We all want the safe space, the space where you won’t be rejected, where you won’t look silly, where there’s no risk, and where you know that things will work.
Whenever I talk about emotional engagement, or passion or Noble Purpose, inevitably someone will come up to me afterward and say, “I love this, but my company will never go for it.” That person then proceeds to explain why his or her money-driven boss doesn’t care about emotional “stuff’ like this, or the person will say, “The people in my company are too intellectual—or educated, or uneducated, or power hunger, or disengaged—to get into this.”
What they’re really saying is, I want to stay safe. I don’t want to be the one who starts.
It’s a common human quagmire. We want our boss to become passionate about the company before we invest our own enthusiasm. We want our spouse to be more loving before we risk our own heart. We want our friends to share their vulnerabilities before we share our own.
You don’t have to be a behaviorist to see where this goes. If we wait for others to emotionally engage, we can easily wind up leading a very barren life.
Here’s the big mistake: We know what’s in our own hearts, but we often underestimate what’s in everyone else’s. We judge ourselves by what we’re thinking, but we judge others by what they say and do.
We may be thinking, I wish this company were more passionate, but if no one else is saying it out loud, we tell ourselves that we’re the only one who cares.
The truth is, most of us hold ourselves back from becoming emotionally engaged. We yearn for a sense of greater purpose; we want meaning; we want close emotional connections. Yet it’s easier—and safer—to check off our daily tasks than it is to open our hearts, and be vulnerable by talking about big things like, love, or passion at work.
But what are we really waiting for, the safe space when everyone else is on board? Or the awful space when things are so bad we don’t have anything left to lose? The truth is, sharing your emotional aspirations for your job, or your relationships, doesn’t make you less powerful; it makes your more powerful.
So don’t wait. Don’t wait until your business is failing. Don’t wait until you get comfortable enough to talk to your boss. Don’t wait until it’s convenient, safe, or easy. And above all, don’t wait until you think everybody else is ready.
If you think your boss is cold-hearted, talk about how much you love your customers anyway. If you think your team will laugh at you, tell them that you want your work to make a difference anyway.
Somebody has to start. You can be one of the people who holds back, waiting to see what everyone else is going to do. Or you can be one of the people who has the courage to bring your full emotional self into everything you do.
At the end of the day, all we have is each other. Your life is a short imprint in the arc of the universe. You can sit around and wait for the safe space to share your hopes and dreams. Or you can be the one who goes first.