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The Sustainability of Cultivating the Whole Self in the Workplace

Do Your Employees Bring Their Whole Self to the Workplace


Did the people in your workplace feel like they can and should bring their whole self to work, or do they feel like they come to work and it's only a part of who they are and they have to go get the rest of themselves fulfilled in other parts of their life? The answer to that question may lie in your corporate culture. Do people engage with others outside of work? Do they ask about the hobbies and the passions that people have outside of work?

Do they know each other's family member's names, ages, interests? Or are people in your workplace to do a job and that's that? Oftentimes, the difference between a really engaged workforce and one where people come to punch the clock is wrapped up in this idea of whether it's the whole self being invited into the organization or the functional worker bee that you've asked to come in and do the job. Depending on your organization, depending on your industry and the norms within it.

Maybe one is preferred to the other. But given a choice, I know a lot of people would choose the job and the company that embraces the whole person, that celebrates the uniqueness of that individual, that wants to know everything that person has to offer, that recognizes when that person is struggling with something outside of the workplace and cares enough to ask about that. I'm looking for that even in the clients I work with, I'm looking for the opportunities that fuel me as a person. It's not just about the pay, it's about the person and what they can get from doing the work and from being with the other whole humans in that environment.

I love sunflowers. They're interesting to me because they grow so fast, they're incredibly beautiful, they're giant. Mine get up to nine plus feet and they're interesting because throughout the day they turn their heads to the direction where the sun is shining. So the position they have in the morning is different from where they are by midday and again by evening.

I enjoy sunflowers for another reason. I like sunflower seeds. So when I grow these sunflowers, I harvest all the seeds. I dry them and I enjoy them throughout the year. But I get way more seeds than I could ever eat. So I give some of these away and there are some that I don't roast. I save those for the birds in midwinter when there's nothing else that they can easily find. To me, sunflowers are a sign of life. They mean summer to me. And I also like them because they give something back, they give the seeds back and they're just so easy to grow.

Part of the joy of having a garden is enjoying whatever it is that you plant or being able to give away something that somebody else might enjoy. One of the things I grow our pumpkins, I don't really like pumpkins all that much. I'm not even a big fan of pumpkin pie or muffins or any of the other baked goods that you can make. I'm not that person who's the first one in line on September 1, when Starbucks has all their new pumpkin flavors. But everybody around me seems to enjoy pumpkins. So I grow them and I make all kinds of products out of pumpkins for people to enjoy. Now I do like pumpkin seeds, so I make sure to use every part of the pumpkin. And the seeds are the part that are, for me.

Something else I don't really like, I don't love beets. I don't hate them. I know some people really have an aversion to beets, but I like them as chips, better than I like them as canned or pickled beets. But every year I do put up several jars of pickled beets. I use my mom's recipe, which actually was her mom's recipe. And I give these away to my aunt in particular. My aunt, who lives in Chicago, loves my pickled beets because they remind her of home.

So what I'm getting at here is that you can grow things or do things for reasons beyond yourself. Sometimes the sustainability and the practicality is in and of itself, its own reward. But when you can put a smile on somebody else's face, well, there's nothing that compares to that. A lot of the dehydrating that I do is to make snacks that are sustainable. I might not find really good blueberries or strawberries in the middle of winter, but the ones I've dried are pretty darn good as a substitute.

I also make cat treats. I make a tuna and salmon treats for my cat because at the store, if I go to Petco to buy those dehydrated treats for cats, they're somewhere in the neighborhood of nine dollars for a bag, and that bag is only going to last my cat a couple of weeks. But I can open up a can of tuna or buy a tuna steak for far less money and end up with more treats that last forever. And I think he likes them better, too. I can't see him smiling, but I usually get a good leg rub out of those those cat treats and that's every bit as good as a smile.

Doing things that make other people happy is rewarding in business too. We could talk about the law of reciprocity. When you do something for others, they naturally want to do something for you in return. 

But I like to make people smile. I like to make them happy because even in that moment it returns joy to me. It can get me through a rough day knowing that I've made a difference, even a small one for someone else. Fuel your own energy, not just with the things that are practical, not just with the things that matter to you, but by paying it forward and giving something to someone else.