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. 

Start With Where You Are

It is the eve of a new year — a time to reflect on what has passed and to set our intentions for the year ahead.

Often our resolutions are about doing something different from before, whether losing weight, changing jobs, or finally getting around to writing that book you’re just sure will be a best-seller. Moreover, if we’re really honest with ourselves, the best of our intentions often fall short of the promise of what’s possible and we end up right back where we started, perhaps feeling disappointed and defeated by the lack of change in our lives.

But what if instead of throwing out the baby with the bath water we made a choice to build upon what is already there? What if instead of spending our time dreaming of something altogether new, we focused our energy on cherishing what is, while reflecting on ways to expand and enrich the present(s) in our lives?

The best resolutions are those that honor and reflect our authentic selves.

Need to lose weight or lower your cholesterol? Start by loving your body as it is and making a mindful choice to care for it through healthy eating and exercise. Want to change jobs? Take an inventory of your current skills and environment and explore ways you might be find fulfillment by adding value where you already are. Still dreaming of writing that best-seller? Start by taking baby steps…cultivating a daily writing practice or joining a community of writers who share your passion.

Change may be difficult, but growth begins with where you are.

As you contemplate ringing in 2017, I hope you’ll consider joining me in making it the best year yet, remembering that the grass is greenest — not in some fantasy or someone else’s back yard, but where we choose to water and nurture it.

Happy New Year!

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Postscript: Speaking of resolutions, one of my intentions in 2016 was to finally compile some of the best of my insights with original artwork and publish as an inspirational quote book. In March 2017, my new book, Walking the Heart Path, will be released and available for purchase. Click here to learn more, reserve your copy, and read what others are already saying.

 

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?

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?

True Leadership

True leadership is inclusive by nature, building bridges rather than walls through the gift of authentic connection.

Rooted in respect, it holds space to acknowledge difference, while remaining aligned to its core vision and values.

Born of integrity, it is courageous in thought, word and deed, willing to take risks and advocate for what is right over what is popular; for what is true over the convenient.

Purposeful in nature, it is not defined by its title, but by its ability to influence positive change.

Collaborative and humble, the best leadership serves, enables and empowers others to grow into their best selves, seeking not to glorify itself, but to acknowledge and exalt the good of others along the way.

Protected: Abandoning Ourselves

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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?

Selling Out

Far too often, we sell ourselves short and/or sell ourselves out. We act from a place of fear. We act from a place of pride. Sometimes, we fail to act at all.

I should know.

For too long I allowed fear (and later pride) to hold me back. Pick your flavor, I’ve probably tasted it already. First, there was this overarching fear of what everyone will think; a malady I lived with for far too long in my life, and one that still rears it’s ugly head from time to time. I made relational choices early on that re-enforced this pattern and then chose a career that all but guaranteed that I would remain personally stuck (unless I dared to break through). A career where what others’ think does in fact matter and is an important yardstick for advancement. In certain spheres, it matters so much that I actually have friends who’ve worked hard to have a ‘zero’ social imprint. No LinkedIn, no Facebook, no Twitter, and certainly no blog filled with paintings, prose and personal revelations. And though as a child I aspired to be a diplomat (or in intel) like some of these others I know, these days I’m humming Garth Brook’s ‘Unanswered Prayers’ and am thanking God that it didn’t quite work out — at least not as I once imagined.

Then there’s that pesky thing called perfectionism.

I didn’t think I was one. Honestly, I didn’t. I thought perfectionism looked like my friends’ houses where there’s never a speck of dust or paper in sight. Or my friends whose perfectionist OCD tendencies manifest in their need to relentlessly organize their surroundings. That’s not me. Though I appreciate a tidy home, I don’t care much for housekeeping and prefer to have my ideas and creations visibly accessible, not tucked away in some drawer. So I was shocked to learn at a recent leadership retreat that there was universal consensus among the group that I was indeed a perfectionist, just of a different flavor. And while I’m letting go of my concern with what others think, I’m still left with that I think. And I think they’re on to something.

The truth… my truth… is that all of this perfectionism, people-pleasing and pride is exhausting. Really exhausting… And it has taken me into my 40s to finally begin to understand: if we’re not okay with ourselves, then perhaps it does matter… more than it should… and from that mindset, we’re likely to attract people and situations into our lives that validate these fears and keep us stuck. But however much we might protest to the contrary, ‘stuck-ness’ is really not about others, but about where we are with ourselves.

Want to let go of people-pleasing? Try a little self-love on for size. It’s not about being selfish, but it is about owning our own truth and valuing ourselves, including our imperfections and limitations. It’s about being at least as accountable to ourselves as we hold ourselves to others or others to us. Want to face down your fears? Try a little courage on for size and take on the very thing that you think you can’t do… the one that will help you advance your own dreams. Want to let go of pride? Take risks, fail publicly, acknowledge ‘not knowing’, give yourself a hefty dose of grace, then graciously return to the arena, wearing a little more humility than you once did before. Want to step more fully into your own voice and leadership? Learn to act from your core truths and values and lead with a servant’s heart — not from a place of all knowing, but from a place of quiet confidence in yourself and humble acknowledgement of all that there still is to learn.

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I’m curious to know

Have you ever allowed fear, pride or indifference rob you of your own dreams? Have you ever sold yourself short or sold yourself out? In what ways have perfectionism or people-pleasing kept you stuck in your own life? What steps can you take today to get out of your own way? What one step could you take today to move you closer to your own dreams?

About

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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