Tag Archives: Living

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.

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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)

Creating a Movement

Having stumbled upon this clip a little while ago, I couldn’t help but marvel at the power of crowd and the message that was contained within.

Leadership is over-rated, the First Followers are the key!

It seems to me that within our society today is an environment where we are each told to be leaders – we are each told that we have the potential to achieve anything. This I believe, in many respects has a lot of merit. To reinforce and focus our ability to dream, to develop our aspirations, and then to seek to consciously unlock our true potential, is one of the most powerful gifts we have as human beings.

However, there is a second edge to this sword. Through reinforcing that we should each be leaders, we risk creating further divides within society. That is, through the perceptions we attach to what ‘being a leader’ means, we perpetuate a mindset of individualism, where we unconsciously believe that “I am, or I must be the leader”. Pardon the cliche, but although there is no ‘I’ in Leader, it is the premise that underpins the concept of leadership.

To my mind, the biggest implication of this unconscious belief is that we dissolve the power of the crowd and we fall into one of our greatest existential concerns; isolation!

The Power of Aligned Purpose – The Power of the Movement

To live fulfilling your purpose in life, is what I call living on the path of Unconditional Happiness. And through the paradox of happiness, we can only achieve this if we recognise that our individual purpose in life is to make some form of positive contribution to others; we can only achieve true unconditional happiness through making a positive contribution to those around us. With this in mind, at the highest level, our purest purposes as individual human beings are aligned.

When we recognise this alignment of purposes we can begin to relax some of our preconceived ideas about being a leader; we can begin to let go of our belief that we need to be ‘the  leader’ and instead focus mobilising the crowd and building the power of the movement toward our aligned purpose.

Being the leader in any movement is a lonely place. Much like the penguin that finds themselves standing out of the edge of the colony, it is easy to feel isolated. However, by aligning with others who share our purpose and who seek to make the same contribution as us, we can build a movement. We can share our ideas and our energy and we can focus on working together as one to make a difference.

Examples of the  power of the crowd are all around us. Sometimes the crowd is mobilised for good and sometimes for bad. However, for each of us, focused on our purpose of making a positive contribution, we can be a leader by creating, or we can be a first followers helping to build or mobilise the crowd – either way, we can become a movement. And through becoming a movement, we can change the world!

Are you ready to create a movement? Are you ready to live fulfilling your purpose?

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!

The Paradox of Happiness – Part 1

It’s Unanimous – it comes from within!

At the recent Flow, with Purpose, as Yourself ™ events that we’ve been running in London, the concept of Happiness always prompts some great conversation. It seems that people unanimously agree that happiness, in its purest form (i.e. Unconditional Happiness), comes from within. That is, happiness does not rely on attachment to material things or even to people and the relationships we have. Instead, it comes from living in a state of inner contentment and peace of mind – a state where free ourselves from the concerns that plague us and we live fully confortable in our own skin, enjoying and immersed in the present moment.

I’m pleased to say that in each of the conversations that were had at the events, everyone agreed that this is a state that we can all achieve this, although only if we have the desire and focus to do so.

A Paradox – Happiness versus Purpose?

However – and here’s the paradox – despite everyone agreeing that Unconditional Happiness comes from within, we also all agreed that it cannot in itself be a goal that we pursue. That is, Unconditional Happiness is not achieved by focusing solely on it. If we focus solely on achieving happiness it becomes an illusive destination rather than a way of experiencing the moments along the journey of our life.

But, this raises a question:

If Unconditional Happiness is not a goal, how do we achieve the state of inner contentment and peace of mind we desire?

Victor Frankl I believe provides the answer to this; you do not pursue happiness, instead you ensue Unconditional Happiness through focusing on your purpose. And, your purpose involves giving to others – making a positive contribution to the world. In this respect, the best way to ‘achieve’ Unconditional Happiness is paradoxically to forget about it…and focus on giving to others.

Recognising the Paradox – Purpose = Happiness

Any paradox – two conflicting truths – creates tension. In modern society however, we see tension as uncomfortable and therefore negative. Furthermore, we are taught to resolve the tension as quickly as possible to help us return to a comfortable state. This is why we’ve created a quick fix culture where, for example, we ‘pop pills’ at the slightest ailment hoping to ‘fix’ it as quickly as possible. At one level, this ‘quick fix’ culture could be seen as useful, but when applied as a blanket philosophy across our lives it removes some of the life giving tension that we as humans so desperately need.

To use the paradox of happiness – i.e. that to ‘achieve’ happiness, we must forget about it and focus on our purpose – we must learn to hold the two conflicting truths in a state of tension. That is, imagine you are holding your hands in front of you with palms facing the sky. In your left hand is your desire to achieve the state of Unconditional Happiness – inner contentment and peace of mind – which you know, can only come from within. In your right hand is your need to focus on your purpose, which is all about giving to others. As you look at and feel both your hands you can sense the tension between them; to achieve what I desperately need for me in my left hand, I must give to others in my right hand!

When we become aware of a paradox it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it, hence wanting to ease the tension that’s created. In respect to the paradox of happiness, this would represent dropping one of your hands to focus only on the other – i.e. I either focus solely on me and my happiness, or I focus solely on others and their happiness. However, rather than doing this, to get the most out of the paradox and therefore to achieve Unconditional Happiness through focusing on fulfilling your purpose, I would suggest holding your hands in place. It is only through doing this that you feel the weight of both sides of the paradox, and you can begin to explore and appreciate the tension that’s been created. And it is only through doing this, that you can realize that Purpose = Happiness…which means to be selfish (i.e. to achieve our desired happiness) we must be selfless (i.e. giving to others).

Coming soon…

Paradox of Happiness Part 2 – Focusing on Purpose