Future of work consultant Lena Thompson: Passion will lead us to our purpose

Lena Thompson has over 15 years of experience in the corporate arena consulting, training and designing systems for global clients. In 2019 she left her career to figure out her purpose and find direction in life. Now, Lena is an award-winning entrepreneur and an international speaker on a mission to bridge the gap between the corporate and spiritual worlds. We spoke to Lena ahead of her talk at sTARTUp Day 2024 about spirituality, building self-knowledge and discovering and pursuing one’s purpose in life.

The interview was written by Rene Rumberg, a member of the sTARTUp Day marketing & communications team.

Could you say a few words regarding what you will be talking about at sTARTUp Day 2024 in January?

I will talk about the future of productivity or how to work less and achieve more. I will focus on a new measure of productivity that we should start looking into, namely our energy, which directly impacts our productivity, our focus, our happiness, our health. So I will talk about three key elements to help us unlock effortless productivity, accomplish more and gain back a lot of personal time.

Your journey is quite remarkable, transitioning from a successful corporate career to becoming an award-winning entrepreneur and international speaker. Can you share the pivotal moment or realization that led you to make this life-changing decision?

What really happened to me was that at one point, I looked around and the life I was living didn’t feel complete, despite having accumulated a lot of material possessions. But there was still this void – nothing could fill it anymore, no money, no holiday, no shoes. The longer I was ignoring the void, the bigger it was getting. I actually remember the exact pivotal moment very vividly – it was July 18, 2019. I was in my car and driving back to the office from my client. A day before, my friend sent me the video, saying to check out this guy because I might like his content. My first thought was – “Ugh, not another self-help guru...” Since all the radio tunes were horrible that day, I decided to put the video on while driving, and that was basically the start of my journey.

Who was in the video talking about what grabbed your attention?

It was Dr. Joe Dispenza. He is a neuroscientist whose whole purpose is to bridge the spiritual world with the scientific world. He was sharing his journey about being a young triathlon athlete who was hit by a bus while on a bike. He was paralyzed – doctors told him that he would never walk again. But he refused to believe it and started to heal his body with the power of his mind. His story had such a profound impact on me – I remember getting back into the office and downloading all of his books, as I had hours to kill in the car. It was also the first time when I tried meditation. Accidentally, Dr. Dispenza visited the UK a few months later, and I went to the 7-day retreat, and the rest is history.

At the core of your mission is bridging the gap between the corporate and spiritual worlds. How do these seemingly different spheres come together in your work?

I don’t think we are different people at home, with our friends and at work. Maybe we think we are, but we are one holistic human being.

Spirituality is a broad term, but at its core is self-understanding. It refers to the purpose and meaning that we give to our lives. When we understand ourselves, we can start accepting ourselves and walking our own path rather than trying to meet the expectations of our parents, society, friends, family, etc. We know that there is something bigger out there trying to emerge through us and ignoring that calling because we don’t want to upset someone else will cause suffering, burnout and depression.

When we know who we are, we can choose the path that is right for us, which is more aligned with our hearts and souls.

Spirituality does not only help people to identify their strengths and weaknesses, but it also helps them to manage their emotions. When we are in control of our emotions, we make different decisions; we act differently. 

So in my opinion, spirituality offers self-knowledge. I think it was Buddha who said that spirituality is releasing all suffering through understanding reality, and the release of that suffering starts by understanding ourselves.

I like how you mentioned that we’re still the same human beings at work and at home. As a marketing professional, I am often asked if I am in B2B or B2C, but I’m a firm believer in H2H (human-to-human) marketing. You can be a business selling your product to other businesses, thinking about how to reach the key stakeholders and address their pains, but at the end of the day, whoever is the decision maker is still a human being.

And we sometimes forget that, right? I think it’s quite an overused term, but we have to remind ourselves that we’re not human doings but human beings. Remembering our humanity, especially now, with all the artificial intelligence, is crucial even for our survival as a species, in my honest opinion.

Building self-knowledge is a lifelong journey. What are some practical habits or strategies that you’ve found effective in gaining deeper insights into oneself?

I started by meditating and discovering Dr. Dispenza, then got more into personal development courses. I also went through retreats, meditating for 10 hours or sometimes a whole day. What I found after some time was that my perception of reality was shifting. I saw changes in my life within me and also in my outer world. With changes in the outer world, I was always wondering why things are all falling apart, and then I realized that things do need to fall apart before they can all come together because it literally rebuilds everything, starting from your foundation.

However, I was still quite reactive; my emotions ran the show, meaning that I was at the mercy of external circumstances. When I realized that around two years ago, my goal became to become completely self-sustained – I wanted to choose my emotional state of being, regardless of what the circumstances were.

One of the best tools I’ve come across is human design, which I will be talking about at sTARTUp Day. Human design is a profiling tool for gaining deeper self-awareness, which introduces our energetic component to it. It helps us to get into alignment with our true nature, as it shows us how to optimize our energy because nothing in our lives can change until we change our energy. It shows how we are wired to make decisions and communicate, what’s our life purpose and so much more.

And then also just being part of spiritual circles, having coaching and mentors. So it was a blend of everything, but human design definitely has had a profound effect on my journey.

Many people struggle to discover and pursue their purpose, whether they’re young and just starting their careers or more mature, experienced people who are going through a mid-life crisis. What advice do you have for individuals in these different life phases?

It’s a great question. I have chased my purpose most of my life. What I’ve found is that our passion will lead us to our purpose. The things that we are excited about don’t even have to be work-related – you can work in marketing, but maybe your passion is gardening. When you start prioritizing things you are passionate about, you will finally find your way to purpose. It can still be marketing, but maybe there’s a different angle to it that you haven’t explored yet.

So start by figuring out your passions, and begin your day by focusing on them as much as you can, even if it means waking up 10 minutes earlier, doing a bit of gardening, and then going into the office. If you work from home, then think about ways you can have more of whatever it is that fulfills you and lights up your heart.

Because remember what I said earlier – change your energy, change your life. When we do things that we are passionate about and it excites us, then it feels like things externally almost begin to rearrange themselves – we start meeting different people, different opportunities, we end up in different locations.

You co-authored the book “You Can Have It All,” which explores the idea of balancing different aspects of life. Can you share some tips on how individuals can balance their professional and personal lives while pursuing their purpose?

Sometimes people come up to me at events and say that they hide their spirituality from family or colleagues because they don’t feel confident enough. That creates misalignments as it takes a lot of energy to pretend to be who you are not. There are different ways how you can bring this into balance. But maybe just start by making small adjustments.

We are creatures of habit, and instead of trying to do something that you may not be ready for, the best thing may be to break it into manageable steps. 

For instance, maybe one day you will speak to a colleague and share something about your personal life, and if you feel safe, you can think about the next step you can take to slowly begin to integrate yourself. That’s what I’ve been doing. When I started meditating, I was working in London as a contractor, in a very corporate setup, and I didn’t know how to balance those two sides of me. So I would actually go to a bathroom during lunchtime to meditate because I was craving that peace and silence.

My colleagues were worried and asked, “Where did you disappear for 40 minutes?!” because I was always a person who never even took a break. Then I decided to tell one of my colleagues about it and they were like, “That’s pretty cool!” and I thought, “Hmm… maybe it’s not so weird, you know?” So slowly I built this confidence, which made me happy because I didn’t have to hide in the bathroom anymore and was able to be open about it. So it’s important to find that one safe thing you can do and then just start building on top of that.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned throughout your journey, and how can others apply it to their own paths of self-discovery and purpose?

I have learned that there are no mistakes in life. When something doesn’t work out or you can’t figure something out, it’s because it’s just not meant for you. Trying to fix it, force it or bend it to our will is what creates suffering – when we start arguing with life and say, “No, this is not how things should be, it should be my way!” I believe in a higher power that is orchestrating our lives and when we surrender to that kind of energy and just let go, we will see how everything falls in place.

When I left my career, I got involved in network marketing. I remember there was one opportunity that came to me, a last-call opportunity that could have earned me a lot of money, so I got very excited about it. I went to the top management and they shut it down. I was gutted. I remember driving in the car later, thinking, “Maybe I wasn’t meant to have this opportunity because something else is meant for me.” About three months later, I completely burned out, I left the company and my life took me in a completely different direction. If that opportunity had happened, I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing right now, which is currently my life purpose, at least for now, because our purposes are evolving.

I would personally also add the ability to be aware and read signs around you. If something happens, then try to see what value it might bring to you at one point.

Exactly, well said! Every single thing is a lesson! Whenever something happens, you shout at someone, a relationship falls apart, or a business deal goes south, the only question we should ask ourselves is, “What is the lesson?” That’s it. Let bygones be bygones. And then you take that lesson and apply it to your future instead. Or you can ruminate about it and have the same thing repeat over and over. That’s why people go, “Why does it always happen to me?”. Because you haven’t learned the lesson. So it’s very important to view every single situation, especially the ones that didn’t go according to your plan, and understand what the lesson was, how you can make it better next time and just keep moving forward!

Lena Thompson will give a keynote on Day 2 of the sTARTUp Day festival on January 26. Check out the other announced speakers.
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