Why Spirituality at Work Matters

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Spiritual practices have brought people together around common philosophies and principles for millennia. Scientists and researchers can point to spiritual practices in nearly every tribe and group over the course of history.

Spirituality is characterized by the alignment and belief in something bigger than yourself. It builds connections, drives purpose and delivers meaning.

With the U.S. workforce experiencing unprecedented levels of dissatisfaction at work (according to a Gallup poll published last year), bringing spirituality into your career will help your performance and especially your fulfillment.

In his new book “The Anxious Generation” author Jonathan Haidt talks about the dangers of smartphones, social media, video games and the 24/7 connectivity for children. (Side note: if you’re a parent with younger kids – this is a MUST read). In it, he categories spiritual practices that a “phone-based childhood,” as he calls it, disrupts.

These practices are found across anthropological traditions and studied by modern day science. When we cultivate these spiritual practices in ourselves and connect them with our work, we’ll be on fire.

Shared sacredness

These are special and meaningful places, symbols, rituals, stories with significance to the group creating a shared experience with others. Why are you in the career that you are? What is your personal mission?

Find those shared moments with colleagues that allow you to tap into the missional side of why you choose to be in the career you are or the workplace you’re in.

Embodiment

It’s a visceral connection to purpose, meaning, values & beliefs that is grounded and experienced in our body. My yoga teachers will often invite us to “get out of your head and into your body” during class.

To practice embodied spirituality at work, make what you do an expression of your purpose and values. Intentionally connect the physical activities of your job to a mission that is greater than you.

Self-transcendence

It’s a state that the American Psychological Association describes as a person’s ability to look beyond themselves and adopt a larger perspective including concern for others.

Maslow puts self-transcendence at the top of the hierarchy of needs. Vikor Frankl first talked about this being a central feature of a healthy individual and promotes personal growth.

Leave the ego behind (which is where your heartache and negative emotions are living anyway) and fully connect to the mission larger than you at work.

Stillness

A hallmark of spirituality is stillness. Major religions practice it with prayers & devotions. Research is emerging of the psychological benefits of mindfulness practices and daily meditation routines that take only minutes to have profound effects on our psyche.

Bring stillness into your work environment. One of the commonalities of the high achievers that I work with who’ve lost their purpose at work, battling discouragement & lack of fulfillment, is that there’s not much stillness throughout the day.

Find time to recharge, reconnect, ground during your day and you’ll find a greater ability to experience spiritual connectedness.

Be slow to anger & quick to forgive

Teachings across religious contexts and current research confirms less anger & more forgiveness promotes positive relationships. Someone who feels psychologically safe can more easily forgive.

A couple principles that I hold to help me keep a cool head start with the belief that everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they have available. The other principle is a mental model coined “Hanlon’s Razor” which says that we should not attribute to malice what is better explained by stupidity. People aren’t out to get you; they simply know not what they do.

Find awe

The sense of awe has accompanying senses of wonderment and inspiration.

Writers and artists will retreat to somewhere that will inspire that awe to help them conjure up creative juices. Research says that staring at a body of water delivers calmness in a matter of minutes. The bigger the body of water (likely the more awe), the more calm.

Find awe in your work. Maybe you can notice unexpected beauty in things – like when a concept works magically in practice. Also take time to experience awe before or during the work day. Get out in nature, view the sunrise, find the spectacular in daily life and bring that wonderment & inspiration to your projects.

Bottom line is that spiritual practices connect us to something bigger, outside of ourselves. The more we step into the spiritual, the less we can experience the thoughts & emotions that kill our work efforts AND the more happiness, fulfillment and better outcomes at work we’ll experience.

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