Today’s topic is something I approach with trepidation. For one, it’s very delicate and personal. Secondly, some commentators believe it has no place in a discussion about work.
I respectfully disagree.
For me, spirituality has a clear role in how I conduct myself, and how I conduct business. It permeates everything I do, and it often guides me as to what not to do. It’s a moral compass.
Notice that I do not use the word faith in this context. I avoid it religiously. To me, spirituality is less divisive of a term. It’s more elusive and inclusive.
Whereas faith and religion are often associated with dogmatic, hierarchical institutions, spirituality is first and foremost a subjective individual experience. I cannot and will not define it for you. What I can do, is tell you what it means to me.
When I use the word spirituality, I am referring to a connection to something greater than myself. This can be a physical as well as a metaphysical connection. Spirituality tells me that there’s more to life than the naked eye can observe, and more than science can explain.
Spirituality helps me answer some very basic but essential (business-related) questions:
- Why do I do what I do?
- Why is that important?
- What am I (ultimately) trying to accomplish?
- For what (higher) purpose?
- What will it allow me to do?
- How does that affect those around me, and the planet?
Spirituality is linked to motivation and mission. It can provide us with a motive -a reason- that explains and drives why we do what we do. But it’s not as simple and superficial as that. Ultimately, it’s about living a life of meaning and purpose. It’s uniquely personal and universal at the same time.
To me, leading a spiritual life acknowledges the fact that we don’t live on an island. Whether we realize it or not, we’re all part of a larger whole. We’re all connected. Our individual choices and actions have the potential to influence other individuals. Right now, and in the future. It’s impossible to know to what extent one simple decision can change the course of many lives, but action-reaction is a dominant force of transformation.
Not everyone sees it that way, or acts that way. Too often, nations, corporations and individuals act as if there’s no tomorrow, and their behavior has no consequences. We fight one another over faith, scarce resources, and land; we poison the planet to make shareholders happy, and we focus on ourselves because we believe we are at the center of our universe. The here and now is all that matters.
We ignore the bigger picture because we refuse to look further than our own backyard. We choose to focus on what divides us, instead of on our common interests. And in doing so, we lose a vital sense of (global) community and interconnectedness. We may even lose part of our humanity.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Being mindful of the consequences of our thoughts and actions, makes for a consequential life.
The Iroquois called it Seven Generation thinking. That’s the idea that decisions should be considered for their impact on the seventh generation to come. This focus on sustainability is philosophical and practical at the same time. It is based on a profound respect for this magnificent speck of stardust in the midst of an infinite universe we get to borrow during our lifetime.
That’s my kind of spirituality!
You may have noticed that I am trying to stay as down to earth as possible when it comes to spirituality. Rather than praying for some magical, mystical experience, I choose to also interpret spirituality as doing things in a certain spirit. That’s where the word inspire comes from. Spiritual people lead inspired lives, and strive to inspire others.
So, in what spirit do I choose to conduct business?
MY PERSONAL APPROACH
Well, I believe I’ve been given (and have developed) certain gifts for which I am eternally grateful. What better way to celebrate those gifts than to share them with the world? That’s one of the reasons I use my voice and my pen for a living.
Here are some other spiritual principles that guide me every day:
[ I want to be of service, and use my talents to the very best of my ability.
[ I want to treat clients and colleagues with class, kindness, and respect.
[ I want to do business in an honest, open, and accountable way.
[ I want to charge rates that are fair, not only for my benefit, but for the benefit of my entire professional community.
[ I want my business to be as environmentally friendly as possible.
[ I am totally committed to keep on learning and growing, and -
[ I want to assist and inspire others to do the same.
[ I won’t take on projects that go against my beliefs, e.g. games that glorify gratuitous violence and turn horrifying aggression into so-called entertainment.
[ I want to make this place a better world.
THE ANSWER WITHIN
Freelancing is not for the faint of heart. At one point in our professional lives we’re all going to be tested. Perhaps we’ll hit a long dry spell. Perhaps we’ll receive some horrible feedback. Maybe we will start doubting ourselves, or we’ll feel professionally isolated and alone.
Especially during those times, we have to rely on our WHY. If the answer to the question “Why do I do what I do?” isn’t convincing enough, it will be very tempting to give in and give up.
But if, on the other hand, our inner fire is burning with purpose, we’re poised to get back on track, and stumbling blocks can turn into stepping stones. Challenges become learning experiences and opportunities to grow and give.
I believe it is human to crave connection and look for meaning. Otherwise, why are we even here? Why do we even bother?
And should our lives be part of some divine design, I think a life well-lived may very well be measured by the number of meaningful connections we managed to make during our time on earth. Professionally and personally.
If that isn’t spiritual, I don’t know what is!
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
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PPS Next week I will reveal the winners of my “Pick Paul’s Brain”-contest!
© 2014, Paul Strikwerda. All rights reserved.