My first In-Coaching blogpost - Thriving at the Top, was about the four cornerstones of thriving in the workplace : Growth, Health, Appeal, and Spatial Comfort.
These four perspectives can provide you with a useful checklist for monitoring your well-being on the job. However, the cultivation of a thriving existence is rooted in something deeper: Self-empowerment.
The opposite of thriving is surviving. Survival mode is activated in response to an extreme depowering event (crisis), in which basic human needs are undermined or denied altogether. In some cases life itself is at stake. Our adrenaline kicks in and hooks up our spare battery, channeling our energy reserves. We are able to make split second decisions followed by quick action.
Depowerment in the Workplace
While the work setting generally offers protection against life threatening situations, we can find ourselves routinely faced with moments or periods of depowerment on the job. The source is often external, such as a bullying boss, a company culture that promotes mistrust, new computer systems that don't function, or workspaces that are too noisy. We can also be depowered by our own thoughts, such as I don't deserve this promotion.
A knee-jerk reaction to depowering situations is to kick into survival mode, and that will work for awhile. The problem is sustainability. If you are continuously operating on high alert and hooked up to your spare battery, there is no chance for recharging. Your energy becomes depleted, your concentration diminishes, and the efforts you are expending are increasingly disproportionate to the results you are getting. Lurking just around the corner is burnout.
Freedom to Make Choices
While you may not be able to eliminate the source of the depowerment you are experiencing, you can choose another response to the situation. The key to transforming surviving to thriving is self-empowerment. This means cultivating an attitude that actively seeks options for change. In contrast to the cramped and frustrating sensations of depowerment, self-empowerment is expressed through the freedom to make choices that promote our own well-being.
Redirect Your Energy
How do you flick the switch to the self-empowerment mindset? The first step is to redirect your energy away from struggling against a depowering situation. Struggle is tiring - physically, mentally and emotionally. This doesn't mean you are agreeing with the behavior, policy or environment which you find depowering. But you can avail yourself of new reserves of energy by accepting that the situation exists. The new surplus of energy will nourish the thinking you need to take responsibility for your own empowered choice. In the words of Deepak Chopra, ''Responsibility means the ability to have a creative response to the situation as it is now."1
A creative response is anything that is not the usual default reaction. For example, instead of avoiding that colleague who seems to be undermining your work, you could invite him/her out to lunch. If your workspace is too noisy you can decide to wear noise-cancelling earphones at your desk. Is it taking longer to reach colleagues because contact information is out of date? Why not start an initiative to circulate updates?
Some actions might take you out of your comfort zone, or trigger surprised reactions from colleagues. What matters though is your outcome; rebooted motivation and a greater sense of autonomy in the workplace. That's self-empowerment!
What Do I Need?
Like anything worthwhile, reacting to challenges from a perspective of self- empowerment takes practice. A useful starting point when you find yourself in a depowering situation is to ask yourself the question ''What do I need?"
All answers are valid, even if all of those needs cannot be met immediately. You may not be able to instantly meet the need of lying on a beach in Greece, although hidden in that wish could be some sound advice to yourself to consider taking a vacation soon. But, I need to close my door and lie down on the floor for a few minutes to relax and clear my mind. is an expression of personal empowerment because you are making a decision to break form and do something different.
Operating within your own sphere of influence, there are many more options than you are aware of. What matters is not how big the action is, but that there is any action at all.
There's a famous saying: If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got. Self-empowerment is the ability to identify your own needs and consciously make a choice to do something different in response. It's an invitation to be creative and practice out-of-the box thinking. Above all, it's the key to a thriving approach to life and work.
1. Ask yourself What do I need?
2. Take a (small) action to make a change.
3. Notice the difference for yourself.
1 Deepak Chopra, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Amber-Allen Publishing, 1994
Lisa Ross-Marcus is an Executive Life Coach and Cross-Cultural Consultant based
Author: Lisa Ross-Marcus is a leadership coach and intercultural consultant. Her primary focus is empowering women to lead in organizations or as founders of their own enterprises.