Consciousness, defined as “a state of awareness of and responsiveness to one’s surroundings”, is a word we hear often these days. From conscious consumerism, conscious fashion, conscious eating to conscious parenting, there is certainly a movement happening in which increased awareness is now a desirable thing. We finally want to awaken to who we are and what we’re doing in the world, which is creating an incredible opportunity to shift the way we do everything, including business. While the idea of a conscious business isn't entirely new, there are now so many innovative start-ups and small businesses popping up on a daily basis, we have a major opening to move toward a state of awareness and consequently, move into a time of profound positive change.
As I started dreaming up my own business, I began to think about the impact I wanted to make; for me and my family, for my clients, for my community, and for the world in general. As a web designer, all sorts of ethical questions started coming up for me. Who will I choose to work with? What types of businesses will I support? Will I take on a client that who's work doesn’t align with my beliefs, just to make money? Will I write copy [site content] that is so persuasive, it isn’t completely true? It’s so important that we take the time to contemplate these types of essential questions and the impact our work will have on the world around us. Then, we can use this newfound awareness to guide how we operate our businesses with a bigger picture in mind.
I’ve put together a list of questions to ask yourself when creating, contemplating or refining your own business or offering. Use it, enjoy it, share it, and most importantly, let the mindfulness that arises from it guide you in how you design and operate your business.
Who am I? And why am I here?
First, ask yourself who you are. Then, ask yourself why you’re here, and what you’re here to create. From a solid awareness and understanding of who you are, you’ll find it much easier to move into understanding and articulating what it is you’re here to create, and the answers to the rest of these fundamental questions will likely become clearer.
What do I (and my business) stand for?
Sit down and write a list of key principles that are important for you to live and work by. This simple statement (sometimes called a code of ethics or code of conduct) will clarify your mission, values and key moral principles, allowing you to see what's really important to you at a philosophical and ethical level. Creating a code of ethics is an effective way of making sure that you know exactly what you (and your work) stand for. It serves as a reference point for you to check in with when making big decisions and can bring you back to your core values when you feel like you're being tested or simply need some guidance.
Profit aside, does my offering serve a greater purpose?
The next question to ask yourself is [beyond generating income], does my business serve a greater purpose? Does it help people? Does it serve your community or the world at large? Does it positively affect the environment or inspire sustainability? Becoming conscious of the good your business is doing out there is imperative in shifting from a solely profit-driven offering to a more conscious, impact-driven model.
Does my business do any harm?
Most of the time, we don’t mean to hurt or harm anyone or anything as we operate our businesses. Despite having good intentions and wanting to share something great with the world, most businesses create some sort of harm due to ignorance [lack of awareness] in some overlooked aspect of their business or its operations. To answer this question honestly, consider whether your work does any sort of harm to:
- People (Not just the people who buy your product or sign up for your service - think bigger. You, your employees/partners, your clients/customers, even your competitors)
- The planet (What is the environmental impact of your business? Are you doing everything you can to minimize waste and reduce your carbon footprint? Have you examined every aspect of your business [production, packaging, etc.] to optimize its sustainability?
- Other beings (Does your business do any harm to animals? Are you using some sort of animal product that could potentially be eliminated and replaced with a plant-based alternative? How about animal testing?)
How can I give back?
Even when we're just starting out, barely making enough money to get by, the opportunity to give back in some way usually arises. Whether it be by supporting a local charity or non-profit organization, offering a free service to a group of people who would benefit from receiving it, or supporting a far-away community where your raw materials are sourced or where your production takes place, there’s always an opening for us to give selflessly and contribute to the betterment of our global community, if we look for it. If you haven’t already, seek these opportunities and find a means of working generosity into your business plan. Someone needs you!
I hope that reading this has sparked something inside of you - maybe a desire to know more about who you are and how you want to put yourself out there, or even just reminded you to check in with yourself and your beliefs as you deal with today's workload. Feel free to use this list of questions in dreaming up, designing and operating your own business, and may your mindfulness and awareness lead you to do incredible things for yourself [and for all of us]!