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. 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

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?

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?

 

 

From Surviving to Thriving: 16 Principles for Empowered Living

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Before we can effectively lead ourselves or others, we must first feel worthy of the journey itself. We must develop the confidence and courage to step up and into our own voice and to live our own truths with mindful intention and integrity. Whatever the road behind us, if we are to reach the places we’ve chosen to go, we must learn to live in such a way that our outer lives reflect our inner values. This is the essence of empowerment and heart-based living.

Almost any journey toward empowered living can be broken down into three distinct phases: 1. Self-awareness — that moment when we begin to become aware of ourselves — our dreams, our goals and our (self)limiting thoughts and behaviors that often hold us back;  2. Learning — a formative period of insight and exploration, shaped by mentors, role models and other ways we learn; and 3. Application of tools and wisdom that can help propel us out of our limitations and into the fullness of our own voice.

While there is no substitute for the journey itself, these 16 principles can help propel you forward and serve as a guidepost as you embark on your own journey of empowered living and leadership.

1. You must let go of the need for others’ approval if you want to claim your own power. Every time we depend on others to feed our own self-worth, we rob ourselves of our own power. This perpetuates our dependency on the external, for as we disempower ourselves, we become more needy and desperate for the validation of others. Invariably, this increases the likelihood that we will make poor choices — of partners, bosses, friends, etc.

2. Boundaries are not nice-to-haves; they are must-haves. If you are to live and lead from an empowered place; if you are to quit giving your power away to others, boundaries are essential. Boundaries let others know where you stand — with yourself and with them — exuding self-love and respect as you honor your own needs and values. Without boundaries, you not only create confusion for yourself and others, but open the door to needy, controlling and/or predatory personalities — those who feed themselves by robbing others: of their time, energy, ideas; dignity, innocence or worth.

3. As you begin to claim your own power, your relationships with others will begin to shift. You will gain the respect and support of some, but lose others along the way. Not everyone welcomes change and growth in others, especially those who have come to depend on our neediness for their own sense of worth and value. Don’t fight it. These shifts in relationships are a natural and evolutionary process, and the people you attract into your life from a newfound place of strength will result in healthier, happier, more productive relationships.

4. You must face your fears. When we bury our fears, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to learn about ourselves and grow in the process. When we bury our fears, we are essentially telling ourselves, “you can’t handle this,” re-enforcing our own self-limiting beliefs while missing opportunities for growth. Worse still, when left unresolved, we can count on our fears to manifest themselves — in our relationships with people, money, work and health — further undermining our capacity to overcome and build resiliency in our lives. The pain that we fear in facing our problems will not kill us, but holding on to our pain surely will.

5. You must learn to work through conflict. Few people like conflict, myself included. But in our idyllic pursuit of peace, we often forget that peace, courage, self-confidence and esteem do not arise from passive avoidance, but from working through. It comes from courageously facing ourselves and others, seeking as much to understand our triggers from within as the conflict from without. When we avoid conflict, we not only internalize our pain and potentially damage ourselves, but relieve others of their own accountability in the process.

6. Trust your gut. This truth applies as equally to opportunity as it does to people and situations we would rather avoid. Trusting your gut is not the same thing as giving yourself unbridled permission to ‘do whatever feels right’. It is, however, about learning to trust yourself and your instincts, without which we remain hopelessly vulnerable to and dependent on the agendas of others’, whether honorable or not.

7. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Learn what triggers you — your fears, your insecurities, your jealousy, anger or judgment. Once you know what triggers you; what threatens to pull you off-center, you are better equipped to respond proactively instead of reactively, a core element of living an empowered, intentional life. If, for example, a certain personality type consistently wreaks havoc in your life, learn to recognize it early and set boundaries accordingly. If you know in advance that a certain situation leaves you feeling vulnerable or insecure, you can buffer and diffuse your fears by envisioning a positive outcome in advance.

8. Victimhood is not a badge of honor. When you feel powerless in your life, it’s usually because of a painful event or series of events that happened in your past and/or is occurring in your present. Perhaps you feel you are a victim of difficult circumstances outside of your control or have been victimized by others. Life can be hard, tragic and painful, and as much as we may hate to admit it, there’s no escaping this difficult truth. By definition, people are human, and from that place of humanness, people often project their own wounds, hurt and dysfunction onto others, whether consciously or not. Sometimes we become ensnared in their pain. Sometimes we get hurt. Still, when we consistently hold on to our pain; when we wear it on our sleeve as if a badge of honor, it only serves to keep us trapped in our own victimhood.

Consider these words from ‘The Boss’, Bruce Springsteen:

You can find your identity in the damage that’s been done to you. You find your identity in your wounds, in your scars, in the places where you’ve been beat up and you turn them into a medal. We all wear the things we’ve survived with some honor, but the real honor is in also transcending them. -Bruce Springsteen

9. The stories we tell ourselves and others have the power to shape our future. If we are to live fully empowered lives, part of giving up our victimhood badge requires being intentional in our thoughts, words and deeds, for while we are not always in control of what happens to us, we can choose how to wisely respond. Just as our thoughts become words and our words become actions, the stories we tell ourselves and others have the power to shape our future, for better or worse. If we want to change the outcome, we need to change the script. We need to reframe our story, shifting our perspective from victim to victor. Instead of emphasizing what was done to you, focus instead on what you are doing. Instead of being absorbed with yourself, shift your focus on to others. Instead of dwelling on the past, share your vision for a better future.

10. Let it go. Whatever pain you’re holding on to; whatever experiences define your badge of disempowerment, let them go. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. When we hold on to or focus on the pain of the past, it robs us of the capacity to live fully in the present. Hold onto our pain for too long, and we end up allowing it to define us, blocking our true essence and the light of our soul. When we hold on to our fear, we lose our capacity to love. When we hold onto bitterness, we lose our capacity for joy. When we act from a fearful, self-protective place, we lose our capacity for authentic connection with others. Whatever you’re holding onto, give yourself permission to let it go, for by losing our baggage, we create space for new growth.

11. Our circumstances do not have to define us. You are not your circumstances. You are not your poverty, your unemployment, your divorce, your disability or your health issues. While your choices in the present may be influenced by the events of your past, you need not be defined by them. Moreover, while you may not be able to change others’ perceptions and biases, you need not be limited by them, either. Just as significantly, though our culture, profession, ancestry, religion, geography, socio-economic status, education, etc. are all factors that influence our identity, at any given moment, we are each free to step out of the proverbial box of pre-defined limitations and into the total truth of who we are.

12. You must be willing to take a risk. Growth is risky. There are no guarantees. There is no certain, predictable outcome.  The only guarantee is that by embracing growth and the inevitable change that accompanies it, you will embark on a journey that will both challenge and ultimately enrich your life beyond measure.

13. There is power in vulnerability. The very act of taking a risk; of extending ourselves beyond the comfort of the familiar and into the unknown requires a willingness to embrace vulnerability. It requires a willingness to let down walls built to protect; to dissolve layers of ego so that we can see beyond our defenses and into the essence of our heart, for it is there that we will find our true strength and power.

14. No pain, no gain. Growth is not only risky, it’s hard work, too, often (usually) accompanied by pain. By its very nature, growth and change require we be willing to leave the comfort of the known for the discomfort of the unknown. Just as in physical exercise, when we’re building our resiliency and courage muscles, there’s a painful tearing down process that must first occur, essential to building a stronger heart and foundation for our lives. There’s no escaping this fact, though it is usually the pain and discomfort of the status quo that ultimately challenges us to confront our deepest fears and surrender to this process.

15. Start with where you are. So often we put off until later what we can do right now. We hold on to the (false) idea that anytime must be better than the present time to confront our problems, face our fears, and embark on this journey of growth. “When this, then that,” we say to ourselves. ‘This’ may range from “when my children are grown” to “when I get that promotion” to “when I recover from my illness.” But putting off the steps we need to take to live our own voice out loud, robs us of both joy in the present and hope for the future.

16. You are enough. Each one of us is unique with our own set of gifts to share with the world. Each one of us has within us the capacity to love and be loved, to serve with humility and to act with compassion. We do not need to wait for someone else to tell us we are enough — good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, successful enough or lovable enough, for we are each a precious gift of God. Our worth is not found in or measured by the external, but resides within, if only we will dare to uncover the truth of who we are.

 

 

 

 

Falling into Fear or Leaning into Strength?

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In any given situation, we are presented with a choice: we can either fall into our fear or lean into our strength.

When we fall, it is rarely of the controlled sort.  After all, we don’t seek out and intend to fall, unless we’re skydiving, of course. And though we may welcome the feeling of ‘falling’ in love, for example, we can never anticipate the fall itself. It catches us off guard, and is often an unintended consequence of losing our footing, our balance and our center, whether literally or figuratively.

By contrast, when we lean in, it is with deliberation; an intentional choice to put the full force of ourselves in to something or to draw from something, whether strength, love or something else altogether.

Recently I was confronted with a situation that was as uncomfortable and unsettling as it was familiar. As I contemplated my course of action, I couldn’t help but reflect on similar encounters in the past, and how I use to fall into my fear, as if helpless to choose another course of action. When people crossed a personal boundary, whether of my own accidental making or not, I would either ignore it, bury it, or run away from it altogether, focused more on protection from than prevention of. I might also cry, worry or vent, and in the process, inadvertently create a new layer of ‘stuck-ness’ that was every bit as damaging and dis-empowering as the circumstance itself. In simple terms, I enabled the unwelcome, and then wondered why things didn’t turn out as I planned.

When we cease to view ourselves as victims of our circumstance, we empower ourselves beyond measure.

But in every situation, we have the power of choice: we can mindfully act from a place of self-love or recklessly react from a place of fear. We can practice learned helplessness or exercise self-assertiveness. Though we cannot always prevent and anticipate the unwelcome in our life, the mindset of victim or victor is still within our control.

This time I chose a different course of action. Instead of running away from the discomfort, I sat with it. Instead of masking my pain, I confronted it. Instead of focusing on what was being ‘done to’, I focused on personal accountability — choosing to act from a self-empowered place, instead of giving my power away to another. Most significantly, instead of falling into fear, I chose to lean into my strength. 

Addendum: Leaning into our strength begs the question of where strength itself comes from. Moreover, it raises another important question: If we lack inner strength, what alternative is there to falling into our fear? On my own journey, when (I feared) I lacked the strength to navigate a difficult situation, I leaned into my Faith. For me, they are interrelated, for as my Faith deepens, so does my courage, self-love and respect, from which strength and resiliency are born.

I’m curious to know…

As you reflect on your own life and leadership, do you tend to feel powerful or powerless? Are there specific triggers that cause you to fall into fear? How have you leveraged leaning into your inner strength to overcome these fears and build resiliency in your life? 

“Everyone’s a Winner!”

Spear-Cartoon_3511Last week my daughter broke down in a pool of tears.

Trying to understand why she felt she was struggling in school when her report card indicated otherwise, she shared with me the practice of teachers rewarding students with an ‘A’ simply for effort, regardless of whether their answers reflect actual learning. My son, now a high-performing 10th grader, later confirmed a similar practice and experience at his prior school. What interests me has been their different takes and interpretations of this practice.

My son, in his younger years, viewed completion grades as an opportunity to ‘game’ the system, getting away with doing far less than he was capable of at the time. Naturally bright, charming and capable of excellence with minimal effort, it consequently became difficult to incentivize and instill the value of work ethic and discipline.

My daughter, on the other hand, consistently puts forth a good effort and wants to succeed. Excelling in some areas, while struggling in others, completion grades have become a meaningless mockery of her very real effort, while failing to provide her guidance in those areas where she needs to improve.

As I reflected on her tears and pain, I couldn’t help but think about our society’s noble, if mis-guided effort to build self-esteem in our children by declaring “everyone’s a winner!”

Yes, I believe every child should be valued as a human being and that the first step towards self-empowerment begins with the courage to try. I believe that every child has his/her own unique gifts to offer the world and is equally deserving of opportunities to both learn and achieve.

But when we reward effort by the same measure as output; when we reward completion without regard or consequence for quality, it becomes impossible for us to differentiate ourselves and truly understand the measure of our strengths and weaknesses. “Better to make a hard-earned ‘C’ than an easy ‘A’,” my father used to say. And it’s true. 

Rewarding effort by the same measure as result ultimately demotivates and undermines self-esteem. Rewarding completion without regard for quality incentivizes complacency and mediocrity, a surefire recipe for disaster. 

A while back I wrote a post called, The Courage to Try.  I wrote that true confidence comes from within — not only from the courage to try, but the ability to persevere through difficulty, our commitment to see a project thought to completion, and our willingness to both fail and rise up again.

But confidence also comes from taking pride in a job well done. It comes from our commitment to learning and excellence, attainable only in so far as we are first capable of understanding those areas where we still need to grow.

I’m curious…

How do you feel about rewarding effort by the same measure as achievement? In an increasingly global competitive marketplace, what are the individual and societal implications of rewarding effort equally, without regard for differentiating skills or ability? How do we build true confidence, discipline and a passion for excellence from within, when our efforts are dis-incentivized from without?

We Each Walk Our Own Path

IMG_3424If life is a journey, I believe each of us must honor the sacred integrity of our own path.

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 before 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.

But if we are ever to honor the truth of who we are and embrace the essence of all that we have to offer; if we are to bravely walk our own path and become a leader in our own lives, we must learn to silence the critics, whether our own or others. We must learn to courageously own our truths, live our values, and follow our heart.

Integrity is more than moral fortitude. To live a life of integrity means to live a life that embraces the wholeness and essence of who we authentically are.

In my ever-evolving quest and determination to listen, discern and honor the callings of my own true path; in an effort to simultaneously hold on to my values and dreams while exploring ways to share my gifts with the world, I recently found myself judged without mercy. It was the worst kind of ‘mommy-wars’ conversation; a relentless and toxic onslaught of judgement from someone whose need to be right exceeded her capacity to simply listen and be a supportive friend.

In the wake of both misunderstanding and mis-aligned values, I asked her to stop. I asked if we could change subjects. Three, four, five times. Yet she continued — unabashedly and without a trace of empathy, respect or understanding.

With a degree of uncharacteristic anger rising from within, I pointed out that she could not possibly know what it is to walk in my shoes or to harbor my dreams, for neither my path nor my lessons are her own. As she abruptly stormed out of the restaurant, my other friend rendered speechless, I found myself emotionally and physically spent, as I tried to make sense of it all.

Why is it so difficult to honor the sacred journey of another? Why is listening with the intent to judge more prevalent than listening with the intent to understand? Why, in the face of difference, do we try to beat others into submission of our own views and values?  Why is it so difficult for women to support other women whose choices and circumstances differ from their own? Just as importantly, in the face of our critics, how can we stand strong in the truth of who we are instead of allowing others to rob us (if only momentarily) of our joy, our peace, our dreams, and our value? 

Years ago, I would have taken her words to heart. I might have allowed her judgement to cloud my own. But the dis-ease of that moment reminded me not of my limitations, but of how far I’ve come; that I can filter and extract another’s advice from their judgement, recognizing that their words and actions reflect their truths and values, not necessarily my own. I can choose to surround myself with those whose respect for self and others create space for difference, and walk away from those who cannot.

Most importantly, that evening reminded me that just as we are part of a collective whole, we each walk our own path; just as my values, dreams, gifts and talents are unique to me, my struggles are my own to overcome, too, reflective of the lessons I need to learn to reach the places I am called to go.

 

 

Changing Our Narrative

How many times do you find yourself describing your present in terms of where you’ve been in the past?  “I’m here because of what happened when I was there.”  “I’m doing this because that happened before.”

There is nothing wrong with providing context for our stories, our choices, and our lives, but too often we limit, diminish and devalue our present by the stories we tell about our past. Perhaps we focus on the challenge, instead of the growth or opportunity that arose from it. Perhaps we dwell on our limitations, instead of creatively carving new paths to follow.

The truth is, we all have stories from our past that have influenced our present.

We all have had moments that perhaps challenged us, frightened us, or angered us.  At a certain point in life, It is likely we have all known the sting of betrayal or pain and suffering from loss, too.

But it is often in the grit of life that we find its beauty. Moments of growth, joy, abundance and love. Moments of hope, sprung from despair; compassion from suffering; or forgiveness from betrayal.

Too often we limit, diminish and devalue our present by the stories we tell about our past.

In each of these moments, the narrative we choose has the power to shift us from victim to empowered; from hopeless to hopeful.  In each of these moments, the narrative we choose has the power to influence our present and shape our future.

The next time you catch yourself wallowing in the past or feeling trapped in the present, set an intention for a different outcome. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Adjust your lens, reframe your story, and change your narrative.

I’m curious…

How many times have YOU found yourself describing your present in terms of where you’ve been in your past? What is the attitude and tone of your narrative? Hopeful or helpless; empowered or dis-empowered? How do you reframe past challenges to create opportunities for new growth?

The Space In Between

In the weeks leading up to the recent launch of a personal initiative I’ve spent years preparing for and months developing, I found myself standing in that awkward space in between.  You know the one. It’s the no man’s land between advancement and retreat; between pushing forward and playing to win, or playing it safe, if only to assuage our fears of losing.  An internal battle between heart and ego; between being liberated and stuck; I seesawed between moments of hope, encouragement and possibility, and moments of fear that most surely would rather see me wither, withdraw and fail.

Photo courtesy of Oklanica via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Oklanica via Flickr

In a moment of honest reflection, I find this battle ironic, relevant and remarkable.  Ironic, because this new initiative, the Global Girls Project, is centrally about women’s empowerment and encouraging others to live and lead their own voice out loud; Relevant, because in order to inspire women to share their story of empowerment and advice they might pass on to others, I’ve had to own my own journey along the way, imperfections, struggles, learnings and all.

As I continue to step closer to my dreams, I also find this moment remarkable.  Remarkable, because quite frankly, when I started this personal blogging adventure called Heart Path almost 4 years ago, I never imagined that my own story and journey would lead and connect me with so many wonderful others whose collective wisdom and insights have helped shaped my own.

And so it goes.

We advance.  We retreat.  We learn.  We stumble.  We fall.  We grow.

And in that space in between; in that space of uncertainty that threatens to become our undoing; we allow faith to replace our fear, a spirit of service to replace our ‘self’, and we begin to pay it forward for others.

Whether you’ve been following from the start or just happened to drop by, thank you for sharing this journey.

Note:  The Global Girls Project, a collaborative multimedia writing initiative, is in the early stages of development.  To catch a first glimpse and learn what the project is all about, I encourage you to visit the website at www.globalgirlsproject.org.