Firstly, thank you to so many of you who write to me after last week’s Leadership Insights with your warm thoughts for Steve, his mum Wyn, and my own humanity. Wyn has now passed away, lovingly ‘walked home’ by Steve and his family.
It’s had me think even more deeply about life, its purpose, and our relationship to living it as best as we can. I’ve long been taken with what Jungian psychologist Dr James Hollis and others call the 2 stages in life (and you can read an earlier piece on that here).
Essentially, we spend the first part of our life concerned with doing: we find out about our self and how we fit into the world by the actions we take – pursuing a career, getting partnered up, possibly raising a family, doing things and learning from it.
In the second half of life (typically from later 30s onwards), we find ourselves more pulled into being: not what we do, but who we are. Broadening our identity beyond the ego, expectations and labels. At this time, we are searching for what life is asking of us vs what we want to
do to life.
“Yesterday, I was clever, so I wanted to change the world.
Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
This push-pull we feel is that distinction between clever and wise that Rumi speaks of. We can be more taken with the urgency of questions and concerns like:
- What is the yearning and calling of my own heart?
- What truly matters for me?
- Who am I? Am I my identity or my job?
- Why am I here – really?
And these questions can feel at odds with the work we do, our careers and all the life choices we’ve made.
However, living these big questions doesn’t mean we need to go to a hermitage or detonate our life, though without awareness this can sometimes happen. (I work with a number of great people wanting to leave their careers because this push-pull is too excruciating – partly because it hasn’t been defined in these terms.)
It is critical for leaders to be doing this work on our own selves. I speak personally. In my career there were points where I felt constrained and unsettled. These were junctures where I could have left – and yet too soon. Instead, I took the guidance and space to reimagine my leadership and how to express it more authentically, even within the parameters of being a CEO. This created a much bigger and richer canvas with which to lead from.
I urge all the leaders I work with to make this a priority, and I help them with this. In doing so they become clear, more fulfilled, experience deeper alignment to their own purpose, and more authentic with what their second half of life is asking from them. They get to play bigger and make more of an impact through deepening their inner foundations and stepping into what this stage of their life is asking of them.
Life’s rich beauty is so fleeting and mysterious. I am especially conscious of this right now. Thank you for being part of this community of heart centred leaders with me.