As I researched, prepared and delivered a couple of webinars on authentic leadership over the last two months, a topic that has been on my mind a lot is defining what motivates the most effective leaders to lead in the way they do. Human behavior has been a fascination of mine throughout my career, and lately I have been analyzing and understanding how those leaders lead differently and what influences their behaviors. What I discovered is what I’ve always suspected – that a person’s unique life story and, more importantly, the awareness they have about who they are, where they come from and what has influenced their life, is what generates their inner calling and motivates them to have the biggest impact they can on the lives of others.
Every one of us has a unique life story which is defined by the lessons we’ve learned from our family, friends, teachers, and other influencers, the culture in which we grew up, our inner desires, and – most importantly – the experiences we have gone through in our lives. However, it is really the challenges and most difficult times we confront that leave the biggest mark on our lives. These major life events manifest in different ways such as tragedy, sickness, the loss of a loved one, addiction, the ending of a relationship, the loss of a job, or something else that really shakes up our lives. When we overcome any of those challenges, we learn invaluable life lessons and, in many instances, we see a deep inner desire sparked within us to do things differently based on that unique experience or event. In fact, it is those experiences, in combination with the identity that defined us up to that point, that deeply shapes or even changes who we become after going through them.
What separates authentic leaders from the rest of us, is that they are self-aware individuals, able to understand the challenges that changed the course and story of their lives and why they were called upon to apply the lessons learned for the benefit of others. In other words, they accept that their major life challenges happened for them, and not to them, and with this attitude, they extrapolate the uniqueness of their experience without remaining stuck in a victim’s mindset. Thus, the biggest differentiator of authentic leaders is that their life story serves as the basis for the type of leader they have become and the difference they want to make in their world.
So, to identify our deeper calling we just need to take the time to truly examine all aspects of ourselves, identify the most important events or experiences that marked our lives, accept that those challenges needed to happen, embrace who we became in the process, and learn the necessary lessons that came with them. The key then to finding our calling lies in understanding what is that deep desire that was born from having lived the experiences we lived, which manifests as the desire to do something to keep others from suffering in the same way we did, to provide some type of relief to those suffering, or to help others learn how to overcome a similar adversity to the ones we survived.
I have done a lot of learning, reading and self-reflection to understand where, why, and how my life got derailed, and that has helped me recognize my own unique life story. I came to the realization six years ago that I had lived my life based on others’ expectations of me. That my life-long subconscious search for my mother’s love and respect had made me pursue everything I thought she respected and valued. I am of course grateful to my mother for teaching me to be a strong visionary, to persevere and overcome challenges, and to never give up on my goals. However, the truth is that those career and business aspirations were ego-driven goals that I pursued in order to gain the respect I wanted from her and others, but they were not inner goals from my heart. Realizing that I had wasted so much effort to live up to someone else’s expectations brought a lot of pain and sadness, but it also sparked in me a new calling that came directly from my heart – that I needed to serve those living life on someone else’s terms, as I once was, by guiding them on how to find clarity and alignment with their inner dreams and desires, so that they can bring forth inner strength and motivation to create a life of joy and operate at their highest potential.
Have you ever thought about WHY you do what you do? I invite you to self-reflect, discover and become aware of the defining challenge(s) or event(s) that marked your life. Then think about the desires that were sparked within you. Real happiness is based on fulfilling our true calling and on aligning what we do for a living with the difference we want to make in the lives of others. When you know your purpose, your inner calling, you’ll be able to lead authentically and impact the world in ways you never thought possible.
To your success!