If you’re feeling stuck or unhappy with your career, the best place to look for answers is in the mirror. The inner world tends to manifest in the outer world, and the solution will start with you, says Ralph Kilmann, author of Creating a Quantum Organization. But it’s not an easy fix.
“A lot of people are still pretty uncomfortable with examining what lurks inside,” says Kilmann. “They want to forget what happened way back when and pretend that has no impact on them. They think they could make good decisions in the present, even though they’re still highly conflicted from the past.”
Through his work with organizations and people and his own personal development, Kilmann says he’s discovered that our inner conflicts drive everything else. “How can you possibly make a good decision about your personal or your work life if you don’t know who you are and what brings you bliss?” he asks. “You can’t if you’re unconscious.”
Moving forward with intention requires answering and resolving these four inner struggles, he says:
Are you a “physical body” or an “energy body”?
The Western world is deep into the physical body, says Kilmann. For example, physical education in schools revolves around sports and fitness instead of exploring inner feelings. Discussions of an “energy body” comes more from the Eastern world where people talk about chakras, the energy centers inside your body.
“People used to say, you can walk into a room and feel the tension or feel the mood,” says Kilmann. “That’s an energy thing. How we radiate energy and what energy we radiate has more to do with what goes on than the words we say.”
Lowest energy levels come from the root chakra and are about anger, guilt, shame, fear, apathy, and pride, says Kilmann. At the higher end, the crown chakra has energies that have to do with love, peace, joy, and compassion.
“Boy, do those sound and feel different,” says Kilmann. “If you’re in an organization where people are radiating the lower energies, it changes everything. You can be very dissatisfied, frustrated, and stymied. You cannot be yourself. It’s a shame to spend 40 to 50 hours a week in a place that does not give you bliss.”
To answer the question—Are you a physical or energy body?—Kilmann says we are all both. Seeing yourself that way can help you resolve discomfort or stress in different ways. “It’s not just about taking medication; it may be changing your attitude, your belief system, your thoughts,” he explains.
Are you governed by your ego or your soul?
Once you’ve made progress on the first foundational conflict, determine if you’re governed by your ego or your soul.
“People have all kinds of inner voices, telling them what they should do,” he says. “These inner voices can come from family experiences, from trauma, from what they hear on the news or read in a book. They’re all incorporated as an inner voice, but they’re often conflicting.”
Kilmann suggests organizing your inner voices into two categories: ego and soul. “The ego is focused primarily on self-image, safety, security, survival, and success,” he says. “The ego is dominated by those lower emotions fear, pride, anger, desire, and grief. The ego stands ready to defend itself and its prior decisions and actions. Ultimately, the ego seeks power control, influence, fame, attention and immortality.”
The soul focuses on a “special calling,” wanting to answer the questions like: Why were you born? What are you here to do? How do you fit into that universal puzzle? “The soul radiates higher energies of love joy, peace, and compassion,” says Kilmann.
Like the first inner conflict, the answer is that you can be both. “We’re not trying to destroy either ego or soul,” says Kilmann. “The question is, ‘How can they work together?’ Ideally, your ego and soul are on the same page. You have this calling in life, and your ego musters up the energy to get you there. They work together. That’s the best possible scenario.”
Are your surrounding “systems” separate from your inner self, or part of who you are?
The third conflict Kilmann identifies focuses on how you perceive what’s around you. Kilmann says your “systems” are other people, the culture of your family, the culture of your workgroup, the culture of society, and the strategy of your organization.
“Culture and strategy are usually seen as being outside yourself, and therefore, if it’s outside me, it’s not my responsibility,” he says. “But if no one’s taking care of business, things are not going to work out well.”
Incorporating outside systems as being a part of you falls under your soul perspective. If you’re part of everything, that can change your perspective and approach. Once you take responsibility for outside systems, you can better work together to change the system.
“Why not have the systems in an organization support personal growth, encourage people to do their best to become who they are, and to contribute?” asks Kilmann. “That’s called empowerment, but it can only happen if you take responsibility for those outside systems.”
Have you resolved your primal relationships, or is your past draining your energy?
The final conflict can be the ultimate challenge, as it involves resolving primal relationships. “I often find that people in organizations are interacting with one another in the present, but a person may unconsciously remind you of someone who hurt you,” says Kilmann. “Instead of seeing the person in front of you, you’re seeing a manifestation of someone from years ago. … How can a group get anything done if everyone’s projecting their unresolved past in the present?”
Resolving these challenging relationships could require meeting with the person face to face to discuss what happened or it may require therapy. It also means facing conflicts of truth, which is the fact that each person in the situation has a different story or version of what happened.
“We are often in conflict over the truth, but once you define it and combine two truths, you can expand the size of the pie, so we each get a richer understanding of what happened,” says Kilmann. “Through forgiveness, there’s acceptance and moving forward in a more adaptive way.”
Addressing inner conflicts is important. Left untended, you’ll work out of habits driven by your unconscious mind. Kilmann says the silver lining of the pandemic is that it’s pushed people into greater self-awareness.
“Albert Einstein said you can’t solve a problem by the same consciousness that created it,” he says. “You have to rise above it and see it from a larger perspective. You have to move away from fear, spite, anger, pride, and hate, and into love, joy, peace, and compassion. If you can interact with others in that manner, it will change everything.”
This article was originally published by Fast Company Magazine.