Even if you clean toilets for a living, you can find spiritual satisfaction in your job, according to Associate Professor of Business Richard Peregoy. Everyone has talents and things they’re better at doing than others, but spiritual satisfaction isn’t really about that. Nor is it about religion or spirituality at work; plenty of companies try to incorporate these things into their cultures, some even providing on-site chaplains.
Finding spiritual satisfaction at work is, rather, about the work itself being spiritual — individually endeavoring to be mindful in one’s work, reflecting on what one is doing and why one is doing it. Here are three ways to achieve this mindfulness and, through it, spiritual satisfaction — or at least get a little closer to the attainment.
The key, first and foremost, is (again) mindfulness, which can be achieved through meditation. You want to open your mind to what’s passing in front of you, striving for awareness without judgment. While most begin with a focus on breathing, there are as many forms of meditation as there are people. Still, a simplified formula might be to breathe, contemplate and discern.
In the “discernment” phase, you take something, observe it, then put it aside before taking any action. The idea is to see it from another perspective before you implement it and to learn to consider paradox. Things are not always or even usually either/or; often, they are and. Discernment is about avoiding rash judgments and figuring out how to synthesize where it might not be possible to immediately draw a conclusion. It is a step in the process of moving forward.
2. Consider the greater good.
No job you do is all about you. If you’re cleaning toilets, you’re doing it for the people who will be using them. Clean toilets provide comfort and some degree of peace. Dirty toilets can grate on already irritated nerves, but clean toilets might actually soothe. They can provide a moment to take a breath and say, “All right; this isn’t so bad.”
“Religious” can differ from “spiritual” in that if you were cleaning toilets for a religious purpose, it might be because you felt it was what God wanted you to do — because it was your way of serving God. The spiritual interpretation, on the other hand, is more along the lines of, “I’m doing this because it’s part of the essential nature of me as a person and ties me into the universe.” The two are not mutually exclusive, but you can be spiritual without being religious.
Spiritual satisfaction can be achieved apart from any religious or secular fulfillment by asking, “What is it I do? How does it benefit others?” Your job becomes less about being the beneficiary of a good feeling and more about doing it simply because it is good to do.
3. Let go of perfection.
This is actually a principle in management: that one is leading others toward continuously improving. It is not about seeking perfection but, rather, simply doing better than you did in the past.
This has to do with mindfulness, as well: take sustainability, for instance. Sustainable business practices require each person individually to turn off the lights, take out the trash, be careful with the land, and so on. Perfection is overwhelming, but everyone can try to do a little better every day — and simply knowing that you’re actively trying to improve, to do what you can for the world beyond yourself, is a big step toward spiritual satisfaction in your work.
Learn more about Richard Peregoy’s research on spiritual satisfaction at work.