A couple of weeks ago I had an incredible three-minute thrill. I watched a full solar eclipse across the point of totality. Until those moments, I was skeptical of how powerful the moon fully covering the sun could be. It was an image, experience and feeling that will always stay with me. And here’s why – for the previous 20,444 days of my life, the sun had always shined its light, whether through clouds or blue sky. Yet, what I experienced on July 2nd in La Serena, Chile was the visceral realization that patterns can be changed and quite inspiring effects are the result. Even if only for a few minutes, the long tail of the shift remains.
Here’s how it’s impacted me with regard to leadership.
Typically we think of leadership as:
1. Knowing who we are (the values / belief we aspire to live by)
2. Identifying where we want to go (our vision / purpose / mission)
3. Clarifying how we are going to get there (our strategies, milestones and action plans)
4. And, developing the skills to empower and inspire other resources and people to help us get there (our KPI’s, communications, meetings)
All these pieces are essential and powerful foundations of leadership, but the fact of the matter is that then (excuse the cliché) sh*t happens because everybody else is doing the same thing whether individually, or when running a team or an organization. And sometimes the leadership alignment comes together, synergizes and magic happens. And often, we run smack into conflict, competition and being blindsided by the beliefs and plans of others. Then our egos (or defensive protective walls) rise up and push down the voice of our deeper, more human self. We all have our patterns that can both serve and derail us around the deeper level of leadership.
This deeper level of leadership includes questions like:
1. How do we listen and stay open to learning from different perspectives?
2. How do we grow from mistakes / challenge and not solidify in our judgments (against ourselves or others)?
3. How do we learn to trust and be vulnerable and not try so tightly to control?
4. How do we become aware of when we are operating from fear and constriction versus creativity and openness?
5. How do we truly learn to forgive and release the weight of anger that we may feel fuels us but actually exhausts our system?
6. How do we stay compassionate and humble enough to say “I’m sorry” and really mean it and learn from it?
And that becomes the even harder work of leadership. Oprah Winfrey once said that “true forgiveness is when we can say thank you for the experience,” and as I like to say, thank you for the learning. To me, that is the daily practice of deepening in to the values we want to live by and consistently becoming aware of and releasing the reactive energy associated with something that is different than our expectations.
We give it our best. We learn. And we grow in our ability to reflect on our judgments and fears as opportunities to understand our own projections and what we may want to work on within ourselves. As the saying goes, “the issue isn’t the issue. It’s how we deal with the issue – that’s the issue.”
And that is the practice of Six Minutes Daily. Yes, let’s understand who we are and where we want to go. And then daily, let’s allow ourselves a few minutes to quietly breathe in light, to reflect on our intentions and ways we can break old patterns, and end with focusing on something for which we are grateful. That was the magic for me of watching the eclipse. No matter where we we’ve been, today is a new day to build the small steps of change to who we truly want to be and create the world we want to live in.
If you’ve never experienced a full solar eclipse, you will have an opportunity in April 2024 when the path of totality crosses large parts of North America. Here’s a map.