Virtues And Sins Part VII: Temperance vs. Gluttony

We live in a world affected by gluttony. To be precise, the world is not affected by gluttony, but many of the people living on this planet. This is a fact in many areas of people´s lives, but in this post I am going to focus on nutrition.

According to the WHO, worldwide obesity has doubled since 1980. Today, more than 1.4 billion adults out of 7,2 billion are overweight – nearly 20 % of all people. 35 % of adults aged 20+ were overweight (BMI >25) in 2008, and 11 % were obese (BMI >30). Out of these, 65 % of world population live in countries where overweight and obesity kill more people than underweight.

Furthermore, overweight and obesity are the fifth leading risk for deaths globally. Each year, almost 3 million adults die due to overweight or obesity in addition to the fact that many diseases, including diabetes, diverse heart diseases and certain cancer burdens are interlinked with obesity.

The cause of overweight and obesity is an energy imbalance between calory consumption and expansion. Worldwide, energy-dense foods high in fat, are increasingly being consumed. Moreover, physical inactivity is becoming more common due to diverse reasons such as increased urbanization. Who is responsible? The individual personally? Or society? WHO´s research indicates that changes in dietary and physical activity patterns are often results of environmental and societal changes associated with development and lack of supportive policies in sectors including health, agriculture, transport, urban planning, environment, food processing, distribution, marketing and education.

Individually people have the possibility to limit energy intake from total fats and sugars (and prefer healthy fats), consume more fruit and vegetables, whole grains and nuts, and exercise regularly.

People must have access to a healthy lifestyle. At a societal level, therefore, people should have the possibility to live in a supportive environment, enabled through sustained political commitment and the collaboration between public and private stakeholders. Physical activity and healthy diets should be available, affordable, and easily accessible to everyone, including the poorest people.

In general, the food industry plays a significant role in the promotion of healthy diets, e.g. by:

– Reducing fat, sugar, and salt contents in processed foods

– Ensuring healthy and nutritious food to be available and affordable to everyone

– Practicing responsible marketing

(Source: WHO. Quoted 17.3.2014).

“Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide”. (Marcus Tullius Cicero)

Simultaneously to the global overweight and obesity crisis, almost one billion people worldwide are undernourished. Developing countries account for 98 % of the world´s undernourished people. 2/3 of these live in just seven countries: Bangladesh, China, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia and Pakistan, out of which over 40 % live in China and India alone. Sub-Saharan Africa, with its 30 % share, remains highest on the list of undernourished people. Today, Sub-Saharan Africa produces less food per person than it did 30 years ago. The number of undernourished people in the region has more than doubled since 1970.

According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), these numbers indicate a deeper structural problem threatening the ability to achieve internationally agreed goals on worldwide hunger reduction. FAO suggests governments to increase investments in agriculture, expand safety nets, social assistance programmes, and enhance income-generating activities for the poor in rural and urban areas.

Furthermore, the World Food Summit and the FAO indicate that the rapid growth in agricultural production during the past decades has enabled the world to produce enough food to provide every individual with more than 2700 Kcal per day. This level is more than sufficient to feed the whole world population. (Source: FAO/The World Bank Institute. Quoted 17.3.2014).

It seems that the imbalance (number of overweight/obese people vs. undernourished people worldwide) is caused and affected by several different attributes, including not only inefficient and poor infrastructure in some countries, but also a general lack of will to improve nutrition-related issues in many countries. How should these problems be solved?

Virtues and Sins Part VI: Kindness vs. Envy

“Don´t ever mistake my silence for ignorance, my calmness for acceptance and my kindness for weakness”. (Unknown)

“I´m not confident around compliments or being celebrated, and I am not comfortable with the thought of envy, which some people thrive on” (Rachel Weisz). 

Reflecting upon the word “envy” and its meaning brought up a few personal memories where someone had accused me of being jealous. I have never been a jealous person, but must admit that people sometimes behave in a way thinking they´d be entitled to being envied – which, of course, is not anything else but bragging. These people may also have a tendency to be fake and to let other people down, talking behind your back, two-faced, pretending to be your friend while the truth is far from that. Accusing other people of being something, in this context envious, is called projection in psychological terminology. Before judging other people, therefore, each one of us should take a look in the mirror.

Envy, often linked with the green color, can also be transformed into something positive:

ENVY – The Story of a Stray Dog and a Homeless Girl (http://igg.me/at/envy) is a short film where Nico, a homeless girl, is disappointed by humankind due to continuous lies and assaulting. She is found by Envy, a stray dog that leads her to her pack where she finds shelter, food and above all, love. Despite of being a dark and dramatic piece, the message of ENVY is hope and love. Sometimes, in our darkest hours, dogs can be our greatest companions. The film also points out the fact that sharing in the struggle of survival can lead to great results. (Source: ENVY – The Story of a Stray Dog and a Homeless Girl. Quoted 16.3.2014).

Kindness, on the other hand, is a value in many cultures and religions. Acts of kindness do not only benefit receivers, but also the giver whereas feelings of contentment and relaxation are released and physiological results of the process. Neither does a real act of kindness ask for anything in return. Think about a life-event or a personal experience where you selflessly helped someone, or where someone helped you. What kind of sensations did that memory bring to your mind?

There is always room for kindness around us. Perhaps you have heard about The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, which is an internationally recognized non-profit organization founded upon the belief in kindness, dedicated to providing resources, tools, and encouragement for various acts of kindness. The foundation aims at inspiring people to acts of kindness, to change the world through one-act of kindness at a time, to educate people, to involve and to let people share their personal stories about kindness. (Source: The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. Quoted 16.3.2014).

Personally I got acquainted with the foundation through no one else but a kind friend.

“Your greatness is measured by your kindness; your education and intellect by your modesty; your ignorance is betrayed by your suspicions and prejudices, and your real caliber is measured by the consideration and tolerance you have for others”. (William J.H. Boetcker).

 

Virtues and Sins part V: Humilitas vs. Superbia

“Pride makes us artificial, and humility makes us real”. (Thomas Merton)

It is ok to ask for help. True strength comes from the ability to admit ones weaknesses. According to the article “Interpersonal relations and group processes – Alone in the Crowd: The Structure and Spread of Loneliness in a Large Social Network” in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Cacioppo, J.T., Fowler, J.H., and Christiakis, N.A. 2009, Vol. 97, No. 6, 977-991, the discrepancy between an individual´s loneliness and the number of connections in a social network is well documented, yet little is known about the placement of loneliness within, or the spread of loneliness through, social networks.

Valtonen, J. (2011, Psykologia. Quoted 12.3.2014) states that loneliness weakens the immune system and increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer and mental illness. It is also contagious.

Valtonen writes: An American student, Kendall Palladino, traveled to Kolkata in order to work with Mother Teresa who he admired. Kendall insisted that he´d study to become a doctor as soon as he had graduated a priest in order to take care of leprosy patients in developing countries. Mother Teresa did not understand why. “Your home country is infected by the leprosy of the West”, Mother Teresa said, and continued: “Poverty and suffering much worse than in Kolkata”.

What Mother Teresa meant was loneliness. Palladino, later on, revealed publically that the appointment changed his life. He abandoned his dream about medical studies, and works today in the United States with terminal care patients, helping sick and lonely people.

Often we cannot see the wood for the trees.

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow-man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” (Ernest Hemingway)

Virtues and Sins Part IV: Diligence vs. Sloth

Diligence refers to hard work, work ethic, and the belief that work is good in itself. As opposed to sloth, defined as spiritual or emotional apathy.

In other words, a diligent person is someone who performs given tasks with high integrity, perhaps even mechanically, without ever questioning why he/she is doing a certain activity? Whereas a sloth is someone who couldn´t care less?

This is one of the things that have been on my mind ever since I have, again, been on the job market. I have asked myself whether being unemployed is equal with being a sloth? It cannot be that simple.

The break-out of the global financial crisis in early 2008 has affected many people´s lives around the world. Not every unemployed person is unemployed because of laziness. On the contrary – most unemployed people want to get back into work life, but how, when firms are constantly dismissing staff and not keen on investing at all. This is the situation in many countries right now, including Finland, where both private and public debt have increased, and where we now all suffer from the aftermath of over-consumption.

The markets have changed. For good. How useful is diligence in countries that are struggling with their economies? States that have outsourced the majority of production to low-wage countries in order to increase revenue (which, by the way, in the long run is probably becoming more costly for these countries´ economies).

Those who have even the slightest understanding of economics in general know how to read between the lines. They also comprehend that investors want a return for the risk they are taking when lending their surplus to diverse firms on divers markets worldwide.

The European Commission is running a strategic program named “Europe 2020 targets”. The main targets are as follows:

1. Employment

– 75% of the 20-64 year-old to be employed

2. R&D

– 3% of the EU’s GDP to be invested in R&D

3. Climate change and energy sustainability

– greenhouse gas emissions 20% (or even 30%, if the conditions are right) lower than 1990

– 20% of energy from renewable energy sources

– 20% increase in energy efficiency

4. Education

– Reducing the rates of early school-leaving below 10%

– At least 40% of 30-34–year-old completing third level education

5. Fighting poverty and social exclusion

– At least 20 million fewer people in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion

Click here to access all the Europe 2020 indicators on the Eurostat website

Features of the targets

  • They give an overall view of where the EU should be on key parameters by 2020.
  • They are translated into national targets so that each Member State can check its own progress towards these goals.
  • They do not imply burden-sharing – they are common goals, to be pursued through a mix of national and EU action.
  • They are interrelated and mutually reinforcing:
    • educational improvements help employability and reduce poverty
    • more R&D/innovation in the economy, combined with more efficient resources, makes us more competitive and creates jobs
    • investing in cleaner technologies combats climate change while creating new business/job opportunities.

According to the European Commission, Finland has progressed both in terms of CSR and fiscal consolidation. Reforms in Finland include:

– Municipal structure

– Healthcare and social services

– Extension of youth guarantee

– Reduction of access to early retirement

– National competition authority

– Temporary tax incentives to support research and investments

Great strategic reforms on paper, but how well will these be executed?

Finland´s main policy challenges include the loss in competitiveness over the course of the past decade (from surplus to deficit). Since 2008 Finland lost 23 % of its share in world exports. Finland is certainly suffering from macroeconomic imbalances.

The main challenge right now, according to the EC, is the ability to attract new investments to the Finnish economy, in order to improve both employment and productivity, and to replace declined industries with new, lucrative options. Finland has an excellent research system which should be better taken advantage of in terms of innovation in both products and services (one good example of this is Finland´s rather new export success Supercell).

The ageing population is another challenge that Finland faces. This should be addressed, according to the EC, by improving labour market participation and by ensuring sustainability of pension and healthcare systems. Restructuring the municipal (healthcare) system is part of the plan.

The EC recommends Finland briefly to:

1. Ensure sustainable public finances

2. Increase productivity and save costs in public services

3. Increase labor market participation, in general

4. Extension of working lives and tackling both youth and long-term unemployment

5. Competition in product and service markets => decreasing regulatory barriers and improving free competition on the local market in Finland

6. Innovation and productivity in the private sector

See how Finland compares with other EU Member States in key areas 2013 European Semester Documents

(Source: European Commission. Europe 2020. Quoted on March 11th 2014).

Diligence is certainly needed not only in Finland, but in whole Europe, to successfully implement the strategy.

Virtues and Sins Part III: Chastity vs. Lust

Happy Valentine´s Day!

Originating from Valentine of Rome, a priest who was martyred about AD 496 and buried on the Via Flaminia, Valentine´s Day is being celebrated yearly on February 14th in many countries worldwide. According to the Golden Legend, Valentine wrote the first “valentine” card himself addressed to the daughter of his jailer Asterius, who was no longer blind, signing as “Your Valentine”, the night before he was executed.

In Finland we call Valentine´s Day “Ystävänpäivä” translating into “Day of Friends”, thus not having a romantic significance but instead valuing and remembering your friends. Modified tradition used in many ways – like in WWF´s Valentine´s Day campaign.

Chastity (Latin: Castitas) refers to purity, knowledge, honesty, wisdom. Noble qualities for a leader, yet so few of us manage to fulfill these during our entire lifetimes. Is it worth trying, or just simpler to allow ourselves to be human and give in to lust (Latin: Luxuria) whenever tantalized by our egos? It is rare for a human being to completely avoid temptations, with exceptions like Mother Teresa.

To err is human; to forgive, divine (Alexander Pope).

If we all just tried just a little bit harder to value what is really important in life, the world would be a much better and safer place for all of us. This probably sounds very moral and to be honest, that´s exactly what it is. Economic motivations should not dominate moral considerations.

If you have practiced yoga and meditation you are probably familiar with the chakra system. Chakras are wheels of life, master programs in our bodies forming the coordination network of our complicated mind and body system. I warmly recommend literature e.g. “Wheels of Life” (Anodea Judith, Ph.D.) which explains the chakra system in a captivating manner.

Getting familiar with the system and stabilizing one´s chakras is one of the most effective methods of increasing personal levels of consciousness, to lead a more balanced life, to reach goals and to manage change in life. Just make sure to find a good teacher and make it a life-long journey. Chakras are very powerful so it is important to practice with knowledge.

Knowing how to balance one´s chakra system is directly related to the fact of being able to balance one´s life. Many of our daily problems can be solved by stabilizing our chakras, some of which may be under- or overfunctioning. According to some chakra experts and practitioners humanity, in general, is about to shift to the heart chakra. Good news for our planet, although a majority of the world´s population still need to struggle with the very basic needs of the root chakra.

Our chakras function separately, but form together a complete network creating rootedness, harmony, activity etc. in our bodies. It is through the chakras that the energy of life is flowing into us. The chakras enable us to communicate, to sense and to understand. Information flows both ways in our chakras, with each chakra having its own responsibility.

Root chakra: Closest to the ground. Through the root chakra we are connected to a natural and innocent state of being. A well-balanced root chakra can be identified e.g. through following:

–          Calm and confident behavior

–          Ability to enjoy physical activities

–          Downright relation to nature

–          Feeling of safety

–          Ability to feel fellowship easily

–          Strong family boundaries and respect for one´s roots

–          Feeling of having deserved one´s place in the world

Sacral chakra: Above the root chakra. Center for creative inspiration, willingness to see and to experience new things and to meet new people. Also the center for sexuality. Qualities when well-balanced:

–          Vivid imagination

–          Feeling of being confident

–          Approving oneself

–          Ability to play/playfulness

–          Not looking for correlations

–          Ability to identify with others and to play roles

Solar Plexus: Center for ambition, personal will, competitiveness, autonomy and social skills. When the solar plexus is active, an individual needs to belong, to network and to achieve something. The individual is building relationships more consciously than before. Qualities when well-mastered:

–          Reliability and precision

–          Able to manage stress

–          Normal ambition

–          Mastering one´s life

–          A strong will and inspiration to live

–          Good ability to judge

–          Endurance

–          Favoring mental exercises

–          Good memory

–          Ability to build lasting relations

–          Ability to take and give constructive criticism

–          Ability to set goals

–          Ability to work both as an employee and as a leader

–          Knows how to take initiative

–          Not afraid of taking responsibility

Heart Chakra: Center for love, relationships, and for the sense of justice. Directly related to physical health and healing. Center for compassion. The more developed, the easier it gets for and individual to practice forgiveness, both towards oneself as well as towards others. Qualities when well-balanced:

–          A need to listen to and to understand others

–          Love for nature

–          Good health

–          Ability to adapt easily

–           Patience

–          Sacrifice

–          Incorruptible

–          Courage

–          Stable opinions

–          Good judge of human nature

–          Good relationships

–          Empathy

Throat Chakra: A creative, expressive and imaginative individual has a well-developed throat chakra. This chakra is also related to various paranormal abilities, such as premonitions and clairaudience, developed visualization. Qualities when well-balanced:

–          Good imagination

–          Artistic capabilities

–          Willingness to listen and to understand others

–          Vivid dreams

–          Good sense of balance

–          Ability to focus well

–          Ability to shut off excessive thoughts

–          Spirit longs for deep relations

–          Interest for spirituality

–          Good self-expression

–          Quick ability to come up with ideas and to take initiative

–          Stays calm under pressure and catastrophes

Brow Chakra (Third Eye): The experienced world expands further. Spirituality becomes an even more significant part of an individual´s life. Discovery of immense inner potential. Things that feel irrelevant and consuming are no longer of interest. Strong third eye qualities:

–          Sharp visual memory

–          All kind of efficient visuality

–          Broad view of the world

–          Exceptional selflessness

–          Healthy eyes and mind

–          Ability to remain strongly focused even under extreme pressure

–          Gift of intuition

–          Telepathic ability

–          Belief in the impossible being possible

–          Mediumistic capabilities

–          Borderless creativity

–          Headaches very uncommon

Crown Chakra: The highest energy center. For a materialistic individual it is difficult to understand that if one gives something altruistically it would ever be given back. What is coming back to you doesn´t automatically come from where it has been given, but from elsewhere, through another way, even in another form. Altruistic helping and sharing is natural for the one whose crown chakra is sparking. The individual uses, shares, and continues his/her journey without clinging onto anything understanding that nothing belongs to him/her. Despite of this he/she feels like owning the whole world because he/she owns him/herself. For some people spiritual awakening happens more easily while consciously and radically giving up their fortune. On the other hand, even large fortunes can be wisely managed and directed with a good energy system. By denying money and fortune completely, an individual also denies taking part in the worldly system. It might not be wise that all spiritually awaken people deny materialism (money). It is possible to achieve good things with money as long as it is wisely managed. Qualities of the crown chakra:

–          No fear of death

–          Many-sided vision

–          Personal worldview

–          Uncorrupted confidence

–          High level of unselfishness

–          Ability to settle with just a little possession

–          No fear for change

–          Ability to stand strong even without external support

–          Ability to forgive incomprehensible infringements

(Source: Aalto, M. 2006. Kivet kertovat. Jalokivet, chakrat ja meditaatio). 13.2.2014.

We all have the possibility to increase intuition and spirituality in our lives meaning that during our lives we may reach the highest levels of consciousness. This only requires us to be open to change, to listen to our inner voices and take the time for peace and stillness.

The better we balance ourselves and our chakras, the easier it gets to develop true leadership qualities including honesty, wisdom and knowledge sharing. Conversely to common beliefs, sharing knowledge and helping others is not harmful. Sharing knowledge is a win-win situation for everyone. In business, of course, it is useful to keep sensitive ideas to yourself, but also to practice collaboration rather than competing, and if competing, then foremost competing against oneself.

There are numerous great quotes about enemies. To borrow Buddha´s words: “It is a man´s own mind, not his enemy or foe that lures him to evil ways”. 
“Your inner strength is your outer foundation” (Allan Rufus).

Virtues and Sins Part 2: Patience vs. Wrath

Have you ever felt impatient? Full of wrath, not knowing how to calm down or how to relax? Letting off steam in a proper manner e.g. through regular physical activities is good for anyone´s health, but if and when we do exercise wrath in maliscious ways, we end up harming not only others around us but most of all ourselves. Do you agree?

Having the gift of the tongue may be helpful in some situations, but playing a smart aleck can sometimes turn against you. Therefore, patience and the ability of listening, truly attentive listening often brings one further and enhances the birth of a true dialogue.

Then, what is a dialogue? And how is it related to patience and wrath? Simple questions, non?

A few years ago I had the privilege of attending a class held by Shawn Spano, Ph.D., about communication and dialogue at SJSU in Silicon Valley. According to Spano, there are many different approaches to dialogue. As an example, he used a unique form of human communication relating it to the social construction theory.

“Communication is the process through which we collectively create our social worlds. Rather than see communication as a neutral vehicle for transmitting information from one person to another, social construction treats communication as a primary activity, one that not only reflects meaning but shapes it as well”.

Seen from this perspective, everything comprising our social worlds (emotions, personalities, relationships, beliefs, attitudes, identities etc.) are being created in patterns of communication.

Social construction in key words:

– Individuals co-construct their social worlds through communication processes

– Communication is a process of action, not only transmission of information

– To widen the boundaries of people´s social worlds, there is a need to create communication bridges in-between these.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ARGUMENT AND DIALOGUE:

In Argument we…:

  • Try to win
  • Compete for speaking time
  • Speak for others
  • Create a potentially threatening and uncomfortable environment
  • Take sides with others
  • Polarize ourselves from those with whom we disagree
  • Feel unswerving commitment to a point of view
  • Ask questions to make a point or put the other person down
  • Make predictable statements
  • Make simplistic statements
  • COMPETE

In dialogue, we…:

  • Try to understand
  • Value listening
  • Speak from personal experience
  • Create an atmosphere of safety
  • Discover differences even among those with whom we agree
  • Discover shared concerns between ourselves and others
  • Discover our uncertainties as well as deeply held beliefs
  • Ask questions out of true curiosity and the desire to know more
  • Discover significant new things
  • Explore the complexity of the issues being discussed
  • COLLABORATE

(Source: http://www.publicconversations.org)

Once again: what has this got to do with patience and wrath?

Just about everything, since we all have the ability of constructing our social worlds through our means of communication. Communication and dialogue are at the core of every individual´s and organization´s success, but still, more often than not, undervalued.

Through the development of communication and dialogue we can all become successful at what we do, both in business and private.

For more information, feel free to contact me and to comment my posts. I love being in dialogue with people.

Seven Virtues and Seven Deadly Sins Part I: Charity vs. Greed

According to cognitive psychologist George Miller´s theory from 1956, most adults have a short-term memory capacity of five to nine items, which makes number 7 magic (plus or minus two). Perhaps this is also one of the reasons for the classical seven virtues and seven deadly sins? People, on the average, have such a restricted short term memory that virtues and sins are easily mixed up? The truth must be much more complicated than this. I doubt that any human being is capable of explaining the complexity behind humanity in one simple sentence.

What are the seven virtues and the seven deadly sins? I wanted to discuss these in depth since the establishment of my leadership blog. It´s not that I would exactly be reinventing the wheel, since these were identified and discussed already by the Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato. Some things remain shooting stars, while others are always actual and important.

With Christmas approaching, charity and greed are probably the most relevant two to be discussed. We have yet another greedy (?) year almost behind us, whereby firms are soon about to close their books and in January, about to announce their fourth quarter results to shareholders and stakeholders. On the other hand, numerous organizations and NGO´s worldwide take action in order to collect money for various groups with one thing in common: the need of support and financial aid.

But what is greed exactly? Greed is a desire to possess, materialism of abstract value with a selfish intention, on a high level beyond the dictates of basic human needs such as shelter and food. It can also be interpreted as to having a high desire and pursuit of wealth, status, and power. Wikipedia´s explanation includes the fact that greed is “an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs”. Could it be explained more simply?

The negative aspect of greed is to deprive others of potential means, perhaps including  basic survival and comfort or future opportunities accordingly.

Charity, on the other hand, is giving alms, benevolence or generosity, being human and helping others without expecting anything in return. It is foremost helping those in need, but also helping and giving people around you (anyone), without expecting anything in return.

Unfortunately, the world is not equal, in many ways. There is nothing wrong with being successful and making money, but greediness is different. Charity is to help others with legally earned money and generated wealth. If, however, wealth has been earned in unethical ways, it is questionable how ethically and morally right it is to help others through illegal earnings.

Luckily, a large part of charity is generated through legal means.