The Center for Transformational Presence http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog Alan Seale's Personal Blog Mon, 18 Jun 2018 14:43:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 Seeing With Soft Eyes – Living and Leading With Heart http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog/seeing-with-soft-eyes/ Mon, 18 Jun 2018 14:42:38 +0000 http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog/?p=2240 Anderson Cooper, a high-profile television journalist in the U.S., is best known for his direct questions, his uncompromising commitment to getting to the truth of what is going on, and his deep compassion for the human condition. As a co-host for the recent Mindfulness in America Summitin New York City, he was interviewed by Karen […]

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Anderson Cooper, a high-profile television journalist in the U.S., is best known for his direct questions, his uncompromising commitment to getting to the truth of what is going on, and his deep compassion for the human condition. As a co-host for the recent Mindfulness in America Summitin New York City, he was interviewed by Karen May, Vice-President for People at Google. Giving us a rare glimpse into the personal Anderson Cooper, he shared some of what he has learned in his remarkable journey and who he strives to be. The highlight of the interview for me was when he spoke of seeing with soft eyes.

Cooper defines seeing with soft eyes as “not allowing your eyes to be hardened by what they see, and viewing everything as nonjudgmentally as possible.” He grew up learning about loss. His father died when he was ten years old. Eleven years later, his older brother committed suicide. Throughout his journalism career, he has been drawn to people who are navigating profound loss, whether through war, humanitarian crises, violence in society, or through personal tragedy. He continues to put himself in places where, in his words, humanity is happening.

Navigating life today can get overwhelming. When humanity is happening – when we witness or feel the raw emotion of the human experience – sometimes we don’t know how to cope. In the moment, it might seem easier (or emotionally safer) to shut our feelings down, to harden our gaze, to walk away from our hearts, and just push on through. We do whatever we have to do in order to get through the situation.

Yet does that really serve us? What if we could be present – really present – with soft eyes? 

The more we shut down feelings, the more disconnected we become from ourselves, from the people around us, and from life. We become hardened to the human experience. Our rational mind tells us that we are protecting ourselves. If we don’t feel – if we stay away from the heart – then there is no conflict and no pain, right? We tell ourselves that we can avoid messy interactions and protect everyone involved from uncomfortable or inconvenient emotions. If we disconnect, we can make the tough decisions and push through until we get the result we want.

Yet we don’t notice the deeper consequences. We don’t notice that disconnecting is becoming our habit – our coping mechanism. And we don’t notice how much energy it costs us to keep the walls up around our hearts.

Closing off our hearts and keeping the various aspects of our personal lives and work in little compartments comes with enormous cost. It hardens our vision and perception. It robs us of energy we need for creation and manifestation. It poisons relationships. Every decision and action becomes tainted by our need for protection and our fear to feel. And we lose the “whole-picture” awareness and the wise perspective of the heart.

The irony is, of course, that we are running away from the very part of us that could give us a true sense of clarity, authentic power, strength, and resilience. The heart brings all of the parts of us together into wholeness. Through our wholeness, we are able to access a greater wisdom. We discover a way forward. We become resourceful.

Whether as individuals, as companies or organizations, or as countries, our authentic power comes from our sense of connection with one another and the world around us. We find that connection when we see with soft eyes – when we engage with life from an open heart and mind, an awareness that everything is in some way connected to everything else, and a willingness to be present and work with whatever feelings arise.

Although things are slowly changing, too often company cultures view this kind of awareness and approach as the “soft skills.”

Yet what if it is only by seeing with the compassion and big-picture awareness of soft eyes – from the wisdom of our hearts – that we can reach our greatest potential? What if the “soft skills” are actually our most authentic and, in fact, most essential “power” skills?

Power with others rather than power over others. Power to be co-creative and innovative. Power to imagine something beyond what we already know. Power to connect the dots and build relationships. Power to transform challenges into opportunities. Power to bounce back when we get knocked down.

It’s through seeing with soft eyes that we can recognize our interconnection with all that is. When our eyes get hard – when we disconnect from the heart – we lose a sense of our interdependentrelationship with the world around us. We stop noticing that other people’s circumstances impact our own. As a society, we make choices and decisions that result in ecosystems being destroyed for the prosperity of a few, wars being fought based on greed and the pursuit of power. Seeing with hard eyes can only create a world where, in the end, everyone loses.

Whether as individuals, corporations, or nations, we cannot afford to disconnect from the heart any longer. We cannot afford to see with hard eyes. Time is of the essence. The enormous challenges we face are messengers asking us to pay attention. We have opportunities every day to make different choices.

Seeing with soft eyes alone will not make everything right in the world. However, it’s a starting point. The more we are willing to feel and embrace the power of the heart in both our personal and professional relationships, projects, and negotiations, the more we can access entirely new levels of clarity and understanding about where to go, who to be, and what to do.

~ ~ ~

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What brings you alive? Do it now. http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog/what-brings-you-alive-do-it-now/ Mon, 11 Jun 2018 05:00:38 +0000 http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog/?p=2233 Following on the themes of authenticity and setting your life free from my last few articles, two quotes from African-American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader Howard Thurman perhaps take us a next step. There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in […]

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Following on the themes of authenticity and setting your life free from my last few articles, two quotes from African-American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader Howard Thurman perhaps take us a next step.

There is something in every one of you
that waits and listens
for the sound of the genuine in yourself.
It is the only true guide you will ever have.

 ~ ~ ~

Don’t ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive and go do it.
Because what the world needs is more people
who have come alive.

To be fully alive – to be full of exhilaration and purpose – is one of the most incredible feelings one can experience. I’ve been blessed to experience that feeling at several points in my life for extended periods of time.

As I reflect, I realize that none of those times happened by coincidence. They happened because I chose to follow the sound of the genuine within me. I chose to follow what I knew in my heart that I had to do. They happened because an invitation or opportunity showed up, sometimes out of a significant challenge. Each time, I was faced with a choice. I could say “Yes” to the invitation or opportunity, which usually required stepping out of my comfort zone, or I could play it safe.

I admit that early in my life there were times when I chose to play it safe. I wasn’t ready. I was too scared. What if I didn’t know enough? What if I wasn’t good enough?

Then as I was finishing my undergraduate degree in music, I was offered a job as the Director of Music in a church in Kentucky not far from where I had grown up and gone to school. That job represented safety in a familiar world. It seemed like such an obvious next step in the world that I knew.

However, the sound of the genuine deep in my heart told me that if I stayed in that familiar world, something inside of me would never come alive. In fact, I felt like some part of me that I didn’t even know yet would die – a greater potential that I could only sense was there.

Instead of accepting the job, I applied to a prominent music conservatory graduate school in the Northeastern United States and was accepted. I left my home and family and the only world I had ever known. For the first time, I listened to that voice inside. I was afraid to leave the world I knew, yet I knew I couldn’t stay.

Everything about that choice took me out of my comfort zone. Except perhaps one thing – my field of study was to be Church Music. At least I was pursuing a career that people back home would understand.

Yet as I made my way through that degree program, I soon realized that Church Music wasn’t going to bring me fully alive. I was good at it. Sometimes I even enjoyed it. Yet I knew there was something more waiting for me. What I really wanted to do was to sing – to have a performing career and to be a voice teacher for opera singers. The more energy I gave to singing, performing, and teaching, the more alive I felt. And so when I completed the Masters degree in Church Music, I chose to continue my studies for one more year to complete a Masters degree in Vocal Performance.

From time to time throughout my professional and personal life, I have arrived at choice points – times when that feeling of being fully alive was fading and I could sense that a new growth edge was on the horizon. Each time, there came a moment where I had to choose between playing it safe or breaking out of my comfort zone and following my inner calling.

One of those choice points came in 2000 when I chose to leave my successful career as a New York City voice teacher and step into coaching. My heart was calling me in a new direction. I knew that I had to say Yes. It was scary. There were no guarantees. Yet I knew that it was the right choice.

Shifting my profession to coaching was only the beginning of an incredible new journey that would lead to yet more choice points. While I’ve certainly had my ups and downs over the years, every single time I have chosen for what would bring me more alive, it has paid off in every way – personally, emotionally, spiritually, professionally, and financially.

Every now and then someone says to me, “You are so lucky to do work that you love.” As if it just happened on its own.

Yet in truth, it wasn’t “luck” that brought me to where I am. It was intention and clarity. It was paying attention to the sound of the genuine within me and being willing to say Yes to what was calling me. And it was being willing to walk away from a path that was no longer bringing me alive.

We all make choices, and those choices create our lives. Some of those choices, in retrospect, feel really good. Others, we may regret. Or we may wonder what could have happened if we had made a different choice.

If some of your past choices have held you back instead of set you free, first be gentle and compassionate with yourself. What’s done is done. At the same time, start being creative. Work with what is, and find a next step.

For example, if you are not feeling fully alive in your life and work, what is one choice you can make today that sets you on a new path or begins to change your course?

Set an intention that within a year or five years or whatever time frame feels right, you will be on a path that brings you fully alive. You don’t have to know how that’s going to happen. Just take one step towards that path today. And another one tomorrow, and another one next week. And keep going.

To paraphrase Howard Thurman’s message,

Listen to the voice of the genuine within you.
Let it guide you to what will bring you alive.
And then go do it.
It’s the greatest gift you can give.
It’s the gift that the world needs from you.
The world can’t afford for you to do anything else.

~ ~ ~

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What could be possible if you set your life free? http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog/what-could-be-possible-if-you-set-your-life-free/ Mon, 04 Jun 2018 10:00:47 +0000 http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog/?p=2229 What could be possible if you set your life free? When I pose that question to others, the responses I hear range from “That would be amazing!” to “I don’t know where to start,” to “That is too scary – I have to be in charge,” to “I don’t even know what that means!” I […]

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What could be possible if you set your life free? When I pose that question to others, the responses I hear range from “That would be amazing!” to “I don’t know where to start,” to “That is too scary – I have to be in charge,” to “I don’t even know what that means!”

I admit that it’s not a typical question. Yet it came to me in my meditation not long ago, and it hasn’t let go of me since.

A part of my daily practice is paying attention to what is happening in the connections between me and all of the different parts of my life – my family and home life, my health and wellbeing, the different projects and aspects of my work, my travel and teaching, the many different people with whom I engage, and emerging ideas and possibilities.

Being aware of the connections or the “space in between” is a key component of Transformational Presence. Our most powerful work as leaders, coaches, and people who want to make a difference happens in the space in between things, people, situations, ideas, beliefs, and perspectives.

For me, the idea of “setting your life free” means letting go of trying to “make something happen,” and instead, becoming curious about four things:

  1. What is really happening – getting underneath my assumptions or what it looks like on the surface
  2. What wants to happen – what is the message that is trying to get through, the shift that is trying to happen, or the greater potential that is trying to emerge?
  3. How is that asking me to show up?
  4. What step is it asking me to take?

Becoming curious opens the possibility for creating something new. The potential, or “what wants to happen,” becomes the leader, and my job is to pay attention, and to trust that the potential will show me each next step.

When this concept of “setting my life free” was first presented in my meditation, I began to envision a diagram of my life. I was at the center of the diagram, and surrounding me were all of the different aspects, people, and circumstances of my life. I sensed lines or connections between me and the people and circumstances. And then I recognized that many of those people and circumstances had their own connections, and therefore, their own “in between” spaces.

As I continued envisioning the matrix, I became aware of the qualities present in the connections. Some felt easy, flowing, exciting, or joyous; others felt stuck, sluggish, anxious, or vulnerable.

When I focused on the energies of the connections instead of focusing on myself or on the other people or situations, I was surprised at how clear everything became. The key was to notice which connections felt clean and pure, and which ones had a feeling of pushing or pulling – a feeling that there was an agenda to make something happen. In some connections, I recognized that the agenda or push-pull feeling was coming from my side; in other connections, it was coming from the other side. And sometimes, it was coming from both sides.

Wherever I found a push-pull energy, my intuitive “instructions” were to untie myself from that agenda, and set the connection free. That would allow the connection to show me (or us) what truly wanted to happen.

And so I began untying. Step by step, I was literally setting the connections in my life free. And in turn, I was setting myself free from the agendas that were getting in the way.

Yet there was still another surprise. As I untied from the push-pull energies, I could feel the connections get clearer, purer, more dynamic, and more vibrant. What actually got “untied” were my attachments and emotional “needs” in the situation – my desire to control or influence the outcome. By “untying,” the connections had been set free from any agenda – mine or anyone else’s. The pure potential waiting to unfold could now show itself.

I came out of the meditation feeling incredibly alive and energized, and that feeling has stayed with me. By setting my life free, I feel an equilibrium and dynamic balance in my life that I have never felt before.

This simple practice has given me a way to step beyond the many “responsibilities” of my life and work that can at times feel heavy, into feeling “response-able.” When I set all of the different parts of my life free, then I become free to simply be with them, sense what wants to happen, pay attention to how that’s asking me to show up, and respond in a way that feels liberating and empowering for all involved. I become “response-able.”

I invite you to envision a diagram of your life. Put yourself at the center, and then surround yourself with all of the many aspects, people and circumstances of your life.

You might want to draw it on paper. Or if your imagination is very strong, you might visualize or sense these different aspects floating all around you as a multi-dimensional, living, breathing matrix of your life. Some parts of the matrix might appear to be still, others might be moving. The advantage of working in your imagination is that nothing is fixed – everything can move. Just like life.

What kinds of connections do you discover in your drawing or in your virtual, multi-dimensional diagram? In which connections do you sense that there are push-pull energies or imposed agendas? What happens if you “untie” yourself from those energies?

Take some time with this practice. Let it work on you. Find out what could be possible if you set your life free.

~ ~ ~

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Showing Up Fully When It Would Be Easier to Step Back http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog/showing-up-fully-easier-to-step-back/ Mon, 28 May 2018 16:53:41 +0000 http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog/?p=2221 For the last two weeks, we’ve been exploring how to show up fully as your real, unapologetic, authentic self. In the first week, we focused on stepping out of hiding and standing for who you are and what you bring to the world. Last week, we explored the importance of authenticity in building trust. This […]

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For the last two weeks, we’ve been exploring how to show up fully as your real, unapologetic, authentic self. In the first week, we focused on stepping out of hiding and standing for who you are and what you bring to the world. Last week, we explored the importance of authenticity in building trust. This week, we go deeper with what it takes to show up fully and in integrity when it would be easier to step back.

Living your real, unapologetic, authentic self is easy when you are with people who think like you think – people who have a similar worldview and a similar approach to life.  

However, as soon as we are with people who we sense are not like us – whether the differences are real or assumed – it gets harder. Our presence – who we are, how we think, what is important to us, and how we view the world – can make others uncomfortable if they view the world differently than we do. In turn, we can become uncomfortable. Perhaps we feel judged, not welcome, or not worthy. And frankly, so might the others.

In our efforts to live authentically, sometimes we make choices about which values we will honor and which ones, at least in that circumstance, we feel we must sacrifice. There are times when we stand for our principles, yet perhaps other times when we choose to step back in order to feel safe, whether emotionally or physically. There may also be times when we choose to stand for someone else’s values because, in that moment, that feels like the right thing to do.

Transgender parent LB Hannahs faces these choices multiple times a day. In his TEDxUF talk (see below), he reminds us that to be authentic does not necessarily mean that you are comfortable. “It means managing and negotiating the discomfort of everyday life, even at times when it is unsafe.”

LB Hannahs’ most frequent daily challenge comes when he and his young daughter, Elliot, meet strangers who refer to LB as Elliot’s “mom.”

Does he take the “easy” road and just go along with how he has been identified, keeping the other person comfortable? Even though he is then very uncomfortable? Or does he actually engage with the stranger by communicating that he is Elliot’s “dad.”

The first option may avoid creating an awkward situation, yet the second option feels more authentic. Either option can feel uncomfortable. Sometimes when choosing the second option, the other people just roll with it and the tension diffuses quickly. Yet at other times, there is push back, and occasionally even confrontation.

As a “trans-parent,” to use his term, this is just one of the constant values choices LB Hannahs faces every day. “I’ve had to engage with some of my most uncomfortable parts to move towards my most authentic self.

When I’ve had the opportunity to get a “behind-the-scenes” look at the lives of some of the people I’ve admired the most, I’ve become aware that part of what makes them extraordinary and amazing in my eyes is the fact that they’ve been willing to face their uncomfortable parts. They’ve chosen to show up in their authentic selves even when it was hard. They somehow found the strength and fortitude to stand for who they are, for what they believe, and for a way of living that is grounded in respect for all. No apologies. In my personal journey, this has also been one of my biggest growth edges.

I invite you to watch the 13-minute video below not so much from the perspective of LB Hannah’s particular story, but rather from the perspective of what his story represents about the daily values choices we all have to make. If you are learning and growing, your authentic self will also be constantly evolving. Therefore, conscious living and leading includes an ongoing quest for living your real, unapologetic, authentic self.  

Where do values challenges show up in your life? What kinds of situations bring you face-to-face with the choice between being authentic and keeping it easy?

LB Hannahs wraps up his talk:

Some days the risk of being a gender-queer dad feels too much. Deciding to be a dad has been really hard. And I’m sure it will continue to be the hardest yet most rewarding experience of my life. But despite this challenge, every day has felt 100% worth it.

So each day I affirm my promise to Elliot and that same promise to myself: to love her and myself hard with forgiveness and compassion, with tough love and with generosity. To give room for growth. To push beyond comfort in hopes of attaining and living a more meaningful life.

I know in my head and in my heart that there are hard and painful and uncomfortable days ahead. My head and my heart also know that all of it will lead to a more rich, authentic life that I can look back on without regrets.

Enjoy the video.

 

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How To Build Trust: Pay Attention, Communicate Clearly, Be Real http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog/how-to-build-trust-pay-attention-communicate-clearly-be-real/ Mon, 21 May 2018 05:00:59 +0000 http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog/?p=2213 It begins and ends with showing up as your real, unapologetic, authentic self. We opened this topic last week, and we continue this week by exploring the relationship between authenticity, communication, presence, and trust. To get us started, some bold words from Harvard Business School professor Frances Frei: Pay less attention to what you think […]

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It begins and ends with showing up as your real, unapologetic, authentic self. We opened this topic last week, and we continue this week by exploring the relationship between authenticity, communication, presence, and trust.

To get us started, some bold words from Harvard Business School professor Frances Frei:

Pay less attention
to what you think people want to hear from you,
and far more attention
to what your authentic, awesome self needs to say.

Calling herself a “culture builder,” Frances Frei’s 2018 mainstage TED talk is a powerful and practical 15-minute crash course on building and maintaining trust. (Watch the video below.)

If we can learn to trust one another more,
we can have unprecedented human progress.

At the core of her message is the power of authenticity. Early on, she invites us into her fundamental worldview:

I believe there is a better version of us
around every corner.
And I have seen first-hand
how organizations and
communities and individuals
can change at breathtaking speed.

Frances Frei names this worldview “redemption.” Indeed, she looks for the redeeming qualities in everything and everyone, and lifts them up – unapologetically. Her words are simple, direct, and clear. In 15 minutes, she shares the essence of what we need to know in order to bring trust back into our relationships, our families, our companies, and even our countries.

In pure professor fashion, Dr. Frei draws a triangle on the blackboard to create a diagram of the three component parts of trust:

  • Authenticity
  • Logic
  • Empathy

She says that when all three components are strong, then there is trust. However, if any one of those components is threatened, then, in her words, “trust wobbles.”

Empathy

She begins with the last component, Empathy. In her view, it is the most common wobble. She explains that empathy wobbles when people sense that we are distracted by something else, and therefore, they feel like we aren’t really interested in them. Our focus is somewhere else. And that makes the person in front of us feel as if they don’t really matter.

Frances Frei offers a simple yet powerful prescription for restoring empathy:

Identify where, when, and to whom or what
you are likely to offer your distraction.
This will show you where, when, and to whom
you are likely to withhold your empathy.

When we become distracted, we split our focus or attention between two or more things. In that moment, it appears to the person in front of us that the object of our distraction (the too-present mobile phone, another conversation, or averting your gaze to look at something else) has become more important than they are.  

Empathy and distraction are like oil and water – they just don’t mix. We can only build trust when we are fully present and give 100% of our attention to the people and/or the situation in front of us right in that moment.

Logic

Her second component of trust is Logic. This component brings two inquiries:

  • What is the quality of your logic? Is it strong and credible? Does it have substance?
  • How clearly and succinctly do you communicate your logic?

Dr. Frei confirmed my own experience in coaching leaders – that their logic is very often sound, yet they are not always very good at communicating their message clearly. Being able to say what they want to say simply, clearly, and effectively in just one or two sentences is critical. Too often, they begin with a story or an explanation, thinking they are creating context. Yet by the time they get to the important point, people have stopped listening.

Therefore, start with your point. Speak out the essence of what you have to say in your first sentence. Then explain your logic if necessary.

Which takes us back to…

Authenticity.

Empathy and Logic can be learned. However, Authenticity is not a skill to be learned. It’s a process of getting comfortable enough in your own skin that you can show up as your real, unapologetic, authentic self all the time.

Dr. Frei reminds us that this is easy to do when we are around people who are like us. We feel safe.

However, as soon as we are with people who are not like us, this can be really hard. Our presence – who we are, how we think, what is important to us, and how we view the world – can make people who view the world differently than we do uncomfortable. As a result, we might feel judged, not welcome, or not worthy. And those feelings can make us uncomfortable.

As a result, we hold back who we are. When we hold back who we are, others sense that we are not being authentic. Trust quickly evaporates on both sides.

When I consider many of the most extraordinary people I know, I recognize that part of what makes them powerful and amazing is also often what makes them different from others. Therefore, they are not always automatically accepted or welcomed. What makes them extraordinary is both who they are in their differentness, and their willingness to stand tall and proud – to be open about who they are, what they believe, and what is important to them; and to live and lead from that place without apology.

And so, Frances Frei’s advice:

Pay less attention
to what you think people want to hear from you,
and far more attention
to what your authentic, awesome self needs to say.

Her invitation to leaders:

It is your obligation to set the conditions
that not only make it safe
for people to be authentic,
but makes it welcome.
Makes it celebrated.
Cherishes it for exactly what it is.

It’s one thing to talk about showing up real, unapologetic, and authentic. It’s quite another to live it. Frances Frei concludes her talk with these words:

It is still much easier to coach people to fit in. It is still much easier to reward people when they say something that you were going to say, as opposed to rewarding people when they say something entirely different than what you were going to say.

 But when we figure out this – when we figure out how to celebrate difference, and how to let people bring the best version of themselves forward – that’s the world I want my sons to grow up in.

Enjoy the talk.

 

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The Greatest Gift You Have to Offer – The Real, Unapologetic, Authentic You http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog/the-greatest-gift-you-have-to-offer-the-real-unapologetic-authentic-you/ Mon, 14 May 2018 05:00:46 +0000 http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog/?p=2206 While there are some people who were born with a sense of confidence and self-assured presence, many more of us have had to overcome fears, doubts, insecurities, and perhaps even shame. While these challenges can at times feel insurmountable, I’ve come to wonder if perhaps we are the lucky ones. Through our challenges, we find […]

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While there are some people who were born with a sense of confidence and self-assured presence, many more of us have had to overcome fears, doubts, insecurities, and perhaps even shame. While these challenges can at times feel insurmountable, I’ve come to wonder if perhaps we are the lucky ones. Through our challenges, we find out who we are deep down inside – what we are made of, what we have to offer, and what matters the most to us. And when we ground ourselves in that self-awareness, we can do incredible things.

There is an old saying: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. In the moment of challenge, we do whatever we have to do to make it through to the other side. If we take time afterwards to reflect on what we learned, we grow. Over time, we get stronger. We learn what is truly important to us, not just what we tell ourselves is important. We learn how to navigate uncertainty and sometimes even danger. We learn how to take care of ourselves and those we love.

And if we step beyond blame and guilt towards both self and others, we become response-able – able to respond to whatever we encounter with dignity, authentic power, and strength. We can take charge of our lives in the most healthy and empowering ways. It’s a process of growing, step-by-step, into our greatest potential – showing up as real, unapologetic, and authentic. There is no secret to how to do this. We just do it. We learn how as we go.

We are living in a time of breaking open of the human spirit – a time when more and more people are standing up to be seen and recognized for all of who they are. Over the next three weeks, I’ll share three videos that address this “coming out” process – this life-long journey of living fully into the real, unapologetic, authentic you.

On the plane flying home from the Netherlands last week, I watched the movie The Greatest Showman. It’s inspired by the life story of P.T. Barnum, best-known for inventing the concept of the big-tent circus. The cast of his circus was made up of people who had been made outcasts of society.

Though there was some criticism when the film was first released for how Barnum was portrayed in the film – not showing some of the abusive aspects of his personality – the overall message of the movie is one of redemption. It’s about standing tall in the unabashed truth of who you are, even when there is risk of rejection or harsh judgment. It’s a story of learning to stand in the power of your heart, march to the beat of your own drum, honor the gifts that you have to bring to the world, and meet life with fierce love and with unapologetic honesty and compassion.    

This week, we begin this short series with a video clip of actress and singer Keala Settle introducing the song “This Is Me” in a backing audition to potential producers and promoters of The Greatest Showman. In the movie, the song is sung by Keala’s character, the bearded lady Lettie Lutz, and the circus performers. This video clip captures the first time that the song was heard by anyone outside of the cast and music team. Therefore, it was the first time that Keala sang this song in public.

In the beginning of this five-minute clip, Keala talks with film director Michael Gracey about her own fears and doubts to fully step out, claim the message of this song, and stand tall and proud to sing it. The song went on to become the “anthem” of the movie, winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

If you have ever struggled to step out of hiding and stand for who you are and what you bring to the world, this song is for you.

 

To watch a clip of the song within the movie with subtitles of the lyrics, click here.

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Five Clarifying Questions for Complex Times http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog/five-clarifying-questions-for-complex-times/ Mon, 07 May 2018 05:00:08 +0000 http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog/?p=2202 Getting back to basics. It’s become a theme in my own reflective practice over the last few weeks and I notice that it is hovering just beneath the surface in conversations everywhere – with course participants, coaching clients, friends, and family members. In these complex and often confusing times, there seems to be a yearning […]

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Getting back to basics. It’s become a theme in my own reflective practice over the last few weeks and I notice that it is hovering just beneath the surface in conversations everywhere – with course participants, coaching clients, friends, and family members.

In these complex and often confusing times, there seems to be a yearning for clarity at the most basic levels of life. Who am I? Why am I here? And where am I going? And not just for us as individuals, but also as organizations and companies, and as a collective society. Who are we and where are we going?

If you, too, sense this longing within yourself, your company or organization, or in society as a whole, I invite you to give yourself time and space to sit with five clarifying questions. These are not questions to be answered in 15 minutes or an hour. They aren’t questions to “work on.” Instead they are questions to live in. Let the questions work on you for a week or two. Walk with them. Dream with them. Put them up on the wall or as a screen saver on your computer – someplace that will help keep them in your awareness.

You might even set an intention for clarity from these questions by a particular date. For example, without concerning yourself with how it will happen, you might set the intention that two weeks from today you will be able to answer these questions with some degree of certainty. And then, then let the questions work on you.

The five questions are:

  • Who am I and why am I here?
  • Where am I going and what am I doing?
  • Why?
  • Is it sustainable?
  • What is my next step?

Let’s explore each one a little more fully.  

Who am I and why am I here?

This is perhaps the most basic question of human existence. Finding clarity about this question brings a greater sense of self-awareness and purpose. Most of us want to know that we matter – that our presence makes a difference. The clearer we are about who we are and why we are here, the more impactful our presence can be.

The question, “Who am I and why am I here?” goes far deeper than just your name, the roles that you play in your personal and public life, and why you play those roles. It’s about who you are at your essence. It’s about what is important to you above all else.  

What are the passions that form the core of your being? And do you give those passions a voice? Are they expressed through your work and through your relationships, both personal and professional?

This is soul mission work. Getting clear about the answer to this question can change your life. And if you are not yet clear, it’s OK. This is a good place to start.

Where am I going and what am I doing?

Do you have a sense of direction in your life? Are you consciously moving forward toward something that matters to you?

This is much bigger than goals or projects. At their best, goals and projects are vehicles to help you live into who you are and why you are here. Where we go and what we do, in turn, shapes who we are. Knowing who we are called to be and why can help us make intentional choices about where we go and what we do. Having purpose and direction brings greater meaning to our lives.

Why?

What is your motivation for going where you are going and doing what you are doing? This third question circles back to the first. Are you heading in a direction that is in alignment with who you are and why you are here? Is how you spend your time and energy congruent with what you really care about – with what is truly important to you and where your passions lie?

If not, be gentle and compassionate with yourself. Beating up on yourself will not help. Be curious and explore. And be diligent. What is asking for your attention? What are you being asked to re-consider? What is the invitation in front of you right now to bring the living of your life into alignment with who you truly are?

Is it sustainable?

This question is about much more than just survival – whether or not you make enough money, or can support your family, or have a comfortable lifestyle. It’s about the big picture of your life. Is how you are living sustainable emotionally, spiritually, physically, creatively, intellectually?

In other words, is how you are living each day sustaining all of who you are? Can you keep doing what you are doing for the foreseeable future and feel inspired and challenged? As you are living now, can you continue growing and evolving into the greatest potential of who you are while, at the same time, taking care of life’s basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, and good health? Will where you are going and what you are doing support you to thrive?

What is my next step?

This question is key to moving forward. Notice that the question is not, “What is my plan?” The question only asks about your next step. Having come to some clarity about the first four questions, what is the invitation for you now? What is “who you are and why you are here” asking you to do next?

If your life feels aligned and focused, then what is the next step in following your soul mission and personal calls to action?

However, if you are not feeling aligned and focused, once again, be gentle and compassionate with yourself. And be diligent to recognize a next step in moving toward that alignment and focus. You don’t have to achieve alignment immediately today, or even this week. Yet you can take a step toward alignment. As we mentioned before, you might set an intention that by a certain date, you will have brought your life into more alignment and be clearer in your focus. Then consciously let that intention work on you.

These simple yet profound questions can bring you back home to yourself. If you give them time and space, they can bring you clarity, strength, and purpose for the living of your life. And that is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself and to the people you care about the most.

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Open Conversations About Hard Topics http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog/open-conversations-about-hard-topics/ Mon, 30 Apr 2018 22:30:59 +0000 http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog/?p=2198 Zachary R. Wood is on a mission to encourage open conversations about hard topics. Currently a political science and philosophy major at Williams College, he has served as co-president of Uncomfortable Learning – a student group that has sparked national controversy for inviting provocative speakers to the campus. Though not yet out of college, his […]

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Zachary R. Wood is on a mission to encourage open conversations about hard topics. Currently a political science and philosophy major at Williams College, he has served as co-president of Uncomfortable Learning – a student group that has sparked national controversy for inviting provocative speakers to the campus. Though not yet out of college, his first book, Uncensored: My Life and Uncomfortable Conversations at the Intersection of Black and White America, will be published in June by Penguin Random House. His writings have also recently appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, HuffPost, The Nation, andThe Weekly Standard, among other notable publications. His 11-minute TED main stage talk from last month in Vancouver has just been posted. You can watch it below. Yet be warned – his direct and clearly articulated message just might challenge you to your core.   

I would like to be able to say that, at least from time to time, I engage in the kinds of open conversations about hard topics that Zachary is talking about. But if I’m really honest, I can’t. These conversations are not completely foreign to me, yet I can’t say that I seek them out on a regular basis. For all of us who are striving to make a difference in the world and who like to feel like we are fostering a more transformational culture in our communities, companies, organizations, and families, this young man has something to teach us. I am humbled by his courage and commitment to addressing the enormous gaps in our society, whether racial, political, economic, or ethical.

Zachary fully acknowledges how uncomfortable the path he is walking is, both for him and for others. He also fully recognizes the legitimate pain many people have suffered because of the ideas expressed and actions taken by some of the people he seeks to engage.

Yet he also says, “Tuning out opposing viewpoints doesn’t make them go away, because even though large numbers of people may disagree, millions of people actually doagree with them. In order to understand the potential of society to progress forward, we need to understand the counterforces. By engaging with controversial and offensive ideas, we can find common ground – if not with the speakers themselves, then with the audiences they may attract or indoctrinate.” Zachary goes on to say, “By engaging, I believe that we may reach a better understanding – a deeper understanding – of our own beliefs and preserve the ability to solve problems. Which we can’t do if we don’t make an effort to talk to each other and make an effort to be good listeners.”

A little later in the talk, Zachary speaks about what is happening on college campuses and the anger that he sees there. “And I get it. But what I wish I could tell people is that it’s worth the discomfort – it’s worth listening – and that we’re stronger, not weaker, because of it. What I’ve found is that, while it can be difficult to change the values of a community, we can gain a lot from individual interactions.”

Zachary concludes, “It’s my belief that to achieve progress in the face of adversity, we need genuine commitment to gaining a deeper understanding of humanity. I’d like to see a world with more leaders who are familiar with the depths of the views of those they deeply disagree with so that they can understand the nuances of everyone they are representing.” It’s all about “building empathy and understanding through engaging with unfamiliar perspectives.”      

Watch, listen, and feel. What do Zachary’s words touch in you?

 

 

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A Credo to Live By – Guidance for the Way Forward http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog/a-credo-to-live-by/ Mon, 23 Apr 2018 05:00:06 +0000 http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog/?p=2184 A credo is a statement of what you believe and, in alignment with your beliefs, how you strive to live your life. A credo expands upon your soul mission or life purpose. While your soul mission is a statement of who you are and why you are here, a credo is a statement of howyou […]

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A credo is a statement of what you believe and, in alignment with your beliefs, how you strive to live your life. A credo expands upon your soul mission or life purpose. While your soul mission is a statement of who you are and why you are here, a credo is a statement of howyou will live your soul mission. You might even think of it as a high-level set of instructions – a guiding light on your path.    

While participating in the recent “Manifestation Wheel” workshop in the Netherlands, Jo Boniszewski wrote the words below. Perhaps it is better said that these words wrote themselves through her. In an inspired moment, all that she was experiencing during those days came together. She shared this statement with me and with our team of space holders and assistants. 

Jo’s statement resonated so powerfully for me as a credo that I could also live by. I am grateful that she has given me permission to share her inspiring words here.

Jo BoniszewskiStand tall in humility. Have a clear, heart-centred, long-term vision that you are totally committed to. Understand that your sacrifices set the rich and fertile foundation for expansion and abundance for all, at many levels.

You are called to have courage, to take considered risk and action  risk and action that will sometimes feel small and tedious, and at other times, bold and scary. Be grounded and centred in LOVE. Trust is your guide.

Relax into all of this, yet never compromise on your own deep belief in and commitment to this work.

Let’s look at Jo’s Credo line by line.

Stand tall in humility. Have a clear, heart-centred, long-term vision that you are totally committed to.

Such a powerful invitation to grow into humble confidence and a strong sense of self – of who you are called to be and what you are called to do.

We don’t become confident by just deciding to be confident. We grow into confidence through rich life experience – through both failure and success. Confidence emerges from within as we learn how to navigate enormous challenges as well as enormous opportunities. Humility and confidence must walk hand in hand. It is through the partnership of these two aspects of being that we make our greatest impact.

Understand that your sacrifices set the rich and fertile foundation for expansion and abundance for all, at many levels.

Living into your greatest potential will probably require some sacrifices along the way. However, sacrifice does not have to include suffering. Sacrifice can mean being so sure about your calling that there is no doubt within you about the choices you will make and why you are making them. You are willing to give up some things in order to live into the life you feel called to live, the gifts you feel called to share, the service you feel called to offer. You recognize that there are no guaranteed outcomes, yet by honoring your soul and living true to your values and calling, you stand a greater chance of a generous and fulfilling life.

You are called to have courage, to take considered risk and action  risk and action that will sometimes feel small and tedious, and at other times, bold and scary. Be grounded and centred in LOVE. Trust is your guide.

Indeed, courage. It can take enormous courage to live into your calling. Yet the more aligned you are with the life you are called to live, the less you feel the need to summon courage. Words of the American writer and civil rights activist Audre Lord come to mind: “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” As the Nike mantra goes, “Just do it.”

The risk and action of which Jo speaks is not reckless; instead, her words are considered risk and action. It’s about thinking things through when possible, being as informed as you can be about what you are getting into, and as prepared as you can be for what may lie ahead. It’s about planting seeds and seeing which seeds sprout, and letting that help you know which direction to go next. And it’s about refining your intuitive skills to the point that you trust that you will always find your way. Prepare in every way that you can, ground and center yourself in love, and take your next steps.

Relax into all of this, yet never compromise on your own deep belief in and commitment to this work.

This takes wisdom and experience – to know when to step back, take a breath, rest, and not take it all too seriously, and when to stand in fierce commitment to the life and work that you hold dear.

Perhaps Jo’s credo resonates for you. Or perhaps her words inspire you to create your own. Either way, get in touch with the core beliefs within you that are your guiding star. Trust them to guide and direct you. And then take your next steps.  

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Navigating Uncertainty, Doubt, and Fear – Choosing Where You Put Your Focus http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog/navigating-uncertainty-doubt-and-fear-choosing-where-you-put-your-focus/ Mon, 16 Apr 2018 05:00:16 +0000 http://transformationalpresence.org/alan-seale-blog/?p=2179 In last week’s article, “Slow Dancing with the Dark,” I wrote about getting intimate with the uncomfortable feelings that often come to life in the darkness – uncertainty, doubt, fear, and hesitation. This week, we take that a step deeper with an experiential video to help you navigate the uncertainty and fear by being fully present […]

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In last week’s article, “Slow Dancing with the Dark,” I wrote about getting intimate with the uncomfortable feelings that often come to life in the darkness – uncertainty, doubt, fear, and hesitation. This week, we take that a step deeper with an experiential video to help you navigate the uncertainty and fear by being fully present with it – not trying to fix it or get rid of it, but rather to learn how to invite it to dance.

 

 

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