Do you realize that we spend about the same number of waking hours at work as we do in our homes?
This means that your workspace is really a second home. Whether you have an office, a cube or a desk, this space should still be a warm and inviting place that supports you in being your best. And if your workspace is your truck or a suitcase or you’re out in the field, that’s OK too. This process applies to any situation.
Now I realize that “warm and inviting” is not how most of us would describe our work environments. In fact, there may even be rules that prevent you from personalizing or decorating you space in any way — which totally sucks but we will find ways to work around even the most draconian policies.
Side note here: If you are in the position to remove said draconian policies at your organization, please do. I promise you will increase employee engagement and productivity if you allow people to bring their full and authentic selves to work. I’m not saying that folks should be able to put a bean bag on top of their desk or hang a hammock from the ceiling, but people do need a little leeway to make their workspace comfortable.
So back to us… The goal here is to make your workspace an ongoing touchstone for the person you want to be – that soulful, compassionate person who brings your highest self to your organization, colleagues, and clients.
Before we get in to the details, let’s first do a little exploring and dreaming. You may want to refer to the journaling exercise we did in Episode 1 as well, but if you don’t have it with you, that’s OK too.
Think about these 2 questions:
- What qualities represent your soul self or highest self?
- What activities bring you closest to your soul self?
Pause for a minute and jot a quick list for yourself. Then come back.
Now, list or draw images or symbols that represent either those activities, or the qualities that represent your highest self.
For example, if you want to be open-hearted and compassionate, you might think of a heart, or Mother Theresa, or a sunflower. There is no right answer and in fact, your list of images and symbols is completely unique to you. Perhaps it’s a cat, or a truck, or even a hotdog!
Consider colors too. Maybe there are certain colors that are either meaningful or uplifting for you. As long as the connection is clear to you and instantly reminds you of that quality or experience, you’re good.
Pause now and make your list or drawings.
If you’re stuck, here are some of mine. Both Buddha and Quan Yin statues remind me of meditation and mindfulness. There are a few nature photos that show me how abundant the universe is. Stacking stones remind me of balance and harmony and my kitties are a symbol of unconditional love. And I have a few items that are tied to specific and meaningful experiences for me, like a set of polished stones a dear friend and mentor gave me that represent my chakras. And a red stapler (yes, like the one Milton had in the movie Office Space) that reminds me to be flexible with change.
This process might unfold over a few days as you think about it. That’s OK. The goal is to generate a lot of possible images or symbols that are meaningful to you. Consider this a work in progress that will change as you grow.
Our next step is to consider how and where you can use these symbols in your workplace. The goal is to make your work area a constant reminder of your best self. So that we have little touchstones that we see throughout the day, and every day.
This is where we may need to get creative. You may work in a place where you can easily place a few of these items on your desk, and it’s all good. I’m very luck in that currently, I have a workplace that supports creative and authentic expression.
So my desk has my little Buddha statue, a zen-like contemplation box where I can doodle in sand, and my set of chakra stones. Because I can be so open, I am happy to have these out on my desk and it’s also fun to answer questions about them when my co-workers ask.
But I have not always been in such an environment. When that is the case, I get more stealth. I will switch to nature photos, quotes, and even vague connections that only I can see but are deeply meaningful to me. To the average person, my desk can look for plain and corporate yet it’s loaded with tons of my own personal meaning.
I want to empower you to claim your right to have a workspace that represents the real you, the best you, and reminds you to be compassionate, mindful, and conscious.
While your desk top is an easy starting place, it is my no means the limit. In fact, I encourage you to go beyond the flat surface of your desk since your work also happens in various rooms and buildings as well as on the phone, computer and mobile devices.
Consider these possibilities – the options really are endless:
- The background photo and screensaver on your computer should uplift you.
- Create bookmarks in your browser to videos that inspire you, for when you need a quick pick-me-up. I love all things Brené Brown, Soul Pancake, and Peadoodles.
- Likewise, bookmark websites that support you. One of my favorites is Desk-Yogi.com. They have amazing mindfulness resources and you can even customize for how “private” you need to be based on your work environment.
- Tape meaningful things to the edge of your screen/monitor. I have my favorite photos of my family and kitties as well as some powerful quotes that inspire me.
- If you have a door, what’s on the back of your door that you see when it’s closed? That’s a great space for a meaningful symbol for you.
- How about the drawers? I have built an entire mini-sanctuary inside a drawer that no one could see but me. Put visual touchstones in your drawers that you see when you open them up.
- I have even taped inspirational quotes and images on the underside of my desk and drawers because it gave me a hidden sense of power.
- Another thing to try is to apply feng shui concepts to your workspace. You can find a good bagua map online and set up symbols or colors that activate the different areas. This can be done so subtly that no one else would know but you can reap the benefits of this ancient practice.
- Consider your sense of smell and touch too. I usually have a candle or bottle of essential oil that I can smell when I need to get grounded – lavender is especially great if I am feeling stressed out.
And look beyond your actual desk for more opportunities. I keep a nice, soft shawl at work that feels really good. It might look like I am putting it on because I am chilly but sometimes I really wear it into staff meetings because I need to be wrapped in something that makes me feel protected and confident.
I also put some symbols in my notebook as well as on my smartphone. My phone has images and apps that are all my secret symbols. This is good because I take these things into meetings with me so I have them at hand in times when I might feel the most challenged in being my best.
Here’s one no one knows about. In my job, I do a lot of public speaking, often to very large crowds. While I don’t really get nervous any more, I always like to remind myself to be a vessel for what that group of people needs to hear – to let go and let God show up. This means I need to be willing to step away from my carefully timed presentation to go where the souls in the room need for their highest and best good.
So in my presentation bag, I keep a small stuffed animal of a barn owl. Given to me by my daughter, this image is a personal totem for me that is all about letting the wisdom of the Divine lead. No matter where I go, that owl is either tucked under the podium or just off stage in my bag.
As you can see the possibilities are endless. The goal is to fill your work space with the things that work for you. So have fun with it. These symbols should uplift you and feel almost like a talisman against bad juju.
Two other things you might want to consider. I think that having something living in your workspace is nice too. An easy one is a plant. Our workspaces can often feel so industrial but a plant can be a great symbol for thriving, no matter where you are. Just be sure you pick a plant that works well indoors.
Another thing I have done, and this depends on where you work, but having a pet at work is awesome. Some companies allow dogs, which is really cool. I don’t have a dog but I discovered the perfect little desk pet on accident when a student gave me one as a thank you gift.
Adam worked at a fish store and one day he brought me a Betta fish. Bettas actually can breathe air so they don’t need any complex filtration or oxygenation system. And because their natural territory is 8 inches, they love to be in small bowls, and do just fine being fed every 3-4 days.
What I didn’t expect was that they have pretty fun little personalities. There is no question that my Bettas know when I am there, and they come over and interact with me, practically wagging their tails like a dog. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have my own personal little friend at work who is always happy to see me.
My final tip is to locate a space away from your workspace that you can use as a personal retreat. Sometimes the stress or challenges of work can be overwhelming, so I think it’s important that we all have a personal sanctuary to go to. This doesn’t have to be fancy but it needs to be a spot to can go to when you need it.
Perhaps it’s a bench outside that is quiet and away from the crowd. Or there might be a lounge in another building that speaks to you.
If you can’t find something nearby, walk the few blocks around your work area and see what you can find. Another business might have an open courtyard with a fountain. Or perhaps you might find a cozy corner in a coffee shop. It could be a small patch of grass under a tree, or even a little art gallery.
Again, it’s unique to your personality and your area but search until you find something that works for you and that you can get to easily.
If you commute in your car, your car can also be a sanctuary, especially if you already set it up using the tips we talked about in Episode 2.
So that’s it. For me, this process has really helped me bring my higher self to work. Using symbols, quotes, and images, I have surrounded myself with reminders that make it really easy to remember who I really am—a bright and divine soul that has love to share with the world.
And as I connect to that part of myself throughout the workday, I find that it is easier to see the bright and divine souls of others. We are all souls with day jobs and seeing that has increased my sense of connection and compassion.
I’d love to hear how this process is going for you. Feel free to share your experiences, photos of your soulful workspace or your questions and comments.
Also, check out the other features on SoulSchoolOnline like The Wheel of Wholeness or The Soul Toolbox. Or my other site BrittAndreatta.com.
Let’s connect again with Episode 4 of Souls@Work, coming soon. If you’d like to listen to these posts as podcasts, visit Soul Growth Radio.
I am happy to be taking this journey with you!