“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.” ~ William Shakespeare.
We perceive our purpose at work as fulfilling duties such as administration, brainstorming new products, engaging clients, or problem solving. Work is where we achieve results, earn a living and hopefully gain a level of satisfaction. Inasmuch as these goals are important, our attention is often more drawn to, and distracted by, challenging relationships that cause us frustration, anger and powerlessness.
Productivity and achievement are what I would call the small “p” or purpose of work life. Beneath this, however, there is a larger purpose or “P”: Realizing our personal power; knowing we are much more than what we do or achieve. One way the “P” invites our attention is by presenting challenging relationships to us. Challenging relationships become the doorway into self-empowerment.
Evolution is more a vertical path dependent of self-empowerment than a horizontal path dependent of external achievement.
A client of mine hired me because she was having a difficult time with her boss. She described her boss as overbearing, anxiety provoking, stressful, tyrannical, paranoid, and as someone who felt she had many enemies.
My client feared that in the eyes of her boss she wasn’t good enough or able to do the job right. She could never meet the lofty expectations set upon her. She felt hesitant, lacked confidence and walked her office corridors on egg shells.
What my client wasn’t realizing is that her boss was a teacher in service of her personal empowerment disguised as a controlling task master. Through the lens of the “p”, it’s difficult to recognize the disguise. Our focal point is limited to seeing a challenging tyrant and we are unavailable to the underlying “P” calling for our attention.
When my client began to realize there was more to this relationship than meets the eye, she began to see her boss as a teacher and their relationship as an opportunity for mutual support.
5 Steps my client took to fulfill this opportunity
We live in a hall of mirrors and we attract people based on our state of consciousness. Conflict is simply feedback for our internal state and an opportunity to evolve to a new level.
1. Illuminate the Mirror
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ~ Carl Jung
I asked my client, “How is the way your boss treating you a mirror for the way you treat yourself?” She answered by saying she had always doubted and second guessed herself in her life, and had a hard time being assertive and speaking her truth clearly and confidently. Her boss perfectly mirrored this in two ways:
Primary mirror – mirroring habits my client engaged in: Self-doubt/Second guessing
Secondary mirror – mirroring aspects my client didn’t engage in: Assertiveness/Speaking her truth
My client realized that her boss was simply reflecting her internal state, showing her where to look for self-empowerment.
My client began to notice how anxious she felt when her boss approached her. I taught her to use her breath as a means to stay grounded and present. Taking slow, deep breathes helps to abate nervous energy that may cause reaction and powerlessness.
3. Express your Shadow
When you change so too does the mirror.
It was important that my client no longer hold back her truth. So long as she failed to assert herself her boss would show her how it’s done. By giving herself permission to disagree, say No and express her needs, she reclaimed her power and no longer unconsciously delegated that aspect of herself to her boss – she released her boss from having to play that role for her, and acknowledged her beyond it.
Where our attention goes the energy flows.
Once my client saw her boss as a gift, she could appreciate the role she was playing in her evolution. She focused on positive aspects to appreciate about her and listed them on a poster she created. As she did, she began to find appreciation for them in herself.
5. Love and Compassion
“Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.” ~ American Indian Proverb
My client began to see her boss as a human being doing the best she can given her past, her fears, her challenges. She saw her through the eyes of love and compassion, and made a daily practice to intentionally send her positive, loving energy. My client was happy to know that she was playing a part in supporting the evolution of another human being.
After about only two months, my client experienced an incredible turnaround in her relationship with her boss. Using her own words, here’s what happened:
“As time went by, my boss was no longer giving me a crazy list of a million things to do. She started trusting me more, and having more confidence in my ability. She would check in, be supportive, advocate for me, and even talk to me about stuff that was going on for her, sharing her personal feelings. She even gave me positive feedback, something I never thought in a million years I’d ever hear from her. When my boss proposed that I mentor a new student, I doubted I had the skills to do so. She reassured that I had good skills, which was an unexpected gift.”
All of this happened without a single conversation to address the “P”. It happened remotely. When we change so too does the mirror. The relationship was symbiotic, interwoven, a perfect reflection, with change happening from the inside out.
The health and “p” productivity of an organization is dependent upon the “P” being realized for each individual and relationship. It requires a shift in priority of what is important, and a willingness to be curious, and expand one’s emotional intelligence. Without doing the necessary self-reflection to fulfill the “P”, the “p” duties can feel empty, meaningless and without end. Realizing the “P” supports employees to not only feel better, but to also attune to their own purpose within the organization and align with their gifts and talents. As employees open to new awareness and possibilities, so too does the organization.
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