Living an Undivided Life

“Sometimes what was important to us in the past, takes a backseat to new dreams, developed gifts, and clarity of purpose. This evolution is not separate and divided from the whole, but an extension of our selves reframed…”

Sharon E. Reed

cropped-cropped-cropped-heart_multi9.jpgRecent years have fill filled with unearthing, rebirthing, and giving life to my own voice and dreams. Left brain (re)united with the right, it’s been a season of learning to live an undivided life — not just privately within my own heart and mind, but professionally, too — allowing others to see and connect with my whole self, not just the piece(s) defined by past roles or opportunity.

It’s been challenging and scary.  Layers of pride and fear dismantled as pieces of my wall have been broken down and discarded to reveal a hidden self. The public persona courageously united with the private; head aligned firmly with the heart.

But these steps are necessary to reach the places I have chosen to go.  Necessary, for when we live a divided life, we often end up losing the very essence of who we are.  We become restless, unsettled, and deeply compartmentalized.  We become more…

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Bite-Sized Bits

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What is Your Legacy?

Every step of our journey is a series of beginnings and endings.

A continuous stream of movement, each step is an endless series of mini births and deaths – the promise of what’s  to be and the of letting go of what no longer is; the space in between we call the present.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word ‘legacy’ lately… about the imprints we leave in the wake of our past as we move forward into the future.

Though we tend to think of legacy in terms of the past, it is how we love and lead and live in the present that not only influences our future, but defines our legacy – that which we leave behind for others… those moments of time in which our presence made an impact…left a footprint…perhaps now forgotten by us, yet remembered by others.  Traces of our existence, interwoven into the fabric of life itself.

As I reflect on the legacy of those who came before me, whose lives have left an indelible imprint on my heart even in their passing, I’m curious to know and ask…

What does your legacy reveal about your life; about the essence of who you most authentically are?  Does your legacy reflect your values — choices made with deliberation in alignment with your true self, or is your legacy a motley crue of disjointed actions and reactions? Whether you are thinking about the afterlife or just the next phase of your life or career, what actions can you take today to serve and lead others in the way you wish to be remembered? 

The Essence of Purpose

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 9.15.00 AMIn a world that beckons us to find our purpose and pursue our passion, it’s easy to become self-centric in our pursuits. While there is nothing wrong with chasing dreams that align with our core passions, living with purpose is about so much more than the form our work takes. It’s about how we choose to show up, share our talents and serve others, regardless of where we are. It’s defined less by what we do, than the gifts we bring to our work and the spirit with which we do it.

I’m curious to know…

What does living on ‘purpose’ mean to you in your own life? How do you choose to show up for others and share your gifts with the world? What is the relationship between pursuing your personal passions and living out your purpose? 

Leaning Back

 

Sometimes we get so caught up in the pursuit of our dreams, we stop living life in the process. We become so focused on the what, where, how, and with whom, that if we’re not careful, we can lose our deeper sense of why. For those of us deeply committed to our causes or careers, sometimes, even when we’re clear, our sense of purpose can get buried when we fail to set boundaries in our lives and sacrifice self-care in the process.

I know this story well, for I’ve been there myself.

(More than I’m proud to admit.)

Regardless of our path or pursuits, we may justify our choices in any number of ways:

“I’m just doing what I have to do.”

“It’s only for a little while.”

“This is the price of success.”

“But I want to make a difference.”

Even when we defend our work for the love of what we do, if we’re not careful, we can lose perspective and potentially get lost along the way, believing that our purpose can only be lived by following a prescriptive path of achievement.

What happens, for example, when external achievement and what others think becomes more important than how we live, lead, love, and serve others in our everyday lives? At what point does a commitment to what we do become more important that who we are — whether as a colleague, parent or friend? What happens when our work, no matter how worthy the cause, actually becomes a way of avoiding responsibility in other areas of our lives? What happens when we fail to show up fully for those we love and/or abandon self-care in the process?

Recently I ran into a friend and former colleague who knew of my recent work and asked how it was going.

A childhood dream realized after years of effort and overcoming numerous obstacles along the way, it represented the crowning glory of what I had once hoped to achieve, but previously feared was forever out of reach. Without question, I loved my colleagues, expanded my skills, and furthered my knowledge of issues I care deeply about. I made deep and lasting friendships, while connecting with women and men around the world whose commitment to women’s empowerment reflect my own. Significantly, I was privileged to be a part of a collective body of work that continues to elevate women’s voices and generate positive ripples of change. For these gifts and so much more, I will always be grateful.

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But as my contract was nearing its end, I realized something else, too.

I realized fairly quickly that sustainable ‘success’ on that particular path required a degree of commitment beyond what I was willing or able to give in this season of my life and found myself re-examining my own sense of purpose, value, and vision for my life moving forward.

I recalled the wisdom of Secretary Albright whose path once serendipitously crossed mine. Sharing some of her own journey and the years of single motherhood that preceded much of her professional ascent, she emphasized the importance of staying clear on my priorities, true to my values, and patient with life itself.

In an honest moment of self-reflection, I also realized that at any given time and under almost any circumstance, each of us can live out our callings in any one of a number of ways — that the highest and best use of our gifts and talents need not be reflected in something extraordinary, but rather, in the ordinariness of our everyday lives; that the form of our work is less important than how we choose to show up, share our gifts, and serve others each and every day.

In that pause of self-reflection, I made a personal decision.

I chose to lean back, regroup, and realign.

I chose to step away from our culturally influenced narrative to relentlessly be more, do more and have more… to achieve, without regard for the cost, whether to ourselves or to those we love.

I chose to be still long enough to reflect on whether my outer choices truly reflect my inner values and priorities, and if not, to consider what needs to change, reminding myself that living an empowered life is as much about owning outcomes and accepting responsibility for my choices as it is about having the option to pursue them in the first place.

I’m curious to know…

In a culture that promotes ‘leaning-in’ — to our dreams, our callings, and our careers, often regardless of cost, what does it mean to ‘lean back’? What does that look like in your own life and career? Has there ever been a time when you stepped back or away from something in order to show up more fully in your own life, while holding yourself accountable for your life’s outcomes? Has there ever been a time when you realized that living on purpose is more than pursuing a singular passion; that it’s as much about how we show up and serve others as it is about what we do and the form that takes? Is your sense of personal success, identity and worth disproportionately defined by your achievements, or can they stand on their own?

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Have Enough?

If character is at the heart of effective leadership, do you have enough of what it takes to lead yourself and others — with courage, discipline, commitment, fortitude, integrity, humility, accountability, insight, resiliency and faith?

Do You Have Enough?

 

A World Gone Mad

Thought for the day:

Never has there been a greater need for hope, faith, charity and love. In a world gone mad; in a world and country that have become fractured and divided in these turbulent and uncertain times, may we each remember that good exists among the evil, light co-exists with the dark, and love has the power to unite, just as unbridled fear will surely divide us all.

By all means, act. Act with prudence. Act with integrity. Act with intention. Indeed — we must defend our liberty and the values for which we stand. But in the process, let us not allow those that sow terror daily to serve their ideological rhetoric bully us into thoughtlessness and reactivity, rooted in fear instead of intelligent mindfulness and prudence.

There are no simple answers in these difficult times. What we can do, however, is to start with where we are. To find and celebrate the small moments of joy. To hug and love our families and friends. To work with a sense of purpose beyond just serving ourselves, recognizing that we are each part of a larger whole that together, whether for good or ill, makes up all of what we call humanity.

Editor’s Note: As we move into a season of Thanksgiving, faith and hope, I will be taking a break from this blog — to celebrate my own moments of joy and to hug my own family and friends who give meaning to my life and drive a sense of purpose to my own work in the world.  See you in the new year!

The Meaning of Work

We can choose to focus on achievement, position, and power as an end game, or we can focus on how our work can inspire, influence and create value for others.

I’m curious to know…

What brings meaning and value to your own work? Are you influenced more by what you can get or what you can give? If you are being driven by, is there an end in sight…a point when you can say I’ve achieved ‘enough’? How might the relentless ‘chase’ rob you of the ability to create true meaning and value in your life and work?

Shedding Skin

Sometimes we have to shed our old skin.

Because it is outworn.

Because it no longer fits.

Because we need to keep growing.

Only we resist it…

We resist it because for a while, the process of shedding the old will require us to feel naked and vulnerable (and none of us like to feel that way for long).

We resist it because the known, however outworn, outdated or ill-fitting it may be, breeds a certain comfort of familiarity.

We resist it because shedding our old skin requires immense Faith in that which is still unseen and unknown.

Growth and change, by anybody’s standards, are hard.

Testing.

Trying.

Painful.

Scary.

Hard.

But necessary…

Necessary, when we find our inner lives out of alignment with our outer actions.

Necessary, when though we may not fully be able to define it, we intuitively know our true gifts and talents can better serve others elsewhere.

Necessary, if we are to make room for the new in order to reach the places we are trying to go.

Not someplace ‘out there’.

But the place within….

Our heart place.

Our heart space.

I’m curious… 

Have you ever found yourself needing to shed your old ‘skin’ to make room for something new?  Did you fight the process, or surrender to the unknown?  Have you ever stayed too long in an old ‘skin’ because it was safe and familiar, even if painful?  What risks have you taken to live from your heart space?

The Gift of the Struggle

GiftAs we journey through life, sometimes we have to struggle to uncover the gifts along the way.

Sometimes we must step away from the known, the familiar and the comfortable, before we can finally make our way back home.

Sometimes we must face fear or the temptation to quit, that we might learn to overcome and persevere, and in doing so, develop the courage to live our convictions out loud.

Sometimes we need to be challenged to finally know our value, stretched to learn our limits, and tested to understand our strength.

Sometimes we must climb hills to develop endurance or visit the valley of tears to know true compassion, for how can we offer to others what we have never experienced for ourselves?

Sometimes we must endure the disrespect of others on our own journey towards self-respect, or have our egos shattered and dismantled before we can learn to see the true light of humility in leadership and service to others.

Sometimes we must suffer pain to know healing or deep sorrow to know joy.

Sometimes we must endure the sting of betrayal to know the honor of truth, or suffer the pain of false masks, that we might finally learn to walk in the truth of who we authentically are.

Sometimes we must experience painful loss that we might know gratitude, uncertainty that we might know Faith, and disappointment that we might know hope.

Sometimes, we must simply journey through the dark forest of our lives to reach the clearing on the other side — for in every darkness there is light, in every failure there are learnings, and in every struggle the gift of growth and invitation to journey on.

I’m curious…In what ways have you been tested, challenged or stretched on your own journey called life? Do you view these challenges as gifts of growth or another burden to bear? How have your struggles strengthened you, enabling you to become a wiser learner and leader in your own life? What are the lessons of your own journey?