My Camino Way Series Article #14
CEOs ON EL CAMINO:
STRATEGIC PLANNING FOR THE SOUL
Photo Credit: José Antonio Gil Martínez; Alto del Perdón, Navarre, Spain; Wikimedia
While I was on El Camino de Santiago, I met more than a few pilgrims who hailed from the corporate world. Among them were CEOs, CFOs and other upper-level business professionals who had left their company – either short-term or permanently – to do some serious soul searching.
Not surprisingly, major burnout was a commonality among them all, but the reasons varied. Many expressed they were exhausted from burning the candle at both ends. Others had come to the realization that they just weren’t living their dream. One woman spoke of the poisonous culture at a former workplace where conflict among colleagues was so bad she was becoming ill from it and chose to leave.
I empathized with my new friends. As a chartered accountant, I’ve spent more than four decades managing the finances of businesses, big and small, so I’ve seen pretty much all the dysfunction there is to see.
Even though the trend towards spirituality in the workplace has been on a steady incline since the 1990s (evidenced by a significant increase in personal growth programs and buzzwords such as “social responsibility” and “triple bottom line”) it is still set largely within dysfunctional societal structures that place more value on materialism than on spiritualism. Excess materialism cultivates unhealthy emotions and behaviours (greed, extreme selfishness, fear and hate). In turn, these negative states breed violence in its myriad forms– within corporations and society in general.
It was during these conversations with my pilgrim colleagues that I had one of my most important epiphanies on El Camino trail: it dawned on me that our corporate leaders – especially CEOs of multinational companies – have tremendous potential to transform into unique spiritual leaders, not just of the corporate world but within their communities as well.
This epiphany was very exciting for me, as it came at a time when I was ready to take my spiritual growth to a higher level; I’d been working for 20 years as a peace educator and I was seeking new ways to help build peace communities world-wide.
Who better equipped to help lead a structural transformation in our society than our business leaders – and especially those with a conscious inclination towards spirituality?
CEOs and other high-level executives are often exceptional strategic planners as well as visionaries. They have the skills and knowledge to transform a lagging business into a successful one. Some of our world’s greatest business leaders are also philanthropists with mission statements that include powerful messages on social responsibility.
The trouble is the typical corporate CEO is so busy taking care of business that his or her own self-care often suffers. Time is often cited as the main culprit: “I barely have time to eat, I’m so busy,” is a one that I hear often.
And if you’re laughing and nodding your head in agreement, I hear you – because I’ve been there also. I’ve frequently experienced that feeling that there’s not enough time. These feelings of scarcity (the “not enough” feeling), though, are precisely what gets us into difficulty – whether it’s not enough time or not enough money…or even not enough love in our lives. But time is where we begin to create room for change.
And time is a funny thing. I’ve learned that, as you work on your spiritual self, time has a way of expanding to make room for that work.
As my heart and soul expanded, so did time. And money did as well - but best of all, love blossomed.
A lot of things had to happen first, though. I had to make time to go on a 12-month spiritual journey; I had to organize and plan my life in a different way than I’d been accustomed to; I also had to begin digging deeper into my emotional self than I ever had before and work hard to let go of old fears and beliefs that were not serving me. In this way, with the help of my mentors along with daily meditations and journaling, I was able to connect with my soul more fully and create more abundance.
And guess what? Miraculously, I found that elusive time I didn’t seem to have before! It was always there. What was missing was my belief that I didn’t have time in the first place.
My business management and strategic planning skills came in really handy as well. That was another epiphany. I had been blessed with these skills and talents not only to help companies get healthier financially but to help myself and others get healthier spiritually.
I began to imagine what would happen if our corporate leaders put the same amount of time and energy into planning for spiritual growth as they did for the economic growth of their companies? And what might that look like?
What if it were commonplace practice for CEOs to map out a spiritual growth plan for themselves, at the same time they begin strategizing how to grow the business – a kind of SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) for the soul - as part of a greater strategic plan to transform the corporation into a culture of peace?
Instead of asking: “what are my company’s strengths and weaknesses?” one might pose questions about one’s own spiritual condition such as:
Who am I?
What is my life’s purpose?
Am I living the life of my choice?
Am I on the right track?
Am I happy?
There are many ways to plumb the depths of ourselves (for starters, just type "meditation" into the search box on this site to access my articles on that topic), but posing these five questions to yourself and jotting down some ideas in a journal is an excellent way to begin creating a strategic plan for soul growth.
Other questions intrinsically connected to the “am I happy / am I on the right track” question include:
Are my relationships with colleagues and employees healthy?
Am I ignoring my own needs or those of loved ones?
Do I feel a strong connection with family?
Do I feel connected with my soul?
Another great tool for spiritual development in the workplace is the Wheel of Life Assessment. It gives you a visual snapshot of the key areas of your life / organization and helps determine where the imbalances are. If you'd like to get a quick sense of how the Wheel of Life Assessment works. Wheel of Life.
I believe the vast majority of business leaders truly do care and desire to effect positive change. I've met many CEOs and other high-level executives over the years who are deeply caring individuals that want to make a difference. They just don't quite know where to begin - or how to find the time.
I like to use the Nike slogan: JUST DO IT! It's not meant to be judgmental. It comes from experience.
When you go looking for time, it will elude you at every juncture. But when you "just do it" time miraculously expands. I don't know how it happens exactly; I just know it to be true.
Maybe you are someone who is already doing a lot for your community, but you still have a vague feeling of emptiness inside that doesn’t go away, like something is missing. If so, you’ve already received your wake-up call. That empty feeling is your body telling you that you need to turn your attention inward and connect with your soul, which makes you a great candidate for a spiritual retreat.
It doesn’t have to be a pilgrimage to Spain or India. It might be closer to home – maybe even a space in your home where you can go to meditate every day, uninterrupted. Although, the challenge becomes much greater if the way you deal with conflict or other personal problems is to bury yourself beneath a mountain of paperwork and other business.
We all have to find our own path to our highest spiritual self.
I took a year-long sabbatical and discovered I did not lose anything I didn’t need to lose – and I gained far more than I ever dreamed possible.
By taking better care of myself spiritually, all my relationships, including the one with my “self,” improved greatly.
And that is gold, in any world.
A great many people desire healthy change, but when the societal framework within which they function is unhealthy, those flames of desire can get extinguished, making progress much slower than it could be. In addition, spiritual people often are not equipped to function optimally in the business world, which is why we need the re-balancing of the material and the spiritual.
Corporate leaders have enormous power to help all our societal structures evolve spiritually. They are the builders in our world – and our world is as healthy as the leaders who govern it. In turn, our leaders are as healthy as the relationships they have with themselves and others.
As I wrote in a previous article, Meditation Under A Blue Spanish Sky: “When we are connected to our souls, it has a profound effect on the lives of everyone we come in contact with. Even one highly evolved soul has the power to effect change in millions, as did great spiritual leaders such as Gandhi. So it isn’t difficult to envision how our communities can evolve as well, with spiritually evolved individuals lighting the way. ...”
If you’re feeling like something is missing in your life, or if you know deep down that your relationships with others could be better, maybe it’s the perfect time for a spiritual retreat.
You wouldn’t dream of missing a great opportunity to take your business to a higher level. So why miss the greatest opportunity in the history of human evolution – which is happening right now - to grow into your highest power and help guide others there as well?
We cannot “fix the world” without the help of business people. And corporate leaders are beautifully positioned - I would even say divinely so - to be guiding lights.
So, start mapping a strategic plan for the well-being of your soul today and you’ll be amazed at the way you and your business will grow for the better.
Buen Camino Pilgrim
Stay tuned for more stories. Meanwhile, feel free to contact me if you’re considering El Camino as a relationship sabbatical or simply for your own spiritual growth. There’s plenty of information on El Camino and many ways to walk it. So, if anything has resonated with you while reading this, it may be a special sign, divinely arranged just for you.