In many reflective practices you will often find that phrases and saying are repeated over and over to reinforce some form of internal goal or aspiration. It is believed that the internal motivational force for happiness and balance can be ignited by this practice, in particular Buddhist practices like Loving Kindness (Metta), there is a belief that it can help you focus the mind to create positive intent.
However, in the commercial world we live, generated particularly by the marketing companies or global brands, these motivational statements have become money generating marketing initiatives. Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ and Under Amour’s ‘It Comes from Below’ are examples of the commercialization of positive psychology and it has been misappropriated, becoming a rallying call for us to be better and go bigger and this can ONLY be achieved by using their products. It makes brands rich and it make us hopeful yet hungry for more!!
This idea of ‘More’ is an underlying human drive for wanting and it has turned into a cultural hunger (greed) that feeds commercial organizations and feeds upon our own internal personal motivation for happiness. “What could I achieve if I had that latest piece of kit?” etc. The question is whether this ‘need’ is a scratch that really needs itching or whether it’s a tickling irritation generated by marketeers and their manipulation of a deep personal belief, that we need something to make us happy.
In a corporate environment we find ourselves pushed to do more with less and achieve greater results in an ever-challenging environment. We are pushed for ‘More’ and to do this without a care for our own wellbeing and needs. Company targets are focused on financial wealth and organizational wellbeing, not the health and wellbeing of the individuals charged with the task of achieving these lofty ideals.
Over the years of me working in a retail sector whose ultimate goal was to simply sell a product for a sport, it has morphed into a vehicle that is now used to promote a range of things from running as a healthy activity (not just a hobby) to that of offering a commodity to a new type of client; the ‘Athleisure’ customer! The market has broadened but so has the marketers available target audience and with that, as well as the development of marketing technology; tools, techniques and goals, their laser sharp attention has changed and locked on to anyone out there and especially into their ‘desires’. Marketers seem to want to by-pass old transactional models e.g. I have ‘Product A’ and you want ‘A’ and now aim to tap into the psyche of today’s runner because it will give them more leverage and an increased ROI. Effectively we can make money from people.
Having been in the retail sector all of my life I have found that the focus of simply providing a product to an end user for their chose activity has very much shifted but I feel that the new way of doing things is somewhat flawed, not in its approach, but in its ethics. We have moved from merely selling a ‘unit of something’ to becoming a selling process that incorporates the idea that ‘Product A’ will help you achieve more, make you go faster and make you feel better. It is selling you a dream of ‘More’ but for me the problem is, will it really do what it says on the tin and are retailers across all sectors playing their part in overstating to the customer the potential benefits?
Indeed, new products will help and businesses need to make money to be able to provide products, but the person wearing the newest tech, the latest product and the best of the best, is at the center of the circle and ONLY they can realize that full potential and I feel we need to play our part in helping them do that, but with a sense of integrity.
Consumers indeed need to have a realistic view of what they can do, achieve and be, and they need to do this with a sense of awareness and reality. However, as sellers of products we also need to help foster a positive approach to the buyer/seller relationship, indeed all businesses should be presenting to customers their products but doing so with integrity and a sense of understanding that the human at the center of every transaction has a set of values that are theirs, not ours and we need to honestly engage with that. Each transaction should be based on a sustainable and co-created model and not one that rams home the message of ‘you must have this’ and ‘you need it’.
Questions we should ask ourselves are:
- When is enough, enough?
- What measures do we mark achievement against?
- What makes the business successful?
- Is the bottom line what we should focus on?
- Is there value in the Triple bottom line?
- Do we have a CSR?
- What is Profit and Wealth to us?
- What should we be doing?
I would argue that it is people that makes a business successful and it has to be everyone, both inside and outside of the business, that needs to be engaged with as well as be at the center of every conversation. Yes, we should establish what motivates and what drives people, but I would argue that we need to reset what we are taught and how we think, especially around leveraging it. We need to make lasting connections, not swift transitions selling something just because we want to make money. Money and profit doesn’t always lead to happiness and wealth and what is right and what is sustainable has, in the long run, more potential to offer lasting value to us, each other and the world.