Tag Archives: identity

Self Importance – false or true?

man-sunglasses

Where’s the spotlight

As I sit in the United Club in Chicago O’Hare Airport, it’s hard not to notice some of the people sitting around me. Almost everyone can hear their cell phone conversations as they try to close the last deal on a Friday. Or we are distracted by the guy at the bar who announces how this is his “last beer in the U.S.A. for three weeks” before he heads to China.

Unfortunately in such an environment, it’s hard not to get sucked into these valiant displays of importance. “Wow,’” is generally our initial reaction before we see the behavior for what it really is.

What really is important?

Often, because of the preconceptions of society, we allow ourselves to get sucked into definitions of who we should be, rather than who we really are and who we want to be. In doing this, we attach all sorts of symbols and meanings to our definitions of self. For example, when we are asked, “what do you do?” we respond with our job or title. In doing this we are in fact attempting to create a sense of self-importance, as aligned to what we believe society wants us to be. And in doing this, we unfortunately lose our true sense of self, instead trivializing it with a lesser definition.

Being an identity of true importance

As I watch the sales guy stand up, slipping on his Ray Bands in doors before puffing out his chest. And as I watch the guy heading to China who in fact appears beneath the surface to be quite a lonely individual, I can’t help but wonder: ‘What if, we each were able to distil what is truly important, not in terms of what we do, but instead of what impact we have?’ Surely then we begin to form an identity of true importance focused on how we contribute to society, rather than how we take from it, using the preconceptions to ‘prop-up’ the insecurities we have instead of being who we truly can be. Surely this is what we mean by living with purpose.

(Image care of 2magazineonline.com)

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Showing Leadership – An Unselfish Affair

A New, Old Perspective

A couple of weeks ago, after the passing of my Grandmother, I visited the home where her and my Grandfather had settled after he retired from a life of service with the Royal Air Force. With the instructions from my father to make sure we collected all of the valuable history that remained, I stumbled across one box full of Grandad’s old Air Force possessions. Within this box, one item in particular caught my attention. It was a small blue booklet printed in 1949. The title of this booklet was:

Leadership: Some notes for the guidance of Royal Air Force Officers

With my passion for leadership, this small book was a hidden gem. As I carefully thumbed through the pages, soaking in all the words, it was the final page that left me in awe. The conclusion as shown below, I felt gave a wonderful new, old perspective on leadership.

Leadership-RAF

The Ultimate Spiritual factor – Unselfishness

“Unselfishness is the very root of courage – and also, incidentally, of our own happiness.”

“In these ranks have trodden some of the greatest pioneers of our times. Your leadership, discipline and consideration can help the whole to remain what Shakespeare’s King Harry calls ‘We few, we happy few, we band of brothers'”.

As I read the two paragraphs contained within the Conclusion, and in particular the quotes above, I can’t help but be inspired. For years I have equated the Showing of Leadership as a primary component of living in a state of unconditional happiness. And, that both require us to be selfless, as we seek to serve others in society.

For many people, spirituality has different definitions depending on their beliefs. For me, regardless of our definition of spirituality, I believe that as captured so eloquently above, the ultimate spiritual factor through which we can define ourselves is unselfishness; selflessness. And it is through our selflessness and our desire to serve that we fulfil our true potential and live in a state of unconditional happiness.

Micro-Manifestations – The patterns which define our Purpose

Forest

What we already know…

The purpose we seek to fulfil in our lives represents the purpose of our existence. When faced by such a significant statement, and choice, it’s easy to be daunted by the concept of searching for and even committing to something which will define us. Furthermore, when we realise that one of our core existential fears is of freedom – we fear the freedom we have to choose our life direction – we can understand why so few of us make the decision to ‘live with purpose’. But, what many people fail to realise is that each of us actually already know, albeit at an unconscious level, what our purpose is.

Look Outside to Find Within

When we hit the deepest darkest place within the existential vacuum it is easy to feel despair; it is easy to feel lost and without a destination or purpose; to feel that although there is no turning back to the life you’re leaving, there is also no clear path to follow into the future.

It is at this moment that we often intuitively begin our search within ourselves, introspecting to find the answers we need. However, this approach will not always provide what you desire, as although the answers to the questions posed within the existential vacuum (Who am I? and Why am I here?)  do come from within, they can only be answered from first looking outside. That is, to alleviate the tensions we feel and to discover the purpose we desire, we must focus first on our contribution to those around us – we must look outside of ourselves and focus on how and where we are making a positive contribution to the world. It is therefore, from outside ourselves that we find the answers which lie within.

Searching Outside – Look for the Micro-manifestations

Manifestation

The search outside to find our contribution to those around us can be a confusing one. It is rare for those passing through the existential vacuum to recognise that their contribution has been leaking from them throughout their lives; our purpose has always been with us, pouring from us into the world in the form of micro-manifestations. That is, throughout each of our lives we have, to a greater or lesser degree, been living our purpose through small unconscious patterns of behaviour. We have been contributing positively to those around us through our day to day actions as we interact with others.

To begin the journey of discovering your purpose, we must therefore consider the common ‘contribution’ patterns we have exhibited throughout our life. We must then piece these micro-manifestations of our purpose together as if completing a puzzle to see what they reveal. And as the picture forms, so to will your understanding of why you are here on this earth.

Although the journey through the existential vacuum is a difficult one, the answers you are seeking exist. They exist in your past and as a part of your present in the form of recurring patterns of contribution.

Job or a Calling – Fulfilling your purpose through work

A Profound Resignation

Pope Benedict Resignation

In February this year, some colleagues and I were fascinated to see on the BBC news that the Pope had resigned. Through the conversation which followed we deliberated about whether it is actually possible for someone in such a position, someone who represents something so symbolic for the catholic faith, could just step down.

At one point during the discussion I stated; “I guess that if it’s a job, then of course he can resign.”

One of my colleagues then quickly responded by saying; “But is it a job? Surely a position like that is not a job, it’s a calling.”

Although I’m sure the debate about the Pope’s decision to step down could continue into the late hours, I was struck by this question of ‘is it a job or a calling?’.

Is it just a job?

In our current professional lives, it is easy to feel sucked into the corporate machine; existing to work 9 to 5 every day (if you’re lucky) to earn enough to satisfy the needs and wants that must be satisfied. At best in this scenario, you enjoy what you do and connect well with the people you work with, resulting in the ‘job’ being a pleasurable way to spend your day. At worst however, you find that your job draws the life out of you, and you feel as though it is slowly eroding your soul. And, I’m sure you could find yourself anywhere along the continuum between these two extremes.

The scenarios above however are only relevant if you believe that what you do is just a job. Throughout our education and life, very few of us have never been taught to see what we do as being more than a job. Very few of us learn that what we spend so much of our lives doing, can transcend the classic definitions of work, and actually represent our purpose – our calling.

Recognise your calling?

Your Calling

A calling represents the purpose for which you were put on to this earth; the purpose of your existence! As explained through the Paradox of Happiness, your calling is represented by the contribution you make to society, the fulfilment of which is what paradoxically helps you live in a state of unconditional happiness.

To recognise your calling it is essentially to start with the question of “Why am I here?” Through this question you can begin to explore three further questions:

  1. What is the difference I want to make in this world?
  2. Who do you want to make this difference to?
  3. How will you make this difference?

It is through these questions that you can begin to focus; you can begin to bring some clarity to your calling.

Fulfilling your Calling through your Work

Often when people first begin to define their calling (or their purpose), they feel a sense of frustration. This stems from the mis-alignment between what they currently do in their work and the difference they are seeking to make to others. While this frustration may feel like it is valid, before taking any drastic action (i.e. handing in your resignation without other options) it is important to first look for opportunities where you can bring your calling to life through your current job. I have been surprised when discussing this with people that the opportunities to bring your calling to life exist all around, but only if we become conscious of them.

Therefore, as you begin the journey of fulfilling your purpose, begin gently. And, like building the momentum in a fly wheel, look for ways in what you currently do day to day to test your calling and to practice.

(Image of Pope Benedict from Guardian.co.uk)

Rioters with(out) Purpose

Like many people who live in London and the UK, this week I’ve been horrified to see the events that unfolded across the capital and then across the country. These seemingly senseless acts of criminality and violence, of a magnitude that you wouldn’t expect in a relatively free and peaceful society, seemed to erupt everywhere like spot fires in a dry patch of Forrest.

 Our Desire for Meaning and Blame

Since it all started I’ve had many an interesting conversation with people about how this could happen – what would drive supposedly intelligent human beings to behave in a way worse than animals? As humans it’s a natural desire for us to want to attach meaning to that which doesn’t appear to make sense. And what’s more, we seem to want to find someone to blame! Whether it is the government, the education system, private industry, or the parents of those involved, we just want someone to point the finger at. And with blame attributed, we can then get back to our lives feeling like we’ve attached sufficient meaning to these events that have not made sense.

As I reflect on the conversations that I’ve had and what I’ve read I find myself asking those very same questions as everyone else: How could this happen? What drives human beings to behave like senseless criminals? However, taking a leaf from some great mentors of mine, rather than dwell on these questions in this blog I thought I‘d focus on ideas about how we should do move forward.

The Power of Collective Energy

When thinking how we should move forward the hypothesis I’ve formed is based on energy and purpose. For a moment, let’s ignore the destructive impact of riots and look differently at what was happening. When looking at the footage and hearing the reports, you could see there was a huge explosion of collective energy all directed at a single source or purpose. This energy swept up those around it, causing people to become consumed in the events unfolded. This focused source of collective energy source, much like a laser rather than a light bulb, created results that we could never have comprehended. And, while still suspending our views about actual destructive impact, this collective energy could be seen to be an incredibly powerful force!

The challenge with the collective energy that was created however was that it was directed in the wrong way. For whatever reason, the purpose those individuals were pursuing or attaching themselves to was negative. They had focused their efforts on the simpler ‘selfish’ side of the paradox of happiness, rather than recognizing that true happiness can only come from holding in tension being selfish and selfless at once. The reasons for attaching themselves to a selfish, materialistic and violent purpose, as discussed above, I’m sure are many. However, from my hypothesis, this gives us an opportunity to move forward; an Opportunity through Purpose.

Opportunity through Purpose 

Within any community of people there is always a flow of energy. For the rioters, this flow of energy was incredibly powerful and focused. However, it was also attached to a selfish, materialistic and violent purpose. To create change in any community rather than fight against the flow of energy that already exists, we should seek get within it and then ‘nudge’ it toward a more positive and selfless purpose that’s focused on contributing to making the world a better place. The question that I’m left with is therefore:

How do we get within the flow of energy and engage it to rebuild and develop the communities that it once tried to destroy?

The answer to this I’ve no doubt is tough, but I also believe it’s simple. I believe it is tough because it requires all of us to pull together and suspend some of our beliefs about the events that have unfolded. It is also tough because it requires us to engage more meaningfully with those involved, and seek to work with them to shift the beliefs attached to the flow energy created. However, to do this requires us to avoid perpetuating the blame game. Instead we must suspend our desire for meaning and retribution and engage these people as truly compassionate humans, who like ourselves are just seeking for meaning and purpose in our lives.

Through engaging those who were involved in the riots in this way – through working with them to shift the collective energy toward a positive and more altruistic purpose – I believe that we can not only ‘make the world a better place’, but we can also help them and ourselves gain greater meaning, purpose and happiness in life. After all, despite all the violence and negativity that occurred, there was a ‘Ying’ to the ‘Yang’ with all the people who selflessly took to the streets to clean up the day after. I would hazard a guess that these people, who gave their time to help their fellow man, gained a greater sense of fulfillment and happiness through sweeping the streets than did those trying to steal some new trainers or a TV!

The Paradox of Happiness – Part 2

Purpose = Happiness

The paradox of happiness tells us that to achieve the happiness we each deeply desire we must at the same time be both selfish (focusing on gaining fulfilment) and selfless (focus on giving to others). As with any paradox however, this creates tension. And with tension, comes discomfort. But unlike many other times when we experience discomfort in our lives, this is not one where we should seek to resolve it as quickly as we can by choosing one side over the other. Instead, we must learn to use the paradox and the tension it creates.

Using the Paradox = Learning to Serve!

To use the paradox of happiness it’s critical to realise that the tension it creates is what gives us life – it brings an energy and focus to our existence, which helps us achieve all we desire.  However, to use the paradox of happiness we must be simultaneously selfish and selfless, but at a deeper level than we have ever considered. And to do this, we must:

Learn to Serve! 

Learning to serve means learning to transcend the self-grasping aspects of our own ego and instead reach a deeper level of existence by focusing on the fundamental human needs that each of us have. That is, at the very core of who we are has humans, we each desire to fulfil our potential – to be all we truly can be as humans. And this includes loving and being loved, as connected and flowing parts to the universe. However, often our deeper fundamental human needs are buried under the fears and insecurities perpetuated by our ego.

Our ego is the protective mask we wear each day that holds us in a place of fear and discontent. Our ego is driven by what we perceive society wants us to do, rather than who we truly can be as individual humans. It’s formed from our early childhood out of insecurity, fear and anxiety, and therefore it is a survival mechanism, not a fulfilment mechanism.

Our ego does not seek to serve our deeper human needs, it only seeks to serve itself by perpetuating the pattern of negativity. By living solely through our ego we are therefore trapped in a place where we become a slave to our fears and lower order needs for safety and survival. Our ego buries our deeper human needs.

To transcend our ego and reduce it’s power over us, we must learn to connect with our deeper human needs and become a servant to our selves and to others.

Becoming a Servant 

The noblest act we can perform is to serve another in helping them fulfil their full human potential – to help them be all they can be. And it is through this noble act that we serve ourselves by becoming who we truly can be.

To become a servant requires us to first suspend any judgement we may hold about ourselves or others. Driven by our ego, we are all quick to judge. Learning to suspend this judgement, helps us see ourselves and others as real human beings with the same fundamental deep needs that we all wish to have fulfilled.

With our judgement suspended we can then begin to understand and respond to our and others deepest human needs.  This means learning to immerse yourself in the worlds of others. This allows you to understand who they are as humans and how they are seeking to fulfil the same needs as you. Once you understand this, you will begin to realise that all humans deepest needs are the same, it is just how we seek to fulfil them that changes. With this knowledge you can then respond more consciously by seeking to fulfil the needs that you and others have.

By immersing ourselves in the worlds of others we begin to see ourselves in a different way.  We recognise that our and others’ deepest human needs are the same, and hence we let go of some of the insecurities and fears that we have by becoming a servant to those deeper needs.

You serve others, and in doing so, serve yourself. 

Through Service comes Happiness

The paradox of happiness tells us that to be selfish we must be selfish. To use this paradox and the life giving tension it provides, we must recognise that at the heart of who each of us are as human beings, we have the same needs; we each need to love and be loved, and we each need to fulfil our human potential. Failing to do this will result in us continuing to live a life to others preconceptions, while also remaining in a state of fear and insecurity. Recognising this, and learning to suspend the judgement created by fear from our ego, we can begin to understand and respond to the deepest needs that each of us as humans have.

To achieve the happiness therefore requires us to become servants to the deepest and purest human needs of love, compassion and fulfilling our potential…

As it is through Service comes Happiness!

Measuring your Happiness

Stumbling upon a quote…

Sitting down at someone else’s desk the other day I saw a pile of books shoved up against the petition. As a person who’s always looking for interesting material to read  I naturally flicked through each one to see if anything caught my eye. In one of the books I came across this quote from Bobby Kennedy. It was delivered in 1968, a few months before his death:

“We seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of things. Our gross domestic product…if we should judge America by that – counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in the chaotic sprawl. It counts the napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armoured cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle or Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the gross domestic product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither wit nor courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

This final statement…

“We measure everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

…really struck me. It seems that although written many years ago, this statement is still as relevant today as it was in 1968. And, it’s not just relevant from a country perspective, it’s also relevant for each of us as individuals.

What gets measured, gets done…

Every time I think about Bobby Kennedy’s words, another quote flashes into my mind:

“What gets measured, gets done!”

We don’t have to look too far to see that whether in society, in organisations, or even in our own lives, what we’re measuring influences what we focus on, and what we do. As a result, understanding what each of us is measuring and why, is critical for us in seeking to achieve greater levels of success, happiness and fulfilment in our lives.

How are you measuring your life?

Using Kennedy’s words as a catalyst, it’s important for each of us to consider how we’re measuring success and happiness in our lives. Often we attach our definitions of success and happiness to those which are most prominent in society; money, possessions, status, fame etc… But rarely do these these yield the true happiness and fulfilment we desire.

My challenge to you is there to ask this question:

How are you measuring success and happiness in your life?

And, once you’ve answered that question you can begin to shift how you live your life by focusing on that which will help you achieve Unconditional Happiness – inner contentment and peace of mind!