A New Paradigm: Self Realization Boosts Bottom Lines

"Self-discovery is an imperative," says Patagonia's CEO

As we look at our budgets, both personal and professional, where does well-being fit into the big picture? Should we spend resources on 'self' and living congruently as a means to build and sustain strong bottom lines, or is that premise a stretch at a time when short-term results are still favored over long-term? What kind of data do we need to make well-being a nonnegotiable line item?

Work has taken up residence in our home lives, while there is still a very firm objection to bringing our personal life into work. With work taking such a toll on personal lives, personal problems can't help but show up in the workplace. People are checked out, stressed out and freaked out.

Balancing the work-life equation

There seems to be a rise of the teeter-totter effect, with work outweighing the "life" side of the work-life balance. Instead of thinking in terms of work-life balance and how to gain it, maybe we should change the question.

How can we gain balanced, integrated lives, no matter where we are--at work, at home, or where the lines blur in between? How do we create congruent lives so we can be more fully present in life? Would integrating a practice of conscious self-discovery as a part of our daily lives, provide us the wisdom we need to show up differently? And in doing so, create the feelings of freedom, the levels of resilience, engagement and innovation our companies and our lives need from us?

As always, I believe that a simple shift in perspective can bring us the solutions and answers to our questions.

Many companies--from small start-ups to multinationals--are starting to bring mindfulness practices into the work environment, including what they learn through the work with our horses. But truly, how important are such practices to the bottom line?

I went to Casey Sheahan, CEO and president of Patagonia for some answers. Casey and Patagonia walk their talk about being conscious, with significant results. Here's a CEO and company that have committed to asking people to buy less stuff, including their own. That's quite a business model.

And who makes decisions based on the question: Are we making this decision out of love or fear? Casey and Patagonia do.

Here's the conversation we had:

Lisa: Casey, does self-discovery have a place in the corporate environment?

Casey: I want to function on a higher level and bring awareness into every work situation. Our company is trying to be responsible in our work and the products we make, and to do that, we need awareness on every level. That informs everything we do. We are always looking at impact and being self-critical.

"Personal transformation is global transformation."

To be a complete person and a complete company, you have to have a very strong purpose. You have to be conscious. So yes, you need to be aware of your own personal impact and your own level of consciousness so you can be part of something much, much bigger. People need to transform themselves personally so they can personally transform much bigger ideas with stakeholders. Personal transformation is global transformation. You need to start with your own personal impact and the interconnectedness of it before you can hope to affect the collective.

Lisa: So what do you think will allow this sensibility to be more of a norm in our daily business practice?

Casey: People fear and have resistance to change. I don't know how to get people over that threshold, except to be an example. When people see someone staying happy and peaceful, even as they are being attacked for their principles, or as things come crashing down, they start to ask, "What's the secret." People usually wait until they have a heart attack or lose their businesses or their spouses until they make a change, instead of asking what keeps me evolving as a human being?

Lisa: So should working on self-discovery be more of an imperative?

Casey: We are transitioning from old paradigms to new ones. Yes, to your question. If I had the choice to go on a fishing trip to learn from teachers, be it in a herd of horses or some other experience, I recognize that they both have value. There are times I want to check out and go fishing. But the new paradigm is to go learn how to resolve lifelong suffering, starting with myself. When I go fishing, I come back and the same issues are waiting. When I learn something that resolves inner conflict, I come back with inner calm. The issues resolve themselves as I do.

When we find ways to shift our worldviews, we see new solutions and that helps all bottom lines. It's about taking on the moral imperative to look at all of mankind as a whole, starting with ourselves. It's time to action consciousness.

People are spending resources on increasing effectiveness and productivity, and the opposite is happening. We need new ways. We are working harder and longer hours. We need to find ways to discover how to live more congruent, balanced lives so we can fish, have coffee with our wives in the morning, and save the planet. When you strip away what weighs you down, you get to the hub--the core of the true, realized self. Our perspective is broadened. Habits that have served me well can drop away, and I can see better how to live well. In harmony with ourselves, others and our planet. Yes, that's an imperative.

Lisa: How has this affected your bottom line? Telling people not to buy. Looking at your company and employees consciously. Making love-based decisions rather than fear-based decisions?

Casey: The last five years are the best five years we've ever had.

Lisa: Thanks, Casey.

Are you ready to start looking at what's driving your business decisions? Could this be what's eroding your life instead of adding to it?

Love or fear? That's a real bottom line.

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