If you sometimes find yourself with a gnawing sense that there is something wrong in your job or life that you can't quite put your finger on then it might be worth reading on.
In many ways our greatest strength as human beings is also our greatest weakness - and it is a weakness that is increasingly having devastating consequences on many of our lives.
While most of us are understandably resistant to the notion of any change that looks like it might make our lives worse, we have an incredible ability to adapt to difficult and deteriorating circumstances as they happen. While this characteristic is vital for progress, growth and our survival - as the world is in a constant state of change and flux, whether we like it or not - it can mean we inadvertently end up in unhealthy situations without realizing the impact they are having on us, a process psychologists call 'normalization'.
Normalization is what has people stay in abusive relationships, often going back to them after the have seemingly broken free. It is what has unloved and traumatized people break good relationships - as they quite simply don't feel 'normal' to them. And increasingly it is what has so many people put up with really dysfunctional working environments and lives.
It wasn't that long ago that most work had natural checks and balances built into it, but over the last twenty years these have all been stripped away. We now live in a 24/7 always-on world, where the sun never sets in many businesses. What is more, smart phones now mean we are constantly connected and many workers use email and other electronic channels on the assumption that whoever they want to talk to will just be there. Little boxes sit by beds and light up at all hours, bleary-eyed human beings grab for them and in doing so expose themselves to electromagnetic waves that break their sleep patterns. Emails seem to double everytime you read one, like the brooms in the Sorcerer's Apprentice, and the constant blurting and interruption of electronic communications is mirrored by how people blurt in and out of meetings and each other's cubicles - "Hey, do you mind if I interrupt you?' You just did!
What has happened in many workplaces is business has been swapped with busyness.
The result for many of us is our working lives have become a never-ending battle with a tsunami of communications, constant interruptions, ever-changing deadlines, and spontaneous events that seem to come with the same cadences as machine gun fire. Many modern workplaces and working lives have lost any sense of boundaries - thus work bleeds into every aspect of life, social boundaries are blurred and confused by social media, communication boundaries are eroded by the constant availability of mobile devices and wi-fi, and attempts to put in discipline around time management are often interpreted as being inflexible and not with the program ("Working part time?").
This boundarylessness mayhem is not only wreaking havoc on our lives but also on business productivity, efficiency, and innovation. There is little chance of clever thinking and risk taking in places where people's lives are one never-ending firefight.
By inadvertently normalizing boundarylessness what we are blind to is the effect it is having on our behavior and health by triggering a very unhealthy human trait - a trait that psychologists call 'self abandonment'. It is a trait that ripples down from the top to the bottom of many organizations ("Hey, I just pulled an allnighter!" What, you mean you didn't go home?!)
Self-abandonment has become the hidden and invisible characteristic that has become pervasive in so many modern work places. It is not only killing productivity, morale and ingenuity it is also literally destroying our health, relationships, and lives. We abandon ourselves to the market, to our email, to social media, to the whims of management, and to the desires of nameless shareholders.
If this is chiming with you in some way, don't despair (despair is a very clear pointer to self-abandonment). The beginnings of any change is awareness. So, the first question to ask is - where am I selling out on myself ?