Is Your Work Divorced From Your Spirituality?
– by Steve Nobel
The Problem with Work
Work is a fantastic opportunity to embrace your spirituality and activate your spiritual intelligence. Now this may sound a very off way to introduce a chapter headed The Problem with Work. I will come back to this statement in a moment. Let me explore work and spirituality from a few different perspectives.
- The Spiritual Purist – You hold certain values and experience some form of connection with a higher intelligence or power working in your life, however fleeting. You believe work, as practised and preached today, is the antithesis of the spiritual life. For instance if you hold dear values such as compassion, ease/grace, freedom, and truthfulness then you look around and see very little of that going on in the modern workplace.
- The Materialistic-Cynic – The cynic sees work purely as a functional process, and spiritual intelligence is unlikely to register as important in any way. You may be working so hard that you have no time or energy to even consider this as an important topic. You see work as a way to earn, accumulate, and climb the social status ladder period.
- The Spiritual Separatist – You have spiritual values and believe that work and spirituality are separate activities. You believe this because for centuries people interested in spirituality would have to retire from everyday life and live in monasteries. For many years I believed that work and spirituality were completely incompatible. I have since changed my mind and I now believe that spiritual intelligence is essential for experiencing greater meaning, joy and purpose in our work.
Spiritual Intelligence at Work
Everyone has the capacity for spiritual intelligence but few learn to develop it. There are a number of reasons for this. One is an academic education focuses on rational intelligence, debating, critiquing, and linear logical thinking. (The corporate world values this kind of intelligence over the more right brain creative type). Rational intelligence manages facts and information, and uses logic and analysis to make decisions. Emotional intelligence has at least introduced the idea in the workplace that it is necessary to connect with one’s emotions and feelings, while being sensitive to the feelings of others. Spiritual intelligence is about much more such as:
- A more selfless/altruistic attitude towards others,
- Living by core values without compromise,
- Awakening inner resources such as joy, courage, compassion and flexibility,
- Embracing both left and right brain skills and abilities,
- Developing a sense of play, passion and purpose in what you are doing,
- Expanding one’s intuition and including this skill in the decision making process,
- Transforming one’s negative ego patterns through surrender to a higher power or intelligence,
- Developing an ability to stay calm and focused in the face of crisis and chaos,
- Finding the courage to pursue another direction if the one you are on does not hold any real meaning or value for you.
The Importance of Values and Direction
I know from painful experience that work that has no real connection to a person’s core values will generate some form of suffering. This is really the core idea of my book The Enlightenment of Work. If you are living your life true to your values you will experience inner peace and happiness. If not you will suffer. For instance if you value friends or family but you have to work 70-hour weeks in your job, you will feel internal stress and conflict? If you value cooperation over competition, and you work in a highly competitive sales environment, you will not feel very happy in your work. Knowing your values can help you with these important questions:
- Can I be myself and express my true feelings and ideas in my work?
- What career direction should I choose?
- Should I work for others or for myself?
- Should I continue in the direction I am heading or is it time to change?
The Fine Art of Changing Direction
Knowing your values is a good place to start in deciding if you are heading in the right direction or not. Here right means in line with your heartfelt values. After spending the first 10 years of my working life in the financial sector I know what paid drudgery feels like. I understand the reasons that keeps someone from following their heart. In my book The Enlightenment of Work I explore the different forms of inner resistance such as self-doubt, fear, and shame that keep us locked onto a path that no longer serves us. I also explore the outer reasons, such as a dependent family and/or the need to pay the bills. I have been in three long term careers and I consider myself now on my fourth. At each turning point there seemed very good reasons to continue on my existing trajectory. Each time my heart and soul was calling me to a new opportunity and each time I resisted the calling. In 2010 I felt myself being called once again onto a new line of work. This was exciting and scary partly because I had absolutely loved my work of the past 15 years with Alternatives, a not for profit organisation based in St. James’s Church, Piccadilly, London that hosted non-fiction author events. So I decided to write The Enlightenment of Work to help me get clear about my next steps. This is a book that explores the mind set of career change from a spiritually intelligent point of view. It has been my guiding star in the past 5 years in helping me land more fully in my next work phase.
Meet the Author: Steve Nobel is an author, book coach and creative writing workshop facilitator. He was a director of Alternatives for 13 years (Jan. 2000 – Dec. 2012). He is the founder of Conscious Media. He is the author of The Enlightenment of Work. Visit stevenobel.com