In the popular book “10% Happier,” a cynical, hard-driving television news reporter takes a journey from investigating self-help claims to actually embracing meditation and finding greater balance in his career and personal life.
In my own journey, which began fleeing war and chaos in Uganda as a young girl, to working my way through school in London, building a career in human resources and management, and now serving as chief administrative officer/executive vice president at VITAS Healthcare, the nation’s leading provider of end-of-life care, I have embraced the principles of yoga in a similar quest for balance. For me, that journey has led to the understanding of how these principles can actually support career success as well as personal self-awareness and balance.
Yoga, and the values it promotes, have been a defining part of my life and career. In general terms, the practice of yoga encourages greater self-awareness and improved focus; it hones valuable life skills that can drive personal and professional success. And most importantly, it helps to develop a calm, clear and tranquil mind, which is the driving force for accomplishing goals. Below are some principles that I have carried into my professional life that have brought me success and inner contentment:
Building a Culture of Appreciation Through Compassion & Empathy
First and foremost among those skills is the ability to visualize your goals and to respect and appreciate others around you. This exercise in empathy can make all the difference in business negotiations, customer interactions and employee relations, including employee retention.
The qualities of compassion and empathy are embedded deep within the foundation of our company. Of course, given our decades-long mission of caring for — and advocating for — patients facing terminal illness, it seems only natural that VITAS would embrace a culture of appreciation and recognition. But these essential qualities, which describe a way of relating to others and appreciating their diverse concerns, are not exclusive to the delivery of hospice care. In fact, compassion and consideration can help to fuel success in all facets of business, across many industries.
Ultimately, it’s the people who imbue compassion in an organization. When we think of a company that is caring, we are really envisioning the individuals who answer our phone calls and emails, attend to our problems, and deliver a quality experience at every turn. Even businesses that have welcomed widespread automation understand that their customers thrive on positive interactions with real people when they occur – and are put off when those interactions deteriorate. Similarly, an engaged and driven workforce is often the product of an environment where recognition and respect are consistently encouraged and delivered.
To succeed in your own career, then, it helps to identify and care about the interests of others. It matters if you are able to empathize with your customers and co-workers to see problems from a variety of perspectives, and to forge creative solutions accordingly. And there are some other key practices that can help as well.
Understanding your Colleagues by Cultivating Patience
While it may not be readily apparent, the people you work with, and the clients you serve, have overcome all types of personal and professional obstacles. No matter how large or small the obstacles, you can be certain that those around you have been defined by their own personal trials. It is something that we all have in common. Being aware of this reality puts everyone on a new playing field and will help you to cultivate patience for the people around you, especially the people you spend most of your day with.
It’s important to be unbiased, open-minded and patient under pressure. Objectivity is an important factor in being able to remove yourself from personal opinions in order to be able to see the bigger picture and help those around you see it too.
A positive attitude goes a long way when practicing patience. Sometimes you have to pick and choose your battles and if you ever find yourself growing too impatient, reach out to a trusted mentor for advice.
Moving Up the Corporate Ladder Through Balance, Focus & Clarity
A central goal of the practice of yoga is the pursuit of balance – both physical and mental. In the workplace, we must balance risks and rewards; we must carefully weigh competing interests and demands, all while juggling multiple deadlines and managing conflicting schedules. An awareness of the importance of achieving equilibrium can help set your career on a stable path. After all, without balance it is difficult to make it to the top of the business ladder.
Those who practice yoga also aim to find focus and clarity, and to be present in the moment. Again, these principles can boost your business proficiency. Think of focus as the ability to put every ounce of your attention on one undertaking at a time. Even if you are a multi-tasker moving quickly between assignments, it is critical to be able to devote your full attention to specific tasks at any given moment. By practicing this skill consistently through yoga, you can improve your productivity, advance in your career, and achieve better results with the work you produce.
Not surprisingly, because the qualities of compassion and respect can so clearly help business professionals develop and advance, companies are deploying human resources strategies that promote these core values. Like other organizations, VITAS has launched comprehensive programs designed to reinforce a culture of recognition and appreciation. One example is a management initiative I developed at VITAS called VITAS CARES which stands for Coach, Assist, Recognize, Engage and Satisfy. These are essential management actions necessary to hire, manage, engage, recognize and retain employees.
At the end of the day, the best career advancement plans involve a mixture of components, including structured professional development activities, networking methods and the pursuit of in-company leadership opportunities. By incorporating principles of yoga, such as empathy and compassion, along with patience, balance, focus and clarity, you are sure to jump a step ahead in your career.
Kal Mistry is Chief Administrative Officer and Executive Vice President for VITAS Healthcare, where she oversees all corporate communications and human resources activities for one of the nation’s leading providers of end-of-life care. She is also a nationally certified yoga and meditation teacher and teaches ancient techniques for health and wellness.