The practice of bringing one’s soul into the workplace is not typically encouraged in our American corporate culture. Your soul, or higher self, must be heard in every aspect of your life in order for you to be happy. After twenty years working inside several of America’s leading Fortune 500 companies I understand at a very deep personal level that this message is long overdue.
In each of the five strategies I draw upon my experience, theories of human potential including mindfulness awareness practice, and the actual lives of two inspiring self-actualized individuals. Living proof grounds ideas gathered from my life experience including people I have met, my corporate experience, executive coaching business, and theories I studied in the field of transpersonal psychology (a form of psychology that combines psychology with spirituality).
I interviewed two friends of mine I have known for many years. Kate Coughlin and Jennifer Raymond are walking the warrior’s path boldly and beautifully. Female leaders like these two are rare finds. They have self-realized and further self-transcended (reference Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory). Kate and Jennifer express their passion through their work and life by sharing their gifts with their community. I hope that you find, like these two women have, that by integrating your work with your life, work becomes synonymous with play. You can be true to yourself and make a living too! One day you too may say, “Retire? Why would I want to do that?”
“Everyone has a gift…if you find out what that is and offer that back to the community, that is a full life.” – Kate Coughlin (personal communication, May, 2003)
Re-ignite your passion and bring it to work using these five strategies.
1. Put Values in Action
Recognize and begin acting on your values. What are your values? These are the things you love, your passions. You might ask yourself, “What would I speak about if I was offered one hour of primetime?” (Levoy, 1997, p. 6) A great way of discovering your values is to look at your peak experiences. Peak experiences are “the most wonderful experiences of your life, happiest moments, ecstatic moments, moments of rapture, perhaps from being in love, or from listening to music or suddenly “being hit” by a book or a painting, or from some great creative moment” (Maslow, 1968, p. 6). The descriptive words you use will say a lot about what you value. Maslow said, “Since my feeling is that people in peak-experiences are most their identities, closest to their real selves, most idiosyncratic, it would seem that this is an especially important source of clean and uncontaminated data; i.e., invention is reduced to a minimum, and discovery increased to a maximum.” (Maslow, 1968, p. 103)
“Try not to become a [person] of success, but rather try to become a [person] of value.” – Albert Einstein
A 20 year case study, authored by Srully Blotnick, of 1500 business school graduates showed what happened to those who wanted to make money, group A, versus those who wanted to pursue their passion, group B (Albion, 2000). Group A included 83 percent who decided to go out and make money so that they could enjoy life, and Group B included 17 percent who decided to pursue their passion. Of the 1245 that chased the money, one became a millionaire. Of the 255 that chased their passion, 100 became millionaires. I also read that the validity of this study was in question. If this story is even close to reality – given these results why aren’t more people following their passion? Fear, financial security, a lack of trust, and lack of self-knowledge, are major factors I have found through my experience that cause people to take the safe known route.
“I have sought to pursue ways of making a living that are in total conjunction with my belief and that further my passion and my desire to serve the world.”
– Jennifer Raymond (personal communication, May, 2003)
2. Follow Your Intuition
“I trust my inner knowing, my gut. I have not given much credit to the critical mind, it’s talking, but I say “thanks for sharing, I don’t want to hear it”, because I have a greater respect for my inner gut.” – Kate Coughlin (personal communication, May, 2003)
To follow your intuition, first begin by developing your intuition. Tracking thoughts and training the mind is a way to open up to opportunity and open up to life in the present moment. Once you become aware of your thoughts, you can make choices that align with who you are at a deep level. Both Kate and Jennifer have no televisions because watching TV not only wastes their time, it throws them off center due to the content and speed of information. Moving too fast makes it difficult to see what is right in front of us. Mindfulness training, such as meditation practice, develops our ability to be present in the moment. Focusing on the breath and watching your thoughts come and go is a great place to start. An important point to remember is to simply sit, because ultimately that is enough (Suzuki, 1988). Other mindfulness practices include communing with nature, journaling, art, music, and poetry.
A renowned meditation master, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, stated, “Mindfulness and awareness always complement each other. Mindfulness is like a microscope…The
function of the microscope is just to clearly present what is there. Awareness is seeing the discovery of mindfulness. So mindfulness and awareness work together to bring acceptance of living situations as they are.” (Trungpa, 1976). Thus, by developing a mindfulness practice we become more aware.
Thoughts manifest themselves in one’s body as emotions. Meditation masters believe that emotions are energy produced by thoughts. Meditation allows one to become aware of how the thought manifests in the body. Our bodies also have an inner wisdom that
communicates to us. Are we listening and making conscious choices, or following a familiar pattern? At a crossroad we may take a right turn because we have gone right before. This path is well known, comfortable, and safe. What would happen if we stopped a moment to consider our options? We could check with our inner wisdom and pay attention to our deep desires. It might be as simple as taking a left turn this time instead of a right turn.
3. Be Courageous and Bold
Walking your path may not be popular because it is your unique path, so you may not find a lot of supporters at first. What do you rely on to keep you going? When things get scary, you may tend to run back to the path you know is safe. Our natural instinct is to run away from things that frighten us. Going into the fear during meditation provides an opportunity to transform fear into wind horse, or energy, a motivational force that moves us forward.
“Every response to a call necessitates a leap of faith and is done without knowing the outcome.” – Gregg Levoy
Imagine potentially living your dream. Maslow found that we “tend to evade personal growth because this too, can bring another kind of fear, of awe, or feelings of weakness and inadequacy”. He went on to say, “Every one of our great creators, our god-like people, has testified to the element of courage that is needed in the lonely moment of creation…The moment of fright is quite understandable but must nevertheless be overcome if creation is to be possible.” (Maslow, 1968, p. 61) We might be saying to ourselves, “What if I do that, then this might happen”. The “What Ifs” in life can stop us as if they are actually happening. As Mark Twain said, “I’ve had a lot of problems in my life, and most of them never happened.”
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” – Goethe
4. Recognize Your Passions
“Even if the 5 billion people who inhabit the earth became millionaires, without inner development there cannot be peace or any lasting happiness. Happiness is the most important factor for good health.” – Dalai Lama
What makes you happy? What is it you love? As Kahlil Gibran said, “work is love made visible.” (Gibran, 1987)
Begin to notice what brings you joy. Give yourself permission to follow your heart. Your life has a purpose and the universe is dropping you clues all the time. If you gather the clues, and notice the commonalities, your purpose will be revealed. Watch your
creativity expand as it is sparked by a sense of purpose. Amazing synchronicities happen when you follow your passion.
“I feel that if one follows what I call one’s bliss – the thing that really gets you deep in the gut and that you feel is your life – doors will open up.” – Joseph Campbell
5. Start Serving Others
“What you have to offer in a small way is the best joy you’ve got … Find your gift and start giving it in the little ways you can. Not everyone is going to get it, and not everyone is going to receive it, and that is okay, but it doesn’t stop you from looking for ways to give it.” – Kate Coughlin (personal communication, May, 2003)
Kate was surprised when Stanford University offered her a position to start their dance and yoga program during an informal interview as she was simply expressing her passions. She built such a wonderful community at Stanford it was difficult to leave when a family move was needed. What did she do? After struggling to find her place within her new community, she searched for a place to offer her gift, and opened her own yoga studio. Within one year she had 500 people walking through her doors.
“What gives me joy right this minute is a kitty sitting on my lap. A little girl brought this kitty to me after finding her stranded on the roadside starving to death. Mother Theresa said, ‘We can not do great things in this world, we can only do small things with great love’. That’s what this kitty is, a small thing I have done with great love, and I feel blessed to have followed my passion, and know what my passion is.” – Jennifer Raymond (personal communication, May, 2003)
Jennifer is passionate about her love for animals. She has expressed her passion in a number of ways, teaching vegetarian cooking, writing cookbooks, speaking nationally, working with Dr. Dean Ornish author of “Reversing Heart Disease”, and starting a non-profit spay and neuter program. She is bursting with energy.
Both of these strong women are inspirational leaders in their communities due to their passionate devotions, Jennifer’s love for animals, and Kate’s love for integrating body, mind and spirit. They have transcended self through service.
What you care about most, your passion, happens to be the gift you were meant to share with the world. Once you offer it there is no need, or desire, to retire. As Jennifer put it, “think about the word retire, to shrink away from, I don’t want to shrink away from any of this!” Jennifer lives in “heaven” on 17 acres on the coast of California with her dogs, cats, birds, bunnies and husband (personal communication, May, 2003). Kate has similar thoughts, “I don’t see myself retiring, why would I want to do that? It’s not a job I ever want to stop. What I love is what I am doing, giving and receiving, watching people grow, interacting and delighting in life.” (personal communication, May, 2003)
By following these five strategies you will bring out your true nature, reveal your passions, and make work such an integral part of your life you will have people scratching their heads wondering how you get to play all day! I dare you to be true to yourself and live the life of your dreams.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”
– Henry David Thoreau
Albion, Mark, (2000). Making a living, making a life.
Dalai Lama, (2001). Live in a better way: Reflections on truth, love, and happiness.
Gibran, Kahlil (1987). The prophet.
Levoy, Gregg (1997). Callings: Finding and following an authentic life.
Maslow, A. H. (1968). Toward a psychology of being (2nd ed.).
Suzuki, Shunryu (1988). Zen mind beginner’s mind.
Trungpa, Chogyam (1976). The myth of freedom and the way of meditation.