Bring Meaning to Work and Purpose to Spirituality

Swim Free – A Community Program to Regenerate Work Vitality

Before Diving In


What Is Work Vitality?


Simply put, how alive do we feel on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons? Does our work excite us? If you are like most American workers, the answers are decidedly mixed. There may be better days than others but in general finding joy in one’s work has become as rare in Corporate America as winning a lottery ticket. This is too bad since we are living through one of the most exciting periods of technological change and innovation in history. Opportunities are endless for people in all walks of life to become more engaged with our work and feel more fulfilled through real impacts.


The Skills of Vitality Can Be Learned


The good news is that the vitality of our work life can be generated or restored through proven skills of learning. Although such skills are almost never taught in schools, there has been a long history of scholarship on both the science and practice of its art. This program will expose you to its key principles, help you tailor it to your own circumstances and provide the community support for you to succeed.


Do We Have a Choice?


Most of us are so beaten down these days that it might seem a bit utopian to even entertain the idea of vitality at workplaces. Is it more realistic to set our eyes ‘lower’ at minimizing suffering and somehow find a way to compensate for it outside work? That is a false hope for two reasons. First of all, most of us spend well over 50% of our time while awake doing some kind of work to provide for ourselves and our families. That is a lot of time to feel depressed about ourselves! Second and more important, we are human beings and not made to function like robots, switching on and off our emotions and thoughts in a compartmentalized manner although many of us attempt doing exactly that and feeling miserable about and because of it. The million dollar question is whether or not there is a better way. Before we rush to a conclusion, it is worthwhile to know that research shows that our instincts flatly fail us in this case. We feel like to chuck it, blaming it on a nosy boss or an annoying colleague or a bad company or even the heartless capitalist society that we live in. The list is endless and all lead us to the same spot: hopelessness. This is why the great Austrian psychiatrist and Nazi concentration camp survivor, Viktor Frankl, said that “Man’s freedom is no freedom from conditions but rather freedom to take a stand on whatever conditions might confront him … the capacity to take such a stand is what makes us human beings.” Therefore, the real question is if we are willing to take a stand for humanity as well as ourselves in learning the skills to swim free despite our circumstances. We hope that you do and join us for the ride of a lifetime, literally!

Act One: Getting Wet


Recommended Reading


“Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan (1992)

“The Will to Meaning: Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy” by Viktor Frankl (1988)

“Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity” by David White (2001)


Born in the River (Truth)


Let’s face it. Most if not all workplaces are not exactly communities of friendship. It feels more like rafting down a wild river, excitement easily turns into anxiety and adventures into disasters. The worst part is the blames games that people play mostly out of desperation to avoid the next wave before they could catch a breath. It is easy for our survival instincts to kick into high gear which put ourselves into a defensive mode and cause us to lose any hope of ever mastering the challenges of the workplace. Look around, how many of us have fallen into such ‘survival traps’? Is there a way out?


Owning the Craft (Goodness)


At some point, usually after suffering plenty of bruises, we come to realize that ‘the world is not my oyster’ as one of my best friends once described his moment of awakening soon after joining the workforce upon graduation from college. Initially, we can’t help feeling upset about this whole mess! What did we do wrong to deserve this? But wait, can it all be explained away by blaming a few bad bosses? Or is it ignorance, inherent in the human condition that is the primary source, in addition to the transgressions of some greedy opportunists? Are we willing to take some responsibility for not only creating but also getting ourselves out of this mess?


Grow Powerful (Beauty)


Life breathes power, the power to overcome the boredom, aimlessness, anxiety and paralysis of the busy world that engulfs and imprisons us. By choosing to live instead of escape from life, we gain the power to change the trajectory of our own lives and those around us, for the better

Act Two: Playing the Waves


Recommended Reading


“Seeing Systems: Unlocking the Mystery of Organizational Life” by Barry Oshry (2007)

“Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable” by Patrick Lencioni (2002)

“The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization” by Peter Senge (2006 New Edition)


Get to Know the Waves (Truth)


One important reason that causes people to give up hope is a lack of adequate knowledge about the waves and rocky terrains in our environment and within ourselves. Unless we know how to better read and respond to our day to day challenges, we end up multiplying them while attempting to dampen its blow. Fortunately, the science of human behaviors has grown by leaps and bounds in the past a few decades and we are now in a strong position to benefit from its fruits.


Take a Baby Step (Goodness)


Pick a workplace challenge, any challenge as long as it is meaningful for us to meet, go through the steps of dissecting it under the light of behavioral sciences and see what insights we could derive, especially in terms of the relational dynamics we encounter every day at work: co-workers, supervisors, customers, suppliers, etc. Even though most of it is outside our personal control, we will likely discover new ways of influencing its outcomes, even just by a tiny (1%) amount at the beginning. We are amazed how quickly they could grow organically.


Watch the Waves Grow (Beauty)


Most waves we encounter at workplaces clash and cancel each other out. But sometimes we can spot waves that strengthen each other and create bigger waves. It does take trained eyes to spot and well-practiced skills to ride on them. But that is the sparkplug of creativity and is powerful enough to overcome status quo and lead to genuine breakthroughs.

Act Three: Swim Free


Recommended Reading


“Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change” by Don Beck and Christopher Cowan (1996)

“Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges” by Otto Scharmer (2009)

“Human Cosmos: How Human Beings Create Reality and Evolve Culture” by Yan Song (manuscript to be published)


Feel the Tide (Truth)


From atoms to molecules to proteins to plants to animals to humans, from foraging to agriculture to industrialization to the information age, life is on a constant march to become increasingly more complex and interconnected. Is this merely an accident? Or is there some cosmic meaning and purpose behind the tide?


Fulfill Our Purpose (Goodness)


It is unwise to limit the wonders of our soul outside the experience of work life. Whether you work in an office, factory or executive suite, whether you are in sales, management or engineering, the only way to sustainably revitalize our workplaces is to discover and forge authentic connections of our work and identity with the cosmic tide, to co-create the cosmos.


Swim Free (Beauty)


When Rosa Parks refused to yield her seat on that famous bus in downtown Montgomery on that fateful day in December 1955, it was not at all a random act of anguish or protest. It was a deliberate choice by a truly free human being, at peace with herself and the world and supported by a community of similarly inspired souls. This historical example highlights the three imperatives of being able to swim free in the crucible of challenging workplaces: commit ourselves (getting wet to begin with), get into the action (playing the waves to begin with) and build community of spirit (sign up for our free dialogues to begin with)

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