'Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself' - Leo Tolstoy
This is part of the transcript speech I gave at a Leadership masterclass last week:
When John F Kennedy said in 1961 at his presidential inaugural address - "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country." Those words are as relevant now as they were then. They sum up my leadership speech tonight, because if each and every one of us can lead our lives in a productive, healthy, whole, cohesive way - miracles can happen - this will help the world become a better place for us all to live. I believe this is where true leadership begins with ourselves and how we live our lives.
When Merry asked me to talk to you today - it got me thinking about what got me here speaking on this subject. I believe that one of life's risks is never daring to risk, which is why I'm standing in front of you now.
I am a TV Producer by craft and have worked in the marketing/advertising industry for 30 years running my own business for 17 of those years. I began to realise gradually I wanted to listen to that inner voice of mine and not roughshod over who I was and my values. I began to realize I wasn't aligned to my spiritual purpose and I didn't want to bury that inner voice that told me 'time to change course....' Have you ever felt that the voice on the inside was not aligned to the words on the outside?! I believe if you listen to your inner voice it will guide you. Don't get me wrong - I loved producing - but it was time for change.
A life review led me to finding my spiritual path. I believe when the student is ready - the teacher appears and thus I met Merry Graham. She listened to me, she heard me. Thank you Merry for the quality of your compassion and your non-judgement in helping me to seek out my spiritual journey. Spending time becoming more aware of my values and how to honour them was key to my whole person nourishment. This created a paradigm shift in my life. There is no going back once you get this. Looking after myself physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally and understanding that these are all integrated was key. We are all born with this knowledge but this gets dusted over in our current education system and way of living and much has to be 'unlearnt' at some point. If only this could be taught in more schools. Anthony Seldon, enlightened headmaster of Wellington College introduced 'happiness and well being' classes for pupils and parents in 2006 and now more schools are following this example by also introducing mindfulness classes too. So change is afoot.
I'd always looked after myself physically and mentally - exercise, good diet and nutrition, rest and good sleep, setting boundaries - listening to what my body was telling me and being self aware. However the emotional and spiritual - could do better - so I began to fill myself up with understanding and nourishment. We need to give time to being human. We need to understand how our thoughts can affect our behaviour and ultimately our health. We need to understand how our emotions work and how repressed emotions can create serious illness in our bodies. We need to appreciate how our values and beliefs can directly affect our everyday health.
Understanding how the world works helps. We live in a world with a thought system based on fear not love. So judgement is the cornerstone of the thought system of the world. Love and forgiveness are not. We still put competition above collaboration although this is beginning to change. One in 4 people suffer from mental illness. So being self aware, is key to becoming the master and not the slave of your mind. This fast moving over technicalized world we live in marginalizes the soul, it marginalizes the spirit - so don't allow yourself to be run by technology and only use it to your advantage. Also stop the toxic TV and toxic newspapers! If I pick up some newspapers now I find they crackle in my hands from the sheer toxicity! Everything in the external world is basically a reflection of the internal world. So we're in a mess. Many people are so disconnected and numbed by the routine of life that they don't even have an opportunity to stop and know what they're feeling. They don't seek out deeper meaning in their lives because they're not aware they need to. If they lived healthier, whole person lives they would be more self aware and become seekers. It's being open and centred to the universe and saying 'I am open and ready to receive.' When you say this to the universe - it will rise up to meet you. All you need to do is ask and all sorts of spiritual guidance will appear; from books to people to life lessons etc.
I find giving time to all the things that are important to me and nourish me are key. Starting the day early and enjoying the silence that brings, to plan the day ahead. Honouring small rituals like making some lovely tea in a bone china cup. Connecting with nature and nurturing the earth matter to me. I exercise for 30 minutes in the park daily - not only for my physical body but my mental equanimity too. Being with people I love, pets/animals and the arts are all nourishing. Letting go of pettiness, negative thoughts and selfishness; doing everything with love - with everyone and everything, not only with those you like. Realizing that your thoughts create your life - so practising mindfulness on a daily basis. Having a purpose greater than yourself - and serving others and the earth - is an act of love. Finding a larger context in your life with a connectedness to family, community and environment - to bring meaning, purpose and ultimately happiness and health to our lives is key. Understanding that what happens to one directly - affects us all indirectly.
Everything that has ever happened to you in your life can be used as spiritual nourishment. So recognise the possibility of every moment because being in the moment is where joy resides. The task in life is to face sacred moments. You're going to miss this moment some day - so be here - it's all about the journey - not the destination. Once you are on that spiritual path you know what you have to do. There is no choice. Everyone of us is a teacher, a minister or a leader. So let's all lead by example.
Self responsibility and accountability are key to future happiness. Have a vision and communicate that vision. I wanted my work to have meaning. I wanted to inspire others to heal and align themselves to their spiritual path and to help them dig deep into their authentic selves and activate their true drivers and passions. And remember a life lived without spirituality needs more and more of the material life to keep the sense of emptiness at bay!!
So let's not lose this moment in history when people are open to change. We can all be teachers and leaders to inspire other people, other generations, to achieve greater focused leadership in their own lives. We can exemplify, empower and transform stuck places and change our world for the better! This new era needs to be about co-opetition not competition. The common purpose is to lead healthier lives and look after ourselves. As Maya Angelou says, "When you learn - teach. When you get - give." You don't need a title to be a leader.
And remember the more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate!
As Bill Gates said: "As we look ahead into the 21st century - leaders will be those who empower others."
(PS - As the Bafta voting season is well underway I went to see the film 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom' last Friday evening. To be released 3rd January 2014. It is a wonderful movie with Idris Elba and Naomie Harris and does great justice to the great man. Please see it!)