The way many of us structure our daily lives implies that spiritual practice and earning a living are generally two very separate things--there's the working week, and then there's the sabbath. For five (or maybe more if you're an entrepreneur) days you focus on profit margins and new products, then you hang up the "closed for business" sign and go to off to your house of worship to contemplate your personal spiritual beliefs.
But is this the right way to go about things? Not according to a thought-provoking interview with Scotty McLennan, a man with a highly unusual CV combining work as a Unitarian minister and Stanford Business School lecturer. He recently talked to Stanford Insights about why religion and business actually should mix more.
Your spiritual beliefs, he argues, should come with you to work everyday and can make you happier, more productive, and more successful.
"Business people spend the majority of their waking hours at work, and many of them want to find it meaningful. Many also want to conduct their business affairs ethically," he says. Integrating your spiritual life and your working life "leads to more successful businesses and to greater satisfaction of customers and other stakeholders," he concludes.
How exactly? First, by keeping entrepreneurs' stress levels down by interspersing periods of meditative calm throughout the work day. "Taking 10 or 15 minutes off ultimately increases productivity rather than decreasing it. How much more useful and fulfilling to stimulate one's 'relaxation response' through a meditational or prayer practice during one of those break times," he asks, adding that "there's good medical evidence that it helps you to reduce stress, limit negative emotions, lower blood pressure, restore calmness, and increase your overall sense of well-being."
A better ethical compass.
In addition, integrating your religious life into your business life (as a personal practice and guiding principle, not as a belief system you impose on others, McLennan notes) can help you keep your efforts and your ethics in line, boosting your sense of meaning and your drive to succeed.
"Since spirituality, often directly derived from one's religion, lies at one's core and involves commitment to one's value system, it is critical to nurture those sources as much in the workplace as in private life. That can be done through the likes of personal rituals, applying scripture to workplace situations, and developing corporate credos and sagas that can affect a business's culture," he says before delving into how leaders like LinkedIn's Jeff Wiener and food entrepreneur Noah Alper effectively bring their spiritual beliefs into work with them.
Do you leave your spirituality at the office door or try to integrate it into your work?