respond to every task at hand. It’s far better to aim for keeping your productivity at a steady level, rather than aiming for short-lived bursts of excellence. Giving it your all during small windows of time can quickly lead to burnout, which some might say is just one level below slothfulness, one of the Seven Deadly Sins and also an efficient productivity zapper.

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    Gluttony, the final sin of note, can become problematic if you think sitting at a desk all day means you don’t need to get up and move around a little. There can be a wide variety of things at work that cause you to feel more tempted to stay tethered to your workstation and be content to stuff your face with vending machine fare, but fight back against the temptation by doing things to keep yourself in shape even if you have a sedentary job. If you let your body become lazy, your mind could follow suit. By sliding into gluttony, your productivity could soon suffer.

    Now it should be clear how the Seven Deadly Sins relate to workplace productivity. These elements are staples of the Catholic faith and thought to cause eternal damnation for some. Although engaging in them at work probably won’t have such severe consequences, doing so isn’t likely to catch the attention of your boss in a way you’d prefer!

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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