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.

Promo_FB_AP_Quote_Launch

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. 

Creative Visualization

15541549_10154808096969655_9204891255238104112_nRecently I was feeling a bit silly and rather serious at the same time. Practicing a little creative visualization, I sheepishly snuck an advance reader copy of my upcoming book, Walking the Heart Path, into my local Barnes & Noble, found a few favorite authors’ books for companions, placed my own on the shelf, took out my camera, and began to snap away. No, I didn’t leave it there, but I did pause for just long enough to breathe in the moment and visualize possible outcomes . . . specifically, to envision and consider what success might look like for me.

15589980_10154808096974655_5275041062588752987_nCrazy? Perhaps; Will it work? Possibly; Has it worked in the past? Absolutely. Many times, in fact.

Too early to know for sure, what I do know is this:

We become what we imagine and believe is possible. We should therefore learn to dream with our hearts wide open. 

No, I’m not suggesting that everything is possible. If you are an active asthmatic, for example, the U.S. Air Force is not going to let you pilot their planes. Some rules  (including the laws of physics) are, at least in this present moment, what they are.

But I believe in miracles. I believe in dreaming big, working hard, and acknowledging that while not everything is within our control, the possibilities for our lives do in fact expand or diminish in proportion to our courage and commitment to our vision AND our willingness to make sacrifices and do the hard work required along the way. I believe in the power of Faith, prayer, and honest intention, too — which collectively calls us to both dare to dream and be willing to simultaneously surrender to unknown outcomes.

Here’s where it gets tricky.

If we’re not careful, fear (whether of failure or success) and its close cousin, pride, will show up at our party, often unannounced. Invited or not, letting them roam freely in our minds is the sure fastest way to sabotage our dreams. Left unattended, they will plant seeds of doubt and/or create a lengthy list of reasons why we deserve something less than we imagine is possible (or perhaps have yet to imagine), though trying to smother, silence, and bind them only fuels their fire and determination to squash our spirit.

So what is the answer?

As Elizabeth Gilbert suggests in her book, Big Magic, make friends with fear (and feed your pride some humble pie while you’re at it). Acknowledge fear’s presence, but while you’re at it, step up your Faith, paint the picture you want to see, and learn to lean into love.

That’s where the real magic resides.

I’m curious to know and ask…

Do you find it easy to dream or do you find yourself holding back? What are the biggest obstacles that keep you from pursuing (and therefore realizing) your dreams? Have you ever painted a picture in your mind and/or created a physical visual of your desired outcome? What was the result? How does creating a vision for your life (or project) help move you closer to realizing your dreams?

p.s. Want to read a great book on daring to dream? Pick up a copy of Whitney Johnson’s book, Dare, Dream, Do, and while your at it, a copy of her latest book, too — Disrupt Yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

 

 

On Dreams & Miracles…

The moment we quit dreaming is the moment we quit manifesting miracles in our own life, for when we have no intentional aim, we most assuredly will get lost in the wilderness of life.

I’m curious to know…

Do you take time out to dream on a regular basis? Do you have an intentional aim and larger vision for your own life? Allowing space for miracles and the larger hand that is at play in our lives, do you life your life by design or default? What steps can you take today to help you manifest a miracle? What role does Faith play in that process?

Strip_Heart_14_blue_8x10

 

 

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?

 

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.

Winning is…

Winning

The Best of Intentions

(Photo courtesy of Flickr)

(Photo courtesy of Flickr)

It’s that time of year again — the time when we reflectively pause on the year past in anticipation of the year to come.

If you’re like many people, every January you start the year with the best of intentions. Intentions to progress beyond the status quo; to dream, grow, stretch, and achieve. Perhaps you intend to lose weight, get in shape, or finally write that book. Maybe your intention is to find love or to become more loving towards others. In our current economy, past intentions of finding your dream job may have shifted to the simplified version of finding a job.

Beyond simply another goal-setting exercise, resolutions enable us to (re)frame, (re)direct, and resolve to move us closer to our dreams. Energetically, setting an intention creates movement, shifting our mindset from the complacent comfort of the familiar to the challenge of new growth.

But sometimes even the best of intentions can fall by the wayside. Perhaps midstream our priorities shift, giving way to new pathways that call us in a different direction. Perhaps there is more weed pulling or soil tilling to do before the garden of our life is ready for new plantings. Sometimes our intentions are tied to people and events outside of our control, and what starts off as the best of intentions, ultimately gives way to disappointment and frustration when things don’t go our way.

So what are we to do? How do we navigate ever-changing tides or commit to goals that may ultimately fall outside of our control? What steps can we take to reach the places we are trying to go?

In an interview for the Global Girls Project on the power of vision in leadership and empowerment, Jesse Stoner, co-author with Ken Blanchard of the international bestseller, Full Steam Ahead: Unleashing the Power of Vision in Your Life, suggests “digging down beneath intentions to what’s fundamentally connected to who you are, because in the end, that’s all you really have any control over.” She suggests tuning into your core values and purpose as the means for achieving the larger vision for your life.

Need to lose weight or get in shape? Want to write that book? Looking for love or the perfect job? Consider the underlying values you are trying to achieve. Perhaps your resolution for weight loss and fitness is tied to a core value of health and wellness, or your desire to write a book is aligned with creative expression. A desire for relationship reflects our basic human need to love and be loved, while the notion of a ‘dream’ job is usually tied to a larger sense of purpose in our lives.

When we dig deeper; when we consider the underlying ‘why’ behind our resolutions, it enables and empowers us to move from a mindset of having the best of intentions to pursuing a larger vision for our lives.

I’m curious…

Do you set New Year’s resolutions, and if so, have you ever considered the underlying values driving your individual goals? How many of your resolutions are defined by events, people and/or circumstances outside of your control? Do your resolutions reflect a larger vision for your life? What pro-active steps can you take to shift from merely setting an intention to actualizing your dreams?

 

Meeting My Younger Self

Yesterday I had the privilege and honor of being a part of the selection committee for the 2012-2013 Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship.  It was an honor to be asked by my fellow Rotarians for whom I have so much respect, but it was also a privilege to meet and speak with the candidates – two wonderfully accomplished female students from a nearby college.

I could write an entire post about Rotary International – what it means to me and its value and importance in the world.  But this post is about something else.  This post is about a chance encounter with two women who not only embody my personal passions and ideals, but who reminded me of both my younger self – the idealistic girl I once was before I lost my way, and the woman I have since become for having chosen to embrace this journey I am now on.

For as long as I can recall, I have always wanted to make a real and lasting difference in the world.  I have been drawn to economic plights and inequities around the world and the need for sustainable solutions.   I have been submerged in geopolitical issues of race, gender and religion, recognizing from an early age the need for global literacy, cross-cultural awareness and communication.  I have observed the challenges of various sociopolitical systems and been sympathetic to issues of human rights and social justice.

I had a dream, buried deep within me, that embodied all of my childhood experiences growing up around the world.  I had a dream, that for a time during the college/graduate school years and the early years of my career, rose up from within and found a voice, overshadowing all else.  I was ambitious, focused, and determined.  I wanted to make a difference in the world and no one would stand in my way; that is, until I abandoned these early dreams of my heart, trading them for peace and security, marriage and family.

The thing is, when a dream is planted firmly in our heart and can be traced to our earliest childhood memories, it doesn’t just die, no matter how much we may try to ignore it.  Perhaps our priorities shift; perhaps we realize that our heart is large enough to encompass more than one dream.  Certainly, for example, I am blessed to have my children who have brought and continue to bring immeasurable amounts of love and joy in my life.  They are, without question, an expanded part of my dream as well.  But shifts and expansions are not the same as letting our dreams die or burying them under layers of fear and compromise and denial.  In the end, we either die a slow death along with our buried dreams, or they rise up again with a vengeance, determined to have their place in the world.

In recent years, I resurged my lost dreams through community work promoting global content in local schools; work which directly led to my involvement with Rotary and the subsequent opportunity to interview and speak these two young ladies.  They were the final candidates being considered for a significant scholarship to study abroad for one year and to serve as an ambassador to Rotary International on behalf of the United States.  To even be considered is no small feat.  These young women both had ‘A’ averages from one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country, a long list of community service initiatives, multiple international endeavors, foreign language fluency, personal presence and speaking skills, and a total commitment and passion to their cause(s).  One was a talented artist who wanted to empower women globally through art, while the other wanted to continue her research into peace and conflict resolution, having already spent time abroad successfully working with youth in Israel and Palestine.

There was a committee of five and two final candidates.  Four men and one woman, one of whom had been in Rotary for over fifty years.  We challenged them on every level.  We questioned their motives, their assumptions, their values, and how they would represent Rotary and the United States.  We tested their understanding of Rotary and of the responsibilities before them.  We asked them to consider how they plan on implementing their vision.  Both of them responded with a degree of grace and maturity that inspired us all.  Both of them stayed true to their dreams, yet gave thoughtful consideration to how their vision aligns with the values of Rotary.  They demonstrated, through their accomplishments, poise, grace and commitment, that in order to be ready to create and influence lasting change without, they must first lead from within.

While the interviews were about the accomplishments, intentions, and maturity of these two candidates, I got more than I bargained for.  Way more.  This weekend I was also reunited with my younger self who got lost along the way.  Through these young women, I saw the girl I once was and the woman I’ve become.  I saw more clearly than ever, that my once forsaken dreams got lost only by the limitations and fears of my own mind and heart.  I was reminded that while idealism must be tempered with experience and a heady dose of pragmatism, there is still a place for it all.   Most importantly, I realized that my younger self simply needed to learn a few lessons in order to really be ready to live my dreams…that I had to be willing to discover and embrace who I am within, in order to live and effectively lead out loud.

I feel privileged to have crossed paths with these two young ladies, both of whom share the same idealism and passions that once fueled my own dreams.  I feel honored to know them, to have learned from them, and to have been able to offer up a few words of my own wisdom, too.  My earnest prayer is that as they step forth into the world, they do not lose their way.  As new dreams emerge or expand, I hope they will have the courage stay true to their heart and trust its compass, even as the idealism of their youth becomes tempered with the inevitable heartache and pragmatic doses of reality along the way.  I wish them the very best of luck, knowing the luck is indeed what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

As you reflect on your own dreams and vision for your life, what have you done to prepare for them?  Are you as clear about who you are and the values you subscribe to as you are about the dreams you are pursuing?  If you had a chance to meet your younger self, what advice would you give him/her?

Postscript:  On this Mother’s Day, I feel blessed not only to have expanded my dream to include my beloved children, but to be able to finally give them the gift of my authenticity and to watch them grown in the strength and beauty of their own.  Could there be any greater gift than that?