It’s taking weeks for our choir to learn a new song. Who’d have thought that a medley of Beatles songs in four parts could be that difficult and would take so much dedicated rehearsal? I also enjoy knitting, and just finished a heritage-style lacy number in maroon, which took hours and hours of my time and devotion. How can we possibly justify the time spent on such activities? Was it productive time?
A New York Times article last Sunday, Let’s be Less Productive, reports on work by Prof Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey. He asks, “Is it lunacy the growth-obsessed, resource-intensive consumer economy?” He suggests that a whole set of activities like the caring professions, craftsmanship and the arts, that could provide meaningful work and contribute valuable services to the community, are being denigrated because they involve employing people to work with less obvious productivity, and with behaviours such as devotion, patience and kindness.
However, behaviours like hard work, time-management, multitasking, focus, persistence, responsibility and conscientiousness can’t be purely the domain of the capitalist economy. After all, they are also needed to produce a transcending choral work as well as a beautiful knitted sweater, a fine hand-blown piece of glassware or a well-balanced, well-educated school-leaver. And what about their contribution to producing hospitals and nursing homes that provide healing, holistic care? A business manager who demonstrates patience and kindness is not an impossibility either.
Most of us would agree that there are obvious correlations between conscientiousness and success. But is there a relationship between certain behaviours and health?
Amazing results have come from a recent study, revealing behaviours that promote longevity. The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study (Friedman and Martin), a one-of-a-kind study of human development from birth to death over the course of nearly 100 years, has discovered that it’s not so much our personalities, stress levels, the perfect job or marriage, but living conscientiously and bringing forethought, planning and perseverance to one’s professional and personal life that promotes health and longevity. It seems that conscientious people create healthy, long-life pathways for themselves.
It’s common sense that behaviours can be learned, but this is also backed up by recent research into the brain. In my case, I’ve found that this education can be expedited through a growing understanding of the divine.
In my spiritual practice, I identify conscientiousness as a quality that is directly from the divine mind, and inherent in each of us. I believe that persistence, time-management, kindness, devotion, patience, and so on, have the same divine source. The realisation that patience is actually part of who I am brought many healing solutions to my family, especially during those trying child-rearing years.
When do we NOT need to be patient? Or conscientious …. or persevering, for that matter?
It seems that good behaviours are the basis of a long and happy life. Who knew? It’s more than just possible that valuing them and, most importantly, practising them will bring both health and longevity to us as individuals, as well as sustainability, balance and success to the national economy.