I recently purchased a small towel at the gym where I train.  Until that point I had never noticed the saying on the towel that others were using. It said “Working on myself – for myself”

How often do we really get the time to work on ourselves for ourselves.  

At Business School, over 30 years ago, I was exposed to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and was always struck by the top level of “Self Actualization”. At that stage in my life I could only vaguely understand the concept of self actualization.  It seemed to be described and discussed as a pinnacle event in ones life, rather than a sequence of small wins along the way. The idea of reaching the top of the hierarchy was seen as reaching one’s goals.

One criticism of Maslow was that once a person reaches the pinnacle they are almost like the image of serenity – a person sitting cross legged and still on the mountain top busy meditating.  This zen like state appeared to be impossible as a target in life. And then the question is what happens tomorrow. What are the drivers that make us get out of bed and reach for more goals, whether they are personal or business. If we ever could totally self actualize then there would be no reason to do anything after that  as humans are driven towards continuous achievement.

As I have grown older and potentially a little wiser, I have come to realise that we can self actualize multitudes of times in our life and that reaching that pinnacle is part of growing and reaching our goals.

When speaking to groups of business owners and managers, I consider the idea of searching for business excellence. I follow that with the question of “Why Excellence and what does excellent mean ?”

I was inspired with the answer by one of the more than 80 companies that I interviewed as part of my global research into culture drivers. The Head of people and culture at this company with staff distributed across the continental US said that one of their core values was excellence. This was there for two reasons.

The first was that the values are aspirational. They reflect where the team are and also where they would like to be.

The second is that “perfection” is not achievable and therefore excellence is defined as being the best we can be.

This same company that I interviewed had learning as a core value. I think that needed to be extended to Life Long Learning. We need to be continuously learning to remain engaged and interested in life and business.

The Gallop Survey results published in mid 2018 suggested that employee disengagement is down and that employee engagement is up. That’s sounds good until you look at the figure that says that 34% of employees are actively engaged at work.  This is a major improvement on 2017 when that was less that 30% but still it is a poor reflection on the state of our business world. If the majority of our workforce are actively disengaged then what are we (collectively) doing wrong. Or are they disengaged at work but actively engaged in life and seeking self actualization.

In my opinion, I don’t think they are. Its pretty hard to spend 1/3 of your day disengaged, 1/3 sleeping and then be wildly engaged for the remaining 1/3.

So Back to the GYM towel. Perhaps that slogan on the towel should become our mantra. If we can continue to be engaged in life our of work, though a process of “working on ourselves” we can get to a point of “working on myself – for myself”

As we head into 2020 with hopefully 20-20 vision we need to see clearly how we need to and must self actualize many times in our lives.

What are you doing to work on yourself ?