Phrases like “leadership journey” and “leadership path” frequently are thrown around. We may have an intuitive sense of what they mean as code for the story of our own personal growth. But if someone asked you directly, what is that story for you, could you be articulate?
There is so much jargon, so many “round words” — as a friend once called them — that it is not necessarily easy to express the meaning of the personal “journey” at all. Should you go back to Joseph Campbell and compare your life to the hero’s journey? Words like “wholeness,” “integration,” “actualization” dominate, but these words often are like signposts discovered at a foggy crossroads. Too general, and all roads look the same in that mist.
Many of us resort to simply offering the outer chronology of where we have been, side-stepping the series of inner lessons learned and the turning points, yet it is precisely these inner lessons and changes that come closer to the mark. They illuminate the long-term themes unique to us, ones that even with words attached retain some part of the inexplicable mystery. I may discover my way is about finding a meaningful passion or my true compassionate strength. I may find my lessons are about releasing my authenticity. I may see that it is about understanding what it means to be genuinely open-hearted or that I am learning to surrender to being part of a community, my community. Maybe the theme is about trusting myself with doing the right thing. Whatever that path, I feel it, learning and relearning the lessons, maybe for years to come. For me alone this path exists. From time to time there may be a certain pain in recognizing its presence yet again, and from time to time, it can also bring tears of joy.
Sitting on a high hill in summer, watching the clouds, you can feel that deeper theme moving within, that unnamed path, a “thread,” the poet William Stafford called it. It is life, your life, a life that only goes so far. Your heart understands there is mortality in the equation. If your life, your work are going to be meaningful, that thread must achieve some level of consciousness in time. You must know why you are here, what you are about. Without that consciousness you’ll never know who you truly are or be strong enough to follow that thread all the way to the end. Even if it is only “a story that could be true,” it’s the one you need to be able to tell, especially to those you love.
What advice can be given to help bring that thread into awareness?
Indeed, without getting trapped in the round words or intellectual abstractions, what can you do to raise it from the depths?
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