Being fully present
Seeing things as they are
Being clear about
what matters to you
Maintaining inner calm
Having the courage to do
what you know is right
Leadership is about creating a sense of shared purpose and bringing people with you in a way that inspires them to give of their best. When your personal purpose is clear and you take responsibility for aligning it to your work, your work has meaning. In this way purpose is both far-reaching and immediate. It's a compass and a map.
My own purpose is to listen to what matters and to act with love and compassion.
I love helping people see clearly through their internal interference. What you find in this inner clearing can be so blissfully simple. But knowing something in your head doesn’t necessarily mean that you feel it in your body. When your mind and body aren’t aligned, you feel confused.
I understand this because I've struggled with it too. It wasn't until I left the Navy that I realised I was leaving behind not only an organisation - more like a family actually – but also my whole sense of purpose. The void it left was big. I lost my sense of direction and fulfillment. So I did some challenging work on myself. I re-evaluated my strengths and my values. I spent time on retreat in silence. I learned how to listen inside and I gradually understood my deeper purpose and how to manifest it.
To identify and overcome the limiting beliefs and behaviours that stop you moving forward in the direction you want, you need to create space: to step back, observe and let go of the self-talk that stops you seeing things as they are.
You need to develop the skill of focusing on the person or people you're with, and the purpose of your interaction, while observing your own thoughts and feelings with perspective. In other words, you need to be present, open and ready for whatever may arise.
What others truly need is for you simply to be.
So, whenever and wherever you show up, you need to make sure you leave behind whatever happened anywhere in the past so that you can be fully available and aware in the present moment. This generates the best conditions for making the right choice.
The practice of Mindfulness is a route to inner stillness. I discovered this 15 years ago through the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. Attending his retreats was life-changing. They fed my fascination for the power of mind-body connection to help us balance the thinking, feeling and doing parts of our self. As he put it "The longest journey you will ever take is the eighteen inches from your head to your heart." It's a journey definitely worth taking.
It’s an act of kindness to really listen and, regardless of what we find, to respond with compassion.
It's also important - and perhaps our greatest act of courage - to listen inside ourselves. Often what blocks our capacity to do that is some kind of fear "of what we might find".
I see Fearless Compassion as our ability to acknowledge, accept and release fear in ourselves and others, and move forward with courage and compassion into an uncertain future.
I remember a moment in my childhood where being heard was life-changing for me. In the bleak years after my father died I went off the rails. I rebelled and bunked off school. When I was 14 my mother remarried. I remember screaming this question at my stepfather: “what’s the point of school anyway?!” He could have ignored me or shouted back. Instead he sat there, thoughtfully, and I found myself staying put, quietening down and waiting for his response. Finally he replied: 'Perhaps school teaches us how to train our mind to think'. He'd recognised how to re-engage me with the purpose of education.
That moment showed me the value of pausing, stepping back, listening to the deeper need and seeing the bigger picture. Compassion in action.
Most of us want to live up to our own and others’ expectations. My dad was an ambitious man, he worked long days to make a living, and he wanted a lot out of life. He also wanted the best for me - from piano lessons to ballet to horse-riding to sailing to swimming. He always kept moving, and I get that. I get people who are very active because I used to be a lot like that too. In my 20s I tried a yoga class, but when the instructor told us to follow our breath, I thought "what nonsense!" and left!
I also get people who feel stuck – paralysed by their overthinking minds or their highly sensitive emotional state. I understand the impact of trauma and I can relate to the fear of derailing in a period of uncertainty. Both are destabilising and can make us do things that are totally out of character.
Throughout my life, I’ve always loved to move, but now the movement is different. It’s more about bending and flexing - like a willow tree. The roots of a willow tree go very deep, keeping it well grounded and able to bend and flex in the wind. Here where I live in the French Alps, willow trees can be bent double by an avalanche and then, when the snow melts, flex back into their original shape. Pine trees, on the other hand, are easily uprooted.
Now my mantra for myself and others is #bemorewillow - grounded yet flexible, responding with more ease to whatever life throws at us.