Maintaining your psychological balance is difficult. Human thinking is loaded with land mines. Our thoughts about our significant relationships and life experiences constantly churn in the daily whirlpool of trivial events, superficial relationships, personal moods and the sharp edges of minor frustrations.
It’s not easy to keep your balance if you’re roller skating through life in a rain storm of emotions on a potholed path littered with falling trees and broken glass. It’s especially hard if the other skaters are throwing elbows as they try to speed past you.
Both ancient philosophers and modern psychologists have recognized that women (and high–empathy men) have distinct sociological challenges when it comes to keeping a robust inner balance of daily contentment and drive for a better life.
Greek philosophers describe women as having two primary goddesses, Athena and Hera. Athena is the strong goddess. She is the leader. She is highly motivated to right wrongs and to ensure social justice. She is loyal, dutiful and persistent. She fights for fairness, equality and moral virtue. Athena is the energy that drives the suffragette and modern-day women who are fighting to educate the tens of millions of girls who are being actively deprived even a basic education. (A large number of men also have Athena energy but they’re typically recruited by women who see the tragic consequences of inequity before most do.)
The second primary Greek Goddess is Hera. She is the nurturer. She embodies mother energy. She is also the wise woman who guides powerful men while staying in the background. She is all the female COO’s, CMO’s, CFO’s and CHRO’s in large corporations ruled by a male CEO. Hera has powerful practical empathy. She understands problems at the human level. Most importantly she sees multidimensional consequences of the painful mistakes caused by competitive men who go to war, make reckless decisions, and ignore or exploit people. More than anything, she is the self-sacrificer. She is what most men want and expect from women because she empowers the male drive for status, power and money.
(Of course I am speaking in sociological generalities. There are many men who are psychologically balanced with healthy levels of empathy and drives far greater than their self-interest. They view women as fully capable partners and leaders. Unfortunately few of these kinds of males run large corporations.)
The reason I am telling you about Athena and Hera is that the inner life of women who work in authoritarian organizations has more challenges than then simply adapting to it. Authoritarian organizations may offer maternity leave and flex time, but they don’t want to. What they want is your single-minded focus and one hundred percent of your waking hours dedicated to achieving whatever the goal of the moment is. The design of an authoritarian organization is that of an army whose only goal is victory, and is willing to accept a high number of casualties to achieve it.
The more that work can be replaced with artificial intelligence, the more excited the barons of Wall Street get. Many senior executives over the course of my career have said that work would be wonderful if it could be done without employees. I am not telling you this to depress you, but rather to make it clear that in many invisible ways virtually all workplaces are hostile to your health and happiness. The power in understanding this is that you can take full responsibility for creating your own inner workplace, your personal great place to work.
Here are my work rules.
Whether you’re a man or a woman, think like a Goddess. It is the source of core human integrity. Use your Athena strength to fight for the interests of your customers. (If you don’t, you’ll find yourself doing work that exploits them. Just consider what mid-level employees at Wells Fargo were forced to do to “meet their numbers.”)
Use your Hera empathy and desire to help collaborate so you can innovate and invent new ways to improve the future.
Keep advancing. Don’t let daily events upset you. Reframe your life as a purposeful learning and development experience designed just for you. Don’t waste any disappointment by not learning from it and moving forward.
Put your energy into the things you can control. Use worry like an alarm. Listen to it, shut it off and get into action. If you can’t fix something focus on your work-around and make things better.
Treat your life like it’s sacred. Keep these daily rituals. These are the science-based anchor habits proven to help amplify your effectiveness and keep your inner balance.
Greet each morning with gratitude. Before you get out of bed think of something you’re grateful for and put a big smile on your face and feel the joy of it. This morning ritual will trigger neuro-connections that strengthen the “positivity circuits” of your brain. It stimulates optimism.
At noon leave your desk and go for at least a 20-minute walk. Focus your thoughts on what you do well that you enjoy. This is called the “Flourish” exercise. It boosts your confidence and trains you to look for opportunities in which you will flourish.
Before you walk in the house tonight, sit quietly for a few minutes and think positively about your loved ones. Focused your intention that the people you love, wherever they are, experience happiness, health, wisdom and every good thing that humans hope for. This will change the psychological energy of your presence when you see the loved ones you live with and your desire to connect with those whom you don’t.
Feel fulfilled. Before you go to bed put all your attention on something good you did for someone today. Realize that your act of thoughtfulness matters. Accept your own goodness. You will feel fulfilled.
I realize that these four rituals may seem like just another set of things to do among a million other things you should do. But I’d invite you to consider them in another way. Brain science has absolutely confirmed that mindfully meditating in certain ways rewires your brain to be healthier, stronger and happier. The science has moved beyond simple mindfulness to fine-tuning ways of meditating and makes you more resilient, more stress resistant, more creative, patient, optimistic and loving.
Just try these four “Think like a Goddess” rituals for 21 days. Keep a journal and see how much your inner life improves. It will.