22nd February 2017

Live Your Brilliance

Growing up, the first sight of fireflies meant that summer had finally arrived. I loved chasing them in my backyard, mesmerized by their glowing, flashing bellies.

It was not until my daughter, EC, saw fireflies for the first time that I re-experienced the awe and excitement of a bug with a glowing belly. Each species flashes their light in a distinctive pattern. Their luminescent abdomens serve to attract potential mates and act as a defense mechanism, flashing a clear warning to predators of their unappetizing taste.

Fireflies are brilliant. Their light is the source of their power – it is authentic, purposeful and enables them to survive and thrive.

As I watched my daughter chase fireflies one evening, just as I had many summers before, I began to question my own life. I had recently had a milestone birthday, so it was a time for reflection and introspection.

Was my own brilliance shining through?

Was I working from a place that was authentic and intentional?

Was I motivated by my essence and calling?

The painful, but truthful, answer was no.

I had succumbed to the pervasive and systemic busyness that characterizes modern life and the cultural norms around how I should work.

I was controlled by an overflowing calendar of meetings, projects, and to-dos. My days were a blur of frenetic activity where I reacted to the wants, needs, and demands of clients, colleagues, employees, my family, friends – even our dog, Olivia.

Work was a grind that left me feeling stale and lethargic. Deciding what was for dinner felt like a herculean ordeal.

Bottom line: I was unmotivated and uninspired.

The problem with systemic busyness – doing lots of “stuff” in a visible manner due to an absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable – is that it dulls your life, undermines your performance, and deteriorates your impact in the world. It disconnects you from and diminishes your brilliance.

Your brilliance is what makes you, you. It is the intersection of your head (your intellect) and your heart (your passion).

It is where your knowledge and wisdom intersect with your passions and calling. It is your core, your unique essence.

You are the only person who can offer your brilliance to the world.

Your brilliance is the source of your power. It is the foundation of your success and fulfillment, the distinctive catalyst that inspires and drives your extraordinary performance.

And the best part: this brilliance is already within you. It is not something you seek outside of yourself; no degree or promotion or relationship or material object can provide it. There is nothing missing, nothing you lack.

If brilliance is the spark that both inspires and propels extraordinary performance and fulfillment, why aren’t we leveraging it? Because business and society reward the intellect. As a result, we have become too reliant on our minds, losing ourselves in in our heads while our hearts get relegated to the back seat of our lives, our passions withering on the vine.

If we stay in our heads and only occasionally tap into our hearts, we are undermining our achievement and denying the full potential of who we are. We are only bringing half of ourselves to our work.

Think back to when you were a child. What part of yourself have you left behind or sacrificed on the altar of the modern work world? Where have you surrendered to cultural norms around how you should work?

Maybe your work has become an uninspiring grind or perhaps you want something more than just getting through the day.

I get it. I have spent the majority of my career solely in my head, focused on doing and achieving. First in corporate roles, then in my own company – grow the business, build a team, publish a book, create new programs and services. I was chasing the feeling of success.

But, you cannot feel success because success is an endpoint, a destination, the favorable accomplishment of your goals. It is one-dimensional and anchored in the intellect.

I wanted more.

Being numb and working on autopilot were no longer enough. I wanted to actually feel something in and for my work.

But, did I even know what my heart wanted?

I realized that if I wanted to hear my heart, I had to let go of my head’s need to fully understand, predict, order and arrange everything so I could feel in control. I had to let go and allow myself to feel the whole range of emotions.

I had to move outside of the comfort zone of my intellectual construct of how to be a working mother and a business owner. For me, it felt like I was taking a road trip with no map, no money and no destination.

What did it mean for me to finally listen to my heart? It meant:

1) Allowing the quiet voice of my intuition – that powerful inner messenger that bridges the gap between the conscious and unconscious, that lets me know when something is right – to interject and have an opinion.

2) Acquiescing to not knowing how I knew something to be true, but trusting that it was true for me.

3) Embracing an alternative perspective, not governed solely by facts and analysis to inform my decisions.

4) Giving myself permission to work from a place that felt deeply intuitive, that heart space that enriches and compliments the data-driven business world that I had come to know.

With my heart engaged, my life became deeper, richer; there was a vibrancy and levity that I had not experienced before. There was a calm and a centeredness that replaced the frantic anxiousness that had previously characterized my work. My business expanded, my clients’ businesses grew, and I found joy in my work. I moved from a world that was black and white into a world of color, patterns, and nuance.

In Taoism there is the concept of the Yin and the Yang – two halves that make a whole. So, when you are working and living only from your head or heart you have split your wholeness in half, upsetting your equilibrium. And this is when you start to feel that each day is a grind, that your work is meaningless, that if you have to sit through another tedious meeting yawning into your coffee cup you will run screaming for an exit from your life.

Life is to be lived from our heads and our hearts. There is an interdependence between them that must be honored.

I don’t want to live a muted, indistinct 50% life.

I want to live a vibrant, unique 100% life.

I want to shine fully in and for the world.

I want to work and live guided by my wisdom and knowledge and inspired by my calling and passion.

I want to live from my head AND my heart.

I want to be brilliant. Don’t you?