Workplace Spirituality: Finding Happiness in a 9-to-5 Job

Spring is here, the weather outside grows warmer and the world blossoms and deepens in green. Instead of being outside, tending to the wild forest that has overtaken my backyard, or hiking in the hills, I’m inside, working; building rapport at my new job at a company who’s giving me work I love to do. Once again I am working hard and trying to find the balance between my work-life and “home” life. Productivity (getting things done) has always been one of my main strengths at a company. However, I usually go overboard, shoving aside the other side of my life, my spirituality. Disconnecting myself from what I want to do, believe in and value and letting others define who I am.

We spend so much time at work: inventing new processes and creating new toys to make us more useful that sometimes our core values and beliefs get lost amongst the paperwork and email. We forget to take a break and remember what our true purpose is and sometimes that we are allowed to enjoy what we call “work”. We dissociate ourselves from our spirit and passions. We become cogs in the machine. Of course, I disbelieve that this has to happen. I like to think that we can strike a balance between having a spiritual self and a 9-to-5 job. I think that spirituality in the workplace is attainable and that people can enjoy and have fun in their work-life.

Spirituality in the workplace isn’t some new spiritual mumbo-jumbo. You don’t even have to subscribe to a certain religion for it to work. In fact, the following list describes the core of what I feel defines workplace spiritualism:

  • Not compromising your personal set of values/ethics or personal happiness.
  • Keeping the balance in your life.
  • Going with the flow, rather than fighting every inch of the way.
  • Having a mind like water.
  • Feeling fulfilled in what you do.
  • A way to express the divine in your work.
  • Doing work that brings you personal happiness, not something that “just pays the bills”. As we spend more time at our jobs than anywhere else, we might as well make it time well spent.

I believe that one reason work becomes a chore and a major source of dissatisfaction is because we submit ourselves to places that don’t jive with our believes and values. When we do something that’s against our inner believes or core values, this tends to send stress and unsettling signals through our body. It makes us worry and panic and wonder if we’re on the right path.

The following exercise is one way to help uncover your workplace values and see whether or not you’re on the right path and in the right company to get you there. It provokes deep thinking into finding exactly what you want to do in your life, and who you want to surround yourself as you walk down that road. I walked a friend through these questions a few weeks ago and I’ve put some of her answers down after the questions to help you start brainstorming. So, take out your journal or a few of those D*I*Y Planner forms from your planner and spend some time thinking about what you want out of your work and life.

What do you like about your current job?
List all the things, people, activities you enjoy about your current work situation. Even if you are not happy, there’s always at least one thing you can be positive about… even if it’s just for the weekly paycheck.

My friend’s responses included, “I like that I help people. Helping them through the process, trying to anticipate their needs and fix problems before they become unfixable. To call them and let them know, yes, congratulations you’ve been approved, is worth hearing them exclaim ‘Thank you!’ I like my job has benefits: health, dental and even vision. I like most of the people I work with. I like my job for the computer I work on. I really like tinkering with computers and people are amazed how I can assimilate software into my learning curve. I like problem solving and being able to find a way when someone else says ‘it’s not possible’. I like, how as a company, I am appreciated. Here, the VP’s enjoy spending time with the people who support this company by visiting and occasionally bringing gifts. They know it’s us that help make the company successful, not just them. I like that this company cares.”

What do you hate about your current job?
List all the things, people, activities, problems that make your work hard to do. If you’re lucky this list may be hard for you to write. However, most people know immediately what could be better about their job or their coworkers or their work that could make them smile more often or go home earlier. This is your chance to craft that list.

Describe your dream job, in detail.
This is where you create your ideal job. Give yourself the title you’ve always wanted and all the things you’ve always wanted to do in a single job. Then move onto the company itself: what does the office look like, where is it located, and what values or services do they provide. Finally, describe your boss and coworkers: what do they wear; what are their attitudes about you, their jobs and the company; and how do you see yourself interacting with them. Have fun with this and get very specific in what you want. Do you want to work in Hawaii or 2 doors down from your home? Is there a dress code? If you work with computers, what applications and systems does this office have for you to play with? Write down everything that you can think of to create this vivid picture in your head about who you are and what you do.

My friend, when asked about her dream job, told me that she wanted a job that contained the following aspects: creativity, playing on computers in a design and writing capacity, structure, flexibility, FUN environment (where she and her coworkers could chit-chat in between getting work done, ethical and honorable management, a place that would recognize her alternative religious beliefs, and pays decently. Of course, she expanded on these topics to include the more important aspects but these are the most important aspects of her dream job. She even wrote down some of the things she didn’t want, like micro management.

These three questions give you a focused inventory of what you want in both your job and your environment. The goal here is to satisfy yourself so you are happy at work. Take the time to carefully go over them and create a holistic picture of where you are and where you want to be. Your answers may surprise you. If you’re happy at work, you’re fulfilling your spirit, working with your values and gaining more energy. You feel connected to a community of like-minded individuals who support you in your decisions and will help you to achieve your dreams. Use this exercise as a reminder when you feel out of sorts or disconnected from the activities you love doing and your loved ones. If you find that your current employer and environment doesn’t mesh with your core values or ideas for your job, and is just plain unhealthy, you may want to bring it up with your boss and see what you both can do together to get you back to where you want to be.

Of course, reconciliation doesn’t always happen, and if you can’t work things out with your employer, you can use this to help you find work that provides the right atmosphere and work to bring you satisfaction. If you are unhappy where you’re at and you feel that the values and practices your company supports are different than what you believe in, then you may want to think about finding a new place to call “home”. Once you know what you you want to do and where and whom with, then you can take this list and find companies or jobs that mesh together, rather than taking the uncomfortable position because you need to do something to feed the cats or your book addictions. When you are done answering these questions you have a focused list of things to start looking out for in your next job search.

Many times in life we feel we have to stick to one job or one profession because we’ve done it for so long. If after a time, you’re still unhappy about being in the company, position or work environment, use the above exercise as a self-imposed checkin. I frequently look of my answers to this list and make sure that my job fits the majority of details listed. Sometimes, I’ve added new things to the list or removed some of the old outdated items. It reminds me of what I want out of my job, rather than having the job work me over and squeeze all my energy and time to meet its needs.

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