At certain points in our careers, we all have struggled to bring our true selves into our interactions at work. In those moments when we overcome this struggle, we can fully align our actions with our hearts. This is crucial to building an authentic presence and a sense of belonging with the community at work. Whereas, in those moments when we are not ourselves there is a dent in that belonging.
One of the ways to stay authentic is to define your core work principles based on your underlying belief system. I am sharing three work principles rooted in my spiritual beliefs that drive a sense of alignment with what I do for a living. I encourage you to find yours — this is NOT a roadmap to finding happiness at work. Doing this may not always make you happy, but you will find a great deal of satisfaction by discovering what you stand for.
1. Career Goals — Finding a meaningful purpose at work requires the removal of “me”, “myself”, and “I” from the search
नेति नेति (Neti Neti) is a Sanskrit expression that means “neither this nor that”. It is an analytical meditation to help understand the nature of reality by understanding what is not real. Like we disregard the sensations within a dream as unreal, the sages of Upanishads discarded everything that was in a constant process of change as unreal. When you dig into your personality deeper, you find layers of perceptions, thoughts, emotions, drives, and memories. The sages found that none of this is permanent — moods, desires, and opinions change with time. In their search for a constant, they defined what was left — the intense awareness beyond time and change in their practice of meditation — as the ultimate reality.
Similarly, a ceaseless chase for that next promotion, a lucrative hike, or that elusive role is an ever-changing goal post. It is almost near to impossible to discover a satisfying purpose in a self-gratifying pursuit of these milestones. Whereas, one enduring element throughout your career is how you join hands with people with whom you work with. Once you pass over the material pursuit, defining your purpose is no longer a “fact-finding” mission. You will organically discover your purpose as a by-product of the experience of truly bonding with your work habitat. Personally, the time I spend to discover, define, and build a culture at work that we all can be proud of is the time when I am least distracted.
2. Personal Leadership — The ability to see yourself in others is the most effective means to resolve conflicts
तत्त्वमसि (Tat Tvam Asi) is another Sanskrit phrase that can be translated as “You are That”. The sages of the Upanishads who discovered the core consciousness described above named it as the Atman. They also observed a similar phenomenon of constant change in the physical world around them. Instead of a world made of solid objects, they saw matter constantly coming together and separating again to change form. In their pursuit of finding an invariant, they defined an indivisible changeless reality underneath all things physical as the Brahman. Through their meditation, the sages discovered unity — the indivisible reality without us (Brahman) and within us (Atman) as one and the same. Thus, the multiplicity of all things living and material is rendered merely as an illusion.
In fact, the underlying cause for any conflict has its roots in the notion that your existence (along with your perceptions, opinions, and conclusions) is distinct and special than anyone else’s. Work conflicts are best resolved by setting aside the debate on choices and spending time understanding each other’s underlying principles behind those decisions. You would be surprised how many times you would discover that underneath the superficial differences in our choices often lies a shared objective for the desired result. Stephen Covey defines this as Habit 5, seek first to understand, then to be understood, in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.
3. Business Transformation — A long-lasting sustainable change requires an inside-out transformation driven by an unwavering resolve
The following is a text from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV.4.5
अथो खाहुः काममय एवायं पुरुष इित स यथाकामो भवित ततुभवित यतुभवित तम कुरुते यम कुरुते तदिभसते
Loosely translated, it says that a person consists of many desires. If these desires are weak, they manifest at the level of thoughts and expressions. The stronger desires define the person’s will and may translate into actions. Repeated actions become habits. Our habits shape our character and our character drives our destiny. On a personal level, if you are seeking a change in your destiny, your efforts will sustain if you focus at the root of what drives this process — the strength of your intentions. Shortcuts, such as artificial efforts to force a habit as part of new year resolutions, can only take you so far.
Similarly, managing change and transformation at work is a significant part of most roles in today’s digital age. Many organizations that understand the need to change often try to force it by pushing for top-down compliance to rules and processes. Sooner or later, these efforts are bound to fail. Organizations that evolve successfully invest time, money, and resources in introspecting their people, their habits, and the underlying drivers for their actions. Those businesses that focus on an inside-out transformation by inspiring their employees’ to embrace change succeed in the longer run. They create an environment to build the desires, actions, and habits needed for the successful adoption of change. Others, as an example, see millions of dollars of investments in technology solutions go down the drain because of a lack of effort to empathize with end-users.
The most memorable moments at the workplace are borne out of choices that are in line with what you believe in, whether you know it or not. If you embark on this pursuit to align your work habits with your core identity, expect a long journey that won’t unravel in a straight line. Also, often you may not be in complete control of all of the decisions at work since someone else is calling the shots. However, all throughout you will experience increasing satisfaction by discovering what you truly stand for. Now, that’s worth a shot!