AND Serve at the Highest Level

April 10th, 2016

In so many conversations with clients this week I have been struck by the levels of exhaustion and frustration with the pace and games they experience in their workplaces. Most, not all, of those I have been hearing from are professional women. Willis Harmon, decades ago, labeled women the canaries in organizational settings.

Coal miners have used canaries to tell them when the air in the mine was unsafe to breathe and they needed to get out before they died. When the canaries stopped singing, the men knew to get out.

At one point in the nineties, women started leaving their workplaces in droves and starting their own companies, built on different values, ways of managing, and treating people. They were signaling that ways of working in their workplaces were not healthy AND they were unwilling to serve values and practices they believed hurtful to themselves and other people.

Once women started entering the workplace, they kept naming all of the unhealthy practices that were hurting people’s spirits and self-esteem, as well as productivity. Largely ignored or kept out of senior ranks for their truth telling, women learned to shut down their inner canaries and start playing as intensely as the men, working ridiculous hours, and developing the same illnesses that plagued the men in the work environment. In that ambition to conquer the man’s game, many women got lost, convincing themselves that they had to work that way until they could retire, even at the cost of their health.

Buying into the pace and practices in many workplaces and organizations requires that we ignore the wisdom of our bodies that tell us what is healthy. Each person—woman, child, or man—has a unique purpose to live. Retaining the connection to dreams, passions and values is the work of all who choose to live into their unique voice and highest level of contribution on this planet.

When media bombard us with messages, when we can’t tell the truth of one political candidate over another, when workplaces demand we work around the clock in order to be seen as promotion-worthy, and when outside voices are the ones we listen to, we are ignoring inner wisdom. The canaries have stopped singing and we are in danger. Is anyone listening?

If we want to lead our own lives and live into our unique potential, then we will need to listen to our intuition, inner wisdom, over anything we hear outside of ourselves. Change the relationship with the workplace. It doesn’t mean you have to leave necessarily. It does mean you need to clarify what is important to you, ask yourself if you like the person you are becoming, and look squarely at whether you are making choices that are healthy for you and those you love.

When every one of us learns to prioritize hearing the voice inside, we will prioritize our energy in healthy ways. Work and play will be more balanced, and fear cannot take root because we will be in touch with a higher truth. Then and only then will we serve our dreams, loved ones, and world at the highest level.

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