It is so important to be inspired. We once in a while look at how to use an ancient framework to inspire us to look at our daily task in a different way.
The Gautama Buddha was a sage that taught the principles of the Noble Eightfold Path as one of the Four Noble Truths. The basic idea of the Truths is that we are constantly suffering on earth and that we can only become free from suffering if we do some things. Being action oriented seems to be high on the priority of this sage as he dictated 8 actions or paths that can liberate us. These are contextualised to the workplace of today below.
The first idea is that each of these tasks on the path can be perfected – so you may start as a having a zero score and in time become perfect at it by practice, discarding that which is not correct and getting better in every interaction.
The first two actions on the Noble Eightfold path talks to gaining wisdom and are the right view and the right intention.
The first idea is that you need to have a clear understanding of what is happening around you to really pick up on a new way of doing things. Do you have a clear view of the big picture of the organisation and what your role is in achieving that? Have a right view means taking what is happening to you in perspective and makes you aware of the world around you. By having the right information we can make better decisions, by having a clear view of why we are here – we can start transforming the world around us.
If you set out to achieve great things you tend to achieve great things. If you set out to harm others – you harm yourself and others. Your actions amplify themselves. Not knowing what your intention is – makes you vulnerable to living the dreams of others, while trying to find your own genuine purpose.
Having the right intention is a very difficult task, as you need to constantly evaluate your actions against your intention. Having the right view helps for you to decide what you need to get rid of and what will take you closer to your goals.
Also called the right resolve – the right intention is a measure of how well you achieve what you set out to achieve.
In business we often see people that go out to only make money. They often fail. Having the intention to make a positive change in your customers lives changes the whole dynamic and teaches you that every action you take impacts the lives of others. Doing it well is genuine and makes a better being of you and your customers.
If we all realise that employees in the workplace often genuinely want to contribute to the purpose of the company – we can start transforming our relationships towards the right intention.
The next three paths outline some of the skills that we need to succeed and are called right speech, right action and right livelihood.
To speak correctly is an art. The Noble path recommends that you abstain from lying, divisive speech, abusive speech, from idle speaking and unnecessary chatter. This sounds like the world will become quiet for a while if we do this…
It is also important to improve your ability to express yourself verbally and in writing and to present quality ideas that are well structured. How many times do we open ourselves up to ridicule and dismissal of ideas by poor presentation or make simple errors that makes people discredit our work.
Many business people that are successful will tell you that the only measure of yourself or another person is their integrity. Saying what you do and doing what you say is a skill that is needed to shape better relationships with other and to achieve meaningful results that are valued by yourself and others.
You should at least make sure that you do not do harm to others in your actions. This does not mean to be meek and without will – you need to ensure that your actions have the necessary effect to strengthen the organisation in the right direction, without unnecessarily harming others. Too many times organisations engage in power struggles, fights and senseless work that harm and do not strengthen. These power battles serve a few and do not bring the organisation or its participants closer to its goals. We also often shift the blame or the problem without dealing with the real issue. This is also not right action.
The second idea is that if you do nothing – then nothing gets done. Without acting – there is no action. No action is often the wrong action. If you can answer the question “What happens if we do nothing?” with a clear conscience then you know that you may be onto a potential solution.
Great plans, great organisations and great people fail when we do nothing.
The idea in right livelihood is that you must choose a profession in which you are comfortable with. Are you shaping your daily work with a view towards what is being achieved here? Research shows that people that can connect their life purpose (dharma) with their daily actions have a higher purpose and typically work harder, achieve more and succeed.
If you are in an industry where you do not feel that you contribute and cannot see how your actions are shaping your future and the future of others then you need to start thinking about how to do things differently. We all have a role to play in society and the best way to get closer to making your unique contribution is to be in a place where you feel that you are doing something that you identify with.
Not everything is about glitz, glamour or fame – someone needs to pick up the trash and do the hard work. Make sure that you understand your role in society and that you do whatever you do well.
The last three disciplines all deal with concentration and is right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
If you start measuring your return on effort – you start looking at ways in which the work that you are doing is affecting others. By being persistent and focused on achieving what you set out to do you realise that it is unnecessary to waste energy on unnecessary pursuits that do not add to your end goals.
Giving the right attention, remembering what is important and staying focused is all part of right mindfulness. Eliminate things that do not contribute to you being in the right frame of mind and get on improving yourself through studying and broadening your horizons to get to the next level of thinking.
By keeping your goals in mind and remaining focused on them – you can achieve anything. All of the other disciplines all contribute to this view. By keeping this and the other paths as your main focus the idea is that you gain knowledge and freedom.
The Buddha taught these principles more than 2500 years ago but we can still find inspiration in our every day work and in our every day actions from this framework. We live in a world where daily new solutions are required to more complex problems than ever before and only in each one of our finding our purpose on this world, can we start to do the work that will be necessary to make a different tomorrow.