Mindful Business: Putting the Year to Bed

by | Dec 25, 2011

Updated December 12, 2012
I think it is healthy for us as stewards of our businesses or careers to take stock at year’s end, placing the events of the year in perspective, putting our work to bed and tucking it in with prayers for the year to come.

Does this seem too fanciful to make good business sense? Bear with me, and consider how your relationship to your work might change if you regarded yourself as the steward or guardian, even the parent, of a creation that needs you care and guidance in order to thrive. What if marketing felt like telling the world with parental pride what your work can do for others? What if projecting cash flows resembled planning to pay for piano lessons or soccer or even keeping food on the table?

I believe we each have gifts to share with the world, and whether we work for means to share these gifts or whether our work is itself that means, we are called to be stewards, wise, proud, and fierce advocates for our work in the world.

At year’s end, I can think of no better way for a wise steward to put the year to bed than to adapt a practice that I learned from my stepson, who learned it from his wise mother, Barbara. You may notice similarities between this practice and spiritual exercises from various traditions, though I’ve yet to see an approach that matches this one for simplicity and grace.

Each night Barbara would ask the boys about their “sads, glads, and afraids.” For a few moments they would revisit the best and brightest, as well as the gloomy and doomy-est moments of their days in the safety of the beds and in the presence of a mother’s love.

What are the sads that you experienced in business and in work this year? Can you sit with these disappointments, observing them with parental compassion and clarity? It might feel right to make a list of your sads, reviewing it with a friend or colleague who can help you to be complete with the feelings and also to discern the lessons that are being offered.

When you’ve felt into the sads, recall all the glads: the successes, the graces, the times of surprising ease and joy. Don’t rush! Your glads are like seeds that have burst from the flower of your talents. Take some time to notice where these seeds most naturally take root and to appreciate what they need in order to blossom in the coming year. Again, it may be helpful to share your glads with another person who can enrich your appreciation and refine your understanding of how to cultivate these possibilities in the new year.

And now it is time to voice the afraids. Write down everything you have feared, big and small, rational and irrational. As guardian for your work, you will not want to censor any fear, rather you will want to make a space where every fear can come to light. In this space, false fears will shrink to their right size, often in what I like to call “a sudden encounter with the ridiculous.” Encountering the ridiculous in this way pricks holes in our self importance while taking care not to damage our hearts.

There are also likely to be fears that do not shrink, even fears that seem to grow when they are examined and articulated. Yet by taking time and making space for these more significant fears, we will breathe easier and we will be better able to make the hard choices that stewardship calls for without confusing the responsibility of choosing with the myth of controlling.

As with sads and glads, sharing your afraids with a trusted advisor or friend can help you experience them as both child and parent. In this way you will be caring for yourself and for the work you create in the world, tapping both the exuberance of childhood and the measured wisdom of maturity.

The Profit Alchemy early application deadline is December 18, 2012.

Early in January a small group of intrepid and talented Accidental Entrepreneurs will join me in creating a deeply purposeful and profitable new year.  Through Profit Alchemy, they will explore deeply the sads, glads, and afraids of accidental entrepreneurship while learning and applying the skills they need to make a profit. It is a one-of-a-kind, integrated program of self-realization on the path to wealth in all dimensions. The application deadline for the early bird discount is December 18, 2012. You can learn more here.

Photo Credits: Photo by adwriter via flickr.