I’ve been writing recently about the rewilding work Angus and I do with couples helping them to return to the natural state of love and harmony in their relationships. But another area of work we do where rewilding is transformative is in organizations.
I believe it was in a David Whyte talk where I heard him ask the audience, “Do you know why you should leave your car window open a crack before going into the office?” His response was, “So the 99% of you that you leave in the car when you go into the office doesn’t die.”
No organization wants this for their employees, and many go to great lengths to take care of their people. Nonetheless, surveys continue to show abysmally low employee engagement and satisfaction rates. Unfortunately, corporate leaders often do not understand how to support their employees with engaging fully and creatively.
Even when corporate leaders see it is the pressure people put on themselves to do well that gets in the way of them being their best selves at work, they don’t know how to address this for fear of negatively impacting performance. This leaves the people who really care and want to do well at the mercy of their self-imposed pressure. Unfortunately, pressure and busyness are seen as the norm for working life. They are the cost of doing business. And even worse, stress can be worn as a badge of honor and grind can be seen as requirements for success. Working harder appears to be the one-size solution for improvement. Forget about family and friends, health, and rest and relaxation — this is business.
How can such a pressured approach truly be good for business when it does not bring out the best in people? How can a culture that honors depletion and puts people at risk for health issues and burnout positively impact the bottom line?
A grueling environment does not foster thriving, only the survival of a few!
Chronically high stakes corporate cultures do not create a fertile environment for the best ideas, optimal performance, resilience, sustainable effort, joy, fun, confidence, effective interpersonal communication, goodwill, and all of the other qualities that make up the fabric of a healthy culture.
It should be common sense to recognize that we perform our best when we are relaxed. We know we are our best selves when we don’t have a lot on our mind. We are naturally confident, creative, resourceful, and good communicators when we are at ease in our own skin. This is our rewilded state. This is our natural state. At first, it may seem counterintuitive to think that a relaxed state is what produces the best performance, but we all know that when we are in a flow state productivity feels effortless.
We don’t need to learn how to “manage” our stress in order to experience this natural state. The stress we experience naturally dissipates when we understand its source. There is one source of stress and that is taking our negative thoughts seriously, then trying to fix them and ourselves. Our drive for self-improvement works against ourselves. When we allow the natural state of who we are to flourish, that is when we experience our best. Yes, there will be perceived imperfections. That does not mean they are a problem. The bigger picture is far more important than making sure every element is perfect.
The bigger picture of feeling at ease and comfortable will bring out your best ideas and solutions even though the path will include crazy ideas and ones that don’t work. Excellence is very different from perfection. Perfection does not exist and the pursuit of it results in lower performance, less happiness, and more stress. Excellence is available. It does not come from self-manipulation and pressure. It comes from following our wisdom and being ourselves. It comes from being willing to take action and to learn along the way.
Rewilding is a natural phenomenon. In nature, rewilding focuses on restoring the natural harmony of an ecosystem and demonstrates how the whole of the ecosystem is greater than the sum of its parts and self-sustaining. In a corporate environment, this translates to creating an organizational culture that allows room for the whole person on all levels — physical, mental, emotional and spiritual — to show up. This type of work culture does not compartmentalize the work self from the human self. It recognizes the value of all forms of knowing and the importance of caring for the whole person for optimal performance and this ultimately, positively impacts the bottom line.
This rewilded culture breathes life and vitality into the workplace by helping people feel comfortable being themselves by helping them understand how their minds work. This allows them to access greater inner freedom and the potential that is their birthright. They learn how to navigate their human emotional experience more gracefully. This brings out the best in themselves naturally without putting pressure on trying to improve themselves. It makes room for humanness and mistakes. There is a recognition that when we feel at ease being ourselves it results in a high spirited, good feeling, environment that brings out the best in people. In this environment, people have the willingness to go the extra mile when needed. They have the energy to care. They are not in survival mode trying to get through the week to the weekend. They feel better when they leave work than when they arrived. They look forward to going to the office. It is an uplifting experience no matter what the nature of the work. In this culture we lift each other up.
Rewilding does not require more effort or new strategies. It is an educational experience that helps people tap into the depths of possibility they have available to them by seeing that the source of limitation is self-created. It is not in the circumstances we find ourselves or in the content of our thoughts or emotions. Challenging circumstances, negative thinking, and negative emotions are not enemies. Limitation results when we see them as a problem and try to tame and manage ourselves to try and deal with them. It is this self-management that gets in the way of accessing potential. As people relax they have shifts in understanding and wake up more fully to their potential. It is in the making room for humanness and humanity in the work environment that human beings thrive and are able to shine at their brightest. This is where the potential lies in all organizations.
When we allow ourselves to be ourselves and allow the health of our humanity to unfold and express, it frees us up inside. It helps us to experience more fully the deeper connection we have with our wisdom. There is not one executive that I have spoken with that does not have a reference point for accessing a wisdom that they can’t explain, a deeper knowing, when they knew exactly what they had to do, but couldn’t explain it logically. The answer was greater than the sum of its logical parts. These lightning strikes of insight happen, but they are not the norm. It is not a regular way of functioning. It is seen as the exception rather than the rule.
This, however, is not normal. The dominance of the intellect and logical ways of knowing is cultivated. Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink points to the capacity we have to rapidly know without the time-consuming task of analyzing every detail. It also points to how systematic analysis can end up with the wrong conclusion when the gut knows and gets it right in seconds. He also recognizes that stress and biases distort our thinking and get in the way of being able to listen to the deeper knowing.
What rewilding points to is the innate intelligence that is inside of all of us. The same intelligence that grows trees and babies, and knows how to bring back harmony in Yellowstone national park when the wolves were re-introduced after being absent for seventy years. That intelligence works best when it is allowed freedom to be expressed and explored. We can trust in our true nature to bring out the best in us and the only thing that gets in the way is our second-guessing and self-doubt.
When people learn to trust themselves, they show up fully with all of their gifts and talents. Their weaknesses and shortcomings shrink down to size. They are not eliminated, but they are not magnified and accentuated. When we put pressure on ourselves to be better and manage ourselves, this does not bring out our best. It creates stress. Stress leads to distress. Distress results in diminished performance.
Do you walk best when you are on solid ground or when you are on a tightrope? Whoever decided that pressure is required to bring out the best in people didn’t look at what is true about human beings. None of us are designed to be our best selves when we are stressed and fearful. Some of us may be able to learn the skill and quiet the mind enough to walk on a tightrope, but that is a rare few. Excellence, however, is available to us all. It is simply how we show up when we are ourselves.
Rohini Ross is passionate about helping people wake up to their full potential. She is a transformative coach, leadership consultant, a regular blogger for Thrive Global, and author of the short-read Marriage (The Soul-Centered Series Book 1) available on Amazon. You can get her free ebook Relationships here. Rohini has an international coaching and consulting practice based in Los Angeles helping individuals, couples, and professionals embrace all of who they are so they can experience greater levels of well-being, resiliency, and success. She is also the founder of The Soul-Centered Series: Psychology, Spirituality, and the Teachings of Sydney Banks. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and watch her Vlogs with her husband. To learn more about her work go to her website, rohiniross.com.