Walking the Heart Path

If life is a journey, I believe each of us must honor the sacred integrity of our own path. We must learn to lead from within, aligning our outer choices with our inner values, callings, and convictions.

But how exactly?

How, for example, do we discern and distinguish our own path from others’? How do we hear our own voice above the noise and courageously honor our own callings in the face of resistance from others?

Sometimes we lack a sense of vision, purpose or the ability to hear our calls. Perhaps we have a limited degree of self-awareness, and in the absence of self-knowledge and respect, look to the external to define our sense of worth. Sometimes our paths are laid out Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 9.26.57 AMbefore us by others, and we blindly follow what we are often unable or afraid to discover for ourselves. Perhaps we internally judge ourselves as unworthy or incapable of making a different choice, choosing powerlessness over self-empowerment. We allow fear to overshadow the gift of authenticity and allow the opinions of others to trample our own. Sometimes, we may find ourselves in a different role — judging others, perhaps harshly so, as if our subconscious’ way of defending the fragility of our own choices and ego.

In recent weeks, I’ve been inspired by those whose path have crossed my own; those who are not only daring to dream, but who have challenged themselves to leave the security of convention, convenience, and/or comfort to follow their sense of calling and conviction for their lives. While the stories differ in detail, what they share in common is a sense of daring and the courage to try, regardless of whether their decision to change was by choice or chance. What they share is the belief that when vision and effort are combined with core values and a deep-centered sense of faith and possibility, baby steps taken can begin to propel them toward their dreams and to live a life of purpose.

I’ve also encountered others who have shared their struggle to find their authentic voice and walk their true path, finding comfort instead in the status quo out of fear of what might happen if they dared to make a change. Not surprisingly, instead of projecting a sense of inner peace with their decision, energetically, they project a sense of dis-ease at best, and sometimes even outright anger as their internal discontent morphs into judgment and criticism of others.

Wherever we find ourselves on the continuum of life, if we are to honor and embrace our authentic voice and the essence of all that we have to offer, we must learn to silence the critics, whether our own or others. To realize our leadership potential, we must also own our truths and find the courage to live our convictions however and wherever we choose to live out our leadership in our individual journeys.

Exercising the courage to live in integrity with who you authentically are and to live out your callings and convictions is at the essence of heart-aligned living. In doing so, we not only find our true heart path but help pave a path forward for others, too.

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Yesterday marked the official launch of my new book, Walking the Heart Path: Bite-Sized Bits of Wisdom on Living & Leading from the Inside Out. It was also a day recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day.

As a way of giving back and helping pave a path forward for others, $1 of every book purchased will be donated to the Foundation for Girls. Focused on nurturing the leader in every girl, this Charlotte, NC-based 501(c)3 providing mentoring, financial literacy, STEM, and other skills-based training to at-risk girls in Charlotte. 

Owning Our Imperfection

LeadbyExampleRemember the old adage, “do as I say, not as I do?” For those of us who have ever struggled with perfectionism, proving and/or a need for approval from others, it can be easier to project a prescriptive formula for living your best life, than to allow others to see us for who we truly are: imperfect, flawed and failing forward (just like everyone else). Yet it is often the transparency of the journey itself, however flawed, that provides inspiration and encouragement to others as we continue to step out, fall down, stand up, and keep moving forward, a little wiser that we once were before.

While the world is filled with self-proclaimed ‘experts’ who are quick to tell us the five things we must do or the ten things that will result in certain failure, sometimes what we really need is a little honesty along the way — guidance from those mentors and role models who are as willing to acknowledge their shortcomings and failures as much as the lessons and hard-(l)earned wisdom gained along the way. Sometimes what we need is a little honesty with ourselves, too, remembering that failure is an inevitable part of the journey towards personal success — not something to be shamefully buried behind the false mask of perfection, but acknowledged and perhaps even invited as a present opportunity for growth and future invitation to serve others in a deeper, more authentic way.

I’m curious to know…

Do you carefully protect your image as a way of presenting a perfect self to the world or do you allow others to see your flaws and imperfections? How might your own struggles, setbacks, and comebacks serve as inspiration and encouragement to others? When it comes to your own mentors and role models, do you (or they) place them(selves) on the pedestal of perfection, or do they inspire and encourage from a place of honest acknowledgement of both their strengths and struggles? As you move towards a place of deeper alignment with your authentic self, how do you choose to balance the need for both transparency and privacy in paving a path forward for others?

Leveraging Limitations

Thought for the day:

So often we seek conformity in the face of limitation; we assume change is neither feasible nor possible, and from that place, seek to fearfully ‘fit in’ to the status quo. But what if instead of accepting our limitations, we leveraged them…allowing them to creatively push us into new ways of thinking and behaving; allowing them to be the catalyst for growth and innovation?

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On Being Ourselves…

Sometimes the hardest thing in the world is to simply be ourselves; to sit in centered stillness, void of our masks, labels, and other outer adornments of success. Yet it is this very willingness to be vulnerable; this willingness to seek radical acceptance from within, that enables deep connection with others and the possibility of true peace and lasting joy.

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I’m curious…

How do you choose to stand in your own truth? How has shedding those outer labels, masks and adornments, enabled you to find more peace, love and joy in your own life? How has accepting yourself, enabled you to more readily accept others?

How Do You Do Vulnerability?

One of my favorite authors is Brene Brown (Elizabeth Gilbert is a close second). Maybe it’s because we’re both from Texas and share a similar dust-yourself-off-and-pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of thinking. Maybe it’s because she’s brought shame out of the closet, shored it up with courage, and has helped legitimize the struggle for empowerment that so many people face. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because her fight with vulnerability mirrors my own.

Over the past four years of blogging, I’ve learned a few things about myself. I’ve learned that it’s not hard to ‘go deep’ with an anonymous audience, though it’s immensely difficult to be ‘seen’. It’s not hard to authentically connect with strangers, though I’m often challenged to be ‘known’. It’s not hard to write, though impossibly painful to publish. Most surprising to myself, I’ve learned that it’s easier to be a perfectionist than to accept the vulnerability that comes with possible failure.

At the heart of empowerment is vulnerability_square with transparent overlay_(c)But what happens when we build our lives around playing it safe? What happens when we raise or lend our voice to others, yet bury our own in the process? What happens when we dare to allow ourselves to be ‘seen’ as we truly are, in an environment where pedigree, perfection and political correctness often trump the very things that make us real?

These are the questions that keep me up at night; the demons I wrestle with daily — daring, provoking and pushing me out of my fear and into the world. These are the unspoken questions in the untold stories of millions who are silenced by their fear, or the wisdom that is lost in the silence of one’s passing.

As I reflect on these truths; as opportunities and invitations to a deeper honesty leave me wrestling with my own fear, I’m curious to ask and know…

Do you ever struggle with the vulnerability of being truly ‘seen’? How do you work through the fear of being truly known? Have you ever withheld the gift of your own story? What is your own relationship with perfectionism and failure? How do you do vulnerability?

Authentic Living

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The Gifts of the Journey

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One of the great gifts of the journey are the people you meet along the way, and last week was no exception. Thanks to a year-long series of serendipitous connections I could not have foreseen, last Wednesday I had the privilege of speaking to a group of dynamic women — sharing a piece of my own story, while offering insights and practical wisdom for living an empowered, authentic life.

In truth, I was unusually nervous, though not for the usual reasons. I was nervous because people like neat, happy endings and I didn’t have one to offer — at least not in the way people traditionally like things packaged.

I could not tell them, for example, that my journey toward authenticity has come without cost, for the costs have been plenty and some of them dear. I could not tell them of the illusory dream job, the perfect marriage, or a life of total ease, for while these words once described my own false truths, they certainly no longer applied.

Instead, I shared with them some of what I do know to be true and why the journey is still one worth taking. I told them that when we finally know who and what we stand for, we no longer need to live in fear; that when we stop looking to others for acceptance and approval, we find within what we were looking for all along. I reminded them of the power of stories we tell ourselves and others — that if we want a different outcome, we must learn the art of re-framing. Significantly, I remarked that although life is filled with detours, disappointments and distractions, as we grow in our belief in ourselves, anything becomes possible, and when we find the courage to honor our own truths and convictions, the path forward becomes clear.

(Still, even in the knowing, we sometimes need reminding of these truths we share with others.)

At the end of the program, I found myself deeply touched and moved in a way I could not have imagined. One woman told me my words resonated because I spoke from my heart; another shared her story of cancer and how my own family’s story touched her own.

As more approached, I could see from the corner of my eye a woman who was waiting quietly to speak, standing patiently off to the side. I recalled from early introductions that she was visiting that day, later learning that she had never attended before. When the room had all but cleared, she shyly stepped toward me, and then softly began:

“My whole life I’ve lived as a chameleon,” she tearfully spoke.

“I’ve watched my friends realize their dreams, as I watched my own pass me by.”

She continued as her words penetrated my heart, and I hardly knew how to respond. I wanted to say something reassuring and hope that I did, though I honestly don’t recall. For a moment we hugged, and in that brief space of time,  I knew why we’d met.

Just as my story spoke to her, her own touched my heart.

Determined to live her own voice out loud, her tears reminded me to stay the course, even when the going get’s tough; to stay true, even in the midst of falsehood; to stay courageous, even when fearful; to stay on purpose, even when my own faith is faltering. She reminded me that although our stories differ, through the gift of connection and the journey itself, we can each support the other along life’s way.

I’m curious…

In what ways have your connections with others inspired or enabled your own growth? What role has serendipity played in your own journey? In what ways has your own story been an inspiration to others?

 

 

Hiding in Plain Sight

Panther_Chameleon_(Furcifer_pardalis)I’ve always been fascinated by chameleons and their ability to adapt, blend-in, and hide in plain sight.  An instinctual response to their surroundings and the threat of attack, they are genetically wired for survival, though are not cognizant of their ever-changing colors.

As humans, we too change colors, adapt, and blend-in.  Far too often, we hide our truths, our gifts, our struggles and our vulnerabilities — whether to avoid conflict, protect ourselves from threats (whether real or perceived), and/or create connection through assimilation with others. We are rewarded for conformity and often shunned or shamed when we attempt to step out and beyond those boxes that limit and confine, whether of our own making or others. In the process, we rob ourselves of authenticity, stifle creativity, and deny the world the gifts we have to share that are uniquely our own.

Recently I was introduced to film-maker and poet, Nic Askew, architect of the inspiring series, Soul Biographies. One of my favorite films is The Balls to Stand Naked, a powerful and provocative interview with Sting’s long-time guitarist and writing partner, Dominic Miller, that both invites and challenges viewers to reflect on the nature of creativity and the personal power that comes from a willingness to be vulnerable; to stand naked and be fully seen.

As you take a few minutes to reflect on this short video, consider the following:

What if we re-framed our thinking about how we choose to be in this world? What if we dared to take off our masks and stand in the total truth of who we are? What are the costs to ourselves and others when we choose to hide in plain sight? What might we achieve if we allowed ourselves to be fully seen; to create from a truly open heart?

Creative Expression

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If creativity extends from a mindset of possibility; if heart centered living is the outward expression of our most authentic selves, how do you choose to express yourself in the world?

Just as we can change our narrative and write a new story, we can paint new strokes of possibility on the canvas of our life. Whatever our past or perceived limitations, we can build upon these layers of lessons to create textured beauty in our lives…bold strokes of courage that reveal the deepest truths of our heart.

I’m curious

Is your life an intentional expression of your deepest truths or a carefully constructed mask designed to hide your deepest fears? What do your life choices reveal about your heart? How do you choose to express yourself in the world?