Do we need a NGO for human wellbeing? A psychologist’s thoughts on a human-centered future.

Photo by Joanna Nix on Unsplash

The job I want to work in — aka „my job“ — doesn’t exist yet. Although, the demand for it exists. At least implicitly and indirectly, I am already asked to do this job. Yet, I still think „My job doesn’t exist yet“ because — at least to my knowledge — there is no name/definition/description for it yet. While „not having a name“ can be powerful if you are god or He Who Must Not Be Named (from Harry Potter), not having a name comes down to not having a budget. No budget — no impact.

So what is this job about?

Have you ever been to a training where you gained inspiring and convincing insights but ultimately failed to turn them into action in your everyday life such as self-organization, leadership, healthy lifestyle, transparent communication, etc.? Have you ever attended a meeting during which you were bored or annoyed because people were talking too much, engaged in yes-men behavior, and didn’t have the guts to tell the boss that this plan really is doomed? Have you ever dreaded addressing an uneasy feeling or a conflict because „it’s not that bad“ — and this decision has affected your relationship with that person ever since? Have you ever avoided trying something new because you were apprehensive that somebody could interpret your behavior as bragging? Have you ever seen a good idea die because of politics?

If you know one of the situations outlined above, you know about the need for my job. My job is creating greater well-being in the above situations by understanding humans and designing situations for their good.

Talking about the above: It is possible to find your way of adopting new behaviors. Speaking up can be learned. So can creating a culture where this is highly welcomed as well. Resolving conflict (or small nuisances) is not easy but you can master it, if you know how. Disclosing the motive of your behavior and likewise preventing harmful misinterpretation is an alternative to leaving the prerogative of interpretation to somebody else. In addition, caring well for good ideas — and all the stakeholders involved — is demanding but the idea might be well worth it.

All this is possible with more awareness, know-how and “people-skills”.

As a psychologist, I see people suffering from different situations and from a way of thinking that accepts the status quo: „It is as it is. This is immutable. This is life.“ History tells eye-opening stories of why we settle for less. But as we know, history doesn’t determine the future. It is us and our actions that build our tomorrow.

Learning more about us, our motives, our behavior and also about ambient conditions and context is key to greater well-being, self-efficacy and productivity (which goes hand in hand).

Everyday, there are millions of us in situations at work, at school and at home suffering from conditions not at all optimal for us as humans. Putting people in the center of your attention can — surprise! — lead to success. This groundbreaking insight is the basis of user-centered design, user-centered business models and user-centered marketing campaigns. The fact that user-centered (or better “human-centered”) hospitals and schools are highly desirable as well has yet to be discovered. (Although there are magnificent examples out there. Keep up the good work!)

Human-centered companies, projects, cities, etc. will significantly shape our future for the better. Especially with the usage of digital services, we now have the opportunity to design our situations either in favor of us all* or — … honestly, I don’t know of any good reason to design it for any other purpose.

If all of us are well (i.e. replete, safe, having their basic needs met) we live in a better world which again creates more well-being. There is nothing socialistic about it. It is as easy as that: Greater well-being — better world — greater well-being — … Why does „better world“ sound cheesy, childishly dreamy to me? What could possibly be of more interest than a good life in a well working (world-) society?

There is so much wisdom and knowledge out there on how to design a pleasant world/society/company/school/team/… and on how to design our actions in a way that is good or at least not harmful for us.

What we have to do is take advantage of it. Many of us already know that. But as with the inspiring training mentioned earlier — it’s harder to actually do it than to simply say yes to it. In order to get it done it helps to design situations that make it easy and maybe even fun for us to use the existing body of knowledge. And in order to do so we have to become aware of ourselves, aware of the way we as humans „work“ and aware of helpful conditions within the contexts we are living in.

It sounds unbelievable but we’ve lost the ability to care for ourselves. Maybe we need a NGO for human well-being.

My job is raising awareness. My job is designing human-centered situations. My job is human.

[more to come]

*„In favor of all of us“ includes everything we really need. First of all physical and psychological needs and a healthy environment. Yes, you can discuss the details but the basics are uncontroversial.

is a psychologist and works as organizational counsellor and university teacher. She’s designing human-centered situations. You can do that, too.