Practicing a mindset of Stoic Empathy allows you to endure hardship gracefully while maintaining healthy emotional connections with yourself and others.
When I was a young girl, my father used to read me the poem If by Rudyard Kipling, just as his father used to read it to him. The poem was framed above my little bed and was illustrated with all my favorite African animals — a giraffe, an elephant, a lion, a zebra.
After receiving heartbreaking news from the doctor a few weeks ago, I found myself Googling Kipling in need of his poem’s wisdom. The beginning of the second stanza stood out to me:
How do we stay grounded in times of crisis? When everything is shifting beneath us, keeping ourselves calm and connected is one of the biggest challenges that we face in life.
A while back I went to hear a talk by the esteemed psychic Laura Day. She’s authored a legion of best-selling books, including Practical Intuition, and is employed by companies and governments around the world to help intuit the future. She’s tall and striking and has an unmistakable mystique about her. I was in awe of her energy.
After her talk concluded, she walked by me in the theater, stopped, put her hand on my forehead and said, “You my dear, you need to become more grounded.”
Giving advice rarely helps people, instead it makes them defensive and self-doubting. Instead we need to learn how to provide real support to those we care about.
Change is tough.
Life may be in a constant state of flux, but when it comes to ourselves, our lives, our relationships, and our habits, change can be one of the hardest things to pull off. Plenty of people out there — spouses especially — will tell you that humans fundamentally can’t change or at least won’t change. As the old adage goes, “A leopard can’t change his spots.”
Stop dealing with stress through control and start reducing it through connecting to your authentic self.
Nothing lasts forever — not even stress. No matter how intense a problem or how significant a challenge, life moves on eventually. This too shall pass, as the Sufi poets taught us.
Of course, understanding the inherent ephemerality of life does little for us when we’re in the thick of a problem. All things may be temporary, but stress sure does feel permanent when it sinks its teeth in. It doesn’t matter what we do or how hard we try, we can’t seem to shake it. The stress, the challenge, the problem sticks around.
It’s not about denying your innate exposure, it’s about leveraging it for success.
There is no denying that by nature we are vulnerable. As human beings and social creatures, we are naturally open to attack and capable of being hurt. But it is also true that by nature we don’t want to be attacked or hurt. As a result we find we’re always doing all we can to protect ourselves and hide what we see as our weakness.
Herein lies the vulnerability paradox. To be innately vulnerable while denying our vulnerability seems to be what is at the heart of being human, and more so, of being a leader.
The more we deny our vulnerability, the less influence we have on the world, the people around us, and ourselves. The more we hide away from what makes us feel uncomfortable, the less fulfillment and connection we experience.
It’s not about right or wrong but about finding the best path forward with what you know.
Decisions, decisions, decisions.
Every day we make hundreds of them. What outfit to wear. When and where to go for lunch. How to word that important email. We make so many decisions so frequently that for the most part we’re not even aware of the decision-making process. It’s intuitive, quick and pain-free.
But as we move through life, inevitably some decisions arise that feel neither quick nor easy. They dig in and take root in our brains and our hearts and force us into a state of turmoil, often for weeks, months or even years at a time. The more we think about them, the less clear the path forward seems. Easy answers elude us. Trade-offs and trip-ups lurk everywhere.
Rarely do we solve problems by staring at a screen. Our best ideas come when we step away and look out - when we daydream. Here's some steps to do so.
Riding the subway home the other day I caught myself daydreaming. It was a wonderful feeling. The rattling of the train, the faces and the sounds around me ... all of them slipped away as my brain turned in on itself. I felt my ideas start to wander. I felt the joy of discovery, watching where my brain roamed free of my own judgement, free to just be.
I used to daydream all the time. I was known for it back in high school in Australia. I remember sitting cross-legged in a circle of girlfriends. Everyone would be talking and I would zone out. My friends knew the look — my gaze went distant, my eyes stopped blinking.