How to Make 2016 Your Best Year Yet!

As a coach, the greatest gift I can give my clients is to listen deeply to what they are saying, and to offer back questions that are designed for them to take in, and to go deeper within themselves. The best way to help someone is to help them see their own truth, and then build on what they desire from that vantage point.

I have assembled a line of questions* that have worked so well for me and my clients in the area of re-tuning a vision, re-setting goals, and re-energizing your purpose. These are offered to you to use as tools to help you on your own path, either for personal or professional reasons. I suggest you give yourself ample quiet time to allow for best reflecting, and have a journal where you can note the key wisdoms that percolate up from within. Focus in on the questions that speak to you most. Read the questions out loud to allow resonance to build within. Have no intentions other than giving yourself permission to dream and feel what arises, and then put them out in front of your field of vision. When we make seen the unseen, the creative urges kick in, and the process of manifestation begins.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge,” is one of Albert Einstein’s famous quotes. Imagination is the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality. Allowing ourselves to dream is the first step in creation, indeed everything man-made has started in our imagination. At years end is a good time to tap in to the creative power of your imagination by allowing the following questions to assist you in setting your course for 2016 and beyond. Enjoy this part of your journey!

         “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.”
Carl Sagan

Q: What is my vision, my dream, of my future?

Q: Who do I want to BE?

Q: What do I want to DO?

Q: What do I want to HAVE?

Q: Who am I?

Q: Why am I here?

Q: What do I seek or want out of life?

Q: What does life want from me?

Q: What do I really want?

Q: What am I seeking?

Q: Who am I trying to become?

Q: What is my purpose?

Q: What do I think would make me happier, healthier, experience more well-being?

Q: What insights have I gained about myself?

Q: Do I have a sense of a life that I want to lead, a feeling of what I am meant to do or are supposed to do?

Q: What difference do I want to make in the world?

Q: What would I do or create if I knew I could not fail?

Q: What do I think I am best qualified to do?

Q: What am I most proud of having accomplished?

Q: What am I doing that no longer fulfills you? Am I ready to let that go?

Q: What am I most passionate about?

Q: Do I know what drives me, what my core values are?

Q: What changes in my work do I have to make to live by my values?

Q: What changes in my personal relationships do I need to make to live by my values?

Q: What strategies can I become more aware of to facilitate my continued learning and navigating in the world?

Q: Am I ready to do what it takes to realize my highest and best vision for myself, my family, my organization?

“The quickest way to realize your future is to create it!” – Steven Covey

“Imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and the strength, use it to create.” ― Maria Montessori


* Questions included from my book “Wake Up, Get Real, Be Happy – Becoming Your Authentic Self”

Wisdom From the Dying

I was made aware a few years back of Bronnie Ware’s work with palliative care patients, who are those who had gone home to die. She was able to ask them some big-life questions at that most significant stage in their lives, and came away with some very important findings for the rest of us. She questioned them about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, and found a few common themes that surfaced again and again.

Here are Bronnie’s most common five regrets of the dying:

  1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.

  1. “I wish I didn’t work so hard.”

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

  1. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

  1. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”

Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

  1. “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

“People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them,” states Bonnie.

For me the key lessons here are:

– Reconnect with your own authenticity. Living life through other people’s beliefs, to strive to meet others’ expectations at the expense of your own dreams is such a waste, and creates too much pain.

– Connect with those who matter to you with openness, honesty, vulnerability – allow them to see the real you, and allow them to love you in deeper, more meaningful ways.

– Don’t wait until you are on your deathbed to realize what is truly important.

– Work is important, but it’s not the most important. Be aware of priorities (health, family, growth), and find ways to balance what’s important as your life journey unfolds.

– Live your life well in the here and now.

Life at its essence is all about choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, and choose honestly. Choose authenticity, joy, connection, meaning and happiness.

The 12 Facets of Authentic Leadership: A Look Ahead to 2016

A new year brings new things into focus for me. Over the past few years I have felt my next book brewing inside me, getting ready to pop. The writing process I use collects various concepts together, then I see where they want to collect, and then begin to put things into prospective chapters as the initial draft takes shape. As I did that, what became evident is that my life and leadership journey have weaved through twelve distinct phases /stages, and I can look at each one individually or as a collective. My publicist, Lisa, suggested I use this blog as a starter for this new blossoming incarnation, and since there are twelve months in a year, it makes so much sense to take each facet and spend more time becoming intimately familiar over each upcoming month in 2016.

I invite you to look at these twelve as doorways into the same house. You are the house, as both a person and as a leader. These twelve doors open into rooms that make up who you are, are aspects of you, and what you have to offer. When our doors are open, and are openly connected and expressed, your authentic self, with your own unique authentic leadership style, is revealed. Life is always more rich, full, joyful and meaningful when we come to it as our authentic self. As an authentic leader you are much more effective in helping others realize who they are, are adept at creating safe spaces where trust gets built, and foster cultures of highly aligned and engaged human beings working toward outcomes from which all stakeholders can benefit.

  1. Personal Perception. Self-awareness is the cornerstone to living consciously, intentionally, authentically. How do we wake up, access, assess, and get real with ourselves first? How can we move beyond the bounds of ego-centric living and see the deeper layers of who we are?
  2. Presence. How do we stay more in the present moment, more mindful, and not allow our thoughts and emotions to hijack us back into the past we can’t change, or thrust us into the future that hasn’t happened yet?
  3. Past Presumptions. Our beliefs, fears, shadow drive so much of our life. Have we taken time to self-reflect on the current validity and truth of what has been programmed into us from past experience in the light of our current levels of maturity, awareness and reality?
  4. Principles. Values, virtues drive our motivations, our character and our behaviors. Are you aware of your core values, which virtues you adhere to, and how you express them in your daily life? Does your team, organization have defined and live by their core values?
  5. Passion. Most people think passion is something we do to get enjoyment. Consider for a moment that you, your whole being, when fully alive and expressed as your authentic self, is passion manifest. What would life be like if you felt more alive, connected and fulfilled?
  6. Purpose. Do you have a sense of what your life has been and is all about? Do you feel compelled to follow a certain way? Is a vocation calling you? Life lived with purpose, on purpose, offers infinite levels of joy, fulfilment, connection and prosperity.
  7. Perspective. When we lift our sights above the moment-to-moment, day-by-day reactivity, quiet our thoughts, and set new desires and intentions for life lived better, a new vision develops. When we can see more clearly and in ways that others obtain great benefit too, our authentic leadership has a healthy compass by which to engage others and allows for deeper, more effective and prosperous activity.
  8. People. When we expand our own levels of consciousness about ourselves, we can effectively translate that wisdom into how we see, interact and lead others. Understanding human nature is a huge component to being an authentic leader. Knowing what makes people tick, how they can communicate and relate to each other in more effective ways is such a powerful way to express how much you care.
  9. Process. Life is all about systems interacting with each other. Patterns of thought, mechanics of motion, flow of energy-things-people, rules and regulations and more compose the almost infinite systems that run our lives. As we enhance our abilities to see beyond what’s right in front of us, when we can get ‘above the trees’ so to speak and see how people and systems intertwine, we can begin to conceive new alternatives that are more healthy, productive and sustainable.
  10. Power. When more than one of us comes together within atmospheres of trust, safety, caring and connection, people are given the opportunity for their own personal and professional growth and expansion. As your people connect to their own unique aspects of authenticity, they will be so much more effective at problem-solving and conflict-resolution, working collaboratively and meeting/exceeding expectations.
  11. Prosperity & Proliferation. As authentic leaders, how can we help all our stakeholders benefit from their interaction with us, our team, and our organizations? How can we help spread the healthy, sustainable aspects of doing business ‘for good’ while enjoying the fruits of such?
  12. Peace. People everywhere share the same desires: to live life in peace, contentment, and well-being, with happiness, joy and connection with others. Authentic leaders know this and keep these outcomes top-of-mind as they interact with people and make decisions that affect stakeholders.

I hope we can all share insights, wisdom and stories around these facets of being an authentic person and an authentic leader as 2016 unfolds. Look for more deeper-dives into each facet as 2016 unfolds. As always, your thoughts, comments and experiences are welcome!

Here’s to making 2016 a year of meaning, well-being, growth and authenticity!

wheel graphic

Consciousness, Ego & Authenticity

Past blogs have begun to lay out some understandings about what Consciousness, Leadership, and Conscious Leadership are, and why they are important topics in our world of work today. Being a more conscious, self-aware person will enhance your ability to get along with others and be a more effective leader. Self-awareness is the gateway into our own authenticity, our own unique selves, whereby we show up in our relationships reflecting our own highest truth.

In order to get to our own truth, introspection, reflection, deep questioning, and honest evaluation are required. Tapping in to your “inner voice” will reveal your own truths to you. To reach a higher level of honest self-awareness, we also must take into account that there are “multiple voices” inside our head, and often vying for the alpha position in our minds.

We have many beliefs, stories, values, mores, and fears that have been passed to us from so many sources. Parents, grand-parents, relatives, siblings, teachers, clergy, books, TV, heroes, villains, and more have shared their beliefs, stories, values mores and fears with us, intentionally and unintentionally. By the time we become adults we have taken on so much of other peoples’ stuff that we become a mirror of what we have been exposed to without even consciously thinking about it anymore. At the same time that inner voice that is and has always been there gets drowned out more and more by the noise of what others think we should think, do and say.

Consider for a moment that we have three levels of awareness available to us: two halves of Ego (the Healthy and the Negative), and an Authentic Self. The ego is our default, hard wired survival program. Ego looks out for our survival, our sustenance, and our ability to get around. It sees the world as two centers, one as itself and the other is everything outside it. Being apart and needing to live, succeed, and progress, it seeks to keep us safe, free from danger, and able to thrive.

The unhealthy aspects of ego keep us mired in some form of fear-based thinking. Whether experiencing sadness, anger, depression, blaming, regret, despair, unworthiness, disappointment or hate from things in the past – or worry, anxiety, pessimism, frustration, doubt, insecurity, overwhelm, insecurity or powerlessness from things not yet manifested in the future, unhealthy ego keeps our consciousness below the level of active self-awareness. When we are focused on the past or the future we have no room to be present. These are the “other voices” we listen to, and they often scream so loud and kick up our emotional states in such a tizzy that we don’t allow our higher self much room to show-up and offer its wisdom.

A healthy aspect of ego is the in-between state of the unhealthy and our authentic selves. This blossoms when we mature and see that living from unhealthy ego has its limits, creates too much pain, and doesn’t provide the better things in life most of us seek. As we learn to grow and develop the healthy aspects of ego, life takes on more positive flavors, and improved relationships and results are realized. This takes a good deal of effort, and is accomplished through some form of personal or professional development, over time, and also just by being more open to the life-lessons that constantly come to us.

We will talk more about the authentic self in upcoming blogs; I wanted to include it here for you to see a wider field of awareness can be sought, developed and lived. Each of us experience some level of our authentic selves, we call these “peak’ moments, during our days, yet get pulled back into ego consciousness far too often. In these peak moments is where our higher self is most active; it allows a more dynamic level of awareness to look at people, issues, and life in ways most of us deeply desire.

The chart below may help visualize these three levels of awareness, how they reveal where our awareness typically resides, and of how we bounce between states, often automatically without any conscious thinking. See which words and states speak to you, reflect back to you, and see where your awareness spends its time. You’ll have bouts of time in each section, and only you get to determine what’s real and true for you, and what you’d like to see improved.

Aspects of Three Levels of  Consciousness and Leadership

Conditional Self                       Awakening Self                      Authentic Self 

Unconscious                               Healthy Ego Emerging                   Aware

Unhealthy Ego                           Strengthening Ego                       Authentic-self

Doer                                              Thinker                                            Perceiver

Focused by conditioning    Focus on inner guidance      Connected to Higher Self

Fear                                                Love                                               Connection

Reactive                                         Receptive                                      Attentive

Automatic Patterns/Monkey-mind       Mindfulness                   Awareness

Outer-focused                      Inner-focused                                       Inclusive

Insecure                                 Safe                                                         Trust-worthy

I Own – “mine”                    We Share – “ours”                                Steward – “us”

Unfeeling                          Empathy                                     Compassion

Politics prevail                    Truth-telling prevails                     Wisdom-prevails

Strong Persona, Image          Humble                                                   Genuine

Protects Own Image          Seeks to Understand                       Serves Others

Selfish                                Self & Us awareness                      Benevolence

Narrow                                Inclusive                                      Comprehensive

Stuck                                           Grow                                                      Evolve

Physical / Mental                     Emotional                                              Spiritual

Force                                  Power                                       Presence

Scarcity                               Abundance                               Prosperity

Survival                               Reformation                                  Transformation

Success                              Significance                                Meaningfulness

Building on the themes above, leadership can be separated into its own levels of consciousness/ awareness as follows:

Unhealthy Ego                               Awakening Ego                       Conscious

Leadership                                      Leadership                               Leadership

Autocratic / Authoritarian       Achiever / Collaborator             Integral / Holistic

Dictatorial                                       Democratic                              Self-leading teams

Directive                                         Empowering                               Inspirational

Domination                                   Collaboration                                    Mastery

Obedience                                     Trust                                       Align & Engage

Self-esteem                                 Self-actualization                                  Service

Individual                                       Team                                  Stakeholder Community

Direct                                   Coach                                            Entrust

Push                                    Attract                   Resonance / Congruence

Reject                                  Recognize                                      Rejoice

Contractual                                    Covenant                                                 Trust

This is such a huge subject, and we are only scratching the surface here. I just want to share what I have learned, and am still learning about consciousness and my own levels of awareness. We will refer to ego and authentic self as we dialog about consciousness and conscious leadership over time, so this gives us a context for future conversations.

It’s up to each of us to be open to adding and expanding our own awareness. Let me know your thoughts on this, and let’s help each other learn, grow and evolve to be the highest and best people and leaders possible!

5 Tips to Increase Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the cornerstone to any personal or professional growth process. We grow, learn, and develop by taking in new information, analyzing and processing it and allowing it to expand some aspect of ourselves, either by changing our thinking and behaviors or by releasing old habits and healing emotional roadblocks. Self-awareness is the opposite of our reactive, repetitive, subconscious-driven selves that most often run our lives on auto-pilot.

Many have been quoted telling us that we should “be true to ourselves,” and yet who are we at our core to be true to? Which ‘one’ of us is our real self? How much honest self-reflection is undertaken? Which “voices in our head” take center stage, and are they the ones we truly align to and authentically resonate around? Which persona is our truth, the one we are supposed to be true to? Being alive is easy compared to turning on the light of your own introspection inside where our truth needs excavating.

More business leaders and organizations are realizing the power in helping their employees with self-reflection, self-assessment, and expanding individual self-awareness, and are finding that the outcomes far exceed the cost in time and dollars invested. Increasing self-awareness has significant benefits:

– learn more about yourself

– get more grounded and increase focus

– clarify and live by your core values

– appreciate and utilize your innate strengths

– release limiting beliefs and fears that drive negative/reactive behaviors

– tap into your passion and increase energy and effectiveness

– boost creativity

– improve your communication and conflict resolution skills

– deepen relationship and build trust

– realize your life and work purpose

All conscious leaders have various methods they use to tap into the deeper, more authentic aspects of themselves. Below are the top five that I recommend will most impactfully increase your own self-awareness.

  1. Taking an honest, real self-assessment, while uncomfortable at times, is the first step to progress. Pay attention to your self-talk. Are your thoughts negative or positive, and are they focused on the past/future or are they grounded in the present moment? Are you building yourself and others up or tearing yourself and others down? What beliefs do you hold, which are working for you, and which are limiting in some way? What fears are present and what pattern of fear is predominant in you (such as the fear of separation, of not being good enough, of failing, of being wrong, rejection, or being emotionally uncomfortable)? Where have you made trade-offs in your life that lodged regrets within? What masks do you wear to protect yourself from others? What is working that should continue, what’s not working that you’d like to stop and let go, what new change is waiting to start in your life?
  1. Have a process of self-inquiry and self-reflection that brings more of your authenticity to light.

Uncover your core values. Get clear on your innate strengths and gifts. Reconnect with your passion and creative pursuits. Conduct 360-feedback from trusted others and become more aware of your blind-spots and how you are showing up in relationships. Conduct self-assessments on your emotional intelligence, leadership style, worldview, and personality aspects (using tools such as Myers Briggs, the Enneagram and others). Ask yourself the deep questions about your life’s purpose, and bring to life your “Why” for your existence, and for your team/organization.

  1. Pay attention to your feelings, your emotions, and your triggers. Honestly see your own patterns, and find ways to access your deep emotions to allow them to process out rather than stay bottled up. Pay attention to what triggers negative reactions in you, and try to own and clean up your messes after they occur. See what things, people and events generate judgement and biases within you. Self-help books, therapy, developing a spiritual practice, being a member of a peer group, and confiding in others openly and honestly about what you feel all are pathways to a healthier emotional you. Learn to tread more lovingly with yourself as you more deeply connect.
  1. Set regular intervals for calming your mind, stilling the constant flow of thoughts and emotions. Frequent check-ins with yourself on how you are feeling, and what you are thinking keeps you centered in the powerful now. Finding time to meditate, or contemplate, slows the automatic thinking process down, allows stress to dissolve, and frees access to our higher centers of thinking/feeling/being. Developing a mindfulness process that helps keep your self-awareness active and alive in the present moment will not only help you assess what’s really going on around you but will also allow you to be more of higher service to others.
  1. Set your intentions to become more self-disciplined in fulfilling your goals, overcoming obstacles and living more authentically in the present moment. Getting re-acquainted with commitment to your own self-improvement and growth is a powerful state of mind, and will pay benefits unimagined. Take responsibility for your actions and be honestly self-accountable with your outcomes. Have a daily reminder process to reset your attention around what you most desire to manifest.

Being self-aware is a process, a state, a power that will always serve you. Expanding self-awareness deepens your understanding of life, of others, of work. Self-awareness will enrich your leadership practice, and thereby positively touch others in your world. Take the time to allow your own authentic self to courageously live through you, and watch your life take on new vistas!