5 Principles For Inner Transformation At Work

Posted by Rahul Brown on Jun 15, 2012
36058 reads  
People go to work to sustain themselves and produce value in the world. Yet work environments can also be stressful, filled with challenging responsibilities and personalities, and feel misaligned with our most deeply cherished values. Instead of sustaining us, the workplace can sometimes feel simply draining, and at worst, unwholesome for both ourselves and the world.

Is the modern workplace a potentially corrosive but necessary environment, or is there a path for heart and spirit come alive through inner transformation at work?

Below are five principles distilled from a small group break-out session at a recent ServiceSpace retreat (special thanks to Viral for anchoring the circle and for his inputs!) for achieving more happiness at work while keeping inner transformation at the core.

1. Perfection is a Paradox
We’re often looking for the perfect environment in which to plant ourselves, but our lack of clarity around perfection creates much misery. Perfection turns out to be a paradox: everything is already perfect… and it could still use some improvement. The reconciliation comes from recognizing that the workplace is a vehicle for our own delivery, rather than us serving the delivery of the vehicle. If the external environment seems less than ideal, it may be reflective of some internal work that needs to happen, ranging from as mild as dropping a focus on the negative, to as drastic as building the confidence and clarity to step up or move on. In short, the environment is doing exactly what it needs to do for you at this moment on the arc of your journey, and you must put in the effort needed to figure out how to respond.

2. Protect Your Values
With commutes, smart phones, and deadlines, our professional lives often extend far beyond the traditional 40 hour work week. This squeezes time for family, exercise, relaxation, and other nourishing necessities. Given this onslaught, establishing boundaries that protect what you value most is paramount. Do you need time away for retreats? Is leaving the office by a certain hour important? Deliver value to your employer, and then firmly communicate boundaries around what you hold as most sacred. Be prepared to make a sacrifice to protect your values, because you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Remember that sacrificing for your values will often make them clearer to you and others, while ripening your merits to generate new synergies and opportunities in other dimensions of life.

3. Build High Quality Relationships
Humans are social creatures and need to have cooperative and respectful relationships with others to thrive, yet the demands for productivity often squeeze the time available to build anything more than superficial relationships with co-workers. Sometimes co-workers also seem disinterested in deeper interactions, or we ourselves can feel like maintaining our distance. Holding to this status quo can leave the office feeling like a soulless machine that slowly saps everyone inside it, so it’s important to try and gently change course.

The foundational principles for building high quality connections are to be true to who you really are, refrain from judging others, and to speak with an intention to respectfully connect and deepen. Studies show that even a five minute positive conversation with a co-worker boosts productivity and engagement, while having a friend in the office raises job satisfaction significantly. Creating the space for a context around shared values and co-creation (like Wednesday meditation, or Forest Calls in the ServiceSpace ecosystem) help establish balance that can see you through shaky times.

4. Connect to Transcendent Purpose and Cultivate Mastery
A recent TED talk by Dan Ariely highlighted research showing that the three factors that most significantly deepened satisfaction with work are autonomy, mastery, and sense of transcendent purpose. While autonomy is not always in our control, connecting to purpose and achieving mastery are often catalyzed by our choice of perspective. This truth is most illustrated by the parable of three men chipping rock in a quarry. The first man was asked what he was doing, and he replied that he was chipping rock. The second man was asked the same question, and he responded that he was providing for his family. The final man, doing identical work, was asked the same question, and he said that he was building a cathedral. If you’re just chipping rock, you make yourself a common laborer, and while providing for your family may give you a personal purpose, finding the cathedral in your work can generate the inspiration and motivation that ripens into mastery while fulfilling the need for a transcendent purpose.

5. Cultivate Awareness and Equanimity
It takes humility to acknowledge our many blindspots with regard to the true state of our co-workers, company, customers, and even ourselves. Knowing the correct response to the challenges we’re faced with can be virtually impossible with all of these unknowns. Other times we lack the fortitude or balance to do what we know is best despite clearly seeing the path. When uncertainty and imbalance become our reality, the master virtues that catalyze progress are awareness and equanimity. Practicing stillness to allow our dust to settle helps the right action arises effortlessly, and understanding the fleeting nature of every trying circumstance is absolutely foundational to maintaining morale when turning challenges into successes.

Ultimately, the most transformative practice is to be watchful of the thoughts and intentions in every moment, and mindful of whether they contain seeds of truth, goodness, and beauty. If we plant those seeds correctly, we’re already nurturing an inner transition away from anger, fear, and laziness, and a harvest of inner transformation and happiness is bound to eventually come our way.   

Posted by Rahul Brown | Tags: | permalink


Share A Comment

 Your Name: Email:


Comments (22)

  • Nisha wrote ...

    Rahul, Thanx for putting precious thoughts together. Finding the cathedral in the rock is a big challenge!

  • Leah wrote ...

    Mmmm. Thank you for sharing, Rahul. I find its sometimes easy to make "work" about doing and "life" about being. These useful for bringing the being into the doing.

  • kumar mehta wrote ...

    Last five lines of Rahul's essay sum up correctly how the actions of every individual are determined. This,in turn,influences the kind of society that would result as a product of individual actions.I am glad to see that ServiceSpace is helping the process of social change at grassroots level.Thanks and warm wishes,Rahul.

  • Kinjal wrote ...

    Great post Rahul... as simple as some of these tip may sound, we may forget or get so consumed by the corporate jungle and its laws, that these values we hold dear may become a blur... so it was a great refresher reading this post and getting the reality check.

  • SarahM wrote ...

    thank you for such a clear and gentle piece. i like how it weaves the sacred path through the secular world by addressing 5 specific processes. thank you again!

  • Rajesh wrote ...

    Awesome thoughts Rahul. Real good nuggets in here.

  • chetna wrote ...

    so true and can be achieved if motivated and persistent

  • sethi wrote ...

    Thank you for sharing . Enlightening .

  • deborah wrote ...

    Good relationships at work have no doubt been affected by lay off syndrome because here today gone tomorrow keeps us emotionally distant -why bother and'or because “breaking up is hard to do”. So we really need to address the bigger package. Productivity in a world that has kicked so many from the "table" is a joke of healthy systems. Making the place pretty, friendly is surface cleaning and feel good but does not alleviate the cause. However it makes for safe writing as steps on no big toes.

  • Cal wrote ...

    After a 35-year career in counseling/helping programs, and having rercently started in a new job as a property manager with a great YMCA program, I continue to learn how incredibly fortunate I am to have lived my life being allowed to share joys, challenges, sorrows, growth, change, learning, etc with so many people. We're all in "it" together, so much more alike than different. It's ALL choice, and vision and mission are fulfilled every day in whatever job or career we're in. It's interesting and fun for me to reflect on the fact (at least, my fact) that the "helping professions", can be stressful, gamy, political, dreary, and money-driven if we allow it to be so, and the property department at the Y can be therapeutic, mission filled, and a "world changer", if we allow it to be so. Every person's every action changes everything. What an incredibly rich journey!

  • mutua wrote ...

    food for thot

  • Linda wrote ...

    Thank you for this, It really helped to clarify my struggle with a changing environment at work and inspired me to move forward.

  • Luz wrote ...

    What a centering blessing; what anchoring thoughts; in gratitude for reminding us to look deeper and to practice life from that space.

  • sonali fiske wrote ...

    very insightful, rahul. Since i work from home, i don't have a conventional work environment, yet these are true gems of truth. i have always been conditioned to barrel through the work day, charge ahead. no one in corporate america will tell you to practice awareness & stillness at work. It's always the bottom line - get the job done at the end of the day. i'm gonna share this with my team. thank you.

  • Dennis R. wrote ...

    A lot of words that say absolutly nothing.

  • T P Abraham wrote ...

    Very useful piece of article. A must read for all those who need to strengthen their work life balance. It gives insight to employee satisfaction and engagement. Thanks Rahul for making my day as well as of those, who I will share this with.

  • jim addison wrote ...

    enjoyed this on many pertinent levels.thanks for taking the time to submit it !

  • Vinya wrote ...

    Rahul

    This is so beautifully written and very well said. Thank you so much for sharing these precious words of wisdom. This is very timely and helpful.

  • Vin wrote ...

    Good stuff, Rahul!

  • Sumit wrote ...

    Wonderful thoughts..

  • mia wrote ...

    thank you we all need truth in our lives one love

  • Ari wrote ...

    So relevant for me Rahul, especially the story of the cathedral (which brought up for the 2nd time today brought up this theme of connecting my livelihood to the ultimate purpose of the work).