We all want to enrich our experience of work and to enhance our work environments with meaning and purpose, vision and values, creativity and inspiration, joy and deep human connection. How do we do this? Let’s look inside our own self, into our own soul, for guidance.
If we’re going to use the word “soul” in a business context, we’d better define it, we’d better understand it’s meaning clearly. Otherwise, this single word—so often thought of as abstract, esoteric, and impractical – will probably create much confusion, doubt, and maybe even cynicism. Let me tell you what I mean by soul, and how I think it relates to our work lives in very practical and useful ways.
I 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 see another dimension of life about which we were ignorant. 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.
Let’s go into this a bit deeper and see what this soul perspective implies for us. Take a moment to please remember a time when you experienced an awakening to the fuller and deeper meaning of being alive. Try to remember a time in which you were lifted by the hand of grace into a feeling of unconditional joy, abundance, and generosity. From this perspective and in this remembrance, what do we know about the 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 others 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, or 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 or 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 and 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 mean 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 presume to be the authority in this; 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.
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.