We all want to enhance our experience of work and enrich our work environments with greater meaning, purpose, joy and deep human connection.
We want our work to be a place of inspiration, where we can find full creative outlets for our deepest values and highest vision, where we aim for what’s never been done and call out to a bigger, freer self that is just beyond who we are now.
If we package all this together, we might just say we want to bring our soul to work in a workplace that is soul-friendly.
If we’re going to use the word soul in a business context we’d better define it. Otherwise the word soul—often thought of as abstract, esoteric and impractical might create confusion, doubt and maybe even cynicism. There are many definitions of soul—some more precise than others, put forward by various religious, spiritual and metaphysical belief systems.
For me, the soul refers to the vital principle or animating force within all living beings.
I also use the word soul as a poetic image that refers to a life of significant meaning born of deep inner exploration. The soul refers to a dimension of living which opens before us from time to time with such compelling force that we fall to our knees in silence and awe and gratitude. Soul refers to those gorgeous moments of self-transcendence, of love, of joy, of communion with the whole of existence in which our seeing becomes acute and our knowing becomes wise.
When these disruptions to our conventional way of living occur it’s as though we are awakened to another dimension of life. The mask of appearances falls away and we see something profound about life. We experience something that is timeless. It’s beyond words and the mind hardly grasps it. In these moments, the fortifications against the soul dissolve and a new perspective appears.
How can we integrate these elevated experiences of soul, these radical moments of pure living with our sense of self in the mundane world?
How can our work feed our soul and how can our soul feed our work?
How are we to embody and demonstrate the values of soul at work, where so many other value systems demand our loyalty?
What are the implications of soul for our lives at work?
From this perspective of soul and in this remembrance what do we know about what I am calling the soul and its importance to our work lives?
The soul implies a real and living connection to others.
Recognizing this connection with others means that we must treat them with respect, kindness, compassion and dignity. Who would not like to be treated in this manner?
Soul implies beauty.
This means that our actions must preserve the natural beauty of life in all its manifestations. Recognizing the natural beauty of life, we will not destroy, pollute, defile nor degrade anything. This is a sound principle to guide us in our business decisions, is it not?
Soul implies truth.
This means we must speak the truth, we must be accountable for our actions and we must be straightforward in our dealings with each other and with the communities of which we are a part. Recognizing this, we are bound to honesty and full disclosure of our actions. This would be a refreshing stance for business leaders to take, don’t you think?
Soul implies balance and harmony.
This means we must keep our priorities in order and give equal time to our own personal growth, to our families, to our communities—to those pursuits and activities that enrich our whole life. Recognizing the need for balance we will not be compulsive nor greedy, we will not sacrifice the integrity of this moment for a future promise. This will keep us sane, healthy and energetic.
Soul implies universality.
This means that we are all shareholders in certain basic values. What do we all want? We all want to be appreciated, to be accepted, to make a positive contribution to others. We want to feel that our lives and our labors make a positive difference. We want to give, to serve, to be the reason for someone else’s happiness and well-being. I would like to think that we all are servants of other people’s happiness.
Soul implies inspiration, and deep passion.
This means that we live and work from our hearts, from what we truly love. If we follow our hearts to work we will not need to be motivated by some cheap management trick to give our best effort. Our heart will always ask us to give our best, for the sake of love and passion. We will not need to be bribed. Enthusiasm, cooperation, and commitment are the hallmarks of a heartfelt life. Is there anything we could not accomplish, together, working from and with our hearts?
Soul implies joy.
This means that we work from joy, with joy and towards joy. This is not a Pollyanna principle because I think that everything we do in life is for the sake of joy. Let’s be honest about it—no one likes to work in an environment of tedium, depression and sadness. Let joy be our standard—if joy is present we are doing things right and doing things well. If not we are doing things wrong and we should stop and figure out how to get back on track.
Soul implies going beyond conventional boundaries.
This means we should always feel free to risk new ideas, new approaches to old problems. This means we should develop our minds, bodies and spirits so that they shine with creativity and innovation. Recognizing this we welcome boldness, diversity and initiative. We should be open to continuous learning and growth not just in business strategies but in living. I hope that we are all growing in self-awareness each day.
Soul implies clarity and awareness.
This means that we speak and act consciously and conscientiously. Being conscious means being aware of those impulses, motives and intentions that drive us. Conscious awareness is the moment-to-moment clarity of motive and intent. It is a balanced alignment among thought, word and action. Awareness means to be deeply in touch with our thoughts and emotions every moment. Awareness means that we are able to see what is actually happening around us and not just our own projected fantasies and ideas of what is happening. Being conscious is a commitment to an ongoing process of self-inquiry, of discovery, of illuminating the unlit aspects of our subconscious that often drive us without our knowing it.
This is what I mean by soul at work. I do not want you to think I am laying down an exact formula. But if we continue this line of inquiry in our respective workplaces I believe we will open up great and wonderful possibilities. I believe any organization that encourages such a dialogue will stand at the very forefront of meaningful change and progress. I believe that such organizations will be known as much for what they do as how they do it—such organizations will be known as much for their products and services as for their ethics, values and principles.
I believe with my whole heart that we must at all times speak of soul, liberate soul, nourish soul, recognize soul and reward soul in the workplace. This is how we can redeem our life from tedium, how we can work with a full spirit and how we can honor our society.
Liberating and nourishing the human soul within the workplace is a gift the world sorely needs at this time. Please be generous in your giving.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock