I remember a Latin phrase we were taught in elementary school, "age quod agis". The literal translation is "do what you are doing", but in essence, it means "whatever you do, do it well" – whatever you do, do it with all of yourself.
When we do what we do with our whole self, it means working from our center, our heart and soul, not only from the neck up. Applying this to our work doesn't imply that anything airy-fairy, new-age, religious or subversive. But it does imply that we take a deeper approach to work - what might be called a spiritual approach.
This deeper approach embraces excellence, ethics and fairness. It implies asking questions - sometimes tough, challenging and uncomfortable questions. Things like:
- How can business promote sustainability and concern for the environment?
- What is fair and just compensation?
- When are outsourcing, downsizing and layoffs justified?
- How does business promote the family and/or social responsibility?
- How can I find my true calling?
- Is there such a thing as "enlightened" economics?
- How can we restore trust and integrity in the workplace?
- Can our workplaces be more ethical and humane?
- Does work have to be dull, boring, routine and meaningless?
- Is the separation of spirituality and the boardroom a "given?"
- Can people do the "right thing" without management control?
- Why do so many, when they reach the top of the ladder, find it resting against the wrong building?
- How do we respond to unethical conduct?
- How do we make money and meaning?
- How do we resist the "bribe and kickback" way of doing business?
- How do we avoid gossip and bullying and demonstrate humility and respect?
- What will I do with the rest of my life after retirement?
Moreover, with the downturn in the economy, many folks are discovering not only are they doing just fine with less - and being happier - but they wonder why they needed more in the first place.
So in today's context, I see "age quod agis" implying a greater integration of spirituality with business – an integration many are discovering is long overdue in light of the economic and financial crises we're currently experiencing.
There's no question people are becoming more introspective about who they are and how they are at work given the cataclysmic storms of the unethical, immoral, and illegal shenanigans we read and hear about daily. As Warren Buffet once said, "I've seen a lot of not-very-good human beings succeed in business; I wish it were otherwise." I'm sure many of us would echo that sentiment.
Given the unhealthy, unhappy, fear-based working environments many folks find themselves in, the creative energy that flows from the heart and soul might just be one catalyst that can transform today's workplace into a healthier, more engaging, more ethical place to spend the majority of our waking hours.
"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." [Ralph Waldo Emerson]
More and more of us are re-evaluating our values and motivations and discovering that when we approach work (and life) from a deeper, non-egoic place, we experience a greater sense of meaning, fulfillment and well-being than we did when we were driven by ego, greed and speed.
Many of us are also finding that spiritual and humanistic assets are more desirable than wealth and material gain and serve as greater psycho-emotional supports than sustaining an "image" or "persona" .
Coming to work with our whole self means focusing on "who you really are" - your being and your character within your team, your organization and in your civic and social community.
Coming to work with our whole self means consciously and proactively dealing with the "tension" between spirituality and spiritual values, and work.
Coming to work with our whole self means choosing to take the time to look up from our spreadsheets, to consciously focus on people and values, to speak out for what's right and to make an effort to act with compassion.
In today's workplace, constant competition, fear, gossip, bullying and stress are leading to personal unhappiness, dissatisfaction and ill-health - not a very productive way to live life at work.
- Do you check your heart, soul and values at the door when you go to work?
- Do you deal with the "whole person" in your relationships with others?
- Do you ever take time out during your workday to be quiet, reflect, meditate, breathe...?
- Are greed and speed two major driving forces at your workplace?
- Do you feel others see you at work as a "whole" person or simply as a "function"?
- Do you feel workplace decisions are generally ethical and fair? What about your decisions and choices?
- Does your organization give attention to social and civic concerns?
- Do people commonly do the "right thing," even when no one is watching?
- Does your organization take your family into account in some way? If not, how does that make you feel?
- Does your organization make efforts to reduce the dull and routine and add meaning to work. Do you?
- Do "not-very-good human beings" succeed in your workplace. How so?
- Can you envision a workplace where the Age quod agis approach to work is "business as usual?"
Coming to work with one's whole self provides a sense of calm and a perspective that gives one an edge that helps overcome angst, agitation, anxiety and aggression. Coming to work with a heart-soul-mind-driven focus provides physical and psychological balance, a balance that supports a workplace characterized by "we" instead of "I" vs. "you", and engenders a strong ethic of personal responsibility for, and self-management of, "who I am" and "how I am".
Coming to work with one's whole self also fosters a spiritual practice known as "discernment" – a way of quieting the mind and moving away from din and chatter, be it internal or external.
This helps us access the wisdom of the unknown (intuitive "right knowing", "right understanding" and "right action") instead of always forcing us to sue our "logical-contrastive -comparative" mind to find solutions which are often quick, simple, easy and just plain wrong.
Dealing with people
The most intangible and complex element in any business equation is people. "Age quod agis" means dealing with people by first dealing with yourself. As Socrates suggests, "know thyself."
Having a firm grasp of our core values, inner motivations and purpose, coupled with emotional maturity, is what allows us to behave with integrity and authenticity. In a well-managed organization, this aids the creation of a high-performing workplace where ethical behavior, trust, respect and meaning inform day-to-day activities.
"Age quod agis" means acting with wisdom, discernment, integrity, empathy and compassion – qualities that emanate from a deeper self – qualities that are not co-opted by greed or speed. It means doing the right thing, from moment to moment, with your whole self.