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Posted on February 27, 2015

Finding Wisdom at Work

When was the last time you had a truly extraordinary day at work? I’m lucky enough to say that mine was yesterday, when I attended one of the most interesting daylong events of my entire career.

The event was Wisdom at Work, which was held in conjunction with Wisdom 2.0 – a conference that explores the intersection of mindfulness and technology, and that has drawn 2,500 attendees to San Francisco this weekend.

Wisdom at Work was considerably smaller – only 50 attendees or so – and it’s designed to create a space for participants to explore their gifts and true purpose, and discuss how to integrate them into their work. Over the course of the day, we bonded deeply as a group, shared courageously and ultimately became a tribe of colleagues in our own way.

I’m still synthesizing everything I learned from this amazing group of people, but in the meantime, here are a few lessons I brought home with me on how we can all bring more wisdom, meaning and ultimately joy into our work.

Bring your whole self to work. Every day.  Have you ever noticed how we try to compartmentalize our lives? Think about the term “work-life balance,” for example – as though work isn’t one of the most important aspects of our lives! What are the things you care about deeply and fully – your values, creative endeavors, fun activities, family commitments? Own them. Talk about them at work. Share them with your colleagues. Deep, authentic connections make life more alive, and one of the best ways we can start to build those connections at work is by understanding each other as human beings.   

Be vulnerable. I’m an unabashedly emotional person. Yes, I’m that stereotypical woman who tears up when I’m proud of my team and when we’ve accomplished something big together. I do it when my team members share something that’s clearly difficult for them to talk about, too.  I also have a habit of shouting “ooh, ooh, ooh!” when I hear a new idea I like. I used to see these things as flaws, but I’ve recently changed my mind. So what if I show a little emotion? It shows that I care deeply about my team and our work, and that’s not something I’m ashamed of. So if you care deeply about a project, say so. Tear up a little. Get so excited that you’re vibrating in your seat. We could all use a little more genuine emotion in the workplace.

Move your body. Yesterday we took a few breaks throughout the day to dance, move and feel what it’s like to be grounded and physically present in our spaces. None of these breaks were particularly long, but they all had an incredibly energizing effect on me. I’ve recently started conducting walking meetings with members of my team, and we’ll soon be instituting daily team movement breaks. Movement keeps us healthy, refreshes the brain and opens space to look at problems in a new light.

At the end of the day, one of the members of my small group asked everyone to share the one piece of advice that has helped them on their own journey. While everyone stated it a little different, the central idea was the same: staying conscious. Being in the present moment. Being open to life’s possibilities, without clinging to anticipated outcomes. If we can combine this spirit with a willingness for real and healthy connections, wisdom – and magic – at work are endlessly possible.

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