YOUR WORK OR YOUR LIFE To w a r d s a t r u e win-win
K R I S T PAU W E L S
WHO LOOKS OUTSIDE, DREAMS
A TENDENCY TO COMPARTMENTALISE
In our effort to control the pressurised world around us, we are thinking more than ever in terms of compartments. We categorise people and situa-
tions. This helps us to pigeonhole a definite reality that furthermore matches our preconceptions. This is instinctive behaviour and as such is completely natural. If, for example, back in our prehistoric incarnation, we saw a predator, then we would quickly learn to put it into the compartment labelled “Dangerous” so that we would survive another day. One can see this behaviour in young children too: once they have ventured too close to something hot, in goes the experience into the “Be careful, hot!” compartment. Our left hemisphere thus helps us to assess situations quickly and accurately. This is the side of our brain that creates order, sets limits, likes structure and is home to our self-awareness. The right side of our brain is intuitive, hungry for experience, more organic, associative and limitless in its consciousness. If our modern society had a brain, it would be easy to conclude that the left hemisphere was more dominant than the right. Just look at the sciences. Rational and analytical thinking has made sure that people and the world are divided into more or less manageable research areas, each with its own
MACHOS, SMART GUYS AND HOTHEADS
If we go about dividing up reality into compartments we are also more likely to use the purely rational side of ourselves as a yardstick for decisions about
our everyday survival in the jungle that is life. This means that even in our personal lives, the left hemisphere of our brains is going to dominate. Leaving little room for the right side, where feelings, intuition and experience are housed. The work environment is an apt example of this. In most companies, there are two dimensions at work simultaneously: the visible, rational reality and the invisible realm of emotions. We often speak in this context of the reality “above the table” and “below the table”. Above the table is rational reality as we know it, in which we interact with our colleagues. You play the role that you are handed or which you give yourself. It is a role that dictates whether you do or do not speak in meetings, take or avoid initiatives, speak loudly or softly. You do what is expected of you and play the game of action and reaction. When people have worked together for a long time, this reality is stuck in a pattern of consensual behaviour. This structure allows everyone to feel more or less safe as they play their specific roles. Each individual inhabits their little compartment and
acts accordingly. This often gives rise to caricatures in the workplace. Wherever you go, you will find the cheerful, the surly and the embattled colleague. Hereâ€™s a fun way to see how patterns have been established in your workplace: imagine you are the director of a TV series and you need to cast your colleagues in various roles. Who is the macho, who the hothead, who the reticent smart one, who is easy to tease (because he/she likes it), who the outcast and so forth. You will soon realise that itâ€™s relatively easy to typecast each of your colleagues. We all seek our compartments and conspire in this fabricated world of work. However, this is, of course, only a part of the picture. People often experience themselves as very different than the person they present to the world. The reality below the table is a secret one of feelings, intuition and convictions that cannot breathe the rarefied air of rationality above the table. But it is essential for our well-being. And it guides our behaviour. In an outside world built on reason, we have learned that it is not appropriate to show our innermost feelings. The deeper emotions that drive all human behaviour are often left to wither away in our unconscious or subconscious. We do not give this hidden reality a chance to surface, especially not in the workplace.
When we have too few of these escape routes at our disposal, it is natural that there will be breakdowns at work. Pent-up emotions will find their way out, often in the form of tantrums or a fit of tears. There is very little nuance in these moments. Our hidden reality also manifests in the old and often deeply held convictions that we bring with us from our childhood. These beliefs influence every situation in which we find ourselves, usually without us being aware of it. This type of driver is based on imprints on our behavioural patterns. Imprints can be the result of traumatic experiences or simply the way we were raised. For example, if someone was made to shoulder a lot of responsibility in the family in which they grew up, then they will be more likely to take the blame for situations in their adult environment. Or if someone was repeatedly told that they were worthless, in later life they will often compensate by trying to act strong. Thus we are all living with old, fixed beliefs that we cannot even remember but which dictate our behaviour. When all those secret emotions and old convictions huddle together in the dark for long enough they tend to join forces to create a bunch of even deeper existential fears. These are
the shadow areas of your personality, in front of which hangs a big sign: No Entry. This is precisely because the fears have grown so huge that they plumb your depths and may even have the nerve to call into question your right to exist. Sometimes they dial up very deep, unresolved and repressed traumas. No wonder we do not go in search of them. On the contrary, we put a lot of energy into
WHEN ALL THOSE SECRET EMOTIONS AND OLD CONVICTIONS HUDDLE TOGETHER, THEY TEND TO JOIN FORCES TO CREATE A BUNCH OF EVEN DEEPER EXISTENTIAL FEARS.
ignoring them in the hope of avoiding any confrontation. This hidden level often asserts itself in fearful images that may also appear in nightmares. It is also the realm that can drive people over the edge. It is not so difficult per se to seek out your own unconscious fears. The simple question “What would drive me insane?” is a good start. This places little antennas in your psyche that can feel their way into your no-go zone. ‘To have to always sit in a crowded, noisy place. That would drive me mad. But I don’t see what that has to do with my subconscious shadow areas.’ This was a comment from someone to whom I explained this concept. Her reaction is understandable because this is, after all, about a side of ourselves that we never see.
deprived of oxygen and his mother would tell anyone who would listen that “he’s not that bright but he works hard to do his best”. That conviction stayed with him and dictated his entire way of living and working. In order to keep up with his colleagues, he had made an unconscious pact with himself to work twice as hard as anyone else. Otherwise, he was unworthy of his position. The moment that he articulated this hidden reality to his team, the situation in the company changed. Once they knew what had motivated him, his colleagues really understood him – which resulted in less stress. Now they perceived his feverish conduct as a dynamic to be avoided rather than emulated. The man himself was able to adapt his behaviour and to relax more. He asked the people around him to warn him if he relapsed into his old habits. As a result, it was as though a fresh wind were sweeping through the corridors. New energy was released; people related to him and to each other differently.
words or sounds, taste or smell something. Anything can happen. When you gain a vision of not just a part of yourself but of your whole being from a deeper perspective, all these channels are addressed. Take your time during the exercise to calmly observe everything that comes to you through your senses. 3. Surrender to your unconscious impulses Know the feeling when something pops into your mind and then you immediately forget it? And then you ask yourself, what was it you wanted to say? (Followed by deciding that “it couldn’t have been important”.) It is precisely these intuitive impulses that you need to pay attention to and amplify. They are fleeting scraps of inspiration that your right-brain feeds to your mind. However absurd these passing thoughts may seem, pay at-
ACCEPT THAT YOUR STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS WILL NOT STOP BUT DO NOT FOCUS ON IT. INSTEAD, CONCENTRATE ON THE EMPTY MOMENTS BETWEEN THOUGHTS.
tention without passing judgment. During the exercise, quietly allow all your thoughts in but then immediately let them go. Accept that your stream of consciousness will not stop but do not focus on it. Instead, concentrate on the empty moments between thoughts. Try
to pick up what your mind is telling you. Keep it playful so that you do not become frustrated.
VISUALISATION EXERCISE: WHAT IS MY INNER INSPIRATION?
There are several ways to perform this exercise. You can read it through first, memorise it and then do the exercise step by step; you can ask someone else to read it out loud to you; or you can record the text and then play it back while you perform the exercise. You can also find an audio text at yourworkandyourlife.com. The first step is aimed at relaxation and allows you to focus on yourself. In the second step, we activate the imagination. Take your time with these first steps. The more intensely you experience them, the more powerful the later experience. Make sure that you have half an hour to yourself. Find a place where you feel comfortable and where you will not be disturbed. Switch off your mobile phone and any other potentially disturbing sources of noise in the space. Sit in a comfortable chair or, for example, cross-legged on a cushion. It is better to close your eyes during this exercise. This helps you to direct your attention inwards.
Your experience of this exercise does not necessarily have to be “nice” or “good”. It may even be that you stumble on a part of yourself that you subconsciously suppressed because you didn’t like it. But you release new energy by giving that part of yourself space as well. A man who tried this visualisation said afterwards that the exercise was a total failure. He had experienced and seen a lot, but the experience itself was not positive. He had managed to relax and to open up his imagination and senses. But when he asked himself the question and focused on the space between his thoughts, he felt trapped in a small, dark, damp and depressing place. His consciousness clung on to that for the entire duration of the exercise. His question as to what he should do with that image was pertinent. It appeared that his deeper perspective was a gloomy place and one that he did not want to be in. How could space and energy be drawn from such a source?
WHEN HE ASKED HIMSELF THE QUESTION AND FOCUSED ON THE SPACE BETWEEN HIS THOUGHTS, HE FELT TRAPPED IN A SMALL, DARK, DAMP AND DEPRESSING PLACE.
This experience was not, in fact, a failure. Even though it was unpleasant, information had been retrieved.
The man deliberately replayed this image and the accompanying feelings every day for a week. This changed his perspective. He slowly realised that he was not giving himself the space to live and that this came from a deep-rooted conviction that he didn’t deserve to exist. ‘It’s true’, he said, ‘that I really don’t give myself much space. I’m always there for others, always looking for company, inviting friends to my home every weekend to avoid being alone. But basically that’s exhausting. Maybe I have to revisit that dark cellar in myself in order to calmly figure out how I can enlarge that space.’ This insight brought a certain amount of emotions and grief to the surface but also relief. The man explained how he only realised now that he had lived with a great deal of tension caused by not wanting to be alone. That tension had diminished and become more manageable due to the deeper perspective that he had found.
THE PARTICIPATORY DRIVE
When you convert an unconscious driver into a conscious one, then you experience a new passion that gives your life direction and clarity. You are min-
ing prodigious energy stores that can now be consciously deployed in your life. We call this participatory drive. By allowing the unconscious parts of yourself to participate, you are empowering yourself. This is how we generate fresh inspiration and creativity. This is an energy source that you can return to time and again to feel more fully human. The more you return to this well, the more opportunities you create for yourself in the world around you and the more sense you give your own life. It is like a spiral or DNA strand that takes you inwards, each twist and turn leading to a more deeply felt level. The harder you hunt for your inner inspiration, the more you move along the path to self-transcendence. People sometimes approach me after a lecture to congratulate me on its content but hasten to add that the insights â€œonly apply to the happy fewâ€?. And that, while they understand what it is all about, one cannot expect a labourer or factory worker to ask themselves what the meaning of their life is. This is a way of thinking that I cannot agree with.
Obviously these are questions that have value for every human being, whether they work behind a cash register or in some creative profession. Actually, we find that people who have a less intellectually strenuous job demonstrate fewer inhibitions about discussing their lives from the deeper perspective.
emotions old beliefs
A manager in a government organisation explained that the outside world was constantly damaging her. She spoke particularly of her predecessor. He had been transferred to a different function but still managed to undermine her repeatedly. ‘I keep thinking that he is going to be friendly, open and constructive when a proposal of mine has to pass by him, but each time he is blunt, rude and always looks for my weaknesses. You are trying to apply a principle whereby everyone benefits in such a situation. I’d rather punch him in the face.’ The manager agreed to try to let go of her expectations about reactions when she submitted a proposal. Especially when it concerned her predecessor. From now on, she would only observe what happened and what sort of energy she was emitting. The result was that, as she put it, she could relativise and pay less attention to “the whining of her tormentor”. In addition, when drafting a proposal she found herself far more detached and clear-sighted about what she thought was best for everyone than she had been before. This also meant that she could articulate her ideas better. Finally, she felt that she had more space to deal with the nuanced reactions she received and to benefit from them.
MANUAL FOR CHANGE
Your view of the world changes when you use the ME-WE principle as a guide in your life. The way that you perceive the people and situations that you en-
counter alters. You find yourself instinctively exploring actions and reactions that will either strengthen or weaken you and your environment. In other words, you are much more present in the world. And you find that you build relationships that are different to how they were before: deeper, more satisfying and helpful in illuminating new dimensions of yourself. Imagine if we all tried to live according to this principle: the world would be a better place. For everyone. This principle can be extended to cover all sorts of areas of life, whether personal or in companies and organisations. Sales training for shop sales teams is a good illustration of this. The traditional approach is to coach staff in ways to increase sales and, more specifically, sell extra services alongside the products. However, these days it is of more interest to avoid coaching that is only aimed at greater profits and instead focus on the following question from the perspective of the ME-WE principle: â€œHow can I develop a durable and honest win-win relationship with each customer?â€?.
CHARISMATIC ENGAGEMENT PARTICIPATORY RESPONSIBILITY PERPETUUM MOBILE OF STRONG CONNECTIONS
When you apply the first two steps, individually or as a group, you trigger a perpetual motion machine of ever-stronger connections to yourself and the rest
of the world. First you silence the noise of daily life by asking yourself about your inner inspiration. And in the process of finding out, you tap into forgotten energy sources in yourself. By releasing them, you become more self-aware and confident. It is as if you have grown deeper roots that penetrate directly into your vitality. This accelerating power enables you to better understand reality. You feel like a more important part of the world and experience how what is good for someone else is also good
human trajectory so it can only work by a process of trying and failing. When your environment makes the appearance of the contrary, then you need to pop the bubble
WHEN YOUR ENVIRONMENT MAKES THE APPEARANCE OF THE CONTRARY, THEN YOU NEED TO POP THE BUBBLE OF PERFECTION THAT SURROUNDS YOU.
of perfection that surrounds you. Especially in your work environment. We are human and therefore enjoy the privilege of learning from repeatedly humbling experiences - so that we can live more intensely.
The president of a large, successful organisation developed a very people- and community-oriented corporate culture. He built an efficient organisation by placing a strong emphasis on good cooperation practices and by inviting his personnel to embark on personal learning trajectories. He never had problems attracting new talent: people wanted to come and work for him. The man was idolised and had over five hundred people eating out of his hand. He seemed to be perceived as almost a guru by some of his staff. And then he suffered a personal setback: a malignant tumour was found in his body. Fortunately, the diagnosis was made at an early stage of the disease. After undergoing a simple procedure, he could, if he
wished, simply continue to work without his employees even noticing that anything was wrong. There were those in his management team who believed that the president should keep his “problem” under wraps so as not to imperil the stability of the organisation. Surely he, the visionary, needed to appear strong and steadfast? What if people were to find out that their “model” was in fact highly vulnerable? In the eyes of some, the man had become the personification of the organisation’s success. After thinking it over for a while, he took the right decision: he told his family, followed by his personnel. He explained what had happened, what emotions it had triggered in him and what the recovery process would entail. The news came like a bombshell to his employees. But it also brought about a new di-
THE NEWS CAME LIKE A BOMBSHELL TO HIS EMPLOYEES. BUT IT ALSO BROUGHT ABOUT A NEW DIMENSION TO THE CORPORATE CULTURE.
mension to the corporate culture. There was no question of the staff feeling insecure or destabilised. On the contrary. The calm support that the man received from them was utterly touching. He felt no sense of isolation during his period of hospitalisation and rehabilitation. Along with this support came an outpouring of personal stories. People found it easier to share their own experiences
FIND THE EMOTION BEHIND EVERY RELATIONSHIP
When you endeavour to live and work in a participative way, you uncover an emotion in yourself and in your environment. It is exciting to become
aware of this and to keep seeking the emotion that exists behind the world as we know it. You will become more sensitive to non-mental language; to whatever cannot be put into precise words but still leaves an impression. Music, poetry, art, a good film, a fascinating television series or a chance encounter can all provoke deep emotions. They speak to the unconscious, non-rational side of you and can offer a
ART CANNOT SAVE THE WORLD, BUT IT DOES HELP YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORLD INSIDE OF YOU.
direct line to your innermost self. That is why it can be so difficult to rationally explain why something has touched you. This is wonderful. Art cannot save the world, but it does help you understand the world inside of you. It is fascinating to realise that you become more sensitive in your daily life to the intrinsic emotions that guide peopleâ€™s words and actions. You learn to gauge better what is behind the words they speak by regularly delving below your own surface and approaching life from the win-win perspective. You learn how to interpret and comprehend the emotional language behind the words. This results in a far more
nuanced and dense picture of the situations in which you find yourself. You can practise this skill by simply deciding to not only listen to words but to the emotions that are hidden behind them. You will be amazed by how much feeling there is on the surface of every conversation. We are just no longer accustomed to seeing it. When you notice and articulate your own and your interlocutor’s emotions, you understand each other’s reality and the relationship you build is a more nourishing one. The more you do this, the easier it becomes and the more you can “see” and judge the situation. This is particularly helpful when you feel trapped in something. You can perceive and experience so much more in a situation if you open up your own subconscious and are receptive to the people around you. A local politician was finding it difficult to deal with her constituents constantly approaching her on the street, in the shops and on the market square to talk about the asylum centre that was about to open in their town. This was in a region where many international war refugees were seeking shelter. She suffered a daily dose of arguments such as “These people should stay in their own country”, “There are already enough of them here” and “I don’t understand why you favour foreigners over the poor in your own country”.
TIME FOR ACTION
The transition period that we are currently going through in the economy and society is one of great uncertainty and confusion. There is a new kind of warfare being waged around the world. Large multinationals are more powerful than ever before. Politics is searching for its grassroots and usually getting bogged down in day-to-day issues. The media is trying to strike a balance between rating figures, power and objectivity. Religious systems are looking for more breathing space. And a large faction of the financial world is probably heading straight for the next crisis of values. We can all sense this and it makes us look carefully at new ways to cope in these precarious times.
CHANGING THE FOCUS FROM ‘EGO’ TO ‘WE GO’ Anyone can get lost in the jungle of life and work. We may end up pursuing worldly goals and forgetting what really drives us and makes us happy. Krist Pauwels invites you to break out of the compartments of modern life and shows you new ways to tap into your creative energy. This book provides practical exercises and case studies and is the culmination of fifteen years of successfully coaching people and organisations.
Krist Pauwels (1971) is a co-founder and partner at the communications agency choco, an organisational coach, the author of De menseneconomie (2011) and a speaker at company and governmental events.
Published on Sep 25, 2017