One of my Applied Improvisation colleagues sent me to a Harvard Business Review article by Tony Schwartz called “Why Don’t We Act in Our Own Best Interest” which mirrors a conversation I’ve been having with many. It relates directly to my previous three blog posts on creating a culture of “yes” and the value of practicing the skills of Improvisation.
In the article, there is an explanation of why it’s hard for humans to solve problems. It turns out that the fact that we’re human means we tend to think more in the short term and don’t see the connection between our behavior now and their future consequences. We’re not good at delayed gratification. It has something to do with our amygdala. He talks about the fact that Harvard researchers found that wellness programs in organizations average a $3.27 return per dollar spent. And though CEO’s agree that the well-being of their employees increases performance, they also agree they don’t invest in that well being. Seems kind of funny. Where else can you get a guaranteed return that high?
The problem of course is we need to be better at delayed gratification. Schwartz says “The value of investing money and time in taking care of employees, rather than simply trying to get more out of them, can seem hard to measure. Also, because it doesn’t produce instant results, it may seem at odds with the urgent aim of getting more done, faster, right now.”
Schwartz also says “We don’t lack for potential solutions to our problems so much as we do the willingness to intelligently sacrifice in the short term, in the service of generating more value in the long term. To do that, we need to learn to better regulate our emotions, which begins with gaining more control of our attention. That’s the next great evolutionary leap, and it’s on the horizon.”
The most significant part of the article to me is that there is research going on to show that through practice, we can “ systematically train the regulation of negative emotion and increase our capacity for calm reflectiveness in the face of high stress.” That’s exactly what stage improvisers practice to perform without a script and the practice is fun, even for most introverts.
So keep practicing being present and “yes, anding” people and situations. It will help with your stress level and you’ll already be part of the next great evolutionary leap!