Nick Jankel is a Cambridge educated psychological coach and “innovation guru” he has had his own 4-part series on BBC and has been a guest on Radio 1 and on MTV. Read Nick Jankel’s profile to get a more in-depth overview.
It has been estimated (by WWF and others) that even with all the green technology and energy efficiency possible, human beings still need to reduce their consumption radically if we are to avert climate change disaster. This transforms a traditionally political, financial and technical challenge into a psychological one; even a spiritual one. As Scientific American has it (based on a new Royal Society report) this week “the excessive consumption of the world’s richest billion people must be restrained so that pets in the U.S. don’t consume more resources than people in Bangladesh.”
Changing our mental habits is tough though. It’s about the hardest thing we can do. Just think about how often you have really accomplished a transformation in your mental habits and their associated behaviours in you own life…. Now think about how challenging it is to encourage other people to change, literally, habits of a lifetime. But endeavor we must, even in the face of the cynicism of the ruling classes – both in activism as well as in our well-funded institutions – who tend not to like to wrestle with the ever confusing, ambiguous and downright messy realities of real people’s hearts and minds. The vast majority of policy wonks, CSR execs and NGO leaders prefer the illusory sense of certainty that tech-driven and legislation-driven solutions provide, with the ‘hard’ data and glossy reports that come with them. At least nobody has to go down the Rabbit Hole that consciousness changing neccitates!
Changing consumption behaviours means changing consumption beliefs and feelings, for our actions follow clearly from our mindsets and emotional dynamics. I call this the hand (actions), head (thoughts) and heart (feelings) of transformation. To have insight into these we must peer under the veil of the mass psyche and embrace the chaos we find there. Given the prevalence of depression (currently between second and fourth greatest burden on global health according to the WHO), suicide (kills more than war and murder put together worldwide), shopping, smoking, drug and booze addictions (all put strain on planetary resources) it must be fairly obvious to see that our Western consumption behaviour is far from balanced, healthy and ‘mindful’. I consider most of our consumption – whether shiny new gadgets made under heinous conditions in China or the high-protein food we buy and waste – to be a form of light addiction. In fact, it seems more pernicious than the more obvious ones because of deniability as simply ‘the norm’ in consumer culture. What do our Presidents and Prime Ministers tell us to do when entering recession? Go out an buy more!
Addictions are the toughest things to shift (a more accurate term would be to heal) because they are driven by a foundational piece of biological equipment essential for our evolutionary survival. We would not be here without it. The eminently powerful dopamine system rewards us more for seeking satisfaction that is does for actually getting it. Hence we are all being motivated by mind-altering substances to continuously search out more stuff. No wonder that the innovation industry is booming!
When I ran an innovation agency (working with some of the world’s largest consumer companies) my job was to stimulate an existing psychological desire or, at times, find one that was hidden, dormant and turn it on and amplify it. Then we would design a product or service that would answer that ‘need’ and off the company would go to commercialize it to as many human beings as possible. It took me many years to realise that I was using the ‘sacred’ tools of psychology, anthropology, philosophy, cultural theory, storytelling etc to not only exacerbate ‘neediness’ but to drive ever more intensive use of resources to satiate it. This is both environmentally and emotionally unsustainable. I made a life-changing, and life-affirming choice. I closed down the company and have committed my life to one purpose – to help people realise they are already enough, more than enough, without any more gadgets, Botox injections and steak frites (although these are not, in themselves, ‘bad’ – we all enjoy such luxuries on occasion). With the expansive sense of total peace we can achieve through inner transformation we can be authentically free: Free from want, desire and suffering; free to create, sustain and support life.
This is what I call Switching On. Once we have made The Switch we can then use all our abundant collective intelligence and shared potential to co-create a radically better future that works for all the planet, not just 1% of one single species. Without psychological and spiritual enlightenment at the core of this process, we can never fully be free of our habits, wants and needs; so we can never be fully free to create the future. As Che Guevara said: “The true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love”. It is love we need to change the world. Love for ourselves without the need for ipads and Xmas bonuses. Love for our planet and empathy with the pain it is in. The activists anger, rage and despair tends to create the same in reaction to it. However the awesome energy contained with our frustration and our fear can be metabolized into creativity and innovation as soon as we truly Switch On.
I invite you to take a moment and think about when you have made The Switch and – most importantly – what it felt like. Please do share your story.