oxygen for the human spirit

Hopes, dreams and passion: Oxygen for the human spirit

Benjamin Zander, the world famous orchestra conductor and inspirational speaker, has a wonderful phrase: “What gives you shiny eyes?”

Whether we know it or not we all need something to aim for and something to act as a compass (moral or otherwise). A recent insight into life insurance in Time magazine outlined the three factors they use. Of these three, I noticed that one both surprised and delighted me. The first two factors had a clear statistical bearing on longevity: whether you smoked and how much risk you take when driving. The third factor was concerned with whether you are single, married or planning on getting married. For an industry based on maths this factor initially surprised me. Yet statistically this does correlate to life expectancy. You live longer if you love someone.

A good friend and colleague at Impact, Grahame Broadbelt, told me the other day that the meaning of life is love. It sounded a bit simple to me, but it would appear Time magazine corroborates his view. I guess McCartney and Lennon had sussed that out years ago but we couldn’t see it for the long hair and beards. Yet now the beards are back in Shoreditch High Street and love is in the air.

I would argue that it is not perhaps just love but it is about having “meaning”, motion towards, a gravitational pull, something that gets you out of bed in the morning, that something that gives you those shiny eyes.

Sometimes when we talk about human spirit it can sound a little bit “out there” - some throw back from the “hippie” movement. For those of us who have to work for a living we have better things to do. Or do we? In the corporate environment we constantly hear about vision, strategic intent and more recently in Simon Sinek’s popular TED talk “people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it”. I would also argue they buy you for how you do it.

Perhaps the inspirational quotes about dreams and vision have been overdone, Martin Luther King’s dream speech and phrases from Disney like “If you can dream it, you can do it” have adorned many a wall poster.

Yet there is a danger in all this noise that we forget to give ourselves permission to dream, to hope and to love. It is this aspect of our lives that gives us our why and in many cases determines our how. If you think about it on a daily basis it should be determining your what. If Benjamin Zander asked you, would you have an answer?! What gives you shiny eyes? If you struggle to think of the answer you might want to reflect on what gives you meaning in your life and get a sparkle back into them that makes getting up each morning exciting rather than a chore.

The good news is if you do, statistically it may well make you live longer, and that’s a lot more years of doing something you are passionate about with those you love. And who knows, you might even get cheaper life insurance too!

Andy Dickson is Head of Global Solutions.