Doctor Neha: Welcome. Today we have a special guest, Raj Sisodia. He’s the founder of the worldwide movement called Conscious Capitalism. He’s written 11 books—the most recent one is called the Healing Organization. Not too long ago, he was asking me to define alignment and explain different aspects of it. I figured if we recorded our conversation, everyone could learn. Welcome Raj!
Raj Sisodia: Thank you, Neha. It’s great to be with you today. This idea of alignment is something I know you hold very dear. I wanted to learn some details about it.
- How can you become more aligned?
- What happens once you become aligned or even—what happens if you’re not?
Let me just start by asking you just to define it: what do you mean by alignment?
Doctor Neha: I think of alignment as leading from the inside out. Most people live their lives looking from the outside in—to see what society’s rules are and what other people think make them successful. This is why they strive to get accolades, awards, or recognition. The danger of this is that other people’s dreams, visions, ideas end up becoming theirs—even when it’s not really who they are. This phenomenon leads to a huge lack of alignment, not to mention much confusion in the world.
Alignment is the foundation to effectively and sustainably change the world. It’s extremely relevant to today’s world. I must heal me first. In order to use what I learned from healing me, I can serve “we” (or the community), and maximize my ability to change and sustain that change in the world.
A good way to think about individual and societal alignment is through the metaphor of a building. Alignment is the foundation and structure of our individual building. If our foundation is solid and the structure is aligned, each supporting brick or beam gains support from the others and can support the entire building through adverse weather. If the inner support structure of an individual is aligned, you remain strong and clear. You are also transparent. This means the sun can shine through and it’s clear. You have nothing to hide. Metaphorically, if you open a wall to do construction, you’re not gonna find multiple layers of hidden electrical wiring, brick and drywall—no surprises!
Raj Sisodia: I think of alignment like the alignment of your car—the wheels of your car literally are pointing in the same direction. If you have some pointing this way, and some pointing the other way then obviously you’re not going to get very far. Part of it is defined by everything being in harmony, or everything pointing in the same direction. Is that a sense in which you mean it as well? Such as mental, emotional or different aspects of us being in harmony with one another.
Doctor Neha: Yes. Let’s stick with your car analogy for a moment. It’s not just that everybody’s tires are in the same direction—sometimes they’re all in one direction leaning right. That would result in the car pulling right. That’s why there are multiple pieces. There’s individual alignment, team alignment; and then there’s a greater community and world alignment. I call this triple vision (heal me, serve we, impact the world). So yes, the alignment with your car is an excellent example. But just because all of the tires are moving in a certain direction, that direction might not be the one you want to go in. What determines your overall alignment is whether each tire is in it’s own alignment with themselves before they come together as four wheels to be in alignment to take a car somewhere. This is individual alignment. Then there’s alignment such as in a company, how you teach conscious capitalism.
Raj Sisodia: There’s absolutely an alignment of people, then with the larger entity; and then with the world. But is there an internal alignment—what do I need to do to get in alignment with myself first?
Doctor Neha: It’s always good to start with biology, and to start with the physical world. The physical world is like the body of a car, where you ask yourself how it’s working. First start by making sure you know the basics of your physical body are handled:
- How am I sleeping?
- How am I eating?
- How am I moving?
- What’s my energy like throughout the day?
Next, pay attention to your mental world of thoughts. If I am planning to write a book, but when I become aware of my thoughts sounding like:
- I’m not really that great of a writer.
- No one’s ever gonna pay me to do it.
- No one will read it anyway.
It’s true that I may have the physical strength and the determination to write a powerful book. But my thoughts are not in alignment with the goal that I have. So my thoughts will become the friction of self-doubt that slows everything down and negatively impacts the quality of the product.
Now let’s shift into the emotional aspect of alignment here. If these are the thoughts going through my mind and my sibling makes a critical comment—it could instantly magnify my self doubt. Potentially, I may not continue to take risks. Maybe I won’t share my book proposal with the publisher I really want—to avoid further criticism.
Your thoughts are directly connected to how you feel. Notice how you feel about something, then trace those emotions back to your thoughts about it. Those undermining thoughts can lead to emotions that put you completely out of alignment with the goal you say that you want.
We’ve discussed physical, mental and emotional alignment. Next, is spiritual alignment—meaning what you value. What you value correlates to what matters to you. Are you connected to the parts of you that feel purposeful and meaningful?
These are the different ways to think of you as an individual and how each aspect of you must align in order to create concerted forward movement.
Then you can move onto social alignment. Every human being has a deep need to belong. This is where it gets tricky. In order to get our needs met, our instinctive survival kicked in as we looked outside of ourselves to influence the reactions of our caretakers. Social conditioning and wanting to please others can easily confuse us and result in someone not knowing who they are.
- You should always first get aligned internally by getting really clear about who you are
- what you value
- how you’re feeling
- what you want
Then, you can look around and see who else aligns with your values. This is leading from the inside out, rather than what most people do, which is led from the outside in.
Raj Sisodia: Let’s say that you have decided you want to do something, but then your body sends you a signal of discomfort. Do you say “that’s probably not the right thing for me to do” or do you try to figure out how to get your body to cooperate with what you really want it to do.
Doctor Neha: Good luck with getting your body to cooperate!
Raj Sisodia: Well, you could be getting anxious because you might very well have a fear of change. You needing to work through that doesn’t mean you have to throw away that idea. When you listen, which direction do you align?
Doctor Neha: This is where your inner work pays off. You’ll know to invest in yourself and your emotions, because your body never lies. At the most basic level, your brain seeks pleasure and to avoid pain. That’s what it’s doing in the world: it’s keeping you safe. Every fearful and traumatic experience you’ve ever had in your life is all stored in your amygdala. These two almond shaped organs are located in the middle of your head. If there’s ever been an experience that has scared you, that has upset you or that traumatized you; your amygdala remembers, even if you don’t. It will hijack the incoming information and attempt to protect you from a similar threat of danger.
Ask yourself a few questions to get back into alignment:
- Have I ever experienced something like this before?
- Am I shying away from the thing that I say I want because something didn’t work out for me in the past?
If there is something that this experience reminds you of, then you are likely being protected by your amygdala. If not, then maybe this is being driven by wanting to fulfill someone else’s wishes, other than your own. You have to learn to understand where you end, and somebody else begins. Boundaries—that’s the really important work. And it’s also why you have to lead by first knowing yourself. That’s what I mean by “leading from the inside out.”
If you lead from the outside in, you will feel like driftwood in the ocean—moving in whatever direction the wind blows. In this case, the wind is other people’s wants, desires and opinions. Instead, the goal should be to lead from the inside out by being a sailboat with a rudder. This way, you are influenced by the wind, but can chart your course. If you have an idea and somebody gives you input or feedback, you should be open enough to receive those new ideas.
Raj Sisodia: It sounds to me like there’s a strong link between alignment and personal power. Almost like you can’t have one without the other?
Doctor Neha: They’re definitely linked. Aligning from the inside out will give you personal power. Even when things get hard, it becomes easy to make clear decisions, because you know exactly who you are. You know whether you’ve outgrown something or not. If you have a strong inner world. You’ve developed yourself on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. But you’re not so overly rigid that you refuse to listen to anybody else. It’s like a human cell—each cell membrane has a phospholipid bilayer. This is a natural way of filtering by letting the good nutrients in and keeping bad stuff out. Creating this alignment is like creating healthy boundaries for yourself. Your own personal power comes from you knowing what works for you, then having the courage to say or take action in alignment with that—even if you sometimes have to disappoint another—to be true to yourself. So, yes, there’s absolutely a profound alignment that comes with personal power.
Raj Sisodia: Could you describe for me a person that you’ve looked at and said, “Wow that person is in full alignment”.
Doctor Neha: Someone who is in full alignment is:
- Willing to take risks
- Willing to go into the unknown
- Willing to try things that they’ve never tried before
- Someone who has enough self-trust that they know they will figure it out or ask someone for help if they don’t know.
When they get an opportunity they say, “Sure. I don’t know exactly how to do that, but I’m willing to try.” They’re strong enough to fail. They’re strong enough to say, “If this works, I think it’ll raise consciousness. It will contribute positively to the world and make our relationships better.” But they’re also willing to say “If this fails, I’ll learn something from this experience.”
Someone who has good alignment and a strong sense of personal power will have clear vision. They can see beyond now, to the short-term and The long-term effects of their expanded perspective. They think with triple vision, with Me—We—World, but they also consider the timeline moving forward. They notice how their choices impact the short term, and, in parallel, what the longer term consequences would be. It’s akin to thinking globally and acting locally. They have the ability to see that their choices are bigger than what’s in front of them.
Raj Sisodia: They have a clear sense of purpose and values and they hold themselves accountable.
Doctor Neha: Exactly—that’s the spiritual aspect of individual alignment that you’re speaking about. They know that who they are and how they show up in the world matters.
When you explore and do things in the world out of alignment, the world becomes very confusing. You don’t know if you’re doing something to please someone else, or whether it matters really to you.
Are you thinking comprehensively about what you’re doing?
Or are you making it simplistic so that you can justify your action now?
People who aren’t thinking with triple vision spend a lot of their time out of alignment and apologizing. They tend to have regrets. They’re living in a way where they need to keep backtracking. At the moment, they might think that they’re making great short term progress—that may not end up being long term progress. It’s a little game in the sense of:
What are we counting?
What are we looking at?
Do we only care about now?
Or do we also care about the future—the ripple effect?
You might think that people who are accountable, aligned and empowered don’t make mistakes. But on the contrary, they do. The difference is that they have enough alignment and personal power that mistakes don’t crush them. They’ll think to themselves “Wow. That didn’t feel good. I think we’ve made the wrong turn here…
- What do I need to learn about how I chose to do this?
- What can we learn as a group?
- How can we do this differently?
They don’t use that time beating themselves up.
Raj Sisodia: If anything, they would be more aligned after a mistake. Because they know what takes them out of alignment.
Are there any other ways in which we can diagnose a lack of alignment? What are some early warning signals that we’re falling out of alignment?
Doctor Neha: When your first instinct when something goes wrong is to question why someone else did something, you’re out of alignment. The first question you need to ask is:
- What’s my part in this situation?
- How did I contribute to this?
- What do I have to learn here?
Now, there’s some people who do that too much—the people who—when you accidentally brush up against them—apologize to you. They didn’t do anything. They were just standing there. You bumped into them and, yet, they’re the ones apologizing. That’s NOT the kind of personal accountability I’m talking about.
Raj Sisodia: So is this example of accountability part of alignment?
Doctor Neha: No. That’s over-accountability, taking too much accountability. This results from a lack of self-esteem and someone not taking up their own personal space.
Raj Sisodia: Some people instinctively blame others for a situation. Is that accountability or is that a lack of accountability? Is that a part of alignment?
Doctor Neha: Accountability also includes personal accountability. It’s a very important part of personal partnerships and alignment. There’s an awareness of what you’re good at and where you have room to grow. I never say it’s all someone else’s fault or all my fault, because it will lead us into this all-or-none experience that creates imbalance in relationship. We can get into an argument and I might think you’re 57% responsible and I’m only 43% responsible. Or you might think I’m the one who’s 58% responsible and you’re completely correct. We all have a different gauge of what that is, but the truth is in really knowing that two people come together to create an outcome.
Let’s say you were upset with me and yelled at me. I got silent then walked away from you. The outcome of what happened was both of us. The stimulus and the response is what created the outcome. I could have yelled back and created a different outcome. You could have never said anything to me. The percentage of contribution to this outcome is always up for debate. But the truth is, you want to be in your personal power, and you need to have some personal accountability.
The first sign that someone is out of alignment is when somebody can’t stand to sit in their own discomfort. They figure out a way to push it off onto someone else. Did you ask that person for what you wanted? Usually, the answer is no—they should have known. Whenever you start to get responses like that, you know someone’s out of alignment. They’re out of alignment because they’re taking no responsibility for their part.
Now in our world, a big thing that’s going on is gaslighting. Gaslighting is more severe than blaming someone else. It’s literally falsely justifying your behavior by blaming them for something that had very little or nothing to do with.
For example, I was asked to speak about my perspective. Let’s say someone else doesn’t agree with what I was talking about—it could be on any topic. So, they proceeded to get really mad, push me and punch me. I ask, “What are you doing? You can’t do that.”
They reply, “Why did you make me so mad? You deserve to be hit, because you really made me mad!”
This is an example of someone justifying blaming their actions on me to attempt to avoid personal accountability. I would be quite confused. I was asked to speak on what I believe. I wasn’t intentionally or unintentionally doing anything that I thought was a problem.
Raj Sisodia: If you think about the leaders in the world today, which ones strike you as really being highly aligned versus non aligned? Is it possible for a toxic leader to be aligned in his or her own way? They are being true to what they believe in their worldview—even if it’s polar opposite to what is good for society. But they still have consistent alignment. You could say alignment doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a consciously virtuous human being.
Doctor Neha: That’s true, actually. If I’m a leader and I am very clear that what matters to me is solely money. I’ll organize my life, my actions, my behaviors and my thoughts around making more money. If that’s my belief system; there’s my alignment. You’re right. That’s one way to do it for some people. They might believe that equality as one of their highest values, and their alignment becomes fighting for social justice and equality. Take John Lewis as an example. I think of leaders of the Civil Rights Movement who sacrificed their lives in peaceful protest as incredibly aligned.
I think you make an excellent point though. Being aligned doesn’t equate to virtue, but least you’re consistent. When someone shows you who they are, believe them. People will often show you who they are pretty early on in any business relationship or in any romantic relationship. We often have ideas of what we want it to be. On that date, we’ll start to make excuses for them. Children from the time they come out show us who they are and we try to beat it out of them. Not literally, but we tell them “Don’t believe that. Believe this.”
I think it might do us all a lot of good to just be curious about each individual soul that we encounter. Who are you? What is your soul here to learn? Encourage them to align with what really matters to them. This is where the power of influence comes in. Raj, give me your perspective in business: you speak about caring for people, having purpose first, having a conscious business that is higher than profit. You mention that you have to have a sound business plan, an operational system and you need to be profitable. Your core message is around caring about people. I’ve always found it so powerful because you are aligned as a human being. You care about people and you truly want everyone to feel a win-win. The alignment of your message shows deep within you as alignment. You reach a very large trajectory of people, and you move people because of this alignment.
Raj Sisodia: What controls consistency? It seems the way you said them, examining the right alignment are all qualities of mind. You have to be congruent with your purpose, with your values, with your inner reality.
Doctor Neha: Right—while you remain open. There’s a twist. There are some words that would like to be a part of the alignment family. Words like truth, honesty and integrity. These all are big.
For some people, consistency means again and again—like you’re loyal and consistent. If I step on a scale and I step on it over and over again, I’ll get the same reading. Alignment across all levels goes far past consistency. Going somewhere every day at 5 o’clock doesn’t put me in alignment. It makes me consistent. Words like these are almost under the umbrella of alignment or certain aspects of it—in the same family.
Raj Sisodia: At the individual level, can you say that all people exhibit those qualities and are in alignment at a deeper level?
Doctor Neha: Here’s the problem: Businesses primarily care about their shareholders and their share price. They care about getting media attention, publicity, mostly, their stock price going up. This is where incentives around their people and purpose tend to fall out of alignment. You are asking businesses to build a strong foundation for it’s leaders, employees, vendors and customers. Do you want to build a culture of caring and respect? A place where everybody wins?
I believe businesses that want to be conscious, those that care about more than just profits, but also care about their higher purpose and their people find creative solutions. Some people want to appear as though they function at a higher level of consciousness, but they don’t actually believe it’s possible. They create antics and gimmicks and games. There’s plenty of ways that people can manipulate goodness. They do what they think it’s going to take for them to be favorably viewed.
What I look for when I look for a conscious capitalism business is one that leaders lead from the inside out.That person spends time, energy and effort on continually elevating their own human software and that of their teams. They know how far they can go depends on their own leadership and alignment. It’s not just shareholders, its stakeholders, it’s everybody that business touches in the world. One might argue it’s the whole world’s ripple effect.
I believe this is one of the core ways that when I go into any business, whether it’s healthcare, corporate, for profit, not-for-profit—whoever it is—alignment or lack of alignment is the first thing I notice.
Where are people in alignment?
Not just what they’re doing, but why they’re doing it?
Raj Sisodia: Thank you for the conversation—there a lot to unpack here. You have some really powerful ideas.