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Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World

How can ancient wisdom help

In a world of constant change and never-ending to-do lists, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and disconnected from our true purpose. But what if I told you that the key to unlocking success and fulfilment lies in ancient wisdom that has stood the test of time? Is it possible to draw on age-old practices to navigate the modern workplace? Join us on a journey where we unravel the secrets of thriving in chaos by tapping into the wisdom of the ages.

How can we use ancient wisdom to help us thrive in the modern workplace?

Humans have come a long way very quickly. It was only in 1903 that the Wright brothers were doing the unthinkable and helping humans take flight. Now, our expectation is that a budget flight, which costs less than a takeaway, shouldn't dare to delay us.

Before we figured out large-scale agriculture, the human race was very much living hand to mouth. Our work was solely focused on survival. Fast forward to today, and we have incredibly niche jobs. From professional snake milkers, with pretty handsome salaries to professional mermaids. There are enough jobs for every skill set and micro-passion to be pursued.

Most of us work in environments that our basic hardwiring isn't well-equipped to deal with. We are designed to form small in groups, and we tend towards fight or flight reactions. We’re not well adapted to deal with a barrage of blue light and notifications each minute. Anyone who has tried public speaking will attest to how unhelpful it can be to be taken over by our hard wiring despite all our rationalising. The amygdala hijack, a surge of adrenaline coming from the fight or flight reaction when there is no real serious threat to safety leaves us stuttering and stumbling through what sounded so beautiful in our heads.

Why do we look to ancient wisdom?

Ancient wisdom has stood the test of time. The stuff that didn’t work that was once considered good practice or wise has been thrown out. There are now only a select few unwise people that drink piss and use leeches for serious diseases.

What has been left is tried and tested knowledge that has been applicable to humans since its inception. Take mindfulness meditation, a Buddhist tradition around 2,500 years old for many time will have been practised because of the experiential benefits. Now we have numerous studies that evidence the positive impact of mindfulness meditation on brain structure and function. Additionally, studies have shown that mindfulness-based interventions can reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression and improve overall psychological well-being.

Often the ideas you see in your new favourite self-help book are not novel and new, they are tried, tested practices of the ancients, repackaged to fit the modern world.

How can we use ancient wisdom to help us thrive in the modern workplace?

Ancient Wisdom can help you Build Empathy and Understanding

Don't look for the splinter in another's eye when there is a log in your own. Empathy and understanding are the name of the game. This is common when leaders have unrealistic expectations and treat people like numbers, hoping to achieve percentage gains.

Marcus Aurelius and the Stoics would say you should search for others' virtues and your own vices. Be tolerant of others and strict with yourself.

The golden rule in Christianity asks us to treat others how we would like to be treated ourselves. With this in mind, it can help us work with more compassion and drive more value for our customers and colleagues. The beauty of reciprocity is that most people will treat you in the way you treat them, too, and your value will be returned in all sorts of ways.

By trying to see things from others’ points of view, you are able to see their strengths, and their diversity of thought brings divergent thinking that can propel you and your teams forward.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) has been shown to be more important than IQ in many professions. It allows you to tap into your EQ when working with others to understand their perspective and pain. Whether it's selling to a customer, trying to get buy-in from a teammate, or understanding that someone who made a mistake also went above and beyond in many ways. Perhaps we shouldn't strive for perfection but for progress.

Manage your Stress with ancient wisdom

A recent study showed that a lot of people report high levels of stress per week in the UK. Stress can have various effects on the mind and body. Not to mention, Dave, you're a right nightmare when you're stressed outside of work.

The Stoics would argue that stress and misery are inevitable, but being stressed and miserable is up to you. Those feelings are choices that are up to you. Manage your stress with positive outlets, change your mindset, and don't sweat the small stuff.

Worry about what is inside your circle of control. If it's outside of your control, it shouldn't bring you misery. Aim to learn that you cannot influence it.

If you often find yourself feeling suffocated by stress and worry, we have some actionable steps for you.

It’s easy to say don’t worry about it, but hard in practice even if you intellectually agree with the concept.

We are fans of the three-minute rule. Take a new setback or unexpected challenge, a big delay or a disrupting change. Set an alarm for three minutes. In that time, you have the freedom to catastrophise, fume, pace up and down, think about how terrible this new development is, whatever floats your boat. When the timer goes off you are no longer allowed to come up with unhelpful answers. Now it’s time to look at what’s inside your control. What if anything, can I do to influence this outcome? What are the lessons I have learnt?

We like to get ahead of stress by conducting a fear-setting exercise regularly.

This exercise asks us to write down all the things inside our control, how we can impact them, and what the action plan is. Write down the things outside of your control that you no longer need to concern yourself with. Remember, you choose how you think or feel about things.

This is extremely powerful if you find yourself unable to sleep. Nothing was ever solved by worrying about it in bed.

Use Stoic Teachings to Take Action

"Memento mori, memento vivere" – remember you will die, remember to live.

This is a big one. How many people do you speak to on a daily basis who hate their boss, dread Monday morning, and are counting down the days until something changes?

The unfortunate reality is that a large portion of people fall into this camp. Admittedly, many of them are taking temporary pain with an exit plan in mind – saving up to go away, building skills to work their way up. However, there are also many people who just accept this as their reality. They view the world through a lens of suckery. School sucked, and now this – thank God for the weekend, hey?

Well, "memento mori, memento vivere" can be a powerful reminder of the finite nature of life. Sometimes, that's what we need to kick us into action. It can help people take on new challenges despite their fears so they don't risk the regrets of living a mediocre life.

It can also help us realise that this very well-paid job sucks all our time, and the golden handcuffs we have worked so hard for stop us from doing what we really love, like spending time with family, going on fishing retreats, taking photos of trains – whatever floats your boat.

Are we working to live or living to work?

The meditation on your own mortality can help take action.

Reflect and Continuously Improve with Journaling

While it’s hard to pinpoint when writing to reflect and ponder first began one of the first examples we have come across comes from the ancient city of Babylon. The Babylonians, around 2,500 BCE, used clay tablets to record daily events, dreams, and personal reflections. These clay tablets served as a form of personal diary or journal.

Journaling is a powerful tool to help collect thoughts and decide what is most important.

Journaling can help you think about your priorities, and your objectives for the next months and years. By using the ancient practice of journaling, not only will we gain scientifically proven health benefits in improved well-being and stress reduction, but we will also be more connected to what is really important to us. We’ll gain all of this while improving our problem-solving skills and enhancing our creativity.

There are many different types of journaling, read our blog here to see which type is best for you.

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