by Kourtney Whitehead, author of “Working Whole: How to Unite Your Spiritual Beliefs and Your Work to Live Fulfilled“
In recent years, ground breaking discoveries about the neuroplasticity of the brain have been game changers in how we think about ourselves, the mind-body-spirit connection, our potential to heal traumas and our ability to disrupt the thought patterns and instincts that are not leading us to our best life experience. If the brain can fundamentally change throughout our lives, then the possibilities to further shape the individual and human nature at large are endless.
These scientific breakthroughs, in the last decade especially, have provided a sense of legitimacy to spiritual transformation practices that have paved the way for meditation and mindfulness to enter the workplace. What was once seen as a personal and highly private endeavor is now commonplace in discussions about employee wellbeing, staff productivity and workplace culture.
My career has been spent advising senior executives in some of the most elite companies in the world. I’ve had the privilege to work in and around leading-edge business practices with an intense focus on employee development. So it should not be surprising that in the last few years, I’ve participated in a sunrise yoga class with coworkers and attended work meetings where the afternoon breaks (for those interested) included a teacher-led guided meditation. My workplace also offers the Headspace app for free to all employees and we’re encouraged to use it.
The case to date for bringing these activities into the workplace has centered on the benefits of helping employees manage stress, think more clearly and have greater levels of attention and focus. Yet there’s so much more that these practices can provide in the workplace if we allow them to lead us even further into the world of personal growth and expand our capacity for love.
Love is not an attribute we associate with corporate life. It’s too soft and fluffy a concept to be a topic discussed in the boardroom. Instead, we talk about culture, diversity, creativity and innovation — all topics that are already influenced by, and could be revolutionized, if employees were deliberately growing their ability to love.
Clearly, I’m not talking about workplace romance when I use the word “love.” Romantic, and even familial love, is highly biased; it attaches us to a select few. But meditation studies have proven that we have the ability to grow our capacity for unbiased love and compassion, which is why I believe that love is not only essential to building the next evolution of extraordinary and diverse workplace cultures, but the ability to nurture it will be the single largest predictor in who can continue to innovate at the pace now required for long-term business success.
On a practical level, love is the work of honoring your own abilities and harnessing opportunities, while also helping others realize their life’s potential. A work culture built around love is like no other — it deals with the real and problematic barriers that block us from doing our best work and supporting others in doing theirs. Instead, we pretend that these things don’t exist or that they’re a personal problem to be dealt with outside of work. Now more than ever, we’re learning that an employee’s (especially a leader’s) personal fears, limitations and biases create significant business problems. Yes, building a capacity for love is about your own personal growth, but imagine what it would be like to work in an organization where each individual does his or her part to build a culture of love.
Ask yourself these questions to determine whether you’re building a culture of love, even if you don’t use the L-word to describe it:
1.What role am I playing in providing a sense of freedom and grace for others?
If someone makes a mistake, how much do I let that shape my ongoing perception of the person? Am I helping to create an open and inclusive atmosphere where the best traits of others can come through?
2. Do I value my life enough to pursue my boldest and most daring ideas?
How committed am I to bringing all my talents and gifts to bear?
3. What impact is the work of my life having on the world at large?
Do I see the connection between what I do each day and making the world a better place?
4. Am I open to diverse viewpoints?
What fears and biases creep up in me and cause me to dismiss the perspective of another or a new idea? (Hint: If you think this doesn’t happen to you, you’re wrong.)
5. Do I use my words and authority to encourage compassion and emotional growth, or cynicism?
Do I feel smarter when I hold a contrarian viewpoint and/or do I encourage others to downplay their emotional impulses? Do I equate hopefulness with naiveté?
As we move closer toward living in love, we begin to accept the increasing need to open our hearts and minds beyond our own experience. We have to identify our own barriers and grow a capacity for compassion for ourselves and others. Our most fulfilling work will flow when our working life is integrated with love.
Kourtney Whitehead has focused her career on helping people reach their work goals, from executive searches to counseling to career transitions, through her positions at top executive recruiting firms and consulting companies. Her site, SimplyService.org, is an online community focused on supporting the creation of spiritually centered work lives. She is a sought-after speaker and podcast guest. Her new book, “Working Whole: How to Unite Your Spiritual Beliefs and Your Work to Live Fulfilled“, shares how to unite spiritual and work life.