Updated: Jun 17
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? — Mary Oliver
The VUCA World
Our prosperity, health and happiness require us to discover new ways of dealing with the rapidly changing 21st Century Global Economy, its mercurial markets, disruptive technologies and sudden economic threats. Regardless of our business or profession, this unrelenting rapid change imposes high degrees of unhealthy stress that shows up as anger, chaos, and overwhelm in our lives, both personal and professional. Frustration, isolation and anxiety abound! Not only is the velocity of change accelerating, it has no known terminal velocity!
It is easy to understand how the ever-increasing chaos may cause us to grasp for control and security, abandoning our opportunity to create “a low-stress, fulfilling life adventure of our own design.” However, consider this alternative view:
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” — Helen Keller
In 1970, Alvin Toffler’s book, Future Shock, was the first to point out that the velocity of change was accelerating and discuss the implications. He accurately predicted what has transpired since then. At that time, it became my life’s work to assist people (and their organizations) in learning to use the energy of change to their benefit. Authentic Leadership Insights evolved from this clear purpose.
The concepts behind Authentic Leadership apply universally to both our personal and our professional lives. They provide guidance in our pursuit of happiness and meaning in our life. Our emotions are contagious; we create either Resonance or Dissonance in all relationships. This includes family, friends, bosses, colleagues, other employees, suppliers, customers, and the general community.
I know of no greater privilege and responsibility than for each of us to create a “low-stress, fulfilling life adventure of our own design.” In our pursuit of this creation, we quickly crash into the fact: “We are all Leaders, all of the time!” Our life is an example for everyone whose life we touch; “All leadership is example, anything else is coercion.”
Year by year, we are increasingly buried in information, choices and challenges, all demanding more time, energy and attention. Our natural, intuitive response is to run faster, do more and eliminate anything that is not focused on an immediate task in order to get everything done that must be done NOW! Yes, a “do more, faster” strategy may work for a while, but it ultimately ends in disaster. At the best, the “human being” becomes only a “human doing,” a carbon computer: a multi-tasking “Bot,” sans awareness. At worst, it destroys the individual’s health and happiness.
“Nobody, as long as he moves among the chaotic currents of life, is without trouble.” — Carl Jung
The wisdom of both Jung and Maslow suggests that the only way to deal with the ever-accelerating rate of change is to slow down. We must slow down so we can focus on just two things: Clarity and Equilibrium. Only from this solid foundation can we create a “low-stress, fulfilling, life adventure of our own design.” Let’s examine each concept individually.
Clarity is knowing what is truly important to us; what it is we value. Most simply stated: “it is knowing what makes our life worth living.” Clarity is also being decisive and courageous about whom and what to jettison from our life, so we have room for the relationships and experiences that bring fulfillment to our life adventure. This is a singular act of courage.
“To find in ourselves what makes life worth living is risky business, for it means that once we know, we must seek it. It also means that without it, life is valueless.” — Marsha Sientar
Finding within ourselves these values that make our life worth living requires a journey into deep inner space. To coin a phrase, “to boldly go where no man has gone before.” It requires honesty in recognizing and examining values we once adopted because of someone else’s expectations. It requires either affirming them or replacing them with values we choose because they are integral to our Being and Purpose.
We don’t just value one thing; we each have a vast array of values. It is just as important to be clear about our priorities within our values array as it is to be clear about the values that populate it. We evolve only to the extent we are clear about our values and their relative priorities in the life we wish to live. Socrates figured it out 2400 years ago, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”
Nature is both relentless and unforgiving: Every organism must evolve as its environmental ecosystem evolves or it will die.
Both individually and organizationally, we connect to our environmental ecosystem through our Values – and the belief system our values support. Our VUCA ecosystem is changing so rapidly, we must periodically check and update our Clarity as to what is truly important to us.
As we have grown, are the values we once pursued still calling us forth? Or, is it time to replace them with new, more compelling values that are more in-tune with who we are now and desire to become?
We have a responsibility to ourselves, and everyone who looks to us for leadership, to update our conscious values and their associated priorities as we evolve in-tune with our environment.
Any necessary redirection of our Life Purpose flows naturally from the updated clarity of our values. Our Purpose is simply our reason for Being. Individually, it is expressed as our Vocation, our Calling in Service of a Life beyond our self-absorbed comforts. Organizationally, it is expressed as our Mission, our reason for existence that transcends power, profits, and personal aggrandizement. A life lived “With Purpose” – individually or organizationally — embodies Clarity and Equilibrium.
In this context Equilibrium means, “a dynamically stable system in which the forces balance each other; a harmonious arrangement of the elements within a design.” How we each balance all of the competing demands on our time and energy is a very individual exercise. To do this successfully, we must have acute clarity; that is, we must be acutely aware of our values array and their relative priorities. We also must be very comfortable with who we are, our life purpose, and dedicated to living beyond our self-absorbed comfort. For example, all business owners, executives, and individual professionals have competing demands between their personal and professional lives. The proper distribution of time and energy for every individual will be very different because we all have very different values arrays and relative priorities.
Regardless of the details of handling the chaos and frustrations in one’s life, our life is in Equilibrium when it is a harmonious arrangement of Passion, Joy, Prosperity, and Ease:
Passion: We are passionately (“All-In”) engaged in life; alive and curious about each ever-changing moment. (The alternatives to passionate engagement are partially engaged numbness or disengaged boredom; both are lethal states of non-existence.)
Joy: Our compelling life purpose is the source of our Joy, a state of being quite different from pleasure or even happiness. (Living “With Purpose” is the only source of lasting Joy in life!)
Prosperity: Our Prosperity has nothing to do with money or possessions; its source is abundance, – not poverty – a state of mind created by the beauty of being fully alive. It is the appreciation and awareness of our beauty within and from that space, seeing the beauty in the world. It is grounded in our full appreciation of our intrinsic worth and our enthusiastic desire to share our unique talents with the universe.
Ease: It is not related to leisure. Its source is humility, humor, intuition, vision and vulnerability. We move through our day with Ease. For example, tough decisions are made with Ease. Though the decision may be tough, there is no self-doubt, agony, or anxiety surrounding the decision.
When Clarity & Equilibrium Are Lost
The accelerating rate of change has left many of us maladapted to our ecosystem as measured by the high stress levels in our chaotic lives. We are in the throes of the four Killer Emotions: Anger, Frustration, Isolation, and the Stress we endure by ignoring any of these four Killer Emotions is life threatening; collectively, they are lethal.
A partial list of chronic, degenerative diseases aggravated – if not actually caused – by stress includes heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, IBS, depression and several forms of cancer.
Our body continuously sends us “distress signals” in the form of aches, pains, fatigue and a weakened immune system (flu, colds, etc.). We ignore these by doping ourselves with over-the-counter “remedies” at our peril!
Prolonged stress severely damages our immune system, exposing us to unmitigated ravage. Doctors can “treat” our symptoms, ONLY our immune system cures the causes of our disease and makes us well!
At the very least, stress created by these four killers erodes self-confidence, happiness and health, leading to burnout and a sense of failure.
If you are feeling any or all of The Killer Emotions, ask yourself three questions:
Have my values become foggy?
Have I lost focus on my compelling life purpose?
Is my life no longer a “harmonious arrangement of Clarity, Passion, Joy, Prosperity and Ease?
To the extent that any answer is “Yes,” you are denying or suppressing your connection to your Essential Core.
If the essential core of the person is denied or suppressed, he gets sick; sometimes in obvious ways, sometime in subtle ways, sometimes immediately, sometimes later. — Abraham Maslow
The deep self-awareness embedded in these concepts of Clarity and Equilibrium is the ballast that keeps our ship from capsizing in the tempest created by anger, frustration, overwhelm and isolation.
The resources to deal successfully with our exterior, cognitive reality exist, and can only be found, in the depth of our inner feeling reality!
Authentic Leadership Insights is grounded in these concepts of Clarity and Equilibrium. It is the model of choice for creating an intelligent, adaptive, All-In, engaged team in a low-stress ecosystem. It addresses the needs for collaboration and teamwork in organizations so they can create resonant relationships across companies, countries and cultures.
There is no need to take any Authentic Leadership Insights on faith; they can all be tested before you “Buy-in.” You are encouraged to internalize only those principles that make sense to you and discard the others. Since the model is relationship oriented rather than task oriented, the principles easily apply to both an individual’s personal and professional life.
Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species, published in 1859, describes concepts popularly known as “survival of the fittest.” A close reading of his concept of Natural Selection suggests that survival favors the most adroit in sensing – and adapting to – subtle changes in the environment.
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most adaptable to change. – Charles Darwin
We believe there is a synergy, not an incompatibility, between All-In, engaged employees, aligned with the organization’s values, purpose, vision and priorities, AND employees simultaneously creating a low-stress, fulfilling life adventure of their own design. The most successful leaders of this era will create environmental ecosystems where the culture nurtures both.