Step forward, run back, change

Image ©Jenn Shallvey  Location: Shirakawa-go, Gifu, Japan

Image ©Jenn Shallvey  Location: Shirakawa-go, Gifu, Japan

    Step forward.

Run back.  Retreat to safety, hide.

    Step forward.

Run back.  Get angry, blame.

    Step forward.

Run back.  Give up, still care.

    Step forward.

Run back.  Get off the couch, try again.

    Step forward.

Run back.  

    Accept with love.

    Step forward.




    Step forward more.

        Create change.

Ok, so this post is a bit out there. But then by now you realise my approach is anything but conventional.  

As you read the words above do you relate? What stands out for you?  What do you notice?

Behind the words are stories, time and experiences. Behind the words are many lessons learned.

What stands out the most though is the dance we engage in when we choose to create change in this world.  No matter the scale, audience, direction there will be a range of emotions and thoughts that can get in the way.

Vulnerable until we let go

So here is a confession. Stepping forward and laying your passion on the line can be scary. Yes, scary. To truly say what you believe, mean, want and care about makes you vulnerable.

You are vulnerable in your thoughts to the perceptions you have of what others will say, think or do. To want to change the way things are done means you are going to do things differently. You may be perceived as challenging the status quo. You may be even perceived as strange, weird or crazy. The labels proliferate the more you step forward in a new direction.

The challenge then lies in learning to let go of what others think about you. This is especially important if you want to influence others. That is a whole different discussion. For now the focus is on your internal dialogue about whether you chose to step forward or not.

Inside it's still a game of worry

The status quo exists because most people are comfortable with things the way they are.  We find ways to keep things the way they are and maintain our world around us so there are no bumps or hiccups.  For a person who wants to create change though it means sticking not just your hand up but your neck out. It means rising above the crowd, a lonely and daunting proposition.

When you are ready to step forward you likely have already formed your thoughts and ideas. For you the journey to the place you from which you are speaking out is a long one. Internally and privately you reflect and contemplate your ideas. You create your message. You plan your way.  Likely you also have life experiences and learning along the way that shape your new direction. The combination of both are powerful to you but not even known by most.

Your close inner circle will know about your change. They are not the ones you worry about. They are your supporters. They are your safety net in a way. They help to pick you off the floor when you are exhausted or frustrated from trying yet another way.

No the people that you worry about are the ones who have no idea what is going on inside your head and heart. These are the people who see you seemingly going about your business acting and working the way you always do. They do not know about your week long retreats, meditation workshops, personal development courses and other pursuits that keep waking you up. No. This is private. Until you step forward.

For people do not need to know what workshop you went to that gave you the epiphany to step forward. They just see the end result. And when they do it might be a bit of a shock.

A real story

I will give you a real story. This one is really putting me out there and exposing my vulnerabilities. But I bet there are people just like me out there who have had similar experiences.

When I first started my business I worked in a very traditional and conventional way. By this I mean I followed the book. I was accredited in a myriad of leadership assessment / team development tool going. These were all valuable and useful tools. I loved using these tools because they gave people a chance to safely open up into conversations where they previously would not.  They also provided an opportunity for rapid increase in self awareness should a person choose to go there.  I ran workshops and coached people using these tools. I also participated with colleagues in some amazing programs as a leadership consultant.

While I was working in this way I also decided to engage privately in personal development.  Up until this point my learning was traditional. I studied at university. I completed post graduate studies. I added letters to my qualifications. I ticked all the boxes. Yet I was unfulfilled. I wanted more. I wanted more in my self.

So I enrolled in a range of esoteric studies. I did everything you can imagine. If it was on the list I tried it.  I look back now at this period of my life and wonder who I was. You see I was completely immersed in this other world yet acting like the old me in my day to day world. Being an avid learner I wanted to ‘learn’ to be spiritual, raise my consciousness, be soulful in all I did.  I did not want pieces of paper anymore, I wanted experiences.  I even had the audacity at one point to proclaim that being a trainer I now wanted to be a spiritual teacher.  (Yes I really said that).  What I realised in all this learning was that spirituality was not about what I knew or learned. Spirituality or consciousness did not come from a book. But I had come from a background where learning what is in the book was recognised.

So in my naivete´ at that time I decided to change my business. Some of you who are still with me after all this time will possibly remember. I got all excited and announced to the world that I was changing my business from traditional leadership development. What was I going to do? My new focus was bringing some soul and spirituality into the workplace. I wanted to raise the consciousness of people in business.  So being convinced that this was the ONLY WAY I went and met with all my clients to tell them about my new direction.  As I look back at this now I actually can laugh at the hubris of my actions. I was only just discovering my own sense of spirituality and here I was walking in like I knew everything and others knew nothing. In hindsight I can agree it was quite arrogant of me to presume that I was right and they were wrong.

What I was not ready or prepared for were the reactions. I would say about 80% of my clients at that time reacted negatively to what I shared.  Some even said do not come back. Some said interesting but not for their workplace. Others said this was religion, when it was not at all about that.  I even had one person say to me that I was taboo and ended the conversation abruptly.  Guidance from well meaning people centred around stay quiet about this 'stuff', just do what people expect and want me to do.

Bruised and battered I retreated to lick my wounds. This was NOT what I expected.  In my idealistic and newly evolved self aware space I was sure that I had the answers. Ha!  Learning the hard way was just about to begin.  The way I experienced this time was like standing in front of a ravine and choosing to jump across rather than build a bridge. In hindsight I would have preferred to build a bridge. But then some of us choose to go the hard way when the easy way is right there in front of us.

For the last few years I felt like I was climbing back up the sides of the ravine. As I did I stopped along a ledge to rest and reflect. Mostly my default position was self judgement and blame. This resulted in some fluctuating emotions as well. Somehow though this wiser more committed part of me pulled me up and got me on track again. I would realise that everything is perfect exactly the way it is and excitedly start again.  This back and forth process somehow has got me to where I am now.  Only now do I actually feel like for the first time I am back on level ground.

Being on level ground is a great analogy for me. Level ground is a foundation. A foundation is a starting place. Unless your starting place supports you then you really are not quite able to go anywhere.  I like that the learning I have had now shapes who I am. I like that I see the world differently as a result. I also know that I do not need to know exactly where things will go. I trust now that I can because I do see the world differently.

And how do I see things differently?

Well for starters I am now more accepting of people being who they are and being where they are at in their life and in their personal journey. I do not judge a person for their choices. I may choose whether to be or not to be with people because of their choices, but this is my choice. In terms of people I help I see their potential. I also see them on their own journey with their own learning experiences. I am there to help as required not to fix nor rescue. This is a tough place to stand in but for the highest good of all.

The irony of my stepping forward is that what I wanted to do with businesses those many years ago is actually what is happening now. I could see and passionately wanted to help people be more conscious and mindful in the workplace. Meditation for example was something others did and certainly not at work.  Now there are workplaces all around the world running programs to do just this.  The mention of the word heart and soul at work was met with false smiles. Now there are companies being promoted as great places to work because they are conscious businesses.  

I realise now though that when I wanted to do this work those many years ago I was not ready. I thought I was.  The world in a way told me that. I still needed to do more work on the inside.  Today I still am passionate about workplaces being more soulful, conscious and heartful. The way that looks for each workplace, each person will be unique. There is no one way. And even more so people can be spiritual, conscious, soulful in all kinds of ways and do not have to look like they are doing so.

So you can see by the tone of this post I am sharing some deep hearted honesty.  I am one of these idealists who wants to change the way we do business in this world. I do want business to have a role that is more meaningful and heart based. I do still believe that what business needs is to lift up to a new level.  Just like not all people are ready, not all businesses are ready. But there are those that are. For me the focus is on leadership.  I believe there are leaders out there who like me are on the step forward, run back cycle. I am here to help these leaders get past this cycle and build their foundation so we can all create positive change.  I created new coaching programs to do just this.  It’s not quick or overnight. It’s about building a bridge, not jumping into the ravine!

When we do then we will begin to see a shift.

We will see more ethical and authentic leaders who create workplaces where people actually want to work.

We will see fewer headlines of misconduct or duped customers or investors.

We will see more conscious business leaders stepping forward and not running back anymore.

We will see more people active and engaged as members of communities of business.  

I invite you to step forward and build a bridge from a solid foundation.