You may not actually punch a time clock, but there is a moment – a little click – that marks the transition from your non-work life to your work life. Maybe for you it’s when the alarm clock goes off in the morning. Click. Or when you hear the traffic report. Click. Or when you pull into the parking garage at the office. Click. Or maybe not until your butt hits the chair behind your desk. Click.
Whenever that transitional click occurs for you, it clicks you into a different energy: “Okay, time to work.” Before the click – you were all YOU, baby. But now, after the click, you belong to “the man.”
Sexist as that sounds, there is a way that employment can feel like we are giving up parts of ourselves in exchange for the salary and benefits we agreed to in a long-ago offer letter.
Intellectually, we know better. We know that we are free to choose. That we are free to love what we do for work. And we are free to quit. But there is a quiet sensation that is barely palpable… the one that says, “Don’t let them really really see you at work. The real you is not corporate enough.” This goes way deeper than dress code and corporate etiquette. It goes to the very essence of who you are – whether you are at work or not. And when that essence is not allowed (by you) to come to work with you, it shrivels, just a tiny bit, but then one day you discover it’s barely there.
The Story of Yoga Sam
About 6 years ago I coached Sam, a young man who worked for a Fortune 50 company. He was pegged as a talented, emerging leader with a bright future in the organization. During our coaching, he revealed that he had a passion for yoga, and had even been invited to teach a class at the yoga studio he frequented. He really wanted to teach the class, but turned it down, worrying that someone in his company might find out and frown upon this “woo-woo” non-corporate side of him. His was a sliced up existence: Corporate Guy by day, and Yoga Guy on nights and weekends.
Yoga has become more mainstream in the past few years and more workplaces have shaken their rigid, “blue suit” cultures. But many of my clients who are working in corporate environments discover they have some piece of themselves that they keep under wraps at work. These are not closet axe murderers – no, these are closet meditation practitioners or philosophers or dream interpreters or artists.
Barbara McAfee (who I’ll tell you about in a moment) uses the phrase, “Bring your toys to work.” The “toys” she speaks of are those things you love, love, love about life. That thing that brings your eyes to sparkle, your heart to fullness, and your spirit to radiate. Barbara’s toy is music. And she figured out how to bring it along into her work as an organizational development consultant. She performs for corporate audiences and actually gets them to sing along. In rounds, no less! (Please learn more about Barbara here: www.barbaramcafee.com.)
These secret practices are more than just some hobby. They are a form of expression – allowing you to be more connected to your Self and the spirit that drives you to live fully. Unfortunately, some corporate environments – heck, some family environments – are embarrassed by such things.
But back to Yoga Sam. He took the risk of being more “out” about his yoga practice and eventually was asked to teach a beginning yoga class to some co-workers at lunch. He reluctantly agreed. They saw a new side of him as a yoga teacher. He was surprised by their interest in this part of him. He began to relax and be more himself in business meetings. The other employees developed a deeper regard for him as a person.
He continued to wear his “blue suits” and perform as an executive. He got a promotion, and was soon promoted again. He was told he had an unusually good reputation as a leader of people and that he was valued highly by the company. When he quit leaving his “yoga self” at the door, he not only was accepted at work, but he continued down his success path there and – most importantly – he began to truly enjoy his time at his corporate job.
To be clear – this isn’t only about literally bringing your hobby to work with you. Barbara did that and certainly Sam did some of that by teaching the yoga class at lunch. But what truly brought Sam success was that he was open about this thing he loved, and he allowed his “yoga nature” – his spiritual presence, his ability to slow down and be in the moment – to leak out through his blue suit. It’s more about embracing and sharing your true essence. Others at work may not even particularly notice, or they may say, “Hmmmm, something is different about you. Did you get a haircut?”
So which part(s) of your Self do you check at the door when you click into your work place? And how might you begin bringing that life-giving, you-expressing toy to work with you?