Are you and the people you influence using these three practices to stay engaged?
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There’s an often-quoted mantra that says: “No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.” This is a valuable sentiment that should not to be taken lightly. According to a worldwide Gallup study of 142 countries, only 13% of workers are actively engaged in their work. This means that 87% of the workforce isn’t in the game to win—they’re simply in the game to not lose! Rather than making an honest effort to consciously contribute in a positive way to their companies and organizations, these workers are more interested in doing just enough to keep their jobs and not get fired.
Whether this describes you or the people on your team, “no matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up” is a good way to start—however there’s more to “showing up” than simply looking the part and being physically present. If that’s all we do then it’s as effective as putting a suit on a mannequin! Engagement—being fully present and committed to excellence—requires more.
When I was a student at Salem State University one of my favorite professors was Mandy Lobraico, a true communicator who highlighted the potential power of engagement. In her classes she made sure that every question was answered completely and she wouldn’t test us on what she taught until she was sure that we understood the material. This approach to education guaranteed success, so long as you showed up each day and engaged in each lesson. Failure simply was not possible so long as you were engaged. Of course, some students still failed her course, because some students didn’t bother showing up! Other students showed up but sat in the back of the room and tuned out. They may have dressed up and showed up, but they weren’t really there because they lacked engagement.
If you’re looking to increase your level of engagement then it helps to develop awareness—both for when you are and when you are not engaged. To help with this, the author Eckhart Tolle promotes what he calls modalities of awakened doing. The concept is simple: whatever it is you do, seek to do it with enthusiasm, enjoyment, or acceptance. The ultimate goal is to be enthusiastic, but enjoyment is still, well, enjoyable! But at the very least, we must be able to accept what we are doing.
Part of the allure of enthusiasm is that when we have it, we no longer need motivation, because when we’re enthusiastic about our work we become naturally motivated, fully engaged, confident in ourselves and our abilities.
Enjoyment has it’s own benefits too. I still recall the thrill I felt on September 9, 2017 when I was able to execute, for the first time ever, a chin-up! It was an incredible moment created by a year and a half of weightlifting to build up strength, and running upwards of 8 miles a day to lose weight. I was not always enthusiastic about the process, yet I continue to find enjoyment in knowing that every day I’m doing the work necessary to enact positive changes.
Acceptance may not be the most exciting of the three modalities, but it does have its place. Anything worthwhile will require an honest effort, and sometimes that means doing things that we’d rather not experience. If we’re truly committed and truly engaged in the process, then acceptance can see us through.
You will know that you’re sincerely engaged in your work and in your life when you can do everything with genuine enthusiasm, enjoyment, or acceptance. In a similar way, you will know that you are disengaged and have gone the wrong way if for too many days, or weeks, or months in a row you can’t even accept what you’re doing. Perhaps it means you’ve been lying to yourself. Maybe you’ve accepted someone else’s dream. Maybe you’re afraid to do what you really want to do in life, discouraged by others or by past disappointment. Or perhaps you just don’t know what it is you really want to do. Whatever the case may be, if you don’t have enthusiasm, enjoyment, or acceptance, then it’s a clear sign that it’s time to find another way.
In my book Are You P.O.S.I.T.I.V.E.?: Rethinking Positive Thinking, I share an eight-step process for developing and fostering positivity to achieve the next level of enjoyment and excel in life at work, home, and beyond. One of the strategies is a simple one, yet one that you can implement immediately to increase your level of engagement starting today.
This strategy employs your passions, which we’ll define as the intersection of your talents and your interests. We’ll define your talents as the things that you can do better than most people with little or no effort, and your interests as the things that you think about even when you should be thinking about something else. Experts suggest that you should focus on your passions because it gets you engaged in your work. While this is true, it also stops too soon. Focusing on your passions may get you into the game, but to stay in the game you’ll need to take it a step further, and that’s where stimulating your passionscomes into play.
By stimulating your passions the process highlights any gaps between what you want to do and what you’re currently able to do. It fills in your “to do list” with things that lie beyond your natural interests and natural talents, recognizing that you’ll need to gain skills and knowledge that touch your passion. Stimulating your passions enables you to grow beyond where you currently are, closing any and all gaps before they ever have a chance to hold you back.
The most successful people start with a dominant talent and then add skills, knowledge and practice into the mix.” — Susan Tardanico
The practice of stimulating your passions relieves the tension between contentment and excellence, ensuring that you remain an active participant in all that you do.
Remember, approximately seven out of eight of the workers today have actively “checked out,” and are more interested in doing just enough to get by than contributing in a positive way to their companies, communities, and beyond. The good news is that if this describes you or your team for too many days, weeks, or months in a row (or years in a row!) then you’re not alone. The even better news is that there is something you can do about it:
If you’ve been struggling with engagement lately, keep these principles and practices in mind. It’s easy to stay engaged when the tides are in your favor; it’s another matter when the tides are against you. Preparing yourself now for the storms of life will ensure consistent engagement regardless of circumstances.
Jonas Cain facilitates positive change initiatives for emerging leaders and their influencers.