With the popularity of more holistic wellness and business practices, there’s been discussion recently about whether we should bring our whole selves to work. Although the tide seems to be turning more towards “yes”, there is still reluctance, and likely for good reason. Work is not the acceptable place to let it ALL hang out.
However, when don’t bring our whole selves to work, the tendency then becomes to compartmentalize ourselves into “Work Me” and “Home Me”. We end up feeling disjointed, a bit like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Eventually, this switching back and forth between different aspects of ourselves can cause us to forget who we are as a whole person and even grow to dislike or attempt to disown valuable parts of ourselves. This of course can be detrimental to our ability to grow personally or professionally.
So instead of bringing our wholes selves to work, what if we strive to bring our soul selves to work?
Our soul selves are the sacred, immutable part of us that is universal, whole, and loving, even when we don’t feel that way outwardly. The part that embodies the essence of who we are and why we’re here. The part that keeps us connected to the work we do. The part that can’t be changed or left at home, even when we go to work. And especially if we work in a people-oriented role (like coaching, counseling, caregiving, teaching, facilitating, and even leading).
Unlike our whole self, which may show up with an attitude of “What you see is what you get”, our soul self tends to be more discreet. When we’re bringing our soul selves, it’s evident in the way we carry ourselves, the integrity with which we do our work, and the way we interact with other people. We don’t need to demonstrate or tell anyone what we’re bringing because our soul self has actions, values, and heart behind it, which is evident in how we show up. And the best part is that bringing our soul selves allows us to integrate all our parts at work and still remain professional.
If that seems daunting, or you’re not sure how to stay connected with your soul self in a work environment, here are four tips that I’ve found helpful over the past several years while navigating my own soul self through the corporate waters.
Know yourself, be yourself
In order not to lose connection to our soul selves at work (or anywhere), we have to know who we are in the first place. Self-awareness is ever-evolving if we’re on a growth path, but there are many personal and professional tools available to guide us on the path. Tools like StrengthsFinder helps us to become more aware of our natural talents. MBTI and DiSC help us understand our personality and how we communicate and interact best with others. Emotional Intelligence helps us understand and deal with our emotional reactions. Therapy can help us uncover and address hidden mental and emotional aspects of ourselves and opportunities for growth. And spiritual tools like meditation and mindful practices help us to center and connect with our inner nature and the bigger energetic forces at play all around us. This list is not exhaustive, but can serve as a great start for digging in a little deeper. The more we know ourselves, the better we can come back to center when our environment (or our inner critic) applies pressure in a different direction.
Ditch the drama
Even in the most professional of environments, casual conversations can quickly turn into gossip, simple misunderstandings can become a spectacle, and the right fuel to the right fire can cause an epic storm that draws in and distracts everyone around it. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to avoid it, drama can be difficult to avoid at work without seeming antisocial. While drama can seem exciting in the moment, ultimately it leaves an icky feeling inside, because it’s not aligned with our soul self. I found a silly graphic online a couple summers ago that became my family vacation mantra: “No drama mama llama”. Having a good mantra or touchstone like this to remind us of where we want to be can be a powerful tool to bring us back to center when we stray.
Build a wall
A few years ago, I was in a work environment that felt out of control and oppressive. And I didn’t have a straightforward escape plan. But I knew I needed to do something to stay focused, motivated, and soul-centered. Enter the “Wall of Inspiration”, my personal collage of inspirational, motivational, and just plain funny graphics which I displayed beside my desk where I could easily see them. My wall gave me instant access to what I needed at any given moment, especially when situations felt out of control or overwhelming. It helped me remember why I was showing up each day, not why I was working in that job at that time, but my bigger purpose and passion. Connecting to these bigger “whys” is essential to helping us stay connected to our souls. It doesn’t have to be a literal wall, but finding ways to be inspired – and to inspire others- daily can keep us on the path.
Orbit the hairball
My favorite business book is Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace by Gordon McKenzie. In it, MacKenzie gives witty yet powerful advice on how to emerge from the “giant hairball” of bureaucracy, rules, and red tape that so often bog down individual genius and creativity within an organization. The idea is that if we orbit the hairball of bureaucracy, just far enough out that we stay connected to the mission and values of the organization, but not so close that we get pulled into mediocrity, soulful, creative “geniuses” can survive corporate life. And more importantly, we can stay true to ourselves. I wish I could say there was a simple trick for this. The pull of the hairball can be strong. However, knowing our strengths and personal values, avoiding drama as much as possible, staying inspired and positive, and visualizing ourselves staying out of the fray can help tremendously to avoid the dreaded hairball and stay connected to our soul selves.
And when we stay connected, we approach our work differently. We react differently in times of stress. We interact with people differently. We simply show up differently, from a place of more integrity, purpose, and heart. And what environment doesn’t need more of that?
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