The poet Rainer Maria Rilke created a powerful legacy for all those who read his poems. He celebrated being alive and being connected to nature, and to life itself. His quote above, just one line of text, is a gift if you let it resonate deeply within you.
What would it be like if you were to pause just a little, every day, to ponder the deep intelligence of the earth and the steady rhythm of nature? If you surrendered more to the living moment you would experience being both “rooted” and connected to something greater, while also being able to “rise up” to feeling more alive and whole.
It is never too soon to be thinking about your legacy, your contributions to the world.
A great way to sharpen your thoughts is to consider the following questions: What will you leave behind you when you exit your life? What will your life have meant to the world around you? What will you have stood for and what will you have created of your one, special, unique life?
It may sound paradoxical but taking the time to think about your legacy and what you will leave behind you when you die is an excellent way to live more fully, completely and abundantly NOW. Most people avoid thinking about their death and many live as if they will never die. This is foolish and wasteful.
By acknowledging and facing the prospect of death, you can choose to make even better use of the limited time you have here on Earth, and to be more fully present with your experience of being alive. After all…
It is the content of your mind and how you direct your internal dialogue that determines how much peace you can generate, allowing your heart-centered presence to simultaneously gift others.
Heart opens to “what is,” thus experiencing the full range of what life has to offer.
There is no wasted effort or time. Sitting in traffic can be either a hellish experience or one of healing and enjoyment, depending upon how you set your mind. If you expect life to conform to your desires and expectations, then you will be disappointed many times and miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in the living moment. You will create unnecessary pain and/or escape into fantasies of the future or ruminations of the past.
The key to creating a legacy worthy of the miracle of living is to be fully present and open to what is going on and what you are experiencing.
Take being stuck in traffic: If you resist it and judge the experience negatively, then you will feel frustration or anger or some form of disappointment. However, when you open to the experience and move from demand to preference, then you can in effect say…
In my capacity as a personal mastery and empowerment coach, conversations with my clients frequently revolve around relationships.
Romantic relationships seem to have the most life impact. Being in a healthy, authentic romantic relationship, in which partners fully accept each other, is one of the most rewarding experiences. Such a relationship is based on sharing, growing, and connecting from and with our deepest hearts.
Through pure unconditional love, it also offers an environment of freedom, courage and acceptance, and allows the growth of self-awareness. Both partners feel secure and safe to freely express themselves. They are deeply committed to each other and also to a sense of overall purpose.
This sense of purpose allows for individual growth and growth as a couple. Such a union is a gift that helps each partner become more conscious and free from emotional slavery. The expansion in consciousness that is possible within an authentic relationship can then serve a higher purpose for society at large: happy couples inspire others to explore courageous emotional honesty, in public as well as personal life.
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, so many people miss out on the gift of having a fulfilling, intimate relationship.
Most of these barriers to a healthy relationship can be overcome with the right dose of desire, courage and acceptance. I propose that the world needs as many people as possible to shift into relationships that are authentic and centered on acceptance, emotional freedom and purpose, also satisfying the individual’s inner desire for safety, security, and the experience of unconditional love.
The key is this: The first steps are self-acceptance, self-love, and self-care.
From there, positive relationships can blossom and the world is made better for it.
One reason that relationships so often fail to offer the highest level of satisfaction and fulfillment is that people enter the union solely to satisfy their own personal needs.
“Falling in love” with another person can certainly be a magical experience, supported by a cascade of endorphins that are released on cue, and which seem to touch the body, mind, and soul all at once.
When, however, the road of life starts getting bumpy, the new partner may be held responsible not only for personal happiness, but for personal unhappiness as well. A relationship that is based on the fulfillment of only one person’s needs leads quickly to co-dependence and resentment.
A second and related reason that relationships fail to be completely satisfying is that partners are too often held to an idealized view of how they should look and behave in the world.
People dream of meeting a soul mate; they look for that special person who will complete them and make them happy forever. As wonderful as this sounds, healthy and authentic relationships can just as well bring forth some of the most challenging and painful experiences humans are likely to face.
We grieve, after all, when we lose something, or someone, of value. The more we value someone, the greater the pain of loss.
As soon as a partner starts to behave in ways that don’t match up to an idealized view of how things should be, feelings of insecurity, anger and resentment can arise. Faced with life’s unexpected hardships and even day-to-day challenges, intimate partners that once seemed madly in love can project their unhappiness on the other.
One particular barrier to healthy relationships lies buried in our unconscious.
As Carl Yung quoted: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate”.
Humans are the most complex creatures in the animal kingdom by force of a unique “gift”, namely the ego mind. This allows people to compare and contrast experiences, and to drift into thinking about the past and the future, allowing these thoughts to color the only thing that is truly real, which is the present moment.
While human minds have the capacity to create wondrous things, they can equally conjure up false stories, lies and all manner of inventions that bring forth misery. Worst of all, much of that can happen in the subconscious mind. Past experiences, often long-forgotten, can bring forth learned behavior that is automatic but not at all in the interest of growing and thriving relationships.
I have seen and continue to see many people going through life focused on “not getting hurt” versus “going for the gold.”
Too often, defensive patterns meant to protect the self from harm become THE problem. From past experience as a marital and family therapist and decades of working to support people in their professional as well as personal lives, I see the pain created by old defensive patterns. These include cynicism, denial, pre-emptive rejection and insistence on being right, promiscuousness, isolation, withholding and withdrawal.
Such patterns of behavior always point to a lack of the courage to be vulnerable, to be open to life and to love. This robs people of intimacy, meaningful connection, and any real joy or deep satisfaction in their relationship(s). Instead, they are left with the experience of perpetual loss and a self-defeating pattern that just creates more of the same.
The poet Elizabeth Sewell, author of The Human Metaphor, described two fundamental ways to live life.
One is to live fully, openly and with gusto; the other is to live it just so as “not to lose.”
I remember the powerful metaphor she used when I heard her speak years ago at UNC-Chapel Hill. She described the second way of living –“not to lose” – as laying down in the grave, pulling the marble up to your chin, hoping not to get hurt while waiting for life to be over. That image has stayed with me now for more than four decades. Yet in my work with individuals, families, teams and organizations, I keep running into people who seem to be living “not to lose”, not to get hurt versus being their very best, of reaching for what they want.
As many spiritual masters have so astutely pointed out, the experience of pain and loss is inevitable in life. Nonetheless, we can deeply enjoy life and experience profound meaning and intimacy. For that, we need to bring compassion for ourselves and for others to bear, and we need to access the courage to use the pain to help us go deeper and to open ourselves more fully. Unfortunately, the lesson many learn and that our society teaches is, “Numb the pain,” “Medicate away the loss,” and “Avoid all BAD feelings.”
The deep insights of psychology, sociology and spiritual discipline all tell us that to label a feeling as “bad” is to limit aliveness.
As human beings we are shaped by the stories we are told as well as the stories that we tell. This is especially true about the stories that are passed down by family members important to us. The “story-lines” we are fed through our formative years – about people, events and circumstances, both close to home and across the world – shape our way of being in the world.
Particularly crucial stories involve other family members; these can impact how we feel and relate to our entire ancestral heritage. Since we humans, as relational beings, lay great stock in “belonging,” the impact of family myths can be great indeed. They can serve to bind us or to separate us, to uplift us or to bring us down.
Indeed, family stories often become the lens through which we see every other experience in our own life, and as such can shape our life experience dramatically.
Stories, then, help to shape our ways of thinking, perceiving and understanding our selves as well as our ways of relating and connecting with our world. This is true whether the stories are “good” ones or “bad” ones.
In December of last year, I shared about two powerfully “good” movies – A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life. Both of these helped to shape my life, bringing me more joy in living and deeper compassion. Within the plot of each movie, we are shown how the path of a human life takes a bend toward a darker, lonelier, even hopeless future. It is the power of love that sheds light and allows the protagonists, Ebenezer Scrooge and George Bailey, to reset their course for the better.
A Pixar-animated Disney Production, Coco illustrates the pain that can be caused by a false family story, and the power of Courage and Love to rewrite the script in a way that impacts generations – past and future. The lyrics of the movie’s Oscar-winning theme song, Remember Me, capture the bittersweet process of remembering lost loved ones and the power of family heritage and connections.
Earlier this year, Acts of Courage Co-Founder Robert “Dusty” Staub gave the Keynote Address to more than 300 business leaders and others attending the Northern Nevada Business Weekly’s 2018 Book of Lists Launch & Awards Gala.
As the CEO and Lead Consultant of Staub Leadership International, Dusty has spent more than four decades helping liberate the passion and power of people and organizations. In this Keynote Address, Dusty dives deep into what it means to be a transformative, heart centered leader, leaving the audience with practical, actionable insights.
We invite you to watch the Keynote below, but here are just a few of the highlights…
“In the world we live in, shit does happen and we have to deal with it. That’s not what makes you a leader. What makes you a leader, is knowing how to transform “shit” into “shift” and make something meaningful. That’s what great leadership is all about and it requires transformation.”
“Everyone who works with you has the discretion to decide how much heart, commitment, thought, creativity and passion they are willing to put into your organization. Discretionary effort is discretionary and your leadership determines how much your people are willing to give.”
“The problem that keeps leaders from getting more engagement from their people is a failure of courage.”
“Transformation is the realm of love, meaning and significance. It’s about how deeply you’ve lived, how fully you’ve loved, and how completely have you learned to be present in this world. It’s from this place where we make shift happen.”
“The most effective people ask one primary question: Where can I offer the greatest value? If you’re doing a job that someone else could be doing, you’re not doing the thing that is your highest and best use of your time and talents.”
“Do you have the courage to dream of a better way? Do you have the courage to see your organization stepping up the game? Do you have the courage to see the current reality and be honest about what’s working and not working? Do you have the courage to confront and tell truth to power? Do you have the courage to be confronted? Do you have the courage to learn and grow and try new behavior? Do you have the courage to be vulnerable? Do you have the courage to let go of the old ways of thinking and acting that no longer serve you?”
“The source of courage is being connected to something greater than yourself – your big why.”
“When you shut down someone who is willing to confront you, you’re shutting down a conversation that’s been going on behind your back for a while.”
“Yours is a unique, special life. How are you spending it? Are you inviting the best from everyone around you? Are you sending the message to others that they matter and are important?”
I want to speak to all of you fathers out there, dad to dad. (Mothers, you may interested in reading this as well, even though my emphasis here is to address the particular and important role that men play in the lives of their children, something that is important not only on the individual but also the societal level.)
The greatest gift we can give anyone, especially our children, is that of being fully present.
Why is our presence so critically important? What is it about bringing ourselves fully into the moment with our children that feeds the soul – theirs and ours?
The answers lie in the fact that one of the most important human needs is to be heard, seen, known and appreciated. This is how we make a key difference in cultivating qualities such as self-esteem, generosity and compassion within young minds and hearts.
Research in the fields of psychology, sociology and neuroscience all confirm the importance of caring touch and loving connection. Babies, after all, are completely vulnerable to the nurture – its presence or absence – provided by their caretakers. The way they are touched, the tone of voice used, the level of safety in their environment and the nourishment that is provided, these all develop not only a child’s physical but also his or her emotional, energetic and psychological states.
“I am here,” are some of the most comforting words a person can hear in moments of crisis, pain, doubt, fear and sorrow.
This is especially the case when the support comes from someone that is well known and loved. I have raised three children, now all young adults and one with children of his own. I would like to think I have been the kind of father each would turn to in a time of need – for support, comfort, and unconditional love.
Paternal wisdom gained from a lived experience is worth sharing.
Here are five (5) practices for fathers that enrich and grace our children as well as our selves:
I was 31 years old when I gave birth to my first child. Despite an M.D. after my name, and successful completion of a family practice residency under my belt, I soon discovered I had a lot to learn about being a parent. It took BEING one to learn and grow into the role. By about the age of 45, I could more honestly say, “OK, now I feel rooted in being a parent.” By then I already had a teenager in the house, and two more not far behind.
It’s one thing to read parenting books (or even this article), and quite another to translate the learning to each unique individual, situation and moment in time.
Mistakes were made. Oh, how I wish for another chance for certain moments! And yet, then as now, I have stuck to this bit of wisdom:
Do your best.
My best is much better after a good night’s sleep than it is after a long day at work. My best is much better when I feel healthy than when I’m puny with a cold. My best is much better when, well, things go my way.
But just as the bones in our body require constant pressure of use in order to stay strong, so too all life experiences, even the difficult ones, shape us. We cannot hope to become our best selves without some challenges along the way. In having the Courage to Let Go – of the past, of self-judgment, of rigid expectations – every day offers a new opportunity for us to Learn and Grow, to blossom into the best version of ourselves.
Today, I am the delighted grandparent of two precious young lives.
In fact, as I take my place as an elder in society (I’ll be 60 this year), there are many young children and their parents in my life. To these I can offer my heart, my listening ear, and – when it is asked for – my counsel born of “been there, done that.”
(I should add that my sympathy for my own parents grows daily, as I have come to recognize how hard it can be to let go of certain choices made by my adult children. I have to constantly remind myself to respect them, their journeys, their learning, and their sovereign right to choose for themselves. )
I offer here five practical bits of advice for parents.
These are born of my own experience. I hope they serve.
Do you live your life as though everything is a miracle, or as though nothing is?
Einstein was right on point about our perception of “what is.” HOW you set your mind to see the world is one of the most powerful ways to bring change into your life. The larger your frame of reference, the more likely you are to be a transformative force in this world, someone who can make “shift” happen.
To help you do this I suggest you play with, if not outright embrace, the idea that everything around you is a miracle. This shift in consciousness opens the “doors of perception,” leading to a more creative and innovative way of understanding yourself, those around you, your world and your work in this world. It makes the world both more accessible and engaging, allowing new insights into richer possibilities and more enabling choices.
The first two parts of this series looked at the power and the necessity of letting go in order to live in a more transformative way. As highlighted in Part Two, doing this requires all eight (8) Acts of Courage.
In this post, we’ll talk about 5 powerful HOW TO’s around living and leading in more creative, potent and effective ways.
Here they are:
Engage the “Genius of Non-Judgment”
Draw the Larger Circle
Use the Power of “And”
Access “Future Pacing”
Call on Allies, both Internal and External
Let’s take a closer look at each:
Creative How-To #1: Engage the “Genius of Non-Judgment”
Being more innovative requires a conscious shift in your perception by letting go of judgments about self, others and the situations you find yourself in. Organizational consultant and coach Leeza Steindorf has a great on-line presentation on the “genius of non-judgment” that lays this out in great detail.
Briefly, the approach is to focus on describing the “facts” of a situation and using these, as opposed to evaluations and judgments, as your frame. For example, let us imagine that you see someone playing a video game during work hours and they are not on break. The typical approach to this would be to “color” the observation of what the person is doing with a judgment such as: “That person is goofing off” or “That person doesn’t care” or even “That person is a bad employee.”
The path of non-judgment is to simply describe the “facts” as opposed to piling evaluations on top of those facts. In this case, the facts are:
Dr. Brown is the Best Selling Author of Let Your Personality Be Your Career Guide and The Road to Success (co-written with Jack Canfield), the Creator of The Book of You™, and a highly sought after Speaker and Coach.
Last week, Dusty Staub, best selling author of The 7 Acts of Courage, spoke with Dr. Sarah E. Brown, who revealed the secret to finding fulfillment and offering the world your best.
This is their conversation…
Dusty: Thank you so much for talking with me today Sarah. Could you tell our readers a bit about you, your work, and service in the world?
Dr. Brown: I help people understand their unique personality and how to use those insights to be more effective—to be happier, successful, and understood. My primary means for doing so is by writing a completely personalized book for each person.
The reader takes a world-renowned personality assessment. With the data from that instrument, I then write a book all about the reader, with information about him or her and some suggestions customized for that unique individual. The insights generated from the personalized The Book of You™ help the reader to minimize stress while maximizing success. It is like getting a personal coach in a book!
I have over thirty years of experience working in corporate America, including over 20 years of organization development and talent management work. I made extensive use of this powerful assessment tool as part of my organization development work.
In my last role as Managing Director at Accenture, I noticed a whole bevy of clients, mostly women, who were in the wrong jobs or not being able to play and work at their best. They were simply miserable.
They knew they were unhappy, but they could not tell me what would make them happier.
I was deeply moved at the individual pain and the collective cost to self-esteem and effectiveness. Then I noticed some people who were getting out of the rut. The critical difference for those few was that they were working with coaches. The coaching process evidently helped the participant to see her unique strengths, increased self-awareness and then provided action steps to act on that awareness. This was powerful.
Of course, hiring a good coach is costly and doesn’t appeal to everyone. I wondered how I could help people who either could not afford a personal coach or who simply didn’t like the idea of working with one.
Reflecting on the power of The Birkman Method® tool I had been using, I began to see how I could embed the coaching process in a book based on this powerful assessment tool. The Book of You™ was the result.
In the first part of this New Year series of articles, we looked at the importance of letting go, and the creative power that is unleashed as a result. In fact, there is no true capacity to move forward until we let go of our attachment to what was and to where we are standing in the moment.
Blake’s short poem on expanded awareness is predicated on opening what he labeled the “doors of perception” in order to see more possibilities. This requires letting go of the old definitions, of an identity that no longer fits, and of well-worn and threadbare ways of thinking and perceiving.
We stand with a foot in two very different worlds.
One is the familiar everyday world of transactions; of give and take; of contracts, rules and laws. This is also the realm of time lines and getting things done, of having and of doing. It is, of course, literally true that nothing happens until it moves into the transactional space, for this is where ideas, concepts, feelings and awareness get traction through discrete, concrete actions.
The power of this transactional realm is that “success” is measurable and quantifiable: for instance, by the amount of money and status we have, the list of things we have accomplished, or the skills we have acquired. The danger of this world, however, is that it is very compelling, even hypnotic in its ability to pull our attention and lock us into narrowed thinking.
For those who spend a lot of time in the world of transaction, two bumper stickers come to mind: “He who dies with the most toys wins,” and “Shit happens.”
The other realm is that of transformation.
This is the domain of wholeness, of being, purpose, significance, love and deep meaning, of spirit and possibility. It reflects a way of moving with life that uses, in the words of the poet Blake, “divine imagination.” From this perspective, we relate and connect in a way that generates a sense of self-worth, dignity and appreciation.
The bumper sticker here might read, “Shift Happens.” After all, he who dies with the most toys still dies.
But if a person can compost the shit to shift, rich new growth is possible.
From the perspective of transformation, the better questions are: Do peace and joy abide with you now? And what is the legacy that will be left for the benefit of future generations?
At this point in time there is a critical need for more transformational leadership by those with the capacity to make “shift happen.” With all of the many challenges we face in our transactional world, we need a wiser perspective and way of moving past the modern, soul-deadening, fear-based approach to life. Media coverage gives us ample stories of what to expect when the ego mind and the transactional rules without benefit of heart.
What is needed now more than ever is courage.
There are many different Acts of Courage we can muster. Let us hold leaders in government and business accountable and expect them to have the Courage to be Confronted and to make it safe for others to tell truth to power. Let us support those who show the Courage to Confront, and help them to move beyond years of living in pain and shame, diminishment and invisibility.
As we look toward a fresh tomorrow, let us remember that transformational thinking helps to ensure that powerful, effective growth and development is taking place through a more heart-centered engagement with self and others. This is enlivening and enriching for all.
Holding onto what was but no longer fits is very much like the proverb of watering last year’s garden.
It will keep you from taking care of the seeds for this year’s crop, of recognizing the wonderful new opportunities in front of you. Where does the courage to let go and to dream anew, to be vulnerable, to learn and grow, to confront and be confronted, come from? There are many sources. The main ones I have identified are:
Service – to something greater than the fear of the moment
Personal Purpose – a deeper sense of meaning than “ego” or personality
Anger – at injustice; taking action in spite of fear and social condemnation
Inspiration – seeing others who are showing courage in the face of needed change
Camaraderie – and an unwillingness to let others down
Love – the greatest motivator of all
Where others are seeing limitation and dead end signs, transformational leaders identify growth opportunities and new pathways forward. This is making “shift happen.” Every effective leader that I have studied or that I have worked with has been effective at doing this.
So how about you?
Are you stepping up to what is possible by cultivating the courage to let go of the old identity or ways of thinking that no longer serve you?
Are you a transformational presence or leader for your self, family, team, department or organization?
Are you effective both personally and professionally through your ability and willingness to shift your perspective – and way of thinking, working, engaging and behaving – as called for in the moment? (Where you lack this ability, there is a great danger of becoming stuck in a well-worn, even a velvet-lined “rut.” As my old boss and mentor Dr. James Noble Farr expressed it, “There is an endemic and epidemic disease impacting many people: ‘hardening of the categories.’”)
When you get stuck and feel there is no way forward, when the framework and situation around seems hopeless, then it is a sign of the failure to make a critical shift in your way of thinking and perceiving. You may very well be suffering from “hardening of the categories,” that then leads to a failure of imagination.
I invite you to cultivate your creativity in order to shift to a broader, more innovative way of thinking. In the next (and final) blog in this series, I’ll dive into fun and powerful ways to foster this transformational capacity.