“What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within out into the world, miracles happen.” — Thoreau
In the hustle of everyday life it’s easy to forget that each one of us is actually operating in two worlds—the physical world of doing and the deeper aspect of who we are, which exists in the world of being. Goals, lists, milestones, schedules, busyness and “what’s next” are a part of life, but so are things that make our hearts sing, connect us to our compassion, ignite our creativity, evoke laughter, and make us feel alive.
The need to see and express the fullness of who we are as body and soul became so clear to me while having a conversation with an entrepreneur recently.
Tapping Our Whole Selves
Since 1989, owner Joyce Zappellini has taught hundreds of adults and children to sew at her studio, Sew Creative Café in Redondo Beach, California. Walking into her shop, there are colorful fabrics, threads, shiny sewing machines, and handmade treasures covering the walls. As Joyce works with her clients on a variety of projects, I noticed something interesting happens. Through one lens her clients make intricate handmade gifts, quilts, clothing and other items. But seen a different way, they are actually being encouraged to access and cultivate qualities like inspiration and resilience. The joy, purpose and connection that result are palatable. They are letting their human spirits be seen in physical form through their projects.
In my work as a leadership consultant and coach, communications is my focus. I’ve learned that how we communicate within (through inquiry and the inner conversation), as well as how we communicate with others, is the single most important factor in wellbeing and success. As I spoke with Joyce at her studio, I wondered what it would be like if workplaces clearly communicated that everything from project management to strategic planning is an opportunity to cultivate soul-level qualities so employees could feel more fulfilled and valued. What if work became the physical representation of creativity and meaningful action being taken toward a meaningful end?
Five coaching exercises below based on Joyce’s approach encourage an inner inquiry to consider for your own workplace.
- Build Courage
A woman in her late 20s, Claire admits that out in the world she is often afraid of making mistakes based on her experience of being shut down and criticized when she took risks. She calls Joyce’s class “courage class” because she’s able to try new things, make mistakes and learn how to fix them.
Coaching Exercise: How do you make others feel safe to make mistakes? Do you allow yourself to take risks?
- Encourage Openness
Creating a place in the world like Joyce’s studio that doesn’t dictate a certain way we have to be, allows us to open our minds. From that place, we can think new thoughts and listen deeply to the wisdom within. What better way to see clearly what is required for the next level of success?
Coaching Exercise: Try this sentence completion exercise.
“One way I could allow myself to be more open is___.”
“One way I could help my staff to be more open is___.”
- Foster Growth
When we let our lives and our work get routine, we can feel underutilized and stagnant. The joy of being a part of creating something—whether it’s a project, a piece of art, a company, or a new recipe—helps us access who we are at our core. A sense of growth, expansion and contribution to something bigger than ourselves helps us feel on-purpose.
Coaching Exercise: What’s one way you can help encourage yourself and others to break out of the norm this week?
- Stimulate Learning
“I like to teach my students to think” explained Joyce. “When students ask me how to do something, I don’t rush right in. I let them think about it for a minute.”
Coaching Exercise: Where are you rushing in to problem-solve for others and cutting them off from their own learning?
- See Greatness
When we feel trusted and valued, we are our best selves. Joyce’s real magic is that she sees the essential nature of everyone she works with as whole, complete and capable. In that environment, her students become willing to think new thoughts and try new things. Creative solutions and inspiring work flows naturally.
Coaching Exercise: Give this meditation two minutes of your day today. What is one positive quality you could recognize in a co-worker this week? How about in yourself?
Bringing More Soul into Work
Bringing soul-centered qualities more fully into the workplace allows us to feel more integrated. It recognizes the grand tapestry of who we are—human beings with souls who want to feel connected and do work that matters. As leaders in our workplaces and in our lives, we can create work environments that tap our business skills and also feed our souls. When work becomes a physical representation of our whole selves, it becomes a joy to create success.
Who wouldn’t want to work in a place like that?