Bringing Your Spirituality To Work
By Kathryn Alice, RScP
Work has traditionally been the last frontier of spirituality. Many who consider themselves highly spiritual either forget that they can use spiritual tenets in business or simply don’t know how. However, inroads are being made into this arena. More and more books on work and spirituality are popping up. Courses such as “Spirituality for Business Leaders” are being taught in business schools. And a recent Fortune Magazine cover story explored “God and Business.”
This trend towards bringing God to work mirrors a larger trend in society back to personal religion, one largely lead by aging baby boomers. A recent poll showed that 95% of Americans believe in a God of some sort, and since 1995 there has been a dramatic increase in religious beliefs, according to a poll by the Princeton Religious Research Index.
There is evidence that applying spirituality to business situations is extremely effective. Every cutting edge management method being taught now is in alignment with basic spiritual principle. An analysis of corporate leaders considered “geniuses” showed that each had an elusive quality best described as “intuitive.” Considered visionaries, they simply seemed to know at a gut level which way to go when presented with a decision. Tapping into religious principle has been touted to do everything from increasing productivity to inspiring bursts of creativity to helping transform a workplace from a battle zone into a cooperative effort.
If we truly believe that there is but one God, and that this God is everywhere, then of course we must remember this means the Divine is right at work, present in the boss, in our co-workers, in customers and in every business situation. Doing so can relieve stress and ideally make the line between work and play hard to find. Below are some tips for bringing your spirituality into work, whether your are an employee, an entrepreneur or simply looking for your right career path.
1. Consider yourself as a point of light in your job. See your workplace as an ashram, a temple in which you are to apply all you know about spirituality. Start viewing each situation and person as holy, a chance to practice cooperation, love, compassion and dedication.
2. Give up the belief that your work, no matter how mundane it may seem, is ultimately meaningless or dull. Approach it as though it really matters and your life depends on fulfilling your job description in the highest possible manner. The most productive factory workers have come to view their repetitive work as a form of meditation, a place of immersion in the now.
Consider the example of a coat check lady who was the heart and soul of the restaurant where she worked. She radiated love and cheer to each customer, seeing her job as a holy mission. Look for ways to turn your position into more than it is, re-invigorating it with purpose and meaning. This practice often leads to quick promotions.
3. Practice compassion first when
dealing with people. Look into each co-worker’s eyes as though you are looking
into their soul. Lead with your heart with each communication. Practically
speaking, this can look like:
• leading off each phone call or meeting by briefly asking how people are doing before getting to the business at hand
• getting to know people, their families, acknowledging personal milestones and home situations
• praying for people and situations at work
• starting each business letter or email with “It was a pleasure speaking with you” and “hope you are well” and ending each communication with “warmly” or “cordially”
• being sensitive to the best ways to handle people, honoring their way of processing, and being patient
• giving people a chance to do their best, trusting them to get things done in their own way (micromanaging has proven to be extremely destructive and counter-productive)
• when layoffs or firings are necessary, looking for the most humane way to proceed. The most progressive companies help those terminated to update their resumes and find a new job. The leaders who have gone the farthest and been the most effective practice the above flawlessly.
4. “Be a big person” serves well in the arena of ethics. Spiritually speaking, there is no such thing as competition, and the principle of “plenty” — enough for everyone — is the rule that’s lived by. Start looking for how this is true, and it will transform your work world. It becomes easy to be gracious, kind and avoid petty behavior such as gossip, backbiting or trying to undercut another. Those who are scared they are lacking and that they will be surpassed, practice gossip and back-stabbing as a way of trying to feel better about themselves. Those who are secure in themselves are more “civil” in every situation, and ultimately, they end up not only feeling better about how they conduct themselves but advancing more quickly in their careers.
5. Stay centered in God when outward circumstances seem grim. One of the most widely acclaimed psychiatrists at Cedars-Sinai meditates twice daily for 20 minutes between sessions to keep himself centered. He is the most imperturbable doctor on staff, and no matter how many hard cases he sees, he seems perpetually invigorated. Practicing some sort of meditation, prayer or quiet time can buffer you from being reactive and is a proven stress reliever. At the point where you’ve done all you can for a situation, the best course of action is putting things into God’s hands, and releasing them from your own shoulders (also good if you have chronic tense shoulders), trusting for the highest good. This is faith in action and rarely will fail you. It proves to you that you don’t have to do everything all the time, inviting grace to come and help you. You can ultimately become one of those people said to live a “charmed” life through this practice. You can join those “genius” leaders who always seem to know the right move. This practice will also remind you that a particular job or deal is not your source, but that ultimately, God is your source and supply.
6. Be sensitive in using the word “God” at work, and don’t try to ram your spirituality down the throats of others. Part of being spiritual is meeting others where they are and honoring their own process. Leading by example rather than by what you say is the most effective way of teaching others, anyway. By learning to bring your spirituality to work with you, not only will you make your business life more enjoyable and more successful, but you will also be doing your part to transform the workplace and even corporate America into an arena of peace, cooperation and joy.
Kathryn Alice, RScP, is a spiritual counselor who has lead the Agape Church’s Crisis Support Team for the past five years. She teaches workshops all around the country, frequently writes on spirituality, has a large private practice, and can be reached at (310) 581-1981.
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