What do bakers, butchers and doctors have in common?… [Wise Wednesdays]
Years ago, I had a colleague doctor who wanted to get more experience in the field and applied for a job in the military. He was asked how he felt about working for an organisation that killed people. He replied that he already did.
We all know that healthcare systems don’t always serve their patients well. But it’s one thing to accept the inevitable probabilities of error and death, and another to watch people die because of lack of coordination, bad communication and poor leadership.
This happens every day in organisations and companies beyond healthcare where the impacts of economic activity on communities and on nature are not felt by decision-makers because they don’t see them immediately – the impacts happen somewhere else, on another continent or in the distant future…
IT’S NOT BURNOUT, IT’S MORAL INJURY
In recent, years the phenomenon of moral injury has grown in prominence. I mention it in The Success Trap in the chapter on the Makings of a Career Crisis. If you’re routinely asked to go against your instinct for care, collaboration and goodwill in favour of competition, aggression and isolation, you’ll end up in so-called burnout. But it’s not because you’re not resilient. It’s because you’re human. Your moral impulses are being worn down and you’re becoming disconnected from your healthy instincts.
Therefore, if a person is in a situation where they are forced into the repeated and unsustainable compromise of their values
Moral injury occurs when someone repeatedly witnesses actions or decisions that conflict with their values or beliefs; and when they experience betrayal by those in authority. (By the way, do you notice what this definition overlaps with? PTSD. But that’s a topic for another day.)
How many times a day are you exposed to such events?...
IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S US.
As a coach, I see this time and time again. A brilliant, dedicated person starts to feel confused about their purpose despite an excellent track record. But it can’t be explained by a midlife crisis or boredom. They start to feel that the environment is beating out their aliveness and creativity to try to fit them into a box with a particular label that goes against their deepest values. Eventually, they refuse to bend and conform any longer.
I see this especially with international clients who experience cultural dislocation having come from a community-oriented culture and then had to adapt to a more individualist, competitive culture. I went through this journey myself as a teenager (it’s not that one culture is better than the other, it’s all about integration and balance.)
Thankfully, once they’ve decided enough is enough, they’re able to start a liberating journey back to who they really are and begin creating the future they truly want. This can look like continuing to work within the same role but with more wisdom and aliveness; or creating a whole new path…
If you’re feeling confused, remember that you’re swimming in the waters of a socioeconomic system that wasn’t designed to care about humane values (whether social or ecological). It is founded on mechanical action and incentivises narrow self-interest.
Don’t believe me?
Here’s what the father of the current socioeconomic system, Adam Smith, said about it:
“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages”. ― Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature & Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Vol 1
So what do a butcher, a baker and a doctor have in common? In the current socioeconomic system, they’re all exposed to moral injury from a system that ignores the human need for care and connection with ourselves, others and nature.
Regardless of the industry you’re in, if you’re trying hard and not getting anywhere for no clear reason, there’ a high chance it’s not you… It’s the system.
What can you do?
Simply pausing to ask the questions that are on your mind and not just going with the momentum of the system is an act of liberation.
Have a great week,
PLUS, when you’re ready, here are a few ways I can help you to break free of what holds you back in your career and life:
2. Join a group event. If you're a World Trader, join us for the exploration of modern corporate ethics tomorrow.
3.Group coaching immersive: Enquire directly about these intimate, transformational programmes. May not be publicised. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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