Becoming a Workplace Warrior

workplace warrior

Another day, another deadline. You gulp caffeine and forge ahead, like the steadfast worker you are. A good soldier never gives up the fight, right?

Only if you view work as a battleground.

There’s a decisive difference between soldiering on, gamely shouldering the workload you’re assigned, and becoming a workplace warrior. Soldiers take orders; warriors take responsibility. While it’s wise to be a team player and complete projects to the best of your ability, even executives can push the envelope so severely that instead of helping the company, they’re hurting themselves.

Continually operating in overdrive can lead to physical, mental, or emotional harm. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following signs of burnout are cause for concern:

  • Chronic cynicism and sarcasm
  • Irritability with everyone, from co-workers to clients
  • Loss of energy
  • Disillusionment about your job or future
  • Sleep problems
  • Headaches, neck pain, lower back pain
  • Abuse of food, drugs or alcohol

We each carry the potential to embody conscious power. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. demonstrated highly developed warrior energy. In business, the most effective leaders are warriors: they champion change in themselves and in others, respect boundaries, communicate clearly, and act from integrity.

Unfortunately, we sometimes act out the “shadow side” of the warrior, says cross-cultural educator and corporate consultant Angeles Arrien, Ph.D. Instead of coming from presence and purpose, we behave like rebels without a cause, either resisting authority or hiding behind a veil: withholding our talents while attempting to ride others’ coattails to glory.

From Bravery to Courage

Moving from soldier to warrior—or from victim to advocate, since self-sacrifice is the flip side of claiming our personal power—entails a subtle perceptual shift. It’s a small but significant step from being brave, which means ready to endure a challenge, to becoming courageous: able to do what frightens you. “Courage” derives from coeur, the French word for heart. A warrior, therefore, is one who comes from the heart.

In Peaceful Warrior, a film based on the autobiographical novel Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman, a wise elder named Socrates helps a young man discover his purpose after a career-shattering accident. Socrates tells Dan, “A warrior does not give up what he loves; he finds the love in what he does.”

When Socrates asks, “Are you happy?” Dan replies that he will be, when he attains his goal—thus revealing his need for training. For a warrior, happiness is not an external objective but an internal condition. The same holds true for balance, satisfaction, humor, etc.: when we are able to bring those qualities to work with us rather than seeking them outside ourselves, we begin to become warriors.

Developing Your Inner Warrior

In her book, The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary, Arrien delineates six leadership skills of the Warrior’s Way:

  1. Show honor and respect.
  2. Align words with actions.
  3. Respect limits and boundaries.
  4. Be responsible and disciplined.
  5. Demonstrate right use of power.
  6. Follow the 3 Don’ts of Leadership: when there is much to do, don’t be afraid; when there is nothing to do, don’t be hasty; and don’t make judgments about “right” and “wrong.”

There are numerous practices and processes for moving from victim to warrior. Some that Arrien recommends:

  • Spend time in nature every day.
  • Set aside daily time for exercise or movement, such as Tai Chi or yoga.
  • Name the people who have inspired you and discern the qualities in them you want to emulate.
  • Explore how your rebellious or victim behaviors have served you, then transform those patterns into warrior tools to liberate your true power.

Developing your inner warrior is work, but it can pay off as it leads to greater success, vision, and integrity.

Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications