Growing a New Business #1:
“I Hate to Work” – The Test
By Eric Hellman
About two months ago I awoke early one morning... and in that liminal space between dreaming and waking, I heard myself say: “I hate to work.”
So what’s that about?! I asked myself, rousing enough to reach over for my pen and journal. And for the next hour or two, I wrote down all my thoughts and feelings about work: My hates, my loves, my dislikes and satisfactions, the pressures I put myself under and my self-expectations. My ego also royally entered the picture at one point as the thought came, “How can I ever say this to others? I’m supposed to be the director of a centre for spirituality and work!”
What this journalling and reflection showed me was that I have done many things in my career that I have loved. I’ve also grown hugely – in how I listen within, let spirit lead, think before speaking, listen to others, and come from centre and presence.
But the biggest insight which came to me was that, for most of my life, I have worked under an inner pressure: a “should,” a “have to”, an “I must.” This thinking shows up as soon as I begin my work day: “What do I need to do first?” I ask myself. “Which emails should I read? What do I have to complete, and when?” And it continues throughout the day. "What do I have to do next?" "I should reply to one more email." "I’d better keep working," even if I don't feel like it. And so on...
A Spirituality of “Should”?
What I realized is that it’s also the way I’ve approached my spiritual practice. After discovering my inner voice many years ago, and deciding that I wanted to follow it as best I could, I began to subtly push myself. What am I being called to do? What’s the right thing to do now? Am I keeping up with my spiritual practice? Along with these thoughts came a sense of having to follow 'something or someone' in life, and that if I didn’t, there would be consequences. I wouldn’t be being responsible. I might not be doing “God’s will.” Or something bad would happen. It seems that my desire to be true to that inner voice often hid a fear of what would happen if I wasn’t.
Later that same day, I had the opportunity to explore these ideas at length with two close friends. This was extremely helpful as I was able to talk out loud about my beliefs about work, responsibility and shoulds. About how money flows, where it comes from, and whether there really is a ‘universal supply’ or source. Some ideas started to gel inside me.
The next morning, I even mentioned this to my mother, who said, “You, too, eh?!” She then spoke about our family pattern of ‘feeling responsible’ – a script I knew only too well.
So Let's Test It...
Through all these conversations, what I came to me was that I didn’t want to continue feeling this way. So I decided I would try a little test project. What if I began to listen to Love’s voice within me, instead of the should, have to’s and must do’s? How would it feel? Would it work? Would I still get things done?
With that decision, I began asking myself a new question: “What would I like to do next?” Not from an ego indulging or impulsive place, but rather a more intuitive way. Instead of pushing myself to do what I thought I should do, I would sit back, relax, and listen to my feelings. Turning to my inner awareness, I began to gently watch for the next thing that came willingly into mind – and then follow that.
And that’s how I’ve been trying to work and live for the past two months.
Sixty Days Later: The Results
So what’s happened since that fateful morning?
At times, my ego has had a field day. This new practice has triggered all kinds of thoughts about what could/would go wrong, if I simply began listening to this question inside. “You’ll be irresponsible. You won’t do what you need to. You won’t be good, or kind, or take care of others. This is just selfish and egotistical. You’re just trying to get off the hook from doing the tough things.” At other times, I’ve simply gone back into my old pattern of pushing myself to ‘get through’ whatever I was doing.
That’s part of it, but not all. Because my biggest learning so far... (drumroll please)...
is that the test has actually worked.
Over the past two months, I have felt more permission, more lightness and more ease in my work than I have had in years. I feel more kindness and gentleness towards myself. I laugh more and delight more in what I’m doing. (I actually find myself getting excited about it, repeatedly!) And I’ve had more of - and a bigger - smile on my face than I can remember in a long time. That’s on the inside.
On the outside, I’m seeing results too. I’ve experienced more flow and synchronicities than usual. I arrive at places at just the right time, and connect with people unexpectedly. I start things more easily, and stop those I’m laboring at more easily as well. And yes, I am getting things done.
Since the test began, I’ve completed two websites (as mentioned in my previous article). I’ve done more writing, and it’s coming more easily, quickly and clearly than ever before. Recently, I did a project for a client in which I began with my normal ‘get it done” driver. After noticing it, I shifted to a “don’t push it” and “do I feel like doing this right now?” approach. I felt better. The ideas flowed. AND the result was such an amazing job that it still leaves me feeling giddy inside.
Overall, I am integrating life and work in a happier way than I can scarcely remember. At times I still find it hard to listen to that Peace, Joy, Permission or Flow inside. But now I feel I have a choice. I also still question, “Will it all turn out alright? Will the money flow, will the work come...” But for me, that is still part of the test. So my test project continues.
Why do I share that?
I believe that everything we do carries a consciousness with it. A consciousness of Love – from the whole mind, Spirit, God or the Universal Source within us; or a consciousness of Fear, from the separate mind, negative ego or small self within.
In my work, and the new businesses I am starting, I want to be a channel for the Universal. To give people Love. To support them to live and work and heal and make change in the world from this consciousness. And I know that the clearer I am within, the more I am able to do that.
I also want to be happier in my work, so that the joy comes rippling through in what I am doing.
Finally, I want to continue what I call the “test” of spirit + work: Does this stuff really work? If we come from Love, inner guidance, trust and connection to the Universal, will the things of the world actually get done? Will the money really come? Will we be able to heal and grow our lives and our world? It’s what we’ve been told; it’s what many of us want to believe is true. But for me, it’s still something to be demonstrated...
So, what does ‘listening to Spirit’ or ‘following God’s will’ mean? I thought I knew. I’ve had countless experiences of guidance and direction over the years. But in these past two months, I’ve come to feel a kinder, gentler guide in my life. I now call it listening to Love’s voice. And doesn’t that actually make sense? If the Universal really is “Love,” wouldn’t listening to it be an experience of that love in our lives?
I don’t know about you. But for myself, I think it’s worth a test...
Eric Hellman is a communications & change coach, and Director of the Centre for Spirituality at Work. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.