5 Time-Tested Lessons for the Workplace (“Pura Vida” Anyone?)

BCFG Blog - Pura Vida Image.jpg

We visited during the dry season, but that didn’t stop a few rain showers. But this is Costa Rica and it is an emerald world with frogs, butterflies, sloths, volcanoes and monkeys that enchant. This, of course, isn’t a travelogue but a blog about a word heard often in Costa Rica: Pura Vida. It’s a word that warms the soul in damp or sunny weather, at work or home. It’s a word that I see practiced among Benefit companies and other socially conscientious organizations.

These two words tell a story that is much more than its Wikipedia definition which tells us that “Pura Vida” translated means “pure life.” 

What the heck does that mean? Be chaste until married, carry no sins to recite at the confessional, eat only organic? Nope, Nope, Nope.  Although it is used as a greeting, a farewell or to show you are satisfied, the essence of this word talks of a philosophy that goes far beyond this definition.

Costa Ricans or “Ticos” use the phrase to express an approach to life. Behaviors that include strong community, perseverance, good spirits, enjoying life slowly, and celebrating good fortune, small or large with others. It’s about the common good, a foundational value of Benefit Companies.

And sometimes you will hear this expression as simply “Pura.”  Interestingly enough, there is no equivalent word in English. 

There is something special about the people of this Central American country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world, with no army, and a Noble Peace Prize winner as one of their past Presidents. There is a simplicity of life in this country where difficulties are overcome with communal help and a happy spirit. 

Is there poverty here? Yes. Can life be hard in Costa Rica? Yes. But “Pura Vida” is communicated with a smile given freely to friends and strangers with the belief that all people need to be acknowledged despite their circumstances, age, color of skin or gender preference. It fulfills the promise of inclusion.

One Tico told us,  “there is much to be thankful for, and we remind ourselves to stay optimistic about the harmony of our country by greeting everyone with ‘Pura Vida’.”

There must be something to this. Something we can learn about seeing the “pure life,” the glass half full and not empathy. After all, Costa Ricans enjoy longer life spans than most “first world” countries with an average life expectancy of 78.8 years for the total population and 81.2 years for women.

Here are 5 ways to introduce and then actualize “Pura Vida” into your work place:

1.       Simple may often be better. Whether it is a project plan, or creating a new product process,  focus on fewer things --how many flow charts are necessary?

2.       Smile openly and often, whether you are walking to your office or in a meeting.  Smiles connect you to others, even strangers

3.       Think of the best outcome or scenario.  I’m a “worry wart”- my partner and kids will attest to that, and I always think the worst is going to happen. “Pura Vida,” means assuming the best will happen being guided by optimism.

4.       Take every opportunity to celebrate. Do it whether it’s a big or small accomplishment. And do this with your colleagues as team wins whenever they happen.

5.       Look at individuals without judgment. Even those who have a very different lifestyle from you.  We are all connected.

Pura Vida!