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7 Secrets of Sufism That Helped Me Thrive at Work

How does a spiritual teaching originating from the deserts of the Middle East have any relevance in today's modern workplaces?

Many moons ago I started to follow a Sufi teacher. For nearly the next two decades I dedicated my life to learning and living his mystic teachings.

Looking back, although I didn’t realise it at the time, pretty much all my career was heavily influenced by those teachings.

It was the education I received, the spiritual practices I followed and the strict moral code that I adhered to that shaped how I dealt with myself and others around me.

By following certain secrets, whether they be habits, devotions or states of mind, you are able to find a certain level of calm and control that allows you to thrive at work.

Here’s 7 of those secrets I think really helped me.

  1. Maintain Discipline

One thing that defines your life if you follow Sufi practices is regimental discipline. Whether it’s reciting your daily litanies, saying your prayers, attending study groups or meditating, you must be disciplined, all day, every day and night.

That same discipline when carried over into work can do wonders not only in terms of how much you get done, but more importantly, how you get it done, i.e. methodically. With discipline you learn to manage time, to manage yourself and to manage others around you.

2. Work Hard

Good things don’t come easily and, on top of that, they don’t come quick. Any good Sufi knows that the end goal takes time, dedication and hard work. Keeping yourself on the straight path is what it’s all about. Work keeps you busy, thus away from the temptations of the world!

As with working hard to achieve spiritual progress, the same levels of focus applied at work, say to a project, presentation or a deadline, help you maintain a sense of perspective as well as the stamina to see things through.

3. Stay Grounded

As nothing is ever truly in your control, you’re always taught that life can change very easily. One minute you’re up, blink and then next, you’re down. Never take things for granted and live life for the moment.

Staying alert to the fancies of fate also helps you at work by keeping you alert to threats, challenges and of course, opportunities. When you know things can change for the better or worse, you can plan for them. If you’re not thinking about them, then you’ll be taken by surprise, and surprises aren’t good.

4. Remember to Breath

The act of breathing plays a large role within Sufi practices due to its connection with sustaining life. Closely associated with the workings of the heart, you’re taught that when you learn to control the breath, you control your state of mind through a conscious connection with the divine.

Breathing techniques became crucial to me at work when I would find myself becoming agitated, angry, uptight or stressed. Breath – refocus – reconnect……and relax.

5. Love, unconditionally

Sufism teaches that all creation came from and come from love. Essentially, everything is love. A divine love. When you show love, you reflect that very same essence of the Creator and in return you receive it back. Karma, if you like.

Loving those around you can be hard, especially people we work or do business with. However, a simple change in frame of mind that helps you approach everyone with unconditional positivity soon pays off in terms of the trust people start to have in you.

6. Respond, Don’t React

If there were to be one secret from all of them that I think helped me the most, it’s this one. I had it drilled into me for years that you should never react to anything, always respond.

Us disciples were taught that reactions, i.e. our instinctive/emotional reflexes to something, come from our earthly, animalistic qualities. These don’t necessarily help us. Responses, on the other hand, come from our reasoned, higher, angelic qualities. At work, the ability to take a step back and think things through helped me answer challenges in creative ways.

7. Have Faith

Faith is the one thing that either upholds belief or, if you lose it, can destroy it. Faith, ultimately, is what every single Sufi teaching relies on. Without faith there is nothing left.

Whether it’s faith in yourself, your colleagues, your plans or your ideas, it’s that faith that keeps you going through good and bad, rough and smooth. Certitude in your meaning and trust in who you are help you maintain balance and create mental well-being.

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