Conscious Living: Overcoming the Negative
Much of the public still has a negative opinion of capitalism and finance.
Nearly a decade has elapsed since the financial crisis and thousands of people lost their homes and investments. Looking to the future, how can we in finance improve our image and contribute to a better form of capitalism for the next decade and beyond?
To live consciously means thinking about the decisions we make, how they will play out in the long term, and how they will affect others.
We are not all out to make a quick buck. Yes, we want to earn a good living, but most of us also want to create a better world. Few of us intentionally do anything that is harmful. Instead, we think about how our decisions will affect our companies, employees, customers, and the public.
Aaron Smyle, the founder of Smyle and Associates, LLC, an accounting and tax firm, said that people who live consciously understand that “we’re all part of a bigger pot.” Or, as the 17th-century poet John Donne noted, “No man is an island.”
The interconnectedness of our lives requires us to live with an awareness of others, because if we don’t, the repercussions will come back to haunt us. That’s not just karma, that’s reality — the 2008 financial collapse is proof.
Five Key Practices
In Transforming Wall Street, I interviewed dozens of well-known Wall Street denizens to uncover some of their professional secrets for success. These are individuals who seek to live consciously and ethically while working in the finance industry. They can teach us how to balance both for career success.
From hundreds of hours of interviews, I distilled the information down into five specific practices that will help investment professionals achieve more consciousness in their professional and personal lives. The effect of these practices will have a transformative effect on Wall Street’s relationship with the public.
These practices include:
- Self-Responsibility: Taking responsibility for what happens in our lives without assigning fault or blame.
- Self/Other Empathy: Having compassion for ourselves and the challenges we all regularly face.
- Emotional Non-Resistance: Building on Self/Other Empathy, this practice encourages us to learn how to deal with difficult feelings.
- The Internal/External Journey: Developing consciousness can be both an internal and external process and is unique to each individual. Sometimes, it is a metaphoric “knock at the door.” Other times, a very real experience sends us on this journey.
- Self-Awareness/Mindfulness: The ability to observe our self, feelings, and behaviors in any circumstance with curiosity and neutrality.
A Case Study in Self/Other Empathy
To show the value of these exercises, let’s briefly look at the second practice — Self/Other Empathy. This practice is vital because we are social beings and we all need to get along with one another for success.
When we have empathy for ourselves, we develop forgiveness, understanding, and compassion, first for ourselves and then for others. For example, I have a female client who came to me for coaching because she was receiving negative feedback from her superiors. They thought her work was stellar, but they felt she was too rigid and was disliked by her coworkers. She admitted that she was aware of the problem but was unsure how to resolve it.
Applying the Self/Other Empathy practice together, we got to the root of her behavior. She worked in a male-dominated field and she felt that she constantly had to prove her value. This situation caused her to hold herself to a high standard of success and she became a workaholic, refusing to show herself any mercy or compassion.
When she saw how hard she was on herself, we were able to explore how she could be more empathetic toward herself. As a result, she then learned how to be compassionate toward others, more relaxed in the workplace, and she created better working relationships.
Each of the five practices for living consciously can help us achieve a greater degree of success and satisfaction in our lives and businesses. And they help us to become models to others of how to live consciously, with ripple effects that can not only transform Wall Street, but also our workplaces, homes, and society.
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
Image credit: ©Getty Images/akindo