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The Soul of Business

The Soul of Business

When people speak about the soul — outside of a purely religious context — they’re usually referring to the qualities of something (or someone) that they see as fundamental to its identity. The word “soul” is shorthand for the innermost, truest or most obviously unique nature of whatever or whoever they are referring to.

Used in this way, the word can apply to people (where it means whatever they feel is quintessentially “them”), ideas (the part that cannot be taken away without destroying the whole), artistic works (the essence of what makes them great), and communities and organizations. The “soul” of an organization, for example, consists of those apects that make it uniquely what it is — for good or ill.

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In the workplace, the “souls” of many people meet with the “soul” of the organization. In a civilized organization, this is recognized: maybe not precisely in this way, but in the sense that time and space are allocated to treating people with dignity and allowing them to be themselves. Sadly, in others great violence is done to people’s souls. The “souls” of organizations like this are harsh and unforgiving. People are treated as “resources” to be used in whatever way most benefits the organization — and sometimes thrust aside when their usefulness is past. Their uniqueness is ignored and their innermost hopes and dreams seen as irrelevant to economic goals.

Individuals also do violence to their souls whenever they act in ways that they know, deep down, are at variance with who they truly are; when they accept situations out of fear, greed, or yearning for security even though they feel sick at heart for doing it; or when they fall in with convention for the sake of ambition or “not rocking the boat.”

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I do not think you can do damage to your soul with impunity. I am not talking in religious terms. I am speaking merely of that sense of yourself and what you feel, deep down, is right and good for you. Harming this — even compromising it regularly — does serious psychological damage that builds up into stress and depression. In extreme cases, it can become a kind of self-loathing that leads people into terrible actions.

Finding ways to make the workplace civilized isn’t simply a pleasant idea, like decorating a house to make it look welcoming or an attractive place to live. It’s essential to people’s well-being; essential too for the long-term health of the organization. David Whyte, writing in The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America

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    , puts it exactly.

    For consultants and management gurus, the soul is a slippery customer. One the one hand it may be dismissed completely. Many trainers and consultants maintain that the soul belongs at home or in church. But with little understanding of the essential link between the soul life and the creative gifts of their employees, hardheaded businesses listening so carefully to hardheaded consultants may go the way of the incredibly hardheaded dinosaurs. For all their emphasis on the bottom line, they are adrift from the very engine at the center of a person’s creative application to work; they cultivate a workforce unable to respond with personal artistry to the confusion of global market change.

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    Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman and a retired business executive. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his serious thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership; and his crazier ones at The Coyote Within.

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    Last Updated on October 9, 2018

    How to Write a Personal Mission Statement to Ensure Peak Productivity

    How to Write a Personal Mission Statement to Ensure Peak Productivity

    Most of you made personal, one sentence resolutions like “I want to lose weight” or “I vow to go back to school.” It is a tradition to start the New Year with things you want to achieve, but under the influence resolutions are often unrealistic.

    If you’re wondering when will be a good time to write a mission statement, NOW is the time to take a personal inventory to make this year your most productive year ever. You may be asking yourself, “How am I going to do that?” You, my friends, are going to write personal mission statements.

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    A large number of corporations use mission statements to define the purpose of the company’s existence. Sony wants to “become the company most known for changing the worldwide poor-quality image of Japanese products” and 3M wants “to solve unsolved problems innovatively”. A personal mission statement is different than a corporate mission statement, but the fundamentals are the same.

    So why do you need one? A personal statement will help you identify your core values and beliefs in one fluid tapestry of content that you can read anytime and anywhere to stay on task toward success.

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    For example, Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire came to the realization that he had lost track of what was important to him. After writing a personal mission statement, we saw him start his own business and he got the girl, Renee Zelleweger. Not bad, wouldn’t you say? A personal mission statement will make sure that, through all the texting, emailing and constant bombardment of on-the-go activity, you won’t lose sight of what is most important to you.

    Mission statements can be simple and concise while others are longer and filled with detail. The length of your personal mission statement will not be determined until you follow this simple equation to create your motivational springboard for 2008.

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    To begin your internal cleansing, you will need to jot down the required information in the following five steps:

    1. What are your values? Values steer your actions and determine where you spend time, energy, and most importantly, money. Be specific and unique to yourself. Too much generalization will not be as effective. It is called a “personal” mission statement for a reason.
    2. What are three important goals you hope to achieve this year? Keep your list of important goals small and give them a date. It is better to focus on the horizon and not the stars. Realistic goals are keys to ultimate success.
    3. What image do you hope to project to yourself? How you see yourself is how the world will view you. Think about this carefully. Your image should encompass what you look like and feel after you have achieved your goals.
    4. Write down action statements from each value describing how you will use those values to achieve your three goals. Start with “I will…”
    5. Rewrite your statement to include only your action statements. Make portable copies for your wallet, car or office.

    If you followed the steps above, congratulations! You have just written your first personal mission statement. Your personal statement will change over the years as your goals change. You can have more than one statement for the different compartments of your life such as your career, family, marriage, etc.

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    Writing a personal mission statement is an effective method to ensure your productivity is at its peak. It is an ideal tradition to start so that when next year rolls around, the outdated practice of resolutions will be something you permanently left in the past.

    Featured photo credit: Álvaro Serrano via unsplash.com

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