Recalibrating your life and work: what is your biggest opportunity?

Most of us have not quite realized that there is something remarkable happening in the world, something that is available to each of us, should we choose this path.

Human history repeats itself and will continue to do so if we do not break the cycle. Our systems are cracking, and it’s time to see the opportunities that are emerging instead of looking only for problems. As we watch history repeat itself, we have two basic choices: we can recognize that we have already seen this movie and its sequel before and therefore can predict how it will play out next time; or, we can create a different story. It’s a choice.

We can criticize, complain, and blame others for what is happening around us, or we can see what is possible and connect with unlikely partners to create a saner and healthier world. While business has contributed to a lot of the trouble we are in, it can also be such a powerful force for good. In fact, business is one of the main drivers for the mindset shift that needs to take place in the world, and the people, like you and me, who make up organizations have a vital role for our collective future.

The birds they sang
At the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
Has passed away
Or what is yet to be
Yeah the wars they will
Be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
Bought and sold
And bought again
The dove is never free
Ring the bells (ring the bells) that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in
Leonard Cohen
In a world that constantly tries to make us like everyone else, it’s time to take a deep breath, exhale, and release what no longer serves us. Why? So we can make room for what does serve us and help us create a more meaningful path.

In our never-ending pursuit of becoming more productive in business and our personal lives, we have lost pieces of ourselves on the road to someone else’s definition of success. Some business gurus continue to drill into us how to live our lives and run our organizations, but they are forcing us down the wrong path. They don’t know us. They don’t know what really drives us. We need to learn how to remember our purpose and integrate it into every aspect of our business.

In this post, I will share the key reasons I believe we need to reboot and adopt a 21st century mindset.

#1 — No one knows what work is anymore but everyone is predicting its future.

There are many people telling us what the future of work is supposed to look like, and most are predicting technological innovations while leaving the people behind. Few are focusing on the elephant in the room: we no longer have a common definition of what work is in the 21st century. So how can we predict the future of work if we no longer even know the meaning of the word “work”? Instead, we are fearing robots and artificial intelligence taking our jobs in our continuous pursuit of efficiency, productivity, and rapid financial growth.

Management theory is becoming a compendium of dead ideas — The Economist

What we need is a deep recalibration of what work means to us, individually and collectively. Do you want to continue to be bound to a world where you define yourself by how you make a living, or is it time to make a life, where work is just part of it? What does work mean to you in this century?

Our opportunity is to come together and architect a 21st century definition of work, and replace the fear and blaming with a new paradigm where people matter deeply. The organizations and the leaders who will thrive in this century and beyond are the ones that know how to understand the value of recalibrating to individual and collective purpose. Work will become more meaningful and we can have a much more purposeful experience. While this is not a path for the weak of heart, it is definitely worth pursuing, as it can bring you not only profit but also a deeper, more meaningful purpose. There are a growing number of 21st century conscious leaders paving the way on this path.

Take Action:

What is work and how do you make it more meaningful? Where are the conscious 21st century leaders in your world? How do you transform?

#2 — There is no set formula or method that we need to follow.

A growing number of people and organizations are recognizing that another person’s best practices are often not applicable to their own situation. Guidance from others is vital, but we need to gain a greater integrated understanding of our own unique situations, goals, and purpose, and then implement new approaches that fit our own needs. There is an urgent need to shift from leading with structure and technology to leading with greater purpose. Rational structure and evolving technologies are obviously important, but they are meant to serve your higher purpose, not to dominate it. We can stop bringing with us old and tired ways of being that just keep shifting the deck chairs on a sinking ship. We are on the edge of a genuinely new paradigm.

Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you. Aldous Huxley

Our opportunity is not simply another business program or framework. It is far simpler, and yet much more challenging, than that. We need to adopt a 21st century mindset that drives our purpose and allows us to see opportunities where we bring people together to create something beautiful in the world of business. When people in an organization are connected to its deep purpose and know how to play their position, that’s when the magic happens.

Take Action:

What is your purpose? What is the collective purpose of why you are in business? Where is your edge? How do you connect with the people who care about what your business creates?

#3 — We need to shift from transactions to relationships, especially in the digital age.

Most people don’t follow up. We are stuck in a world of transactions, with a never-ending to-do list. We feel a false sense of accomplishment by crossing items off our list, and then mechanically jumping to the next item.

So many people attend events, network, collect business cards, but then never follow up in a deep or meaningful way. Similar to how they approach to-do lists, many people go from one event to the next and do not know how to integrate the events or the people they meet into their day-to-day life.

The same is true of our digital age with social networks that are built on advertising and sponsorship models that do not always serve us. We amass ‘like’s and followers and do not often question whether they are meaningful connections that can help us drive our business in a purposeful way. Simple transactions, such counting our followers, are easy to quantify and show short term progress, so we get addicted to them. But then we end up trapped and miss many greater opportunities.

Our opportunity is to recognize that there is an ancient technology making a comeback. It is called the art of conversation, otherwise known as dialogue. It facilitates the three most important currencies of the 21st century: trust, relationships, and community.

Take Action:

When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation? When is the next one? How deep are your relationships?

#4 — Placing your oxygen mask on yourself first before helping others.

Most of us have been conditioned to take care of everyone else before ourselves. We are conditioned into a culture of sameness where we are told to keep up with the latest fads and trends. At school, we are measured according to everyone else. At work, there are internal lists that tell us whether others see us as high performers or not. There is a ‘one size fits all’ cookie-cutter mentality, but in reality, cookie cutters only work when we are baking cookies.

The opportunity is to ask yourself tough questions and go deep into your soul to find out what you are made of. Regardless of what anyone else may think is cool, hip and trendy, what is it that you want your imprint to be? What sets you apart? How can you share your ideas with generosity, speak up, and shine a light in the world? The opportunity in front of us is not to be like everyone else, but that we should become ourselves by finding our purpose, becoming whole, and integrating ourselves and our organizations.

Have you ever asked yourself, why are we here? For me, it is to connect deeply with myself and people who I can learn from, who turn out to be the most unlikely partners. How I was raised would never put me together with my unlikely partners, but somehow we find each other and can then create something much bigger and more beautiful in the world.

Take Action

Trust is foundational for any type of relationship, and yet we often neglect thinking about it. Ask yourself these two seemingly easy questions:

  1. Who do I trust?
  2. Who trusts me?

It doesn’t seem to make much sense investing so much time and energy into a relationship if you don’t trust each other. And sometimes we trust others when we don’t always trust ourselves. So, first of all, we need to learn to trust ourselves. If we can’t trust ourselves, then how can we trust others? We need to put on our own oxygen mask first.

#5 — Waking up to the gift of life

What if life is one big adventure, and work is just part of it? We have been led to believe that we are two separate people. We were sold the tale that there is professional self (how we make a living) and personal self (what we do outside of work). And somehow, we are supposed to attain the so-called work-life balance. But that is a myth.

A growing number of people are choosing themselves — whether it’s choosing the life of a freelancer or seeking an organization that aligns more closely with their higher purpose. The world of business is changing, and we need to let go of irrational fear. It’s time to ask new questions. Instead of asking kids what they want to do when they grow up, ask them what fuels them, what they feel passionate about. “Growing up” is overrated.

It is very important to be able to talk openly about all the shifts that are taking place in a world still too often driven by 20th century fear, competition, and scarcity. Ask yourself what it is that you really need, what your “enough” is. There is no need to be stuck in old paradigms that no longer serve us. Often quietly, in the background, more and more people are being awakened to the desire to create a new path. They are questioning what they have been taught and conditioned to believe is normal.

Take Action:

Here is my new year’s gift to you. Take some time to dig deep around these key questions and create your own beautiful roadmap:

  1. What do I care about, deeply?
  2. What is my biggest opportunity right now?
  3. If I did not have any limitations, what would I be creating?
  4. Who can I co-create with?
  5. What is the next step on my journey?

There is something remarkable happening on this journey called life.

Ayelet Baron is an author, entrepreneur, coach, and speaker. Along with her unlikely partners, she is creating a new way forward for business and offering a bridge to 21st century leadership. Her recent book, Our Journey to Corporate Sanity, is not just another business book — it brings together 33 visionary leaders whose transformational stories can help us recognize that we are in the human-to-human era where purpose and experiences matter more than mere transactions.

It is time for conscious 21st century leaders to drive shared purpose in becoming whole, integrate our teams around new ways of being, and co-create in trusted communities and unlikely partnerships.

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