Business, as a context, can look and act as if it could be at the furthest possible reach from spirituality. When I began exploring a career in business coaching I was initially turned off by all of the thoughts, interpretations and judgments I’d been carrying regarding business. Eventually I realized that what’s true about business is based on one’s interpretation – Business is in the eye of the beholder. By shifting my interpretations I was able to allow a greater potentiality for change – well, I’ll go out on a limb and say transformation.
Initially, business meant ruthless, unethical, immoral practices. It meant power hungry individuals sucking the life-blood out of anyone and everything for profit and gain; it meant status, money, dominance; it meant people don’t matter except for what they can do, compensated with the lowest salary possible. Not a pretty picture.
Not every organization looked like this to me but my projections of the worst of the worst were thrusted upon all businesses, which quite often included governments and political organizations.
My original interpretation has shifted from: if it weren’t for Big Businesses our world would be a much better place to live in, to, Big Businesses contribute in incredible ways to social causes and humanitarian efforts. They’ve created miraculous technologies and innovation, which contribute to a much better world. Business is not bad; it’s the practice of bad business that’s challenging all of us today.
There’s Beauty in the Breakdown
Things are not looking up for the world economy and business in general. We, the people, are demanding more of our businesses, whether local, corporate or global, requiring them to be accountable for the practices that on the one hand are literally killing us, while on the other they provide monies that fund projects that generate so much good on the planet. We value the good they are doing but are no longer turning a blind eye to the bad. The old paradigm can no longer sustain the pressure, and to paraphrase Einstein, we won’t be able to fix it with the same thinking that created it.
Inevitably there will be a breakdown, and it won’t be pretty. Heck, we are in the breakdown now, with few brave souls competent enough to take us through this turbulent course, understanding the currents, the rifts and perils of what’s unfolding before us.
Breakdowns are required in the process of all growth and development. Ask anyone who has lost their job, their health, their families, their business or livelihood. They will tell you that tremendous good came out of it. They didn’t ask for it but inevitably were glad it came. These are brave individuals who willingly faced the dismantling of their reality, not knowing if a breakthrough would occur; they only hoped it would occur in their favor.
Breakdowns are messy, full of angst, agony, horror, loss, humiliation, anger and resentment – humanities toughest be-withs. A be-with is something – an event, a circumstance or situation that you can’t control or change; you can only be-with it. A Big Fat Be-With occurs when facing what we’ve been avoiding, denying or distracting ourselves from far too long; there’s nowhere to go and nowhere to hide.
Breakdowns allow for a release of what no longer serves, is completed and finished. What follows is a void of activity, something that drives most of us humans, bonkers. Much like Winter, when things are dark, bleak and cold, we’re powerless to make things be different. We feel helpless and powerless, and often begin to lose hope. All we can do is take leaps of faith, which may mean just staying in this moment until the next moment arrives.
Bleakness is inevitable in any paradigm shift. Even thinking outside the box doesn’t get us out far enough to gain the perspective we need. Sometimes, awareness alone of the Big Fat Be-with is enough, and again the F word – Faith that something will shift.
One very interesting facet of the breakdown process is that blame begins to take center stage. Individuals begin taking inventory for their part in the breakdown – whether personal or organizational. They begin to see how their personal choices impact on the company, the family or community. Blame is a fascinating strategy, which serves our desire to avoid condemnation, rejection, and humiliation. It’s not my fault allows us to ignore my own responsibility and allows me to supposedly get off scot free from any accountability. Over time though, all of us will have to meet ourselves, take inventory and willingly acknowledge our responsibility for things being the way they are. Not one of us is blameless.
I planted some wisteria seeds a couple of months ago. They’ve undergone a hard transition. I did the best I could to give them an environment rich with nutrients, plenty of water and sunshine. I watch with anticipation for signs of a breakthrough. Little by little their essential nature to burst beyond the hard protection of the seed pod unfolds. Tiny little shoots show themselves. They have endured incredible hazards, not of their own choosing. We rejoice in the breakthrough!
For individuals curious about spirituality in business this inevitable paradigm shift will require of them and their organization to bravely go into these breakdowns in service to what they know to be in service to something greater – a greater good for all.
Each business or business practice has emerged because of a calling a knowing, a vision, a dream: innovation comes out of these dark nights of the soul. Few of us are brave enough to follow our dreams and visions; few are bold enough be a stand for what they believe in.
Being a stand is a phrase used in personal and leadership forums. It means that who you be and how you be is in alignment with what you say is important to you. Though the phrasing sounds incorrect it’s important to understand that who you be and how you be is at the core of every choice you make; it is at the core of every choice your organization makes.
The major dilemma facing every business is the recognition of the humanity running the business. It’s balancing the elements of the people and the bottom line. Are the individuals just a resource, treated as such in service to the product, service and investors, or are people valued for their humanity, for their gifts, for their unique talents and perspective. How does an organization shift the balance? How do they allow a breakdown in service to the breakthrough?
Those of us in support of healthier business models and business practices; what’s our role? How do we empower people to empower themselves and others to facilitate this paradigm shift? It isn’t a maybe; it isn’t a perhaps. As the paradigm shifts we are readying ourselves for a global meltdown. Don’t panic, for it will be an amazing opportunity of greatest magnitude in cultivating awareness and actualization of a more spiritual orientation to every aspect of life.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Rosie Kuhn will be speaking on the topic of “Spiritual Wounding in the Workplace” at the San Francisco New Living Expo, Concourse Exhibition Center, Room #7, San Francisco, April 29th, 2011 at 7:00PM
—This article is contributed by Dr. Rosie Kuhn, founder of the Paradigm Shifts Coaching Group, author of Self-Empowerment 101, and creator and facilitator of the Transformational Coaching Training Program. She is a life and business coach to individuals, corporations and executives.