Deepak Chopra: Humanity is at a crossroads
In January 2022, the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight.
This was the closest it has ever been to apocalypse.
But where will that infamous second hand fall in January 2023?
After a year that’s seen the protracted war in Ukraine, a crash in the cryptomarkets, fears of a global recession, soaring inflation, record interest levels, and a cost of living crisis in many countries, it’s easy to believe 100 seconds might now seem generous.
Perhaps then New Year’s Eve, as we stand on the precipice of a new year, is the perfect time to reflect on an inspiring conversation with Deepak Chopra, the humanitarian and wellbeing guru, who after three decades advocating for harmony, writing more than 90 books along the way, now believes that humanity is at a crossroads.
He sat down with mentl founder Scott Armstrong and CNN’s Eleni Giokos at the AIM Summit in Dubai earlier this year.
I’m going to use a more diplomatic epithet than I would normally use. What the Bleep is going on? What is going on globally? There’s just so much right, there’s just so much uncertainty.
The human experience right now of stress, depression, suicide, which is a pandemic by the way, every 40 seconds somebody is dying from suicide in the world. In the United States alone, the second most common cause of death amongst teens is suicide. So, we have a crisis.
Coming to markets, is the volatility causing anxiety here? Or is the anxiety here causing volatility, you have to reframe it, because whatever we see in the markets, is a reflection of our own state of awareness.
In fact, that’s true of not only the markets, it’s true of war, terrorism, eco destruction, extinction of species, climate change, all of that reflects the human condition of fear at the moment.
And unless we address that, we’re at a crossroads.
It’s very obvious that if things go the way they’re going, the human species will be a failed experiment in evolution. That’s the crossroads we are at.
The other side of this is, we have all the technology right now for everything to be fixed, including climate change, but we are not doing it because we’re not emotionally engaged.
You need actually a new vision, shared vision, new leadership, emotional and spiritual connections, maximum diversity of storytellers, people from the world of education, entertainment, songwriters, but also scientists, technologists, and humanitarians to come together to leverage each other’s strengths, and bring about a new immersion.
So, this is a phase transition in humanity. It’s like water boiling. And there’s lots of turbulence, which happens whenever there’s a phase transition. If you make it, the turbulence will go.
You’ve spoken previously about the kind of connection between our decision making, in terms of financial wellbeing and our own wellbeing, that perhaps we make better decisions if we start looking after ourselves?
As somebody who’s worked with the Gallup organization for the last thirty years and looked at wellbeing and what happens in society, there are five buckets of wellbeing that are easily measurable.
Our corporate wellbeing, social wellbeing – which includes emotional wellbeing – physical wellbeing, community wellbeing, and financial wellbeing, they’re entangled. So, when you create the data on this, you know, there’s a way to quantify this on a scale of one to 10. If you score eight, nine or 10 as an individual or as a business or as a community, you’re thriving – and I’m happy to actually say this, the Emirates are thriving, they score eight, nine and 10.
If you score six or seven, you’re struggling some area of these five buckets, if you score less than five you are suffering, and either your business is going to go bankrupt or you’re going to get sick, or you probably already are.
So, this data has been there for 30 years. It’s revised every year as the World Poll and we can predict everything about a society based on just on wellbeing including social unrest, revolutions, war, and bankruptcy, all based on wellbeing in these five buckets.
We’re talking about our wellbeing dictating whether we get sick, you know, what our environment is going to be. And yet when we’re in it, our leaders are making us work harder than ever before. We’re burning out. Why aren’t we able to converge the two realities?
Well, for 14 years, I was teaching a course at Columbia Business School called Just capital and cause driven marketing, and before that at Harvard etc. I gave up on it because it was very elitist. Fifty people in a class from Harvard, doesn’t really have an impact so I’ve started going grassroots with that with younger people.
I have an acronym LEADERS.
L: Look and listen – not only your body, with your mind, also, with deep listening from the level of the heart and soul, creative vision, and recruit people who are interested in that vision.
E: Emotional and social intelligence. When things go wrong. It’s an emotional disconnect always.
A: Awareness, go beyond reactivity and panic, to restful alertness, intuition, creativity. Higher vision and transcendence.
D: Dream, but also do it because it’s just a dream. So, create smart goals, stretch more than you can reach, make everything measurable, make sure your team agrees with you otherwise there’s no cooperation, keep a record of your progress, and set a time limit
E: Environment, you should empower yourself and you should also empower your team. And it means you have to be immune to criticism, but responsive to feedback. You have to take calculated risks, not reckless risks, and you have to basically empower everyone into this agenda. We are immune to criticism, we are fearless and willing to take risks. and then find the
R: Responsibility, including for your mental and physical wellbeing.
S: Synchronicity, the magical ingredient that happens in conferences, or good luck, or meaningful coincidences where things come together in a way that was totally unpredictable because it’s a conspiracy of improbable events.
How would you define our current leadership in the private sector and globally as well, on the political sphere?
I see a lot of young people from Silicon Valley, and they have amazing ideas, but they’re already preparing an exit strategy before they have started the business, A lot of it is driven by greed.
Even though they are good ideas, I go only for three things.
Number one, whatever enterprise you have, whatever endeavor you have, or entrepreneurship, is there a need for that?
Number two, are you an expert in that? If you’re not, do you have a team that’s expert?
And, number three, are you irreplaceable? Ultimately, everybody is replaceable okay but when I look at, say, health and wellbeing, that’s a need right now, I think we are the experts. And we will be replaced, but not right now.
There was a study recently by Cigna that said here in the UAE 98 percent of people were suffering from one symptom of burnout. You work with some of the most successful people in the world, the most successful leaders in the world, do they embrace hustle culture? Or do they take time to step back and actually look after their wellbeing, is that the secret of this?
The ones I work with? We redefine success, and so here’s how we define success. It is the progressive realisation of worthy goals that’s number one.
Number two is the ability to have love and compassion in your life.
And number three, is true self-esteem, not self-image. We sacrifice ourselves for our selfies as a culture.
Self-esteem is not set self-image and self-worth is not net worth. That’s a very basic confusion amongst people in the financial world, their self-worth comes from their net worth.
They’re dependent on other people for validation, that’s no way to live.