I live in a wonderful country, Canada. We have democracy and wide open spaces. We have amazing wildlife and vibrant artists. We have large cities and quaint little towns, too. We have our poor and homeless, but even they do better than many in other countries. We have socialized health care and lots of jobs even in this climate. Perhaps it is too good, though, as too many of my fellow Canadians are apathetic.
We've had a recent storm-in-a-teacup in our Parliament this week (I won't bore you with the details) and all it really showed was how few Canadians understand our political system. Now, I didn't go to high school in Canada which is when you learn about this stuff and even I understood how our rather antiquated first-past-the-post parliamentary system worked. So many Canadians believe, however, that our system is more like the USA and that we actually elect our Prime Minister directly.
For many, however, this week was a bit of a wake up call, and when I've talked to some of my friends here in town about it, they became mentally engaged and suddenly started asking questions and formulating observations. Huh.
It reminded me about how the other week I and all my neighbors started getting automated parking tickets due to a snafu with the computerized GPS-and-a-database ticketing system we have here in Calgary. Essentially our block of parking "fell off" their map and so despite our parking permits started receiving tickets .. every day.
I phoned in about it and the woman I got on the phone told me I had to fax the ticket in along with my parking permit. I suggested the ticket should be enough as my permit is from them for my car (indexed by my license plate) and the ticket has my license plate on it. She insisted I had to fax it all in. I was ok with this at first until the tickets started coming in every day. This time when I phoned (and got the same person; I truly hope they have more than one person handling all parking ticket inquiries for the city!) I explained that I wasn't cool with the "fax it in" concept because I really didn't have time in my day to put together a fax (including fetching my permit from my car) every day and then tracking their follow up on it.
She insisted: I would have to fax it in.
I figured I wouldn't argue and instead asked to speak to her manager. She asked, shocked, "Why?" Evidently it didn't occur to her that social compliance (something Canadians are very susceptible to in general, in my experience) would fail her. I explained, calmly and with a smile, "Well, you aren't offering me a solution that is reasonable or acceptable. I'd like to speak with someone who might be able to do that. I assume that person would be your manager."
And then something wonderful happened.
She asked for more information from my ticket again and called over her manager. But she didn't hand me over to him (it was a man, I could hear him). So I made a little joke about how efficient their system was to be giving us all tickets on this block so regularly. We laughed and I observed that you could see the sign marking the zone as permit only and that maybe she could cross reference my license plate to double check. It turns out she could, and she informed me of this with a smile.
I now had two people helping me and they tracked it down within a few minutes to a problem with the GPS database. She said that they could track my tickets by my license plate number and deal with them all that way, and asked for a number I could be reached at.
Problem solved, and she sounded .. happy. Much happier than my last call or the start of this one. I could hear the engagement in her voice: she went from a "can't solve it, sorry" attitude that obviously was not very satisfying to her either to a "ok, let's figure this thing out!" attitude that got her laughing, found us success (and a bug in their system) and a useful conclusion for everyone on my block.
I see apathy all the time around me, and I believe it to be a curable disease. People "simply" need to touch life again, lay their hands upon a challenge, think in terms of solution ... and believe they actually can make succeed in that.
Engagement is inspiring, and not just for the one who finds themselves engaged. Conversely, willful ignorance, apathy and demanding consumerism are depressing and disempowering. At least .. in my limited experience on this planet that's what I've observed.
I know I've personally felt worst when I have nothing challenging me or when the challenges do not have success as a possibility. I feel horrible and frustrated when engaging with the disengaged. I know we can't be engaged 100% of the time ... but most days I'd settle for maybe 25%. ;)
Have you also noticed a link between engagement and satisfaction?