As individuals and as a society we have to become more engaged. The pervading problem of a lack of engagement can be seen in many areas of our society. In the workplace, people are reluctant to give themselves to what their bosses ask them to do. In our home life, we struggle to find the time and energy to be present for those who we love, and in our relationships with others, we are too ready to settle for relating through social media channels, instead of venturing out to meaningfully create and nurture a true sense of community. But above all this, the most significant area in which our lack of engagement is hurting us is in our spirituality. So faithful are we to ego consciousness that we routinely neglect our spiritual life and the immense power of engagement that the spirit gives birth to.
In my recently completed PhD research, there was strong evidence to suggest that as one lives their calling in alignment with their spiritual source, they will demonstrate leadership behaviour by their engagement, not only with their work, but also in their relationships with others, and life in general. Living in a way that gave expression to their spirit, respondents to the study talked about feeling strongly invested in their work which they saw as an extension of who they authentically are. In their personal and professional relationships, respondents expressed the value that they saw in other people, and because they cared deeply for the people in their lives, they gave time and energy to nurturing those connections. To create a richer and more meaningful experience of life, these respondents also engaged in practices that nurtured their spirituality and overall wellbeing (e.g. meditation, prayer, journaling, exercise).
Are these people superhuman, possessing a higher power to create a richer experience of life? Well, yes and no. They are very much human like you or I, susceptible to experiencing the ups and down of life, and they don’t have any special powers that are beyond our reach. What they have actualised however is a conscious spirit that being open and engaged with the world, cultivates a high level of spiritual receptivity in the world. At our core we are all spiritual beings, connected together by this fibre of life, who have the innate ability to be both engaged and engaging, not by extending effort, but through the active process of surrendering the false ego self to the higher self that we call spirit. That’s right, what I am saying is that we have a greater propensity for engagement when we allow ourselves to be as God created us to be.
We don’t require artificial titles or worldly authority to bring others with us when we live from our spirit, and I would even go further to posit that as we live from our spirit and follow our calling, our intrinsic leadership will shine forth to attract followers in a greater amount than if we sought to exercise formal leadership in the absence of a calling. The examples of Blake Mycoskie and Jamie Oliver are useful illustrations of this point. Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS and the person behind the idea of One for One (a business model that helps a person in need with every product purchased), created a mass movement and global brand on the back of his passion and purpose to alleviate the hardships faced by children growing up without shoes. Blake didn’t start out with any formal leadership authority or a following through that. It came when he responded to his calling and engaged the world to meet that need. He who engaged became the engager of many. As of this writing, TOMS has given more than 60 million pairs of new shoes to children in need, and their work has extended to improving access to water and restoring sight to people in disadvantaged communities, among other things.
Jamie Oliver, who is one of the most loved celebrity chefs in the world, has generated a massive following because of the passion and enthusiasm that he has for his work. A large part of his appeal stems from the evident love that he has for cooking and helping others to form healthier dietary habits. Jamie’s leadership of his followers is not defined by formal means, but is rather informally derived through the full expression of his calling, and the resonance that his being and message has for those who choose to follow him.
With passion comes engagement, which fuels the momentum to create a movement and effective change. Both of these men are testament to this truth. The highest form of engagement is not in doing, but in being. If your experience of life is one of feeling removed from what you are doing, or you are having challenges in bringing others along with you, reflect on whether you are truly living your calling, or if you are, how you can more fully express it. Engagement is everything, for it is in the process that we truly prosper.