How to safely bring your spiritual self to work

07/22/2016 03:43 pm ET Updated Jul 23, 2017

Living one way at home and another at work creates a dissonance of being. Over time the dissonance can create a person internally divided, fractured and segmented. Our brain is a dexterous organism. Physically crossing the midline, right to left and up and across creates growth, agility and development. Yet time and again we narrow our worlds into categories: work, play and spirituality. A careful and separate compartment for each distinct piece of our life. In this way we are unable to bring learnings from one world into another. We stagnate growth and, more importantly, our deep down personal resonance. We limit potential and connection in all spaces of our lives.

The current state: Disconnected, separate. The goal: Resonance: A life lived with full and integrated intention, identity and idea. But we compartmentalize. We live, act, and think in one way at work, and another one at home. If we see ourselves as spiritual animals, we feel we must cage that animal when crossing the transom (digital or physical) of our workplace. And choosing to hold captive this core part of self is a voice to compartmentalize the most meaningful pieces of ourselves. And yet day after day we do just that as we leave our faith at home. We check it at the front desk only to be picked up again on the weekend.

Once again at home and in our various places of worship, wherever they may be (journals, hotel rooms, cars, temples, mosques and/or churches) we can pick up and remember. Away from work life we feel more free to explore faith, prayer, hope, and belief. Our personal life takes a new shape. Deeper. Bigger. Come Monday, when we cross the physical or digital transom into our workplace, we feel compelled to go about our activities sanitized of that spirituality.

And why is that? The answer seems obvious, yet probably only partially true. We check our spiritual self at the door because we live in a multicultural society where numerous beliefs collide. Efforts to bring individual views together in an atmosphere of universal acceptance and unity often feels uncomfortable or disingenuous. In our very efforts to give respect to all, we negate or mute a singular part of personal identity and experience. Whether it is a perception of safety and acceptance or personal fear and discomfort, our modern bias toward taking offense whenever possible furthers our spiritual masquerade. So day after day and job after job we end up segmenting who we are because we lack skills and experience to do otherwise. From a young age we are taught to hold back pieces of ourselves to fit in or get a job done. By the time we reach adulthood we are so very adept at acting in this way that we don't even notice it is happening. Personal compartmentalization is second nature - most likely automatic - given part of citizenship in our modern multi-faceted world. I'm asking you to bring awareness back to your personal and spiritual segmentation. Pay attention.

With newly found attention we can discover the real reasons we divide our lives between home and work, spiritual and professional. In my experience, our core spiritual beliefs are not the real offender, but rather our barriers and unease. The discomfort and unfamiliarity breeds confusion and mistrust. This at its center is an issue of dissonance versus resonance. Division and compartments versus whole and harmony. There must not be a work hat and home hat if we desire a seamless sense of being and person. If we can integrate the holy into work and the work into the holy there can be ease. It will not be about on or off, but rather a continuous flow of who you are in all places and circumstance.

So what can we do?:
  1. Be true to ourselves as spiritual beings.
  2. Check religious vocabulary at the door, and find common ground in the spiritual principals that unite.
  3. Have patience with those whose spiritual vocabulary feels dogmatic or sectarian.
  4. Become aware of your progress, and keep trying
  5. Start in a context, location, or environment where you feel safest.

Of course, contexts change. Relationships change and circumstance change, but you do not. I argue that spiritual integration is not only good for us personally but also professionally. It is simply good. And it is simply good business. When there is an increased flow of our attributes and strengths work gets more from us. Ideas, leadership and partnership have new avenues of possibility and potential. Determination rounded by patience. Focus rounded by creativity. Organization rounded by understanding. Ambition rounded by experience. The balance of ourselves can develop opportunity for deeper leadership and growth. As the child crawling, drawing the midline over and over, building connection in disparate and unknown ways, we too can build and connect as we bridge work and the sublime.


This Spirituality and Transformative Leadership series was set up as a response to the need to bring 'higher order' principles into leadership today and to spark an ongoing discussion as to the role that spirituality, as distinct from religion, has in today's world. It is a curated series that invites both Young Global Leaders and others with an interest in leadership to contribute to a discussion on the role that spirituality plays in leadership today. For more information, please see the following link for an overview of the origins of this project and for a link to all the blog posts in the series please click here.

Dave Hanley is a serial entrepreneur who has had successful exits to Amazon and Deloitte. With a track record for finding innovation early, Dave excels at building entities that create value and have impact. Spanning industries as diverse as microcredit banking, social media marketing, digital music and financial technology, Dave finds a vision for the future, creates products and services that meet the need of large audiences, and builds teams and technology that realize that vision. Dave is founder and CEO of Tomorrow, a financial services app that aims to bring economic security to millions by empowering everyone to create a trust fund--backed by investments and insurance.