Spirit and work are meant for each other. Whether spirit comes from the religion you share with family and friends or from your own wondering, spirit provides a guide to purpose and the motivation to follow it. Spirit’s the generator of inspiration for hard times and the special fruit that comes from working with others. Spirit is the anchor of integrity that keeps us true to ourselves and on the level with others, the voice of conscience that helps us create an economy and world that is trustworthy and sustainable.
I was blessed with parents who modeled spirit and work. Here’s what they taught me: Have a passion that suits your soul, and follow it. Exercise your integrity muscles regularly. Bring the formal faith you practice on Sunday morning to the work of Monday through Saturday. Find joy in the tasks of ordinary life, like pouring concrete for the back porch.
Stories and role models are key to passing on the wisdom of spirit and work. My parents showed me how their paid work as teachers was as much a source of prayer as a prayer itself and how the little pay they got for their work could be stretched creatively into a rich life. Dad twice demonstrated that no amount of money was worth cheating for. During the Great Depression, he said no to a high-paying but fraudulent job, when he desperately needed a job. Later, when I was a baby, he blew a whistle against an embezzling college president, which cost him that job and years of emotional pain. As I watched him deal with the impact of retaliation (in a time with almost no whistleblower protection or emotional support), I saw how he learned and grew from the experience.
To utilize my parents’ gifts, I’ve had to learn a lot, especially that spirit isn’t just for the big things like “what’s my calling?” or “how can I take on this huge ethical challenge with my boss?” Spirit is for every aspect of work, including the mundane and lowly jobs that ego hates. Bring spirit respectfully to work (including the work of looking for work) and wonderful things always happen. Burnout disappears as you get more creative with your challenges. You may even find that you end your workday with more energy than you had at the beginning, even if you have a job you don’t love!
Now, helping others bring spirit to work is my work. I’ve been blessed to interview hundreds of people about how work can be filled with integrity, purpose and joy. An archive of columns in the archives of the San Francisco Chronicle is based on many of these interviews. World religions scholar Huston Smith granted an interview on the wisdom of all faiths for work. Workforce Management magazine assigned an article on how to bring all that wisdom into the workplace in a way that respects co-workers, employers, customers and everyone else who is affected by your work.
So why now is money being added to the equation of spirit + work? Actually, it’s impossible to separate them. Whenever you apply the wisdom of the spirit and work field (aka workplace spirituality, faith and work) to the work of earning money, you’re impacting money. Whenever you choose work that satisfies over work that pays better (or vice versa), you’re impacting money. Many of the tasks involved in business planning, especially marketing, sales and financial management, directly involve money.
Tough economic times call for direct focus on spirit and money. This blog began with an inspiration: what if for 30 days we all prayed about money, thought about it, shared reflections and wisdom with others? For several weeks I put out the fruits of my prayers, and some others came along with comments.
Then life intervened with all its challenges of trying to collect for work from clients whose cash flow turned from rosy to rotten between November and January, of finding new paying projects as one huge (and hugely satisfying) one is winding down, of attempting to work with unfamiliar technology that never is as simple as it’s touted to be. And as always, there are my perpetual companions: Doubt, Fear, Who Does She Think She Is? and Why Bother?
In the end, I bother because — even if I never get the technology and the search optimization technique down and no one finds this blog than the few I lead directly to it — I believe very strongly that spirit and work are meant to work together. Bring money to the mix, and we’ve got a powerful team to deal with what ails us and calls us to something better.
The more challenging the economy, the more we need the wisdom of spirit to anchor money in integrity, purpose and the capacity for joy. The more unknowns we face, the more we need spirit to show us how to discern when being clueless is exactly the right strategy and how to grieve as we walk through the darkness until we see the dim light of our own hearts and souls. The more we are tempted to fall back onto beliefs that it’s every person for herself, the more we need the wisdom of compassion and right livelihood
Please check out some of the earlier posts and join me in an adventure of reshaping our individual and group economies. Your comments and ideas are most welcome. And until I figure out how to tell you to get every new post sent to your mailbox if you wish, just keep coming back!
As always, a blessing. May you discover in the midst of your challenges just the wisdom you need to meet those challenges. May laughter ease your way and bring you marvelous new companions on your spirit, work and money journey.
Pat McHenry Sullivan