Last weekend, I attended a mindfulness retreat on our relationship to work and money.
It reminded me of the extent to which we operate within predetermined beliefs (or myths) about what we can/can’t do, and who we can/can’t be in our careers, relationships and lives.
The best medicine against toxic work culture is to succeed on your own terms in your own time.
The caging effect
If you’re feeling small, caged in or constricted on a regular basis, it’s likely that some of these limiting beliefs or cultural myths are engrained and actively operating in your mind. You may think they’re real; or perhaps you have an inkling that something isn’t right but can’t quite put your finger on it.
Recently, I’ve spoken about what a toxic work culture is and its most important antidote on a group level.
Of course, reforming the systems and structures that support and reproduce this toxicity is essential if not inevitable as we continue to evolve and don’t destroy the planet first. However, the only thing we really have control over is ourselves.
Toxicity is often experienced as a caging effect which drives us into victimisation, aggression or rescuing as reactive defence mechanisms. There are ways to overcome this harmful reactivity.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”.
- Eleanor Roosevelt
Healing through being
[Read on or watch the video]
From a transformational perspective, it’s our orientation towards our moment-to-moment experience that’s key. The ability to be with our experience as it unfolds – without reaction or acting out – is how we can clear our internal environment and have a positive influence on our external environment while minimising any negative impact from toxicity triggers.
Embracing our experience this way – with 100% acceptance and responsibility – is at the heart of any transformational approach. Mindfulness in particular is well suited to this (beyond its relaxation properties) and helps us unpack our experience, see the causes of toxicity more clearly as well as discover avenues for action.
It’s very much an orientation towards life practised over the long term. Different excellent frameworks exist of which a few are excellent in their depth and simplicity, for example Pema Chodron’s 4Rs or Tara Brach’s RAIN of compassion. Below I share Martin Aylward’s 3 Cs:
1. Contact: What’s your experience composed of in this moment? What are the sensations and emotions you’re present to from a physiological perspective? What’s your mind-body state?
2. Curiosity: What’s actually going on in this moment for you? Just the facts not the interpretation. What memories and narratives are being triggered or evoked as a result of your mind-body state? How are they fuelling toxicity in your mind-body? Who would you be without investment in these memories and narratives? Remember a thought has no power over you until you believe in it.
3. Care: So much cultural toxicity comes from a lack of care and compassion towards the tender spots in our experience – a habit that’s handed down through cultural myths around the danger of vulnerability. Over time this crumples our life energy and natural power. So it’s no surprise that the healing balm is the exact opposite: an attitude of empathy and spaciousness to hold our experience without judgement, retaliation or harshness. This unleashes our potential to respond from a place of true strength and wisdom that’s exponentially more effective.
The outcome of this process, repeated over time is different for each individual. For some it may be stepping out of work drama and recovering lost time and energy; for others it might be moving on to something new; and for some it might be a radical change in their level of engagement with work relationships and negotiations.
One things is certain: caring for your experience and yourself will boost your self-confidence and optimise your wisdom and ability to take the right action.
“We don’t solve our problems. We outgrow them.” – Carl Jung
The result of this re-orientation is a sense of ease, flow and confidence to deal with whatever comes into our experience; that we’ll have the inner-resources necessary or know where to get help.
A very tangible impact from personal experience and that I see in clients is the ability to tolerate the discomfort of being more visible in their work and life which enhances their leadership impact.
[Legends in the making] Dr M, having embraced visibility as a form of contribution, is being increasingly recognised as a leader in global eye health with invitations to speak at global events and features in the national and international press. Dr S is seeing her business opportunities skyrocket and has been named by Digital Economy as one of the 50 most powerful women in the global digital economy.
It can be challenging to look at some of the personal and cultural myths that have held you back for so long but this kind of deep transformational work has enormous payoffs – proportional to the courage you show and the magnitude of the myth you’re breaking out of.
And as you liberate yourself, you help to liberate countless others as well.
Have a great week,
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Dr Amina Aitsi-Selmi is an international Executive Coach. If you're a deep thinking professional or leader and would like help growing your influence, affluence and leadership impact on your own terms and in your own time, let's have a conversation. I offer one-to-one coaching, group coaching and transformational workshops in person and online. To discuss your unique situation and vision email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive an assessment questionnaire and book a time to speak. For more information visit www.doctoramina.com. We look forward to hearing from you.