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    The Dharma of Work | Matthew Hepburn

    By viewing praise and blame as impersonal forces, and integrating mindfulness and meditation into our daily lives, we can maintain focus on meaningful contribution and not let external factors undermine the value of our work.

    enSeptember 06, 2023

    About this Episode

    The office might be one of the most difficult places to not side with yourself, but it’s a concept that can help you navigate challenging situations at work.


    Matthew is a meditation and dharma teacher with more than a decade of teaching experience and a passion for getting real about what it means to live well. He emphasizes humor, technique, and authentic kindness as a means to free the mind from unnecessary struggle and leave a healthier impact on the world. 


    Beyond Ten Percent Happier, Matthew has taught in prisons, schools, corporate events and continues to teach across North America in buddhist centers offering intensive silent retreats and dharma for urban daily life. 


    In this episode we talk about:


    • How to change your relationship to your thoughts
    • How to navigate the highs of praise and the lows of blame
    • How to handle relationships at work when giving or receiving feedback
    • How to bring your mindfulness practice to your workplace


    Full Shownotes:https://www.tenpercent.com/tph/podcast-episode/matthew-hepburn-work

    See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • By practicing mindfulness and changing our perspective, we can navigate relationships at work more effectively, transform our mindset, and find fulfillment in our professional lives.
    • Embracing uncertainty, challenging negative thoughts, and developing the skill of discernment through meditation can lead to personal and professional growth.
    • By questioning our thoughts and seeking support from others, we can transform overwhelm into creative engagement and navigate through overwhelming situations effectively.
    • Challenging negative thoughts and seeking out supportive relationships can change our attitude and approach to difficult situations. Connecting with others and seeking support can bring relief and growth.
    • Asking for help not only benefits ourselves but also allows others to experience the joy of giving, leading to personal growth and a sense of interconnectedness.
    • By focusing on the present moment and breaking down tasks, we can reduce overwhelm, improve productivity, and enhance our overall well-being.
    • Embracing mindfulness and effective communication can enhance workplace productivity and relationships, allowing individuals to navigate challenges with clarity, understanding, and compassion.
    • Effective communication of critical feedback requires trust, sincerity, and a focus on the relationship. By demonstrating care and providing choice, feedback can be received more openly and positively.
    • Consider power imbalances and prioritize self-care while giving feedback in hierarchical workplaces to avoid harmful dynamics and ensure the overall safety and sustainability of employment.
    • Being honest and authentic in our relationships, especially in the workplace, is vital for creating trust, open communication, and overall wellbeing. Craving praise or fearing blame only hinders our ability to be genuine.
    • By viewing praise and blame as impersonal forces, and integrating mindfulness and meditation into our daily lives, we can maintain focus on meaningful contribution and not let external factors undermine the value of our work.
    • By integrating mindfulness into our work routine, we can create a more satisfying and harmonious work environment, leading to increased personal growth and well-being.
    • By being mindful of small triggers and taking proactive steps to care for ourselves, we can improve our performance, resilience, and overall well-being in the workplace.
    • By actively listening to different perspectives and embracing our imperfections, we can create an environment that encourages collaboration and personal growth in the workplace.
    • Acknowledging and addressing personal weaknesses in a professional setting can enhance communication and understanding, leading to more productive dialogues and opportunities for improvement.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    Embracing Growth and Mindfulness in the Workplace

    Work can be challenging, but it can also be an opportunity for personal growth and improvement. Often, our ego gets in the way, causing conflicts and making it difficult to see things from others' perspectives. By practicing mindfulness and not side with ourselves, we can reduce feelings of overwhelm and navigate relationships at work more effectively. Work can serve as a testing ground for applying meditative concepts and improving ourselves. It's important to change our relationship with our thoughts, handle praise and blame, and learn how to give and receive feedback. While work can sometimes suck, it doesn't have to be a slog forever. By making small increments and gaining momentum, work can become more glorious and fulfilling.

    Embracing Uncertainty and Taking Risks for Personal and Professional Growth

    Embracing uncertainty and being willing to try new things can lead to personal and professional growth. Dan Harris shares his experience of transitioning from managing a team to working on disparate projects, such as hosting a podcast, which he initially felt unqualified for. Despite feeling overwhelmed at times, he learns to lean into uncertainty and trust in his own skills and aptitudes. He highlights the importance of not feeding negative thoughts that create a world of misery and overwhelm. By recognizing that thoughts are not absolute truths, we can choose to adopt perspectives that serve our best interests and foster a sense of ease and growth. Meditation practice can help develop the skill of discerning between helpful and unhelpful thoughts.

    Embracing Different Perspectives to Overcome Overwhelm

    Overwhelm is often a result of the perspectives we choose to believe in. Our thoughts construct a palace of overwhelming thoughts, but we have the power to question and challenge these perspectives. It may not be easy to escape the overwhelmed palace, but recognizing that our thoughts are fabricated allows us to come back to something simple and real. It's important to realize that even though some thoughts may hold some truth, they are just one perspective among many. By exploring different perspectives and seeking support from others, we can transform overwhelm into creative engagement. Interrogating our thoughts and leaning on our relationships can help us navigate through overwhelming situations and create a more balanced and responsive inner world.

    Changing Perspectives and Building Supportive Relationships

    It's important to challenge negative thoughts and seek out supportive relationships. When faced with painful thoughts or overwhelming tasks, it can be helpful to ask ourselves what else is true and find alternative perspectives. This can change our attitude and approach to the situation. The power of connecting with others should not be underestimated. We are wired as a collaborative species, and sharing burdens and seeking support can bring relief and relaxation. It is common to internalize the conditioning of self-reliance and individual success, but it is vital to recognize the value of building meaningful relationships, asking for help, and bouncing ideas off others. Growth comes from learning to have conversations with trusted individuals when we face troubles.

    The Power of Asking for Help and Receiving Generosity

    Asking for help and being open to receiving generosity from others can lead to personal growth and well-being. Dan Harris discusses the idea that asking for help can be a form of generosity, as it gives others the opportunity to feel good by providing assistance. This notion is deeply rooted in the Buddhist tradition, where generosity is considered a foundational value. By practicing the act of giving and being altruistic, individuals can experience a sense of liberation from struggle and suffering. Additionally, being willing to accept help without rejecting or obstructing it allows others to express their own generosity. This shift in thinking can lead to a greater sense of ease and interconnectedness with those around us. Ultimately, embracing help and taking things one moment at a time can be effective antidotes to overwhelm.

    Simplify and focus for greater productivity

    We often make our work lives harder on ourselves by constantly worrying about the future and overwhelming ourselves with multiple tasks at once. Instead of trying to handle six days of work in one moment, we should focus on taking each moment as it comes and addressing tasks one at a time. By breaking down our workload and only focusing on the next five minutes, we can alleviate overwhelm and stress. This mindset shift allows us to plan and prioritize without getting lost in future thinking. Practicing mindfulness through techniques like meditation can enhance our ability to stay present and let go of distracting thoughts, ultimately improving our overall well-being and productivity.

    Harnessing Mindfulness and Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    Practicing mindfulness can help us manage overwhelming thoughts and emotions. By taking a moment to breathe and recognize our anxieties as mere fleeting thoughts, we can develop the skill of staying present and focused on the task at hand. Additionally, the conversation emphasizes the importance of effective communication and feedback in the workplace. Instead of getting caught up in negative judgments or sugarcoating feedback, expressing oneself with a positive intention is crucial. This involves considering the best interests of the person receiving the feedback while remaining clear and honest. By incorporating these practices, we can navigate workplace challenges with greater clarity, understanding, and compassion.

    Building Trust and Caring Relationships for Effective Feedback

    Effective communication of critical feedback requires a strong foundation of trust and a sincere commitment to the overall wellbeing of the relationship. It is essential to establish a positive intention and reaffirm the importance of the working relationship before delivering difficult feedback. By demonstrating that you genuinely care about the other person's growth and success, they will be more open to receiving the feedback, even if they may initially disagree. Additionally, providing individuals the opportunity to choose how they receive the feedback empowers them and balances the power dynamic. Timing and delivery are crucial, so it is essential to check in with the person and create a safe and appropriate environment for the conversation. The key is to center the relationship and ensure that both parties know they have each other's backs.

    Navigating Power Dynamics in Giving Feedback Professionally

    When it comes to giving feedback in a professional setting, it's crucial to consider the power dynamics at play. In hierarchical workplaces, some individuals hold positions of power while others may feel relatively disempowered. This distinction is significant because work is directly tied to fundamental needs like medicine, food, and shelter. While it is important to be authentic and express your thoughts, it is equally important for those in a disempowered position to take care of themselves and their needs. Giving feedback, especially difficult feedback, can be challenging in certain work relationships. Reacting impulsively or aggressively due to power imbalances can lead to harmful dynamics. It is essential to be thoughtful, careful, and considerate when offering feedback, taking into account the overall safety and sustainability of your employment.

    The Importance of Honesty and Authenticity in Relationships

    Being honest and authentic in our relationships is crucial for our overall wellbeing. From a Buddhist perspective, honesty is highly valued and not speaking truthfully creates delusion in the world. It is important to evaluate our relationships, particularly in the workplace, and consider if we can be honest and forthright. Building trust and a mutual commitment to supporting each other can create a safe space for honest and direct feedback, even in hierarchical power dynamics. If we find ourselves unable to be real with certain people, we should strive to build a foundation for open communication or consider finding a new environment where we can be honest. Additionally, the Buddhist concept of praise and blame reminds us to not crave praise or fear blame, as these polar experiences are part of our social context that we cannot avoid.

    The Impact of External Factors on the Quality of Our Work

    We often attach too much importance to external factors such as praise and blame, which ultimately affects the quality of our work. Our minds tend to dwell on seeking validation and fearing judgment, causing us to lose focus on the task at hand. Instead, we should view praise and blame as impersonal forces, like weather patterns, that come and go in our lives. While it is natural to care about how our actions impact others and hope for positive outcomes, we should not let the obsession with social reverberations undermine our work's true value. By integrating mindfulness and meditation into our daily lives, especially in the chaos of work, we can cultivate a balance between personal validation and staying focused on meaningful contribution.

    Balancing Work and Happiness through Mindfulness

    Finding balance and happiness in our work life is crucial for our overall well-being. Rather than viewing self-care as a separate activity, we should strive for a work environment where we feel supported and fulfilled. Work is where we spend a significant amount of our time, so investing in it can have a profound impact on our lives. Despite the challenges that come with work, such as stress and power dynamics, it presents a great opportunity for personal growth. Implementing small practices, like being mindful of reaching for a coffee cup, can help us find moments of peace and clarity amidst the busyness. By incorporating mindfulness into our work, we can cultivate a more balanced and fulfilling experience.

    The Importance of Paying Attention to Subtle Fluctuations in Well-being at Work

    Paying attention to subtle levels of fluctuation in our well-being throughout the workday can have a significant impact on our overall performance and mindset. Often, we only focus on big spikes or major challenges, but by tuning in on a more subtle level, we can identify smaller triggers that affect our well-being. For example, reaching for a coffee cup may be a way to soothe ourselves after a challenging interaction or moment of nervousness. When we become attuned to these subtleties, we can respond in a more effective and proactive manner, taking steps to care for ourselves and alleviate stress. This approach not only improves our staying power and resilience but also fosters a sense of self-support and allyship in the workplace.

    Fostering Openness and Self-Awareness for Effective Collaboration

    Fostering openness, flexibility, and self-awareness in the workplace is crucial for effective collaboration and growth. The value of "don't side with yourself" emphasizes the need to avoid becoming entrenched in our own opinions and instead create an environment where different perspectives can be heard and considered. By holding strong opinions lightly and actively listening to others, we can build on ideas and come to more informed conclusions. Additionally, the value of "own your crap" encourages self-awareness of our weaknesses and areas for improvement. Embracing our imperfections and understanding that not everyone is perfect fosters a more authentic and productive work environment.

    The Power of Vulnerability in Professional Communication

    Owning your weaknesses and being vulnerable can positively impact the outcome of a conversation. In this story, the person acknowledges their weak point as an employee right from the start, before discussing their desired position in the company. This act of vulnerability changes the tone of the conversation, showing their self-awareness and willingness to improve. It disarms the senior vice president and director, who no longer feel the need to provide difficult feedback. The individual is then able to openly share their stepping stones towards their goal, leading to a productive dialogue. This story emphasizes the power of acknowledging and addressing personal weaknesses in a professional setting, ultimately enhancing communication and understanding.

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