Two from the Heartland

Craig and Patricia Neal have a goal: Create companies where people can bring their whole selves to work, where they can integrate their work into their lives.

“Every company is facing the same two big issues – retaining the best people and improving their productivity,” says Craig Neal. Fortunately, he says, both issues have the same solution: Create companies where people can bring their whole selves to work, where they can integrate their work into their lives. Neal, 51, and his wife, Patricia, 45, have launched two organizations – the Heartland Institute, a consulting and conference company based in Edina, Minnesota and founded in 1995, and the Conscious Business Alliance, a nonprofit organization founded in 1996 – that help employees and companies discover purpose and meaning in the workplace.


Through their coaching at conferences such as “The Inner Life of Business” and at workshops such as “Integrating the Creative Body, Mind and Spirit in Work,” the Neals help people find balance in their lives. They’ve advised people from such blue-chip companies as Chevron, Levi Strauss, Deloitte & Touche, 3M, Pitney Bowes, and Pillsbury on how to break down the “condoned schizophrenia” that marks the old style of doing business.

Craig Neal’s commitment to making change goes back more than three decades. “The work that I’m doing now started in 1963, at a march in Washington, DC,” he says. “I was 16, and I heard Martin Luther King Jr. give his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Since then, I’ve always worked for high-mission, high-values companies.” In a conversation with Fast Company, Neal outlined three steps that you can take to find meaning in your work life – without leaving your desk.

Embrace ritual, ceremony, and art.

Few places are more ritualized than the office. Think of all the elements that make up your day: whom you talk to and when you talk to them, where you put your desk and how you arrange it. Add mindfulness to those elements: Bring to work little aspects of who you are at home. Introduce rituals that express who you are and what you care about. One executive at a large company, for example, started lighting a candle every time somebody came into her office. After each meeting, she’d blow the candle out. She used that ritual to set a tone – she didn’t have to say why she was doing it. Make little moments of depth like this one a part of your work life.

Let your brain take a back seat.

Take a look at how you define yourself. Most of us equate ourselves with our minds: We are what we think. Instead, look at yourself as a balanced human being. Then look separately at the major parts of that being – body, mind, spirit, and heart. Take your body, for instance: Are you living a healthy lifestyle? Are you doing things that help you to think clearly, things that make your body feel good?

Remember what you bring to the party.

Most of us are locked into a pace that we feel we didn’t create and that makes us feel like victims. Try doing the following once a day: Sit back, close your eyes, and remember the gifts that you’re bringing to your workplace.

What about you is unique? What do you do that adds value?


Use this time to step outside the normal rush, the daily press of business. Just taking 5 or 10 minutes to breathe can make a powerful difference.

Contact Craig and Patricia Neal by email ( or visit them on the Web (