Gratitude for Spiritset

In my last blog post, I explored the need to expand beyond our current focus on mindset and to appreciate the role that heartset plays in shaping our beliefs, choices and actions. In reflecting on this framing, I’ve come to realize I left out a third element that provides a foundation and context for both mindset and heartset – it’s our spiritset.

What’s that? Well, it’s a made-up word, but I’m looking for symmetry with the word that dominates most of our discussions today – mindset. I’ve already made up the word heartset, so why not keep on going and offer you spiritset as well?

So, what’s spiritset? It’s my attempt to capture the essence of who we are and what ultimately makes us human. Deep within us, we each have a unique identity that struggles for expression and growth. It’s what ultimately defines us and our deepest needs. It shapes both our mindset and heartset.

Since it’s Thanksgiving today in the US, perhaps this is an appropriate time to express our gratitude for the foundation of everything that defines our humanity.

Spiritset is defined by a cascading series of paradoxes. Individual yet connected

Our spiritset expresses our uniqueness. There’s never been anyone who is the same as we are. We all hunger for that uniqueness to be acknowledged and celebrated by others. At the same time, our spiritset defines how we are all connected to each other. No matter what our differences, we are all united by a spirit that craves connection and can only be fulfilled through connection. And it’s not just connection with other human beings. It’s connection with all other living things and even the earth and the universe. Even the introverts among us want to be connected and a prolonged feeling of isolation can lead to profound unhappiness. This paradox is nicely captured by the Latin expression “e pluribus unum” – out of many, one.

Evolving but stable Our spiritset is not a fixed entity. It’s driven to grow and evolve. It wants to become more, much more. Yet, at the same time, it provides an anchor of stability that we can always count on. It defines elements that will never change and that we can hang onto in times of great stress and uncertainty. But it will never be satisfied with stability – we have a powerful need to flourish and achieve more and more of our potential

Risk-taking but protective In its quest to grow and evolve, our spiritset is not only willing, but eager, to take risks that will help us to achieve more of our potential. But, our spiritset is also very protective – its goal is to thrive but, in order to do that, it must first survive – so it will do everything it can to protect us from any dangers lurking in our environment. Its survival instinct is very strong and has helped us and our ancestors to navigate through some very challenging environments. It provides us with the courage to move forward, even in the most difficult times.

Giving but seeking to receive Our spiritset drives us to make a difference that matters to others who matter to us. We are deeply fulfilled by a sense that we have contributed something meaningful to others. Yet, at the same time, our spiritset is in a constant quest to find ways to receive from others so that we can achieve more of our own potential. The ultimate goal is a virtuous cycle where the more we receive from others, the more we are able to develop our potential and provide meaningful contributions to others.

Energizing but relaxing Our spiritset is an incredible source of energy. It inspires and drives us to explore and strive to achieve more of our potential. But at the same time our spiritset provides a source of calmness that relaxes and detaches us in the most trying of times. It’s that extraordinary balancing act that enables us to not only endure but to turn some of our biggest challenges into some of our greatest opportunities. And the amazing thing is that, when our spiritset truly connects with the spiritset of others, our energy is amplified and our relaxation deepens. Our spiritsets are an infinite source of energy when properly cultivated.

Where does spiritset come from?
Many of you who’ve been reading this far, have now concluded that I’m some kind of religious evangelist. After all, isn’t spiritset just another word for soul? Well, for some it is and that may be fine. But I caution you not to be too quick to use this word for several reasons.

First, depending on your religious persuasion, soul may have very different meanings and not capture all the dimensions of spiritset that I’m exploring.

Second, the concept of soul tends to be associated with religion and a belief in God. I’m not suggesting that we need to believe in God, at least as conventionally defined, in order to embrace the reality of our spiritset.

Perhaps our spiritset emerges from energy forces that we don’t yet fully understand, but that are a very real part of our universe. There’s so much of our universe that remains to be explored – perhaps this is just one other dimension inviting our attention. There are many who would describe themselves as spiritual, but not religious, who are exploring this dimension. I definitely fall into this camp.

But perhaps we don’t even have to believe in some mysterious energy force to embrace the concept of spiritset. Perhaps we just have to acknowledge that our physical bodies are extraordinarily complex and evolving systems that we are only beginning to understand. For a long time, we’ve pursued siloed understanding of our bodies, with some focusing on neuroscience, others focused on our cardiovascular systems and yet others focusing on our digestive systems. We’re only now beginning to understand that these are not independent systems but highly connected and interacting, and shaping each other in ways that we had not even imagined. Perhaps there are other dimensions of interaction and interdependence of our physical systems that give rise to the characteristics of the spiritset that I’m describing, without requiring us to look for some mysterious energy force or soul as the source of this spiritset.

Why does this matter?
Many of my business colleagues as they read this are now beginning to wonder if I’ve gone off the deep end and wandered into woo-woo land. Why does any of this matter for business or for the successful operation of any of our institutions?

Well, I believe it not only matters, but will become increasingly central to our individual, institutional and social survival. In more stable times, perhaps we could get away with embracing a rationalist outlook focused just on mindset, especially if we were willing to acknowledge that psychology could help us to understand the role that emotions and our heartset play in driving our choices and actions.

But, as we move deeper into the Big Shift, characterized by mounting performance pressure and an accelerating pace of change, we need to look deeper into ourselves to understand who we really are and what really motivates us. In that kind of world, superficial manipulation of our thoughts and emotions won’t produce the motivation we’ll all require to succeed.

The institutions and leaders who understand the power of our spiritset and the infinite potential that it offers will be the ones to survive and flourish in increasingly challenging times. They’re the ones who will help us to navigate from mounting performance pressure to expanding opportunity by cultivating that spiritset. They will see that spiritset, properly cultivated, provides us with the motivation that leads to accelerating performance improvement, while providing us with the guardrails to flourish rather than flounder. They will see that spiritsets, properly cultivated, can generate the mindsets and heartsets we need to achieve far more of our potential, as individuals and institutions. This isn’t just about our needs as individuals. It’s increasingly about our needs as institutions.

Cultivating spiritsets
Here’s the challenge. While we all have a spiritset that can enable us to flourish, our institutions and our societies have increasingly created environments that ignore, if not deny, the existence of that spiritset. We’re all focused on instilling the right knowledge and skills that can help us to succeed. We are taught that emotions are a distraction, if not deeply harmful, to our quest to succeed. Spiritset is viewed as some kind of mystical fantasy that undermines our ability to succeed in the material world. Success is increasingly defined as the accumulation of material goods.

By focusing on spiritsets, we would finally encourage everyone to find their passion and pursue their passion in ways that benefit others while helping each of us to achieve more of our potential. I’ve written elsewhere about the imperative to shift from institutional models based on scalable efficiency to ones based on scalable learning. But here’s the rub, we will never learn fast enough unless we’re motivated to learn faster and the most powerful form of motivation is intrinsic – it comes from what I’ve described as the passion of the explorer. That form of passion is ultimately a manifestation of our spiritset – it emerges from our quest to achieve far more of our potential.

Spiritsets are certainly not cultivated and nourished in our world driven by scalable efficiency. That doesn’t mean they go away. They live within each of us, struggling for recognition and attention. But they live in the recesses of our being and, for most of us, can only play a limited role in helping us to achieve more of our potential.

But, imagine what we could achieve if we not only acknowledged, but actively sought to cultivate, the spiritsets that reside within all of us. That would provide us with the motivation to achieve more of our potential and to have an increasing impact that matters on others. It would also provide us with an opportunity to connect more deeply with the spiritsets of others so that we could amplify our energy and achieve even more impact together.

Today, our research suggests that only about 14% of workers in the US have this form of passion in their work. That’s a natural and inevitable consequence of building institutions that fail to recognize the importance of spiritsets.

Bottom line
We’re complex beings, and we need to learn how to embrace that complexity. We’re also capable of achieving infinite potential, but only if we embrace the complexity that makes us human. Let’s resist the temptation to simplify, because that will only limit our potential. Let’s dive deep beneath our mindset and heartset and explore the foundation that ultimately defines who we are. As we move into an exponential world shaped by exponential technology, this will be the key to unleashing our intrinsically human ability to drive exponential performance improvement for ourselves.

Scalable learning requires intense motivation which requires passion which requires cultivating our spiritset. It all goes back to spiritset.

The journey to nurture spiritset
So, how do we nurture our spiritset? We need to begin by acknowledging that it exists and that it has extraordinary power. That will motivate us to look within and invest the time and effort required to explore the force that ultimately defines who we are. We need to reflect on what truly drives us and what will enable us to achieve more of our potential. As we do this, we need to seek out others who have embarked on a similar journey. And then we need to work together to shape institutions and communities that actively seek to address the needs of our spiritset, helping all of us to achieve more of our potential. It won’t be easy, because so many of us have lived so long without even acknowledging our spiritset, much less learning about its needs and power, but the rewards will be enormous for us as individuals and as a society.

I’m writing this in Athens, Greece. I’ve always had deep admiration for those brave early explorers like Aristotle and Socrates who had the curiosity and wisdom to learn more about who we really are. They’ve inspired me to write this. We have yet to discover fully who we really are.


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