Not too long ago I ran into a couple of my clients as I was walking out of a nearby Starbucks.
They beckoned me over to join them and, with coffee thrown in as an inducement, I agreed.
They both work for the same organization, one in which I have been doing some work for the past several years.
Naturally, it didn’t take long before the topic shifted to life in the workplace.
Clearly, one of them was not having a particularly good day and he spent some time telling us how unhappy he was in his career, how it had become “just a job” to him and how he had decided that all he would do was the minimum required to prevent drawing negative critical attention to himself. He was going to “do the least he could get away with.”
His rationale for reaching this decision was triggered by his creeping disillusionment with the organization, its management and treatment of its staff.
He went on to explain the system of favouritism that constantly rewarded underperforming “game players” with promotions and other opportunities and that the organization was managed by deceit, deception and dishonesty.
Ergo, his decision to limit his performance to absolute minimum.
He also railed against a few of his co-workers who, although they earn exactly the same wage as he does, work extremely hard and give more than 100% each day to a company that is unworthy of such effort.
He explained that these top producers were doing far more than they were being paid to do and by so doing, were “betraying” those who had been so cruelly victimized by the organization.
It made no sense to him. As far as he was concerned they were “stupid” and their behaviour was traitorous.
And, of course, the organization is taking advantage of their stupidity.
He went on in this vein for some time before his friend interrupted him and said, “You know, up until very recently, I felt exactly the same way as you. I have to tell you though, I have come to believe that you are dead wrong in your thinking and here’s why I believe that.
“I was feeling sorry for myself some time ago,” he told us, “and I began to focus on all the things in my life that I had done repeatedly that had led to me feeling enormously disappointed in myself.
“I thought of all the times I had tried to quit smoking only to find myself lighting a cigarette after three days or three weeks and then go through this enormous sense of failure, disappointment, anger, self-hate, and all those feelings we experience when we have let ourselves down.
“And it suddenly dawned on me that what I was doing, each time I underperformed, or didn’t meet my commitments to myself or failed to reach my own goals was that I was depriving my soul of energy, robbing my soul of its own very being.
The sadness and disappointment I always felt when that happened was at the core of my being – my very soul – and I, by my own thoughts and actions was starving it of the very oxygen it needed to thrive.
“I realized in that moment that we are put on this earth to nourish our souls, to rise to meet difficult tasks and to become better people and I further realized that in order to do so I could no longer disappoint myself, I had to meet, or exceed, the expectations I set for myself.
“And while this conversation was taking place in my head my mind drifted off to my work performance where, for the past year or more, just like my friend over here, I had only performed at the absolute minimum level out of some distorted viewpoint that told me that that was all I was paid to do, that I would be paid no more for doing more and that those of my colleagues who work far harder than I and yet receive the same compensation were just fools being manipulated by a corrupt system.
“And in that moment I realized that all I was accomplishing by allowing myself to think that way was to further contribute to the depletion of energy in my own soul.
“I realized that for my soul to receive full nourishment I have to perform at a maximum level every single day, not to please my bosses, but simply to be true to myself.
I have to do this for no reason other than because I can.
“And in that moment a strange thing happened to me. For the first time in years I felt lighter, happier, more content, and right away my life began to change. I was a new person at work, I became one of the highest producing people in my office, and even though this was not recognized by anyone I knew, I felt great and I felt proud and most importantly I felt nourished.
‘And all of this because of the simple realization that told me that when we don’t push ourselves, and I mean push extremely hard, in everything we do, – when we only make minimal effort – regardless of our self-justification for doing so – and when we frequently give up, then each time we do that, a small part of our soul dies and in order to breathe life back into that lost part of our soul we have to reach for excellence in everything we do.
“And today, almost a year later, I haven’t smoked a cigarette since that very day and nor did I miss not doing so.
I get up every morning and do the very best job I am capable of doing. Sure, there are things that happen that I don’t agree with, and I see some of our managers behave in ways that I believe are wrong or even unethical but I don’t allow any of that to affect me. I have to be true to myself by be the best I can.
“I realized that I never appeared before a judge who sentenced me to ingwork here. I am free to leave any time I choose but until the day arrives that I leave this organization I will deliver one hundred percent of my capability each day.
“For my soul.
“And so to you my friend,” he said taking his eyes off me for the first time and staring straight into his colleague’s eyes, “I really suggest that right up until the day you leave this organization you commit to excellence with every ounce of resolve you have.
“Don’t do this for any reason other than to replenish your soul which right now is being starved of energy by the discontent, anger and depression you have brought into your life.
“So, my friend, please, for the sake of your soul and your peace of mind make every day at work a grand performance.
“You’ll be so glad you did and your soul will start to sing”
Great words for all to ponder, don’t you think?
Till we read again.
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