Career Management, Yamas & Niyamas

Practicing Ahimsa in the Workplace

The first yama is Ahimsa which translates to “non-harming” or “non-violence”.  Non-violence not only means abstaining from acts of violence, but also words or thoughts that do harm.  Gossip, passive aggressiveness, being pessimistic are all ways that we put harmful energy into the world without knowing it.  

In his book “Yoga for a World Out of Balance,” author Michael Stone says that ahimsa doesn’t necessarily mean right vs. wrong but what’s important is that we act with conviction. He notes that our conviction may change over time as we develop new experiences, but if we don’t act in the moment what whatever knowledge we know now, we may never act at all.  When it comes to collaborating within teams, practicing ahimsa in this way is necessary for maintaining harmony, cohesiveness, and developing new ideas.  It’s not always about having the perfect answer or solution but it’s having an idea that is a strong educated guess based on our experience and intuition. What matters is that it come from a well-intentioned place. It’s also using our intuition to prevent a problem to arise down the road, and being proactive to save our colleagues time and to help ourselves as well.

When observing the ways my lack of confidence showed up, it was the absence of conviction. I was not voicing my ideas in meetings, overthinking projects which looked like procrastination, and waiting to be asked to do things. I wasn’t demonstrating the knowledge that I had accumulated throughout my career.   I was failing to act out of fear of being wrong but that’s not necessarily helpful.  

Where does conviction come from?  How can we make sure that we are not acting from a place of impulse but truly from what we believe in and have faith that it is also for the benefit of the world around us? First, we need to cultivate internal awareness of what we value.  I want to be known to my colleagues as being helpful, proactive, innovative, knowledgeable and kind. Second, we need to be ok with failing and not being “right” in the conventional sense. Failures, that result from good intentions, help us refine and optimize our actions over time. In other words, we learn from our mistakes so we don’ make them again. I’ve lead the media strategies for two new campaigns on my own. When one of our clients asked us to put together media plans at three budget levels to pitch to senior management they went with the highest budget level and then some. , and I’m collaborating more seamlessly and fearlessly with my colleagues.  I am learning not to lean into the fear of being wrong and instead just acknowledge that it’s there and rise above it. It’s like the saying goes “get comfortable with being uncomfortable” and that’s exactly how I feel.  I tell myself every day that I have been in this industry for a long time and have built great experience and there is no reason why I should not be owning it. 

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