I am being featured on a great travel writing website today, the Rollerbag Goddess! The Rollerbag Goddess gave me some interesting interview questions — it was quite fun. It’s a good read for your Friday. Please do head over there and give it some love: “Featured RBG: Chandra Sherin…“
Ethical Leadership for all, and shifting our thoughts and actions in healthier, empowering ways that last
CS Sherin, August 27, 2019
After I earned my MA degree in Servant Leadership in the Spring of 2006, one of the major lessons that stayed with me was the understanding that real change — the kind that is ethical and accountable, the kind that lasts — does not happen overnight — it takes time. For an ethical leader (and the average person seeking to change destructive habits and live more ethically), this means being dedicated to the best possible outcome and positive impacts for all involved. It also means caring more about long-term results than about immediate satisfaction. This requires thoughtful, engaged patience, and an understanding of the time and timing required for real, lasting change to be established and maintained over time.
Impatience, shortcuts, quantity over quality, greed, abuse of power and control, and leaning on loopholes and convenience ultimately degrade long-term progress, health, and sustainability. Although we may enjoy and see short-term progress by doing these things — in most cases, that kind of progress won’t last, and if it does, it will be riddled with compromises and harm to health, esteem, ethics, and healthy communication and systems.
For example, when we first bring a fish home to the aquarium, there may be an impatient desire to get the new fish into the aquarium right away. If we give in to that selfish impatience without gradually acclimating the fish to the new water and temperature, the fish can go into shock, become injured, sick, and/or die. Sometimes the shock and subsequent illness or injury from that initial impatience won’t be immediately visible — it may happen days later or a month later, but the harm was done. Taking the 30 minutes to 2 hours or longer, that a new fish may need to acclimate to the new environment makes all the difference.
So it is with cutting corners to achieve something — it can give the satisfaction of visual completion and short term satisfaction, but at what ultimate cost to integrity, quality, health, and future ability to thrive?
We also need to make space in order to fully evaluate and receive feedback on current: needs, communication, delegation, processes for feedback, efficiency, transparency; and inclusivity of processes, systems, and structures.
At the same time we need to take the time to evaluate ourselves (as leader, or leader of one’s own life) alongside the work, project, team, and/or organization. Ultimately, we cannot administrate, manage, or lead effectively — we cannot change destructive habits, and systemic problems — until we have addressed ourselves and our own inner workings honestly, and as objectively as possible. No matter how far we’ve come, the need for this practice remains true.
How can we, as ethical leaders/individuals, best serve our purpose, the people we work with, our teams and/or those in our care?
The leader sets the tone. The leader establishes what is acceptable and not acceptable by: tone, actions, style, methods, policies, presence, and follow-through. To effect real, positive, lasting change we must be willing to do the kind of work and collaboration that establishes new pathways in place of familiar, comfortable, dysfunctional ones. We must be willing to see systemic privilege, and to see past assumptions that run on autopilot.
The ethical leader asks, “How can I best serve my purpose, my employees, clients, and/or customers now, and for the long haul?” and “How can I create a healthy, thriving system that is sustainable, transparent, and ethical for the long haul?” The real answers require extra effort, time, and resources. The real answers also include knowing the importance of creating effective teams, supporting them, delegating with clarity, and then walking away with trust and knowing. Then, being free to address the big picture issues while the details are left in capable hands that report back.
There are many steps involved in getting to that point. Yet, the results? The results may not be evident right away. It depends on how healthy or not healthy things are to begin with. Yet, the payoff for long-term transformational change is: greater satisfaction, productivity, creativity with better results, and a system of collaboration that is strong and can last.
But how do we get there? We have to start with ourselves. All of this is applicable to each of us. We are the ethical leaders of our lives, or not. We are the administrators of our lifestyles and habits.
When we keep our standards high and inspiring, we have motivation to do better: personally, independently, and in collaboration. When we instill standards of healthy communication and effective, responsive accountability and pathways for it — we begin to build lasting systems for positive change. Even if we need to work quickly with intense deadlines, there are still ways to implement systems within culture and operations that are ultimately healthier, refreshing, sustainable, and invigorating for the long haul. We simply must stop and take the time to establish them, so that intense deadlines become an enjoyable, exciting challenge rather than hellish and draining.
All of this is applicable to each of us. We are the ethical leaders of our lives, or not. We are the administrators of our lifestyles and habits.
In the face of challenges and setbacks, the patience to grow real lasting change remains a core value for the ethical leader. The big picture is not lost, the big goal is kept central during setbacks. And, core motivation includes knowing that: facilitating healthy restoration of systems eventually translates into returns and legacies of lasting value. In this same way, each of us may apply these values and practices, in order to navigate and wield the authority of leadership for our own lives, and increasingly, in the best ways possible.
Begin With Yourself: Understanding Habits
This approach and these lessons are adaptable and applicable for most everyone. But where to start? We want to begin the long, demanding, and worthwhile, rewarding path by being aware of and changing our own habits and autopilot blind assumptions/norms. By beginning this process on the personal level, we may then effectively respond to changing needs, emergency situations, and a troubled human world and Environment in flux.
To do this, we must first grasp what habit really is. Creating a habit demands a considerable investment of our time and energy. Much like Artificial Intelligence requires tons of data in order to learn, grow and operate well — human habits are also established by tons of repetition and concerted effort in order to become autopilot functions.
“Habit” is defined as: “something done often and regularly; a behavior or action repeated regularly so as to have become automatic.” Some synonyms for habit include: routine, pattern/norm. The idiom, to be “on automatic pilot” can be defined as: “completing a task without awareness or thinking because it has been repeated so many times that the function is automatic.” With autopilot in this sense, the meaning also connotes a degree of unconscious, mindless behavior.
Many parts of operating and driving a vehicle become habitual — we go on autopilot with many aspects of driving. We also operate with a good measure of trust for the maps in our memories that help us to navigate in the area in which we live without much, if any, thought. It is much the same in navigating and operating within our homes and at work each day. Some of us have mental memory maps so well-defined and subtly present in our neural pathways that we can even walk with our eyes closed (or in the dark) and find our way around the house (or neighborhood) with little to no problems.
In “Primal Leadership” by Daniel Goleman, the author explains how habits form strong, rigid neural pathways in the brain. These pathways are solid and resistant to change. Yet, the author reported, it was discovered that those pathways can be altered and changed — however, it takes a lot of conscious effort and persistence to succeed in doing this. Repetition is the key to creating a habit (healthy, neutral, or destructive) and to set a more fixed pathway in the brain, and therefore, in one’s life. Anyone who has developed a somewhat destructive habit can attest to the effort and determination required in order to alter that habit.
Inner Peace Matters
One necessary component for making change that lasts is to achieve a complete sense of resolve about the change that is needed.
A resolute belief or motivation is the fuel that transforms a habit. Being free of any conflicting feelings or beliefs regarding the needed change is quite necessary, in order for any of the effort to succeed for the long-term. If even a quarter of our mind and/or heart is conflicted about changing the habit, the effort will most likely fail in the long-term. Most often, it would happen via subconscious and subtle sabotage, or a very conscious and clear defeated or jaded attitude.
People may turn to hypnotism and visualizations to undo self-sabotaging behavior that is resistant to the desire to change. Sometimes this is successful, sometimes it isn’t. Deep down, the knots must be untangled, with visualization and hypnotism, or through other methods and modalities. However it is done, the deeper issues of conflicted feelings, thoughts and beliefs regarding the habit must be found, faced, and resolved consciously.
Psychologists often say that a bad habit often continues because a person is gaining something from it, even when they say they want to stop. Perhaps an unconscious bit of the person likes the negative attention, or ties it to something learned in childhood. Sometimes, there is a hidden sentimentality, judgment, pride, or sense of entitlement attached, no matter how veiled. Whatever it is, we have to be willing to face and evaluate our own inner workings and inner saboteur as we seek to change habits and lifestyle for the better. It is essential that we search our own thoughts and feelings regarding any needed change that must take place. Right along with this searching, is prioritizing time to process issues, and to begin to enter into the needed change with deeper resolve.
During and after that, asking for feedback from honest and trusted others is also important. It is important to choose to hear feedback from those who will tell the truth, not what we want to hear — yet also those who care about us and want us to succeed in these positive changes. In this way, we gain perspective and new ideas. It is an ongoing practice of transparency and accountability — first in relationship to self, and then to others. Here is an example for perspective. Please read it both literally and figuratively:
I have moved into two different houses where the yards needed restoration. The first had been treated by pesticides for years, but had fertile soil, and lots to work with. It took about three years for the yard to fully recover — and became a thriving oasis of native plants and a refuge for wildlife. The second also had been treated for pesticides at one time, and the soil was greatly depleted and mostly sand. This yard has taken longer to recover, and still can’t fully recover without amending the soil. A big leap to lushness and progress was not evident until five years had passed. That being said, I am no expert in restoring yards, and I do the little by little approach in that regard. Additionally, this second yard hasn’t been a main priority like the other was. In aiming to restore the second yard — without expertise, or a lot of dedicated time, or a lot of invested money/resources — the long term results took longer.
Someone once told me that when they moved in to their new house, their yard had been treated yearly with pesticides as well. They took an intensive approach, investing resources into immediate change that would improve year after year. They had all the grass removed and planted clover as a ground cover instead of grass. This ground cover is organic and provides food for bees, and requires little, if any mowing.
While I didn’t immediately invest in overall change for the second yard, I did effect overall change in one way. Without pesticides and herbicides involved, I was able to allow pollinator ground cover to take over naturally. This took longer, yet it worked well. I allowed the plantain, clover, violets, and dandelions to spread, while planting native plants, and allowing them to propagate naturally as well.
Consciously Changing Habits
In committing to needed change through ongoing self-reflection regarding thoughts, choices, and habits — we will be able to maintain a vivid and thriving approach that is more in tune with current and changing needs and realities. In addition, we are then able to be in tune more authentically to who we are, and who we are becoming. This can serve to boost confidence, mood, and motivation. This also then, translates into new ways of approaching leadership, management, care, and facilitation for others.
Our thoughts, once observed, reveal much. In observing and evaluating our thoughts, we see, little by little, or all at once — what we have left to autopilot each day. Most likely some of it will be unwanted, outdated, and perhaps even counter-productive to our well-being and most desired goals for life and work. Some of it may not even really be ours, but expectations and distorted voices that belong to other people (from the past or present), and that were put upon us. We can take that weight off once it is observed for what it really is.
After we make progress personally — re-shaping, discarding, and transforming some of our thoughts and habits — the ongoing approach remains the same. We begin by observing and evaluating our thoughts and actions each day. We maintain a list of questions for ongoing self-evaluation check-ins. Are we:
Contributing to positive long-term goals with our daily thoughts, habits, and actions?
Noticing and consciously choosing which thoughts are maintained?
Happy with our personal process and the results?
Noticing and addressing details, feelings, needs, inspiration? or ignoring them?
Noticing harmful elements, ingredients, or dynamics? or ignoring them?
Making the most of the choices available each day?
Allowing ourselves to remain in a rut of looped thoughts?
Allowing ourselves new options, new thoughts, new approaches?
With ongoing discernment regarding our thoughts, habits, and daily actions — we are instilling healthy, conscious pathways that can better empower ourselves and others. Another example for this process is my book, Recipe For A Green Life. It is a complete guidebook for this kind of holistic process, focusing on lifestyle and sustainability.
All of this requires a dedication to some amount of life-long learning. Finding pleasant ways to maintain interest and curiosity regarding the “who, what, when, where, how, and why” of anything we are choosing and putting our energy into is most helpful. Personal choices (at home, at work, and beyond) — from the smallest, and most overlooked, to the biggest — all matter, to some degree, and at some level. Start small, start big — start however this all works best for you, and continue in whatever ways and at the pace that allows you to keep going in the right direction. Consistently showing up in this way helps us to more easily stay current and healthy, and more primed to facilitate the process for others too.
It can be, and is important that we share our process and discoveries (when we can, and as appropriate) with straightforward honesty, integrity, and reasonable kindness. Sometimes the truth is ugly though. Do we wrap it in kindness? Whenever possible, yes. Still, absolute gentleness at all times is not possible or realistic. There are exceptional times when even kind honesty can feel harsh. And there are times when being too kind and too forgiving is a disservice to ourselves and others.
The standard mode of operation for the ethical leader is: to establish trust with honesty, that is upheld by integrity and kindness. Even better, if that honesty, integrity and kindness is accompanied by impartial ethics and wisdom, which remain unswayed by status or privilege. Being a truth-teller can make us very lonely at times, especially when others are playing games, and don’t want to play fair or to be healthy. However, as a leader, being a truth-teller is the highest calling. And ultimately, that is rewarded with connections and teams of integrity and advanced skills. That is what takes us to the next level. And, that is why the ethical leader must be a truth-teller — and with values for kindness, integrity, and impartial wisdom at the helm. This comes from having lived it — by having the ongoing practice of self-evaluation that creates the integrity in the first place.
By dedicating ourselves to this considerable, yet worthwhile and rewarding effort, we make progress in real time, and that grants us a warranted hope in momentum and strength, which is gained by right action.
May we all go forward more mindfully, shifting to more healthy, productive habits and leadership on all levels. May these new and healthier collective thoughts, habits, and right actions increase exponentially, and dynamically contribute to a great healing and new positive pathways for the future and all life on Earth.
Some news to report, and then the main thought for the end of summer….
The end of a huge project:
It is the end of Summer here in the Midwest of the US, and here I am to update you on all the news here at Wild Clover. I have been absent from my posts both here and at the Recipe For A Green Life blog. The reason? Last week saw the completion of the second edition of my book, Recipe For A Green Life: A Holistic Sustainable Living Handbook & Recipe Book, written by me, edited by Charish Badzinski (who also wrote an amazing Foreword), and published by Wild Clover Press. For those who don’t know about this, or are confused, here is the genesis of this huge project, summarized:
January 2016 — I wrote and released a draft publication called, A Green Lifestyle Recipe Book (paperback, 5.5×8.5, 135 pages, ISBN: 978-0-692-58700-3).
Shortly after that was published, I found an amazing editor to take that draft publication to the next level.
May of 2017 — Recipe For A Green Life was published (paperback, 7×10, first edition, 470 pages, ISBN: 978-0-692-79614-6).
After the paperback was published I pursued getting it into E-book format. There were a lot of challenges to that, (a year’s worth) which I won’t get into here, but that led to the next big step…
May of 2018 — Recipe For A Green Life: A Holistic Sustainable Living Handbook & Recipe Book, 2nd edition premiered in E-book format.
And finally, August of 2018 — the second edition of Recipe For A Green Life: A Holistic Sustainable Living Handbook & Recipe Book (7×10, 2nd edition, 488 pages, ISBN: 978-0-692-11083-6) was released in paperback with a new cover and all the updates!
That was the biggest, most demanding project I have ever worked on! 10,000s+ of hours went into it, over-time without pay, and many things I have passion to do went on the back burner for so long. Making note of these facts, I looked at the result–what I accomplished, and I feel it was worth it! It has been pure joy and relief to be done with the writing, research, editing, formatting, and publishing for this huge undertaking. Saying I am really pleased with the final outcome and what the book has become is an understatement. It isn’t perfect, but it is the best I could possibly do, and it is done! 🙂
A Key To Greater Fulfillment
It’s all in your mind, body, and present moment
Sometimes hearing someone state the obvious can be annoying. Other times, hearing someone state the obvious can be a revelation, which awakens us to a simple truth we somehow lost sight of. The details and harried pace of life too often push us into unnatural and unhealthy positions, both physically, mentally, and emotionally. We spend our days at a pace and itinerary that we may not really want or choose, despite our gifts for scheduling and pacing ourselves.
It is the old trick of life: we make plans, pursue our goals, work hard, do our best, and then life happens to us, again and again. And life doesn’t care in the least that we had plans, great plans. Life has other ideas, and they are often bigger and stronger than ours.
So much of life is what we didn’t plan, didn’t intend, don’t want, or didn’t know we wanted — and it shows up, trashing our idealized path forward. Maybe because of this, with the pressures of daily obligations and duty added in, we lose sight of simple truths, which can free us anew. Those simple truths grant us breathing room that ushers in more flexibility and adaptability, and healthier, well-rooted positions — as we keep moving towards worthy goals.
Stating the obvious as a revelation goes something like this: The present moment, today, is all we ever have. We don’t “have” the past or the future.
The past and future are both alive to some extent in our thoughts and being, but what we really truly “have” is each moment.
What is happening now? What isn’t happening now?
What isn’t happening now can be obvious, yet still lost on a frantic mind. In fact, when I was in therapy many years ago to treat the PTSD I was experiencing, it wasn’t the therapy that became my major breakthrough to relief and greater wellness. It was claiming over and over again the obvious fact that — even though my brain kept flashing back to the trauma — that wasn’t what was happening now.
When my brain got caught on a loop of worry, stress, or anxiety, my mind was manufacturing more stress, and I wasn’t able to center myself or really deal with all the emotions. Not, until I dedicated myself to returning to the present moment, using my breath to manage and release built-up stress. In meditation the idea is: to clear the mind, focus on reality without attachment, and stick to simple truths and facts, like breath. I am breathing. That is a fact. It happens without my effort. It brings me health and life. Breathing in certain ways, from deep in the belly, for example, helps to relieve stress and release stuck emotions and physical tension. Breathing in peace and relaxation, and breathing out fear and worry, becomes a way to come back — to be fully present in the moment. Getting all the mental and emotional obstacles out of the way, then we can actively build on a present, open, relaxed, more adaptable mental state.
It is important to grow and nurture a particular awareness. That is the part of our consciousness that observes our own self breathing. This is the same part of our consciousness that observes the thoughts we are having, or the fact that we are scattering in and out of meditation time because of distractions. It is a quiet, matter of fact, kind, yet neutral awareness. Connecting with that part of ourselves is key.
The conscious observer within harbors zero judgement, reactivity or worry. The quiet, peaceful observer within is the part of our being that is a key to true wealth, which is inner peace and freedom to be.
The part of us that is able to observe and name thoughts or feelings passing by without affect is: inner peace, the voice of reason, the deeper self that recognizes that we possess nothing (except our own being), and have no real security (everything changes, there are always things out of our control), and that being aware and present is the greatest power and asset we have in this life. In meditation the inner observer names what it observes rather than fighting, resisting, or holding on to a thought. That is worry. That is fear. That is a random thought. It is able to simply recognize it and observe it passing through. No hooks, no snares, no traps.
Probably most of the stress and problems that we dwell on and sometimes create in our thoughts are happening now. The difficult part of life in the era we exist in, is that we know what is happening in our city, state, country, and world daily and weekly.
When we carry that awareness with us, it can be too-heavy of a burden to process. We cannot fully process or answer to all the world’s conflicts and tragedies at once, in a day, week, month, or year.
The meditative practice of letting go and clearing the mind — in order to connect with a deeper consciousness within (that is synced with the present moment) — is the most healthy and dynamic action we can take, for our own health and for those around us. It can lead to solutions that we may never have opened to otherwise. It can release and relieve us from oppressive, unnecessary worry and fear.
What is happening now, in this moment?
Right now, when I am first writing this, I hear a migrating bird singing a really sweet little tune outside, and it is a cold dreary day in the Driftless region. My fingers are a bit cold. I hear my cat in the window looking at the bird. I hear the sound of my fingers on the keyboard. I feel my breath growing shallow as I focus on writing, and I remember to take a deep breath from my belly. As I do, I feel the tension leave my upper chest, that is still faintly present, from a cold virus that is mostly gone. That is all there is to be with, and deal with now.
Each now is different.
Each now depends on each of us.
If you have the power and mobility to do something for someone else, and you have the energy and many resources as well, then your present moment includes a longer reach than many in this world. Best to connect with that deeper self as much as possible to make the most of it! When we are relaxed and centered we can make better decisions and more efficient and meaningful actions.
Checking in and remaining present in the now tunes us in to reality, and realities, around and within us. It plugs us in to: inspiration and connections that we couldn’t have accessed when we were lost in endless mental loops of worry, fear, blame, anger, self-consciousness, past memories, future aims, etc.
For many of us, the present moment is breathing, being, and responding to what is in the space around us in the best ways possible, or taking a break to find space within, in order to respond or begin responding when we are really ready.
The Most Valuable Currency We Possess
Being fully present in the current moment means we are contributing our most precious and valuable currency in this life — our presence.
Our personal resources consist of: time, energy, and presence — primarily. We each have unique contributions to make, yet we all have those foundational currencies in common.
Personal resources are personal forms of currency. This includes health, values, and well-being.
What are we giving our personal currency, our presence, to? Self, loved ones, friends, clients, animal companions, nature, the phone, social media, or…something else? Or, are we really present very much at all? Are we distracted, lost in thought?
The best we can do is to refresh ourselves and our presence regularly, so that we are able to contribute to our lives and others’ in the best and most effective ways possible.
Reality of the present moment can often mean that all we have energy for is a meal and a nap.
We are animals too. We human animals have to find a balance of need, want, creating, and being
For those who depend on us, we have an added responsibility to really be present at important times. The gift of presence isn’t just our thoughts, feelings, or physical body. It is all of those, and none of those dominating. Presence is without judgement, and is aware. Presence is without overt emotions — compassionate, without enmeshment. Presence is the physical body actually present, but also with complete relaxed attention. Being truly present can usher in amazing movement. No wisdom has to be uttered. Being truly present can be profoundly healing for self and others.
The heart and mind become grounded and saturated in a profound peace as this practice becomes habit. It doesn’t isolate us from reality, it allows us to be grounded and centered enough to deal with reality and difficult changes and feelings. The body is listened to, and can become a beacon of presence.
Putting a stop to unhelpful thoughts running amok happens through observing them without reactivity or judgement. Part of that a thought go after it is named. That takes practice and dedication. It is worth it. For myself, and many other people, spending time in nature and/or with animals connects us immediately with the present moment and grants us access to sometimes hard to find emotions like: joy, gratitude, and unencumbered love — absent of control or ownership.
With practice, it becomes easier for the mind to automatically let go — particularly as we observe the patterns, beauty, and details of nature; or the earnest love and entertainment found in the company of animal companions.
Another easy access to meditation and present moment facilitator is through creativity, like: making soup, baking, washing the dishes, walking/hiking, weeding, and gardening. There is a certain meditative quality to these that assists the mind in letting go and being.
Before PTSD I was able to be present naturally as a child. Most children naturally have this, if they were allowed to. Presence and present moment awareness isn’t alien to us. It is simply that the cultures and systems we grew up in conditioned and programmed us otherwise.
In the deepest of ways, in these times that numb the mind, bear down on the spirit, and break the heart, this practice of being present to the simple truths (being, breathing, observing) and best free tools (breath work, meditation) is essential.
Well, that, and good humor. I always like to remember humor, and music, and movement too. Engaging the senses, movement, and activating humor can help to shake loose stagnant thoughts and feelings too.
Ongoing creativity leads to freedom and wellness. There are many pathways. That is one. Creativity and the present moment are synced, in my experience. We engage creativity when our minds are present and free. And often, we can free our minds through creative action…
For all our lives, the core truth is that: we only have ourselves, our being and body as a constant. Therefore, it is wise to be kind, present and true to self first. In doing this, life and personal goals flow more harmoniously, like creativity in the present moment.
We look forward — to plan, to build, to dream, to meet, to move forward. Looking forward, as long as we are not obsessed, is natural and good, just like looking to the past is. In fact, understanding and remembering the past is essential to moving forward into the future with greater wisdom and health.
We don’t want to get stuck in the past, or be on a repeating loop of unfortunate patterns on into a bleak future.
We do need to make new and different choices. We need to take well-thought out and reasonable risks. We need to make sure that we don’t keep repeating what is comfortable and familiar, just because it is that.
At this time we are being called to remember, learn, be, move forward, act, and create something new. Each moment is an inner and outer now. Be brave enough to release what is getting your way to being true to who you are. But first, learn to clear your mind and connect to your deeper self and deeper knowing.
Beyond this, it is essential to observe and evaluate how you spend your most valuable currency — your presence, time, and energy. Make adjustments. Keep at it. Then, trust the flow of being and creating, and make the most of each now.