Three Simple Steps to Feed Your Soul
By Kevin Haas
Do you give 110% at work and find yourself drained and tired? Being fully committed to one’s job, or project, or cause is actually quite admirable. But it begs the question; is your job or project as engaged and committed to you as you are to it? In other words, have you created a career in which your soul is “fed” at work?
Recognizing the Impact
I was hired out of school by IBM. In my first job with IBM, I was fortunate to have a boss who actively mentored me. Out of the many conversations we had, one conversation stood out and still resonates with me today. He had me walk around the office and take a good look at all the people. He asked me what I noticed, then shared what he saw: a lot of people who came to work, “took a soup ladle out, and scooped out part of their soul” each and every day.
They gave a bit of their soul every day, and never replenished themselves. Over time, his premise was that people became an “empty shell” of a human being. While they identified with their job, or title, and could be quick to tell you what they did for the company, they were not attuned to themselves as a human being. They were not “alive” on the inside. My mentor’s observation was that you could “see it in their eyes.” At the time, IBM was embarking on radical downsizing and redefinition of the company. The changes struck us all to the core, none more so than the “empty shells.”
This lesson has been invaluable to me. It is a lifelong message about personal leadership: I have to feed my soul. No one else could do it for me. Not my boss, not my job, and not my employer. The lesson for me revolves around “how” I do my job, and the challenge is can I feed my soul while doing “what” my job requires?
Desire to Grow
In my 23 years with Stop At Nothing, I have worked with many different leaders from different companies, industries, and parts of the world. I have learned that we all have the same intrinsic desire; we want to grow. Our hope is that we have learned a little bit each day and will be able to do a little bit better tomorrow.
The growth may be deeply personal, related to our role as a father, mother, son, daughter, friend. It may be related to our career, our health, spiritual practices or cultivating new skills or capabilities. What we desire can change over time, but the constant is the yearning for growth. We want to evolve, to “feed our souls.” We feel good when we are able to do so, and stuck when we cannot.
Three Simple Steps to Feed Your Soul
So, how can you “feed your soul” while at work?
Here are three simple ideas that have helped me tremendously. They are a different way of traveling through your day that will let you use your existing meetings, calls, texts, presentations, etc. as opportunities to feed your soul:
Being 100% “no holds barred” honest with yourself is incredibly empowering and powerful. Acknowledge reality as it is. When you have done well, acknowledge that. When you screw up, be honest with yourself about that also. Do the same with your emotions. Acknowledge them as they are, in a direct and honest manner.
There is very little that will derail you faster than denying your true inner experiences. Stop clinging to excuses, blaming others, or trying to “prop” yourself up internally. It does not work and it drains your energy. You don’t have to be harsh, just honest. A little “I could have done that better, next time I will handle it this way” goes a long way and creates space between you and your emotional response.
The more you do this, the more you realize that your inner being, your soul, is independent from your experiences; it is possible to be a “good person having a bad moment” (and really believe it!). The recognition that there is space between our being and our experience, or judgement of ourselves post-experience, strengthens us and feeds our soul. Internally, within our inner being, we already know what the “real truth” is, when we allow our mind and internal dialogue to align with our internal honesty, the result can be quite powerful in “feeding the soul.”
- Genuine Dialogue
In every conversation, be genuine. By sharing how you really feel, and even more importantly why you feel that way, you establish a connection that is powerful and “real.” Our day to day interactions can become a catalyst for our internal growth.
Frequently, conversations can unintentionally serve as “proxies” for what we are really trying to say. As a result, our dialogue can be shallow or artificial. Whether others agree or disagree with you, if you are genuine, it won’t matter: it is the connection with others that counts. And, it is the connection that will feed you internally.
The key is beginning to notice or track our internal feelings during our interactions. It can be helpful to ask ourselves, “Why am I reacting this way? Why is this important to me?” If we don’t feel heard, or we are upset in a situation, start with understanding what is going on internally. Then we can express, as best we can, our why in a genuine manner. This frequently will close the gap and create a higher quality conversation.
Regardless of the outcome in interactions (the “what”), our efforts to align internally and to align externally with others (the “how”) foster a higher quality experience for us all. Which, in turn, feeds our soul.
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
- Heartfelt Gratitude
Expressing heartfelt gratitude with others, and ourselves, is another simple, yet powerful act. My personal experience is that gratitude is the fastest way to foster an inner experience of my true self.
Think about the last time you expressed heartfelt gratitude and notice how you felt inside during and just after you offered it. You likely felt a sense of joy, peace, or calm that was quite nurturing. The key is that the gratitude must be genuine, specific, and express why it was important to you. It does not have to be a big compliment to have value or meaning. It just has to be real to you. No wimpy or phony comments here, this is about the real stuff. The words help us access our deepest feelings of appreciation and as we do that, we connect to those feelings of gratitude, which foster our experience of those feelings. It feeds our soul.
Once, as I walked through the TSA line at the airport, I looked at one of the screeners and smiled, thanked him, and told him that I hoped he had a great day. He responded that was the first time anyone had said anything to him that day, let alone anything nice. I felt joyful for brightening his moment, which positively impacted my morning and I know, my soul.
Heartfelt gratitude can be internal as well. Giving yourself the same compliment you might give another goes a long way toward soul feeding.
A teacher of mine used to say that the key to enlightenment was “small moments of awareness every day.” I work on increasing my own moments of awareness constantly, and find these three techniques quite helpful in the soul-feeding I started way back at IBM. Stop letting your own soul drain. Use these three simple techniques to start feeding it today!