Your Personal Culture System© Must Support Your Body, Mind & Spirit
By Tracie Hiemstra, 2000
Why is it companies often believe individuals only bring pieces of their bodies and minds and spirits to work? There are still those managers who believe we can “check it at the door,” meaning our emotions, our feelings, our cares. Fortunately, we are whole beings. Not only do we bring that whole being to work, but it is essential that we do. More and more businesses are accepting this reality and offering systems to support their workforce.
We all live in a system of cultures that looks like this:
Culture is defined in the dictionary as social and intellectual formation and the totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, etc. In simpler terms, I see an entire system of cultures in which each of us operates. At the center is the self, including your gender, in part influenced by the other cultures within your personal system. The next layer is your family and friends and your interaction with them. You may have grown up in a small family, a large family, a blended family, a poor or rich family. If you grew up in a family where money was not a problem, for example, you make take certain things for granted: food, freedom, housing. But if you grew up in a family of poverty, you may worry where your next meal comes from, where you will live, who has control over your freedom.
Another layer is your work and social system and the behavior patterns, beliefs, etc., associated with your company and the people in your social group. Work culture is not only how things are where you work, but the impact they have upon you. Think about your language, for example. If you are in a high tech area, you tend to converse using terms common to that arena. If you are in a manufacturing environment, a sales environment, any work, situation, it influences you. Some companies talk in acronyms, so you will too. If the company for which you work supports family leave time, you will be comfortable taking time for your family. If your company believes you are a slacker if you work less than12 hours a day, you will adopt that belief, whether it serves you or not.
An additional culture of which you are a member is your racial culture. Your history, nationality or geographical distribution has a bearing on who you are as a person. There are particular customs, beliefs, historic events, instincts that may be directly tied to your race. It does not mean something is better or worse, it simply means that each of us is impacted by the influence of our genetically transmitted physical characteristics. Some of these relate to our country and world culture as well. Some countries are democratic, some socialistic, some religious, some not. Regardless, that will impact each individual. And as individuals, we each are members of our world culture. Who knows if there are other populated worlds besides the planet earth? What we do know is that our world has become a global village so that we are more and more connected than we have ever been. Every day I can e-mail to China and Australia and Boston and Seattle and Mexico and Germany and Italy, etc., etc. Our boundaries are much less prominent and the impact to our personal culture system is much greater than ever before.
Over the years I have worked with many managers, executives, housewives, line workers, students and others who were trying to reacquaint themselves to their inner selves. They feel dead inside and do not know why. To help them discover their answers, I often tell them the ancient parable about how to boil a frog. The story says that if you put a live frog into a pot of boiling water, it will simply jump out and escape. On the other hand, if you put the frog in a pot of tepid water and very slowly turn up the heat – it will cook.
When a company demands that a person leave his or her spirit behind, they are creating a system that boils frogs, and company personnel, and destroys work life balance. A very poignant quote in Fast Company seems to me to be a demonstration of this: “My family has been extremely?tolerant of the fact that I haven’t been there much?for the last 10 years. This is sad, but I have resigned myself to the fact that I will never be able to enjoy any significant quality time until after I retire.” I would ask, whose choice is this, and whose responsibility to make that choice? The choices made by this individual show a loss of spirit, and a support of that by his company.
Your spirit is the essence of the synergy created by the interaction amongst your body, mind and spirit. It is your aliveness, who you really are at your center. It is the combination of your energies through spiritual, emotional, mental and physical growth. It is how you live your life authentically, or in tune with your personal vision and values, based upon your beliefs, culture, instinct and history. If we work for a company that has a culture that denies spirit, that tends to be how we direct our lives. We very slowly turn up the heat on ourselves until we hit the wall. We take on more responsibilities. We turn off our own needs. We insulate ourselves from our feelings. We deny our spirits. And we lose ourselves; i.e., we are cooked. The responsibility for this lies with both the individual and the company.
We hear much these days about work life balance and career commitment. Although extremely important, they are not easily defined. They may not mean the same thing for me that they mean for you. You might think it’s fine to bring a pillow to work and crawl under your desk for a nap at midnight. I, on the other hand, want to be home for dinner with my family long before midnight. We both may feel wholly committed to our careers, but demonstrate that commitment differently. You might think it’s fine to work 20 hours a week, while I may need to work 60. It is not the number of hours in a week, although that can obviously create some havoc, it is your intention and how you choose to balance the energy and hours you have to make sure your energy inflow is greater than your energy outflow.
Energy inflow is the process of self-empowerment whereby you rejuvenate your energies in order to create the harmony/balance you need to use those energies. It is taking responsibility for your actions and becoming accountable for your choices. It is the resource bank you maintain upon which you may draw at any time for any purpose you intentionally (or reactively) choose. It is getting those needs met, rather than expecting others to take care of them for you. It is making healthy choices. Individuals must choose for themselves, but companies can and must provide healthy options.
Energy outflow, conversely, is the way you use your energies through relationships (with yourself, your family, friends and others) and careers (job, home and family maintenance, fiscal and social responsibility). Many things we do drain us of energies, while many both give and take our energy. The important goal is to have more energy than you need at any given time. Now that obviously is a great target, but not necessarily always achievable moment-to-moment. Therefore, you may have times when you are using more energy than you are creating. That will work in the short term, but in the long term, you will become a boiled frog. You will create a crisis, leave a job, get sick, leave a relationship, die or in some other way hit the wall. But that is not a necessary thing to do. You can avoid all that be being intentional about your energy balance. And the company you work for can support this. If you run the business, make sure this is one of your company values.