Spirit and Business

Arizona-based coach and HR trainer JP Stein has an interesting research project.

She wants to know "how spiritual principles are actually practiced on the job. What do people actually do? I'm trying to determine if there is a disconnect between what they do in their personal lives and what they do at work. What suggestions do you have regarding how to bridge that gap?"

I am attracted to this question because I am interested in the connection between our spiritual life and our work life.

I think that for most people there is a disconnect, and they leave their spiritual self at the door when they show up for work. This is one of the causes, I'm afraid, of much dissatisfaction with work, as well as unhappiness.

Here are four ideas for bridging the gap and reclaiming the spiritual side of work.

One way to begin to bridge the gap is to recognize that, no matter where we are --whether at home, at work, at play, at church, or at school-- we are spiritual beings, just as much as physical ones.

Next we need to develop an understanding of spirituality. Just as there is a body of knowledge around physical development (e.g. how to stay healthy and in good shape), there is a body of knowledge on the spiritual side too.

Just as there are doctors and trainers to help us with the physical side, there are spiritual guides and directors, some with formal credentials (e.g. rabbi, minister, priest), some that just appear in our lives at a time when we need them.

Third, I'd recommend, to anyone who wants to bridge this spiritual gap, that they find and read some good books that explore work and spirituality. There are many out there; I've listed a few below.

Finally, we need new models for managing and for organizations. For far too long, employees have been treated as assets, as pairs-of-hands, as costs. We need to raise our sights somehow, and recognize that our business organizations are filled with wonderful creations, people who are gifted and talented, worthy of honor and respect.

One of my favorite stories on this last point is Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, where Marley's Ghost has this famous speech:

"Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

Business needs to stand for something more than mere profit and return to shareholders.

Reading List:
The Inspired Organization by Ellen Hayakawa
Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken
Spiritual Capital by Danah Zohar
The Servant Leader by Robert Greenleaf
The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman

Posted by Terrence Seamon, December 20, 2008

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