No Strings Attached…?

Well Happy New Year!

It’s a funny thing isn’t beginning a new year – my mind likes to get into believing that I should make a ground-breaking discovery on 1st January.  Or I should have this sense of ‘this is it!!’ followed by some sort of epiphany to do less of something/more of something else…

The truth is for me is that I did realise at in the early days of this year that I have been on an incredible, deliberate journey of self discovery during 2019. I really trusted the deep need I felt inside to regroup, re-discover myself and realign with my soul.

And this journey was essentially me shining a bright fucking light on my life, disrupting it, throwing some mental and physical attachments up in the air – seeing what fell back down. The vital piece…my purpose was to get aligned with my soul and my integrity that supports this. This really has been (and continues to be) a profound exploration in getting to know myself with a specific intention to keep looking within. To keep letting my soul guide my leadership and my daily life. 

You see I had a sense of great dissatisfaction towards the end of 2018. I’d been evoked as a result of various life events that I’d experienced – both professionally and personally. It seemed like I was literally jolted into reality, mainly from the big resistance at times to what was happening. Or sometimes what wasn’t happening. Something was ‘off’, something didn’t feel congruent and that something was me!

Sitting here right now remembering, and acknowledging actually, how much I have thrown myself into this intention of unpicking and freeing myself up is very grounding. Getting to know me. Getting connected with what I really want – from a place of ‘anything is possible’ rather than ‘something is wrong and I need to fix it’. 

And so ensued no less that 7 retreats, an ongoing exploration of Buddhism, setting clearer boundaries, more saying no, more being fearless and letting go of behaviours, roles, relationships, beliefs, ways of being that were not serving me – or were not congruent with who I am and what I stand for. 

I spent large amounts of time reading, watching videos, completing courses, reflecting, being coached, processing and debriefing. A ‘drilling down’ if you will on questions like: What do I really want? What am I accepting that is incongruent?  What excites me? What do I really care about? What do I want to give my time and attention to? Who am I and what is my life about REALLY?

This was very painful at times – the loss and grief of letting go and the huge fear of trusting that all would be ok in the end. And there has been amazing moments of utter awe and joy in what I’ve discovered. I’ve been evoked in ways that I never imagined was possible.  

What I didn’t realise in the midst of this – when it was all happening, changing, landing – was that I was in much bigger space of UNKNOWN. Seems funny to share about this now as it seems obvious that everything is unknown, all the time. But for me it has been a pretty fearful place at times – consciously, deliberately letting go of particularly behaviours that I have employed for 30+ years – and not knowing what the fall out would be. It hit me how for most of my life I’ve held onto a number of things purely out of fear of losing something or someone. So I started to consciously embrace loss and go for fearless letting go and TRUST instead. Argggh!   

Tears have come into my eyes now as I recall how I spent a time in hospital having an ‘emotional crisis’ when I was very young. Back then I really didn’t know how to handle my emotions or what was coming up in my life – the unknown of it all. Within this early experience I remember mostly is being frightened, living with a day to day fear of not knowing whether I was safe and whether I would find my way home. 

Working through all of this and releasing, connecting, discovering has connected me powerfully with who I am and what I care about.  I recognise these days that I have an innate capacity for honour, acceptance and huge depth of unlimited compassion for human suffering. This is precious to me as I truly value being able to ‘get in’ with others when I see self limiting beliefs, behaviours or blind spots. And I SEE a lot. This depth has evolved as I’ve been willing again and again to look at my own beliefs and face my fears. I have a tenacious strength and commitment to getting free again and again. Getting back to a YES to myself and a YES to how it is.

So my friends, one of the deeper learnings that I am very grateful for in my exploration (particularly Buddhism) is that when I free myself from ‘attachments’ my mind expands, opens up and my heart is free. I’m willing and open to be with life as it is – not as my mind gets into believing it should be. 

In leadership this is VITAL – the ability to be open, agile, responsive. The willingness and ability to be aware, pull out self insight and thus respond from a ‘clear space’. Not from a space that is pre-conditioned, pre-loaded or fixed. How often do we see or hear leaders that go into the same auto-pilot behaviour or reaction, regardless of the context? Where do you do this in your leadership or life?

One of the biggest, most effective things I have ever learnt as a coach and as a leader is to trust myself, trust my instinct and be brave. This has always served me well. In fact this has created powerful connection, insight and opportunities. The upshot is though – to enable this to happen – we must free up what’s in our way. The unconscious beliefs, the conditioned thinking, the fears. The willingness to look within, to face those fears and limiting beliefs, and to keep doing so is crucial.    

One of the amazing ways I’ve learnt to shine a light on these fears is to become aware of and let go of attachments.  We all have them. So here’s a suggestion and challenge for you…   

Suggestion

Start noticing what you are attached to. You’ll know you are attached when you have a strong desire, physical or emotional reaction to something you want in your leadership or life. There will likely be a physical ‘pull’ or mental tension, drivenness. 

Challenge

Are you willing – right now – to shine a light on and even ‘give up’ one of your attachments? These could be:

  • Results – ‘getting’ something. Could be a yes from someone, winning something, producing something, achieving something…anything. Also ‘proving’ something…who you are…what your capable of…that you can ‘get’ results etc
  • Views/Opinions – hands up who likes to ‘be right’? What we’re looking for here is any attachment to you being ‘right’ and someone else being ‘wrong’. Is your way the right or only way? Could as simple as how you cook pasta!
  • Possessions – having or keeping something. Device anyone? I mean how would it be if you didn’t look at or check your devices for 48hrs?  Another good one here is any kind of ‘status’ possessions…
  • Context/environment – any attachment to your environment being different. This could be things like peace and quiet, noise, how something looks, how someone behaves. Does that man really need to slurp his drink so loudly?   

Interesting isn’t it? 

Start with one small thing. All roads lead to Rome. I remember reading one of my many Buddhism books where one of the monks was speaking about their journey in ‘giving everything up’. The hardest one for her was her views/opinions. This clinging to being ‘right’ – so common for this to be an attachment to our identity or self worth…

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