In many Celtic traditions, May 1st was known as "Beltane," a holiday to mark the return of the sun and the beginning of summer. Today, many of us know it as "May Day," and while it's not widely celebrated in the United States, I think it has important lessons for those of us seeking a more energized and natural way of working.
On May Day, we celebrate the abundance of Spring and the tide of life rising up within us again.
If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you may have experienced a long, wet, and dark winter - literally, and maybe figuratively, too.
As we transition into a new season, the whole world is coming back to life around us. If you have felt giddy as you see trees blossom, enjoy having a couple of hours of daylight after work, or are already imagining the camping you'll do this summer, then you're right in line with the energy of the season. On May Day, we're reminded that growth, creativity, and beauty are all possible when we honor what makes us feel alive.
The return to life that's happening all around us doesn't stop outside our office doors - if we let it, it will permeate our organizations and infuse them with some much-needed growth and energy.
The best way to allow this May Day joy to bubble up in your worklife or your organization is to simply honor your passions as sacred.
Passion, defined as a "powerful or compelling feeling," can be a scary thing. Many of us were taught that passions and desires were dangerous, probably because they can compel us to violate social norms that tell us to stay in jobs we hate, relationships that are dying, or follow the rules that tell us to stay small and quiet.
In many organizations today, passion is sterilized into "employee engagement," "culture," or "career development." When someone shows up passionate about a new initiative, project, or solution to a problem, we often say "thanks, but here are all of the reasons why that won't work."
When we - as individuals and organizations - deny what's coming to life within and around us, we dishonor what makes us human. It's as if we stomp on the flowers that are blooming in our yards or cut off all of the buds growing on trees that line our streets just because they scare us. When we do that, we end up living in a barren, colorless world in which nothing vibrant blooms.
If you feel the joyful, abundant energy of Spring around you and are tired of existing in a professional wasteland, then I've got some ideas for you.
They're all about honoring what it is that makes you feel alive, just as a flower accepts the sunlight, water, and soil that it needs in order to bloom.
Here are four ways that you can start stoking the May Day flame in your worklife and organization:
First, respond to small desires. Do you feel like getting a popsicle with that cute colleague? Do it. Wanna stare out the window for five minutes? Let yourself. Need an afternoon off to go kayaking? Leave. Now.
Your desires are sacred, and too often, we shut them up and push on toward a life that is lifeless. You don't have to quit your job or cash out your 401(k) yet unless you're ready to - you can simply begin to honor your small desires and the flame within you will grow. It's there, I promise, even if you can't feel any passion at all right now. Let your senses lead you back to what you love and simply honor the small things that make you feel good.
Second, envision yourself living passionately. Passion doesn't have to be this big, grandiose thing that consumes you. Most of the time, it's a still, small spark that just compels you to create, connect, and expand. If you feel passionately about something but don't feel ready to acknowledge, talk about, or make it a reality in your life, that's totally okay. You can simply honor that passion by taking time each day to imagine yourself living a life that you love. Give yourself permission to create a little opening for those passions each day, even if you have no idea how they'll come into reality. You can include your organization in this exercise as well and imagine the entire place alive with creative passion, energy, and connection.
Third, plan for joy this summer. I don't know about you, but at the end of almost every summer, I find myself regretting the fact that I didn't go camping more. Even though life transforms in the summer months without trying, if I don't somewhat plan for what I want to experience, I miss out on experiences that I know would make me feel joyful.
So this May Day, plan a couple of things that make you (and maybe your coworkers, too) feel joyful in the height of summer. Maybe it's planning a barbecue for friends, a trip to the beach, or a day off to go float on the river. Simply set aside time to do what makes you feel good and connected to the world around you. If you're a leader in an organization, plan some fun for everyone else, too, or better yet, adopt the New England tradition of closing early on Fridays between Memorial Day and Labor Day!
Finally, play more. May Day is a celebration of play, fun, and letting go of the things that make us feel inhibited. Anytime we dance, sing, play a sport, or engage in a creative activity, we're playing, and it lights up all sorts of goodness in our brains. Humans play in order to learn, connect to others, and be renewed, and we need more of it in our organizations. For your next team meeting, try doing something playful just for the sake of having fun. If your team isn't used to letting loose in the office, start small and simply include more play in your worklife to model it for others.
I hope you'll let the joy and energy of May Day enrich your worklife and your organization today. Your passions and desires are sacred, and if you let them, they will guide you to live a bigger, more bountiful life that transforms your career and your organization.
In closing, I want to share a quote from Danielle LaPorte's The Desire Map:
Through our wanting, we come to know more of ourselves, each other, and life.
Desire is at the root of our divine impulse to evolve.
Desire leads the way home.
Know anyone who could use some May Day passion in their worklife? Pass this along to them!