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. 

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? 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

Protected: Abandoning Ourselves

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Texas Two Step

2014-05-07 09.06.51Back in my hometown of Houston for a few days, my mind drifts back to my early 20’s — those post-college days filled with few responsibilities and endless possibilities. It was a time of transition — leaving the security of home and college, finding my footing, while envisioning future outcomes for my life.

Thursday evenings were a particular favorite.

If my girlfriends and I weren’t out at our favorite Mexican restaurant, sipping margaritas while flirting with the boys, we’d head out to another favorite venue and tradition in town — Wild West.

Throwing on my best red boots with my hair long and wild, it wasn’t long before I was doing the Texas two-step across the dance floor. A little two-step shuffle backwards, before taking a bigger step forward, all in a steady rhythm. Whether dancing to George, Garth or Clint; whether dancing fast or slow, the key was to keep shuffling along in alignment to the beat, moving across the floor.

Isn’t that how it is with life sometimes?

We take half-steps back to reflect and renew, before taking a larger step forward to (re)engage.

If we’re intentional in our actions, we move in a certain rhythm that keeps us in steady motion, though always advancing forward. If we have a clear vision and feel secure in our values, we can more effortlessly move through the steps without losing our way. When we trust ourselves, we can take a couple of mini-steps backward, without fear of falling behind.

I’m curious…

Whether doing a Texas two-step or a latin tango; whether a waltz or a sizzling samba, how do you move through your life? How do you keep pace with the changing rhythms of life without losing your way? When the clouds move in, do you choose to dance joyfully in the rain or sit that song out? 

 

 

 

 

 

Living an Undivided Life

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 about ‘fitting in’ than being our true selves. Living our lives as square pegs in round holes, we often end up abandoning our own dreams and short-changing others in the process.  We create boxes and labels of limitations, then wonder why we feel trapped.  We lose integrity…the wholeness of who we are, while fracture lines form, threatening to undermine the foundational stability of our lives.

One of my favorite books is Parker J. Palmer’s book, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life. In it he writes, “As we move closer to the truth that lives within us — aware that in the end what will matter most is knowing that we stayed true to ourselves — institutions start losing their sway over our lives.  This does not mean that we must abandon institutions.  In fact, when we live by the soul’s imperatives, we gain the courage to serve institutions more faithfully.”

These ‘institutions’ may represent our work, personal and/or spiritual lives, though the message remains the same — as we begin to reunite with our most authentic selves, we are better able to live, serve and lead others — from a place of humility, acceptance, respect and love. We become more equipped to commit to others, too, as we more deeply commit to ourselves and our own personal truths.

In the undivided life, we begin to know peace. We begin to experience joy. We begin to define success, not by the standards of world, but by the unconditional acceptance of our selves and our ability to live our truth out loud.

I’m curious…have you ever found yourself living a divided life?  Have you ever allowed labels and the expectations of others to define you or your opportunities?  What steps have you taken to live an undivided life?  What challenges have you encountered along the way?  How has living an undivided life altered your perception about the world and your role in it?

Postscript:  We are all evolving, and as we continue to grow, sometimes we change, too.  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.

Moments

There are moments in each of our lives when we know we are exactly where we are meant to be.  Moments when our journeys become something bigger than our own individual goals and aspirations.  Moments when what we have to offer the world serves a greater need and good than anything we could have imagined alone.

It is in these times that I am aware of the power of one – to touch, to inspire, to influence, to lead.  It is at these times that I am equally aware of the power of team – to collaborate, to partner, to collectively do and contribute and achieve more than any of us can do alone.  

These are the moments in which the ripple effect of individual dreams, talent, experience, drive, vision, values and passion converge into a great wave of momentum. Ambiguity and complacency give way to moments of purpose driven mission, filled with heart-aligned synchronicity.   A sense of centered peace grounds us and clears the path, making all things possible.

I’m curious…

Can you recall a time when you knew you were exactly where you needed to be, doing what you were meant to do – not from some external measure of success or obligation, but from a heart and soul-centered place?  In such moments, which often defy logic or reason, what sustains your sense of purpose through the inevitability of challenge and fatigue?  As you learn to trust and act from your deepest sense of self, how have people, events and opportunities aligned to support your soul’s calling?