May 21, 2012 at 12:02 PM
"For me, reframing work as play is a very effective metaphor"
Speaking for a Wiser Life
Levi Ben-Shmuel is a Tai Chi and Kabbalah teacher, and co-creator of "Sulam Chi: A Dance of Life."
In Part One of this series, I talked about an insight I had regarding bringing my spirit into the workplace via my video, "Stop Working and Start Playing!" In short, a powerful way to bring spirit into the workplace is via a shift in attitude. In this second and final installment, I want to explore what is underneath our attitudes about work and spirit (and in general our attitudes about life and ourselves) and how we can shift them.
Work was not always "play" for me. At one point in my life, work was literally making me sick. Early on in my years living in Israel, I had taken a job with a high-tech startup company in Jerusalem. The initial excitement over being part of a new venture with tremendous potential for growth was enough to keep my spirits high each day at work.
As the company grew from a tight team of 15 or so people to a more corporately-structured organization of more than 100, I started to lose enthusiasm for my job. The sense of camaraderie I loved in the early days was replaced by the highly-focused goal of meeting investors' sales targets. In addition, the person who became my boss was not one of my supporters. Our personalities clashed. I got the sense that he would rather not have me around than to find a way to work and succeed as a team.
As the months wore on, my energy got weaker and weaker. It got to the point where I arrived home totally spent. The level of tension I was holding due to stress at work, coupled with being depressed over it, was leading me to a total breakdown.
I had enough juice left to let my boss know something had to change. He figured out a clever way to make it happen. He brought in a smart go-getter to work under me. The guy was really in training (by me) to take my job! Even though it was a shock, getting the news I was fired was one of the happiest days of my life!
As my energy and enthusiasm for life returned, I acknowledged the underlying cause of my near collapse. I let my spirit get out of alignment with my day-to-day life.
At that stage of my life, I struggled with the knowing that a career in high tech was not my true calling. I did not have the skill to be patient and enjoy the work I was doing as I worked toward fulfilling my deepest passions. I let the rift between the two dampen my spirit, my performance, and my health. One of the metaphors that was running me at the time was, "Work is in the way of being the real me."
In his bestselling book, Awaken the Giant Within, Tony Robbins devotes a chapter to "The Power of Life Metaphors." Tony wrote:
A whole set of rules, ideas, and preconceived notions accompany any metaphor you adopt. So if you believe life is a war, how does that color your perceptions of life? You might say, "It's tough, and it ends with death." Or, "It's going to be me against everybody else..." All these filters impact your unconscious beliefs about people, possibility, work, effort, and life itself. This metaphor will affect your decisions about how to think, how to feel, and what to do. It will shape your actions and therefore your destiny.
Metaphors are powerful symbols filled with emotional intensity that do shape us in profound ways. For me, reframing work as play is a very effective metaphor. It is a powerful reminder that whether I like a situation I am in or not, I can bring a sense of spirit and joy into it because of the underlying spiritual message encoded in "work as play" for me.
This metaphor might not work for you. But chances are good that there is one, or more than one, metaphor that is part of your internal dialog impacting how much joy, creativity and passion you bring to your work and to your life.
What are some of the favorite metaphors you use to describe life? Are they positive and life affirming, or negative and draining? If you do discover a metaphor or two that is limiting, see what happens when you change it or discard it. Before you change it, take some time to explore it. You might find that it is not true! That discovery alone can be liberating and create more possibilities and joy in your life.
I'd love to hear experiences with discovering and shifting metaphors. Feel free to leave a comment, or send me an e-mail at levi (at) levibenshmuel.com.
Read Part I here.
Orginally posted on huffingtonpost.com.