There are some great resources for developing what we do, the outer world. But how can we cultivate our inner being so that we can be the change we want to see?
Perhaps the questions aren’t so obvious. And the outcomes are harder to see. So it’s easier to focus on what we do and put our energies into getting better. The promise of “5 steps to…”.
For some time I’ve been challenged by this need to pay attention to our soul in the work we do. In my own life and leadership I know that if I exchange doing for being then I ultimately run dry. And everyone suffers.
Even more importantly if we start with doing, rather than being grounded in being, we can easily confuse reward for activity with the fruitful satisfaction of knowing who we are called to be.
But this is not the culture of our age. Especially if the result is to do things differently. To seize the day and step beyond the norm toward a higher goal. The direction I am talking about is probably Robert Frost’s road “less travelled by”
I do know what it’s like to swim against the tide, to stand when others are sitting, to tread the uncommon path. Sometimes by choice, sometimes by circumstance. It’s both invigorating and painful. I’ve been applauded and misunderstood. Never quite settled, sometimes feeling like I’m falling off the edge. But always with a passion to make a positive difference, to live a life that counts.
This has led me into some extraordinary places, seeing ahead and doing things that haven’t been done before. Pushing boundaries of thought and practice.
I’ve also been lonely, exhausted, crushed by the weight of what I was doing. At times I’ve settled for the badge of busyness, of importance measured by activity rather than substance and meaning. When I’ve not paid attention to my soul – given it breathing and feeding space – I’ve made significant errors of judgement with serious consequences.
So is this a self-flagellation session? No. It’s honestly owning my need to feed my soul and allow others to do the same if we are going to be the change we want to see.
We need to be honest with ourselves about what we need, refusing to wear the super-hero T-shirt. Especially where we are pushing boundaries and developing creative responses to the issues we see around us.
Soul isn’t talked about much in corporate or public life. And what we each need may well be different. One size does not fit all and there is so much to explore.
From the valley
We came here in 2006 when I was chief exec of the local NHS health board. Since then life has taken a number of unpredictable turns. However, in spite of the challenges there have been amazing opportunities to learn. Often these are in the places of greatest vulnerability. Gold in the midst of rubble.
Being in the valley, both physically and metaphorically, has been and still is a huge privilege. Having had the ‘nudge’ to write for some time, I suspect that this maybe part of harvesting what is growing here.
I am also aware that others who are called to take the road less travelled may also need encouragement and inspiration. Sometimes we lose our way, or are tired and lonely and want to give up. Other times we are moving forward and need the challenge to see ahead more clearly and think more widely, to have greater impact.
The natural environment is powerful. It is dynamic, always changing, and gives perspective and insight to our lives and work. We know the rejuvenating properties of a breath of really fresh air. Of a walk in the woods, hills or park. The rhythm of water and the inner healing of being amongst things that grow, that aren’t man-made.
It reminds us that we are part of something much bigger than just ourselves. That we have significance and meaning, not just the product of our own doing.
My commitment is to write weekly. To creatively experiment with words and images from the valley, infused with insights from elsewhere, that might help feed our souls for the journey ahead.
So can you be honest with yourself about what you need? And if you know – tell me so we can grow together.