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The need for belonging

I am just back from a trip to Europe to visit my family, my country of origin and my soul’s home. Coming back to California I once again felt torn between all the places I could call home and all the people I know, love and miss. It brought up two questions: where do I belong, and what do I need to feel like I belong?

These are also questions that always come up with my clients. The need to belong is universal. When women ask that question about their work, as they do not feel seen, heard or acknowledged anymore for their contributions, it is the moment they start to disengage and likely look for alternatives.

According to Abraham Maslow, a sense of belonging is a fundamental human need and most important in seeing value and meaning in life and a major source for our motivation. In the workplace, belonging allows employees to feel like they can be their authentic selves and therefore has a significant impact on performance and retention. It enables us to cope better with difficult situations and emotions.

What contributes to your sense of belonging?

The question “How can I belong” is a crucial moment in every coaching process, as belonging has a lot to do with what we value, what gives us meaning and where we enjoy our life (and work) to the fullest.

Dublin, for example, always gives me a strong sense of belonging, as it aligns with a lot of my values, needs and what I treasure in relationships. It is a place where I can be in flow (movement), the city is walkable (and that is important to me), a lot of my friends are there (meets my need and value for connection), it has a lively art scene (that is aligned with my curiosity and creativity).

Designing our lives for belonging

I recently interviewed a woman who designed her job to ensure that the people at her business site were seen, heard and included. She understood very early on that to flourish as part of a multinational company, you need to ensure that the people in your location feel connected and create their own community, while at the same time being part of a larger network.

What do you need to feel like you belong? And what resources are available to you?

Reflection

I’d like to invite you to journal and reflect about the following questions:

  • What do you need to feel like you belong (at work, in a relationship, a place, a situation, a project, a community or team)?
  • What are your resources and connections?
  • What does belonging mean to me? How do I know that I belong?
  • What can I do to claim or reclaim my sense of belonging?

The aim is to understand where your feel like you belong and what resources you have to create that sensation in your work and life again.

Nicole Kleeman is a coach based in the SF bay area. She specializes in coaching women leaders. You can read and learn more on her website

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Dr. Robert Kegan postulates that there are five stages of adult development. The first two, Impulsive Mind and Imperial Mind, are mostly seen in children (or those who act like children!).

Stage 3 is the Socialized form of Mind, where we look for external validation and allow the opinions, beliefs, norms and behavior of others to determine who we are.

Stage 4 is the Self-Authored form of Mind. This is where Oprah and all the self-help books want to get us to… a place where we see ourselves creating our own reality and responsible for our own lives.

In Stage 5, the Self-Transforming form of Mind, you are less held prisoner by your own identity. How you show up in the world is created and influenced by your interactions with others. Kegan estimated that less than 1% of the population were Stage 5 adults.

In Stage 5, yes, you are prioritizing, making choices and responsible for your part of the results you are getting. But the world and the people and events around you are also shaping you and the choices you make. The people who agree with you, the people who challenge you, the successes, the difficulties… all these are changing you moment to moment, asking you to look at who you are and how you are showing up, and affording you the opportunity to continuously realign yourself.

In short, you are the writer, making choices, and at the same time, being written by everything around you.

There are echos of this perspective from diverse schools of thought. In Moby Dick, Melville writes:

Is Ahab, Ahab? Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm? But if the great sun move not of himself; but is as an errand-boy in heaven; nor one single star can revolve, but by some invisible power; how then can this one small heart beat; this one small brain think thoughts; unless God does that beating, does that thinking, does that living, and not I. By heaven, man, we are turned round and round in this world, like yonder windlass, and Fate is the handspike.

Here is another view, from the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh:

If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.

And here’s yet another take from the late physicist and card-carrying empiricist, Carl Sagan:

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

What did Sagan mean by this? Look at all the forces acting on a wave on the ocean: underwater structures, changing ocean temperatures, atmospheric conditions, wind, tides, gravitational pulls, lunar forces, planetary motion, and on and on. A single wave literally comes into and goes out of existence because of all those forces. If asked, “when did that wave begin and when will it end?” I think Sagan would say, “It began when the universe began, and it will cease when the universe ceases.”

The complex, fast-moving times we live in demand new leaders who know they are the writer and the written. A leader in a meeting might have a sense of what s/he wants to do. S/he doesn’t think, these opposing viewpoints are distracting and annoying, how do I impose my will? Instead, s/he thinks, these other stakeholders are not only not against me, they are me! And I need to let them shape what I do and how I do it.

The new leaders, then, are radically inclusive. They are willing to release the tiller because they are at a stage of adult development where they recognize that leadership is a role in a field of complexity, not a fixed position. They follow the flow and let the voices and perspectives of emergent leadership take over. They know there is a win-for-all somewhere in the mix, and they work towards it.

And when the time is right, they ensure decisions get made and are willing to take responsibility for the results of the team’s choices and actions. The new leaders abhor the victim stance and never assign blame. They espouse the motto, “Why cry? I made the bed in which I lie.”

Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Here’s a good one to start with: just as light is both a particle and a wave, you are the writer and the written.

You don’t need an extended retreat or a cosmic epiphany to see this. The first step is just to stop acting as if it’s not true.

Dennis is an executive coach and consultant based in the San Francisco bay area. More by and about him on his website.

Photo by Hunter Leonard on Unsplash

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The post The Writer and the Written: Adult Development in Leadership appeared first on New Ventures West.

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Waiting until you know for sure what’s going to happen – where people are involved – means waiting for ever.

With machines, it’s easy. With sufficient understanding of mechanics you can often predict exactly what’s going to happen. Cause and effect, straightforward to establish.

But human situations are nothing like that, even though we pretend to ourselves that they might be.

Take a meeting, for example.

Should you speak up about what’s on your mind? Now? Later? What effect will it have on your colleagues? On the decision to be made?

You cannot know for sure.

Whatever insight you have about the situation can only ever be partial. You can’t know what’s going on for others. You can’t know what they are thinking of saying. And you can’t know – even if you know them well – how they will respond to your speaking.

You have to act knowing that you’re speaking into an unknowable situation. And that speaking up will, in all likelihood, change something, at the very least for you.

But staying quiet is an act too, changing things no less than speaking up. So you have no choice but to be an actor, whatever you do, and however much you pretend it is not the case.

We get ourselves into trouble when we forget all of this. We imagine that we can only act when we are able to predict the outcomes of our actions. Or we blame and judge ourselves and others when things don’t turn out the way we expected.

And all the while we’re holding back our contribution, our insight, our knowledge, our creativity, our unique perspective because we’ve set ourselves standards of understanding that were never – could never be – reached.

Justin is a NVW faculty member based in London. More from him here

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In a few of his books, Jack Kornfield talks about the myth of a snake and a beautiful young princess. The princess is to be wed to the snake prince, unwillingly, so she goes to see an old witch who advises her to wear 13 wedding gowns and every time the snake prince asks her to take off a dress she is to ask him to take a layer off too. After painfully removing layer of skin after layer of skin a handsome prince finally emerges.

I have been thinking quite a lot about this story and how it relates to self-development. I can identify with the pain and agony of personal growth and shedding layer after layer of the self, and though I am far from the last layer, I would still like to share my thoughts.

From my experience, where this story falls short is that personal growth is not a one-off thing. Growth is not linear. It is human and messy.

I recently saw a beautiful picture of the colourful mountains in Peru, and it struck me that a topic I had always found boring was actually nature’s way of showing us what personal growth looks like. Each layer of the earth is mixing with a different layer during significant events such as earthquakes and landslides. Ancient earth containing precious fossils and clues to the earth’s history suddenly becomes apparent after years of being hidden, sometimes creating new land to be explored. And, at times, new earth being taken down to the underworld, being buried deep under the earth’s mantle close to the core, bringing with it elements as big mountains.

We can think about the landslides and earthquakes as the significant events in our lives that transform and change us—maybe allowing us to remove a layer of skin, exposing an old layer that still needs to be worked on and addressed, or both. Vibrant layers will suddenly reappear, forgotten stories come back to haunt and daunt us, to allow us to learn and grow from them again. Even if these experiences are quickly forgotten, they will have created a new layer of colour deep in us, transforming the overall structure and shades of our mountain.

Stephany is a coach and yoga instructor based in Switzerland. More of her wisdom can be found on her blog.

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I was out driving today and I saw a man crossing the street. No big deal, right? Except this man was blind. Watching the traffic all stopped obediently at the lights, watching him calmly cross the street and then meet his bus… the scene really gave me pause.

Just think about all the systems he trusted to be in place and to keep him safe: the cars respecting the traffic lights, the beeping which indicated he could cross at that corner at that moment, his cane with the white tip indicating his visual challenge… all these systems and probably more all working at the same time to keep him safe while he ventured out into the world.

I turned 50 this year and I’ve noticed that as I’ve been getting older, fear is becoming more of a companion than I’ve been aware of in younger years. Perfectly able, perfectly (well, almost perfectly) sighted, and yet I am beginning to fear some things: fear of other people’s driving (and sometimes my own capabilities), fear of my sons out living their lives, fear of losing those I love, and so on. Like poker chips dropped onto the green felt table, bit by bit fear is mounting in my heart and I am so very aware of its presence and my need to not allow it to close down my world.

Which is why watching the blind man cross the street caused me to pause so much today. He appeared older than I. And yet every day he wakes up, and he overcomes the reasonable fear he must feel living blind in a sighted world. He faces down his fear, every day. I find that impressive.

“Walking through your fear makes you stronger. It makes you able to walk through other fears. It gives you courage. It gives you faith that there are bigger powers in the world than your fear. When you walk through fear, you… become a bigger power than the fear. It is its own medicine in the end.”

—Richard Wagamese, Him Standing

Trudy is an Integral Coach based in Ottawa. You can read more of her writing here

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How is empathy distinct from compassion? What is self-empathy, and why is it important? How can we develop ourselves into compassionate witnesses for our clients’ experiences? In this episode Adam is joined by Whitney Hess, an Integral Coach dedicated to putting humanity back into business. Join them to delve into the important—and sometimes debated—topic of empathy.

Resources from this episode: 
The Language of Emotions, Karla McLaren
How Emotions are Made, Lisa Feldman Barrett
The Center for Nonviolent Communication 

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The post Episode 16: The Real Power of Empathy appeared first on New Ventures West.

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How is empathy distinct from compassion? What is self-empathy, and why is it important? How can we develop ourselves into compassionate witnesses for our clients’ experiences? In this episode Adam is joined by Whitney Hess, an Integral Coach dedicated to putting humanity back into business. Join them to delve into the important—and sometimes debated—topic of empathy.

Resources from this episode: 
The Language of Emotions, Karla McLaren
How Emotions are Made, Lisa Feldman Barrett
The Center for Nonviolent Communication 

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The post Episode 16: Empathy Builds Empires appeared first on New Ventures West.

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Grief can blindside and disorient the people directly affected—and those who wish to support them. In this episode Adam speaks with Richard Levi, who facilitates grief support groups and coaches individual clients in grief. He offers some ways we can ready ourselves to join our clients in the abruptly new world that grief often creates.

Resources: 
It’s OK that You’re not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture that Doesn’t Understand, by Megan Devine

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The post Episode 15: Supporting Clients in Grief appeared first on New Ventures West.

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During times of significant change, whether it’s in our career, a relationship, or even a shift in our identity, the chatter in our minds can intensify. Like a ping pong ball that won’t stop pinging and ponging.

A common challenge I hear in my work with clients is either, “I’m caught between multiple ideas of what I should do next” OR “I’m just in a haze with no clarity at all.”

This can happen for all of us.

What I often see underneath is a tug of war of competing inner voices. In some cases, the voices are so loud, we can allow ourselves to become paralyzed between opposing views. In other cases, the tug of war is so intense we can reside in a fog.

In an attempt to reduce the pain of internal clutter, a common strategy (whether it’s conscious or not) is to try and shut off, get angry at, or pretend these inner voices aren’t there. In other words, use the egoic mind to try and control itself.

I’ve done this too and still catch myself.

Although some of these ‘shutting down’ techniques may work in the short term, I find there’s something else that can bring greater peace to our nervous systems and more inner clarity in the long run.

Letting the egoic mind be as it is.

This may sound counter-intuitive at first. However, in my experience, it’s where our true freedom lies, and it’s our most powerful doorway to the clarity we seek.

Why is this?

Deep within ourselves is a little voice that judges and interprets every experience we have. It even judges our inner experiences –– the very thoughts and emotions that flow through us.

So, in the original scenario above, this little judging voice sees the experience we’re having in our mind (the conflicting ideas of what we should do next in our life, haziness of what’s true in our business/career/relationship, and all the accompanying emotions), and it says:

These voices (and emotions) are driving me nuts.
Why is this happening to me?
Oh no…here we go again! Not these endless thoughts.
etc…

In other words, all this inside of me shouldn’t be happening. And from there, our true source of suffering begins, and the deeper clarity we seek comes to a halt.

Why?

Because our mind gets amped up and goes to war with itself. Essentially, we’re just battling ourselves. This can wreak havoc on our bodies and our overall wellbeing.

Paradoxically, when we let the voices just be as they are and show kindness towards them, the mind naturally quiets down.

Showing kindness doesn’t mean believing the thoughts are true, or that the accompanying emotions reflect out true identity. It simply means showering them with the love of our own heart, like the love we’d show a frightened child.

In essence, when we accept what is there as it is and loosen the grip of what we think should be happening, it gives our minds and nervous systems a chance to relax. A part of our mind (like a child) begins to understand that it’s not doing anything wrong. It’s ok that these thoughts exist. It’s ok that these emotions exist. It’s even ok that there’s something in us that’s resisting our thoughts and emotions in the first place. We don’t have to be experiencing anything other than where we are right now and be present with it.

This is a true form of letting go.

Letting go isn’t something we ‘try’ to do. It’s a state of grace that we become aware of that already exists within us. When we open to this grace, the challenging thoughts and emotions start to let go of us, as they’re held in the light of love.

Awareness and loving kindness are the keys to inner freedom.

This takes ongoing practice to simply observe our inner world with kindness and, very often, the support of another to hold a space of presence so we can see the truth of what’s happening underneath.

From there the innate healing energy that lies within us surfaces and surrounds the frightened parts of ourselves with love.

It’s this place of deeper relaxation and understanding where we can experience more peace with not knowing the answer to something. With peace comes greater inner stillness and from there we can more easily hear the quiet whispers of our soul, if we choose.

Essentially, our deepest inner wisdom comes when we’re not holding on so tightly. It’s why so many people get their creative inspirations while they’re in meditation, in the shower, out for a walk, engaged in a creative hobby, or playing with a pet.

As the mystic St. John of the Cross said, “In order to come to the knowledge that you have not, you must go by a way in which you know not.”

I keep that message with me daily for my own life.

How do you go about quieting the mind and opening the heart, at work, in the midst of tough decisions, or in other areas of your life?

Ryan is an Integral Coach, consultant and musician based in Northern California. Read more of his writing and learn about his offerings on his website

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The post Opening the Heart Relaxes the Mind appeared first on New Ventures West.

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Grief can blindside and disorient the people directly affected—and those who wish to support them. In this episode Adam speaks with Richard Levi, who facilitates grief support groups and coaches individual clients in grief. He offers some ways we can ready ourselves to join our clients in the abruptly new world that grief often creates.

Resources: 
It’s OK that You’re not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture that Doesn’t Understand, by Megan Devine

Share:

The post Episode 15: Supporting Clients in Grief appeared first on New Ventures West.

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