My work as a coach, consultant, social entrepreneur, and as an athlete has been hyperfocused on performance. People and organizations alike all over the world come to me to help them reach their “full potential,” or optimize it at a minimum. They come to me to help them through the journey of change and transformation, whether that be for themselves or their team of thousands. They want to learn techniques, processes, leadership styles, and habits to help them in this quest for optimizing their performance at every level. Yet, after nearly two decades of doing this work, and in reflecting on my own spiritual journey and personal transformation, I understand that reaching your full potential simply means living your truth. It’s just never been sold to us that way.
The most courageous thing we’ll ever do in our lives is be our true self, and live our full authentic expression.
The most courageous thing we’ll ever do in our lives is be our true self, and live our full authentic expression. Each breath we take is an opportunity to sink deeper into that possibility. Sitting, breathing, sinking into stillness, a new portal opens with every inhale and exhale. The tension, worries, fears, doubts, joys, identity, anticipation we might have brought to our practice get to take a rest for those mindful moments we choose to take. One of the many benefits of meditation is that it connects us with truth: the truth of the present moment and truth of our own being—where we are no one and no thing. We can experience our true essence.
Seeking the Truth is a Journey
The day-to-day pace of life of modern society makes it so that we spend most of our time unconnected to our state of being and caught up in a state of doing. In the state of doing, our subconscious can lead freely with old beliefs and programs that might not even be ours to begin with. I think back to many years of running on autopilot with dreams that were sold to me as a young girl, telling me what would lead to happiness and success. Those dreams were even prescriptive in the sequential order they were meant to happen—finish college, get a “great” job, get married, get more degrees, have babies, and buy a house. At 27, I had my hard awakening moment: This formula was not mine or meant for me at the time, or even an automatic ticket to happiness. This realization was perhaps the beginning of a truth-seeking journey that included questioning what “reaching our full potential” might mean. What I found is that our full potential is not defined by what we do or what we have, or some arbitrary measure of success. It is realized when we can fully step into the truth of who we are–our wild truth. It is a state of being and expression not defined by any exterior source. All the accomplishments in the world can’t be the defining factor.
When our full potential is not being realized—when you start to see breakdowns in performance, motivation, collaboration, and beyond on an individual level and organizational level—these all can easily tie back to people being misaligned with their truth. Just as mindfulness is a practice, so is connecting with our truth in a way that allows us to actually live and speak it in our everyday lives. It takes a tremendous amount of determination and courage to put into practice, as not everyone is going to like your truth, especially if it disrupts the status quo and the autopilot mode so many operate in regularly. I’ve learned this the hard way many times over in my career and life. The good thing is, like a muscle, it is something that grows stronger with practice and becomes less difficult to do over time.
When our full potential is not being realized—when you start to see breakdowns in performance, motivation, collaboration, and beyond on an individual level and organizational level—these all can easily tie back to people being misaligned with their truth.
As humans, we want to connect, belong, and generally be liked. This can be what makes having a practice of connecting and actually expressing our truth a big challenge. Speaking my truth and seeing every day as a new opportunity to actually live it has been a core value, especially since my late twenties, when I had a big realization that the life I had worked so hard to build up until then was misaligned to my truth and in need of a total reset. Having this core value and practice has led me to have the courage to follow my dreams despite obstacles, as well as the courage to leave jobs, organizations, and relationships that no longer served me or were misaligned. The beauty in embracing this all personally is that it’s given others the courage to speak and live their own truth as well, or at least embark on the journey.
Like Mindfulness, Truth-Seeking is a Practice
Living your truth in practice can have its challenges as I’ve shared and requires total self-awareness. Last year, I was faced with one of my greatest leadership challenges when I made the decision to step down as board chair for a nonprofit organization due to a misalignment with my truth and core values. What I witnessed and experienced in the organization as a woman of color was unacceptable and really left me no option but to go. I wholeheartedly did the best I could in my capacity to be of service, help bring major issues to light, provide a path to resolution, and create space for those difficult and unwelcome conversations with compassion, despite the underlying pain I was experiencing. In the end, there was not a willingness to implement the changes so desperately needed, or even to acknowledge the need itself. The time came when the only way to speak and embody my truth meant choosing to part ways.
The thing is, as I was reminded, I cannot make other people change, I cannot make others shift their mindset and perspective, and I cannot take away people’s unconscious bias, or make them agree or see eye-to-eye with my truth. Each of us can only encourage, inform, and serve as an example. Our duty as leaders and as individuals is to express our truth, listen, and reflect. We cannot force our truth and values on others—it just doesn’t work that way. Eventually, if there is a major misalignment, there will either be a voluntary shift, a change, or a departure.
Our duty as leaders and as individuals is to express our truth, listen, and reflect. We cannot force our truth and values on others—it just doesn’t work that way.
Embodying our truth can also lead us on a journey of pursuing our dreams, forming deep connections with others, and discovering opportunities that are in total alignment. When people can connect with their truth with total awareness, it can serve as the best guide to determine where to invest more time and energy, and where we might need to take a pause for now. Our truth expression can serve as an act of liberation– allowing us to no longer be held back by the confines of values and ways of doing that no longer serve us, or never did to begin with.
I think back to many points in my life where I was not aligned with my truth and found myself searching and reaching for some arbitrary version of living my life’s full potential. It was exhausting and depleting. With a practice of mindfulness, I slowly started making my way back home to my own truth and myself. I gave myself the permission to let go of all that was, to welcome all that could be. The power of saying NO gave space and continues to give space to more wonderful opportunities to say YES to. We live in times that demand truth, your truth, not complacency, mediocrity, or status quo living. Now is our opportunity to wake up to the truth of who we are and our highest potential.
6 Ways to Practice Connecting with Your Truth
1) Connect with Your Truth
Full disclosure: This is a life process, not something one article will guide you through. It starts with giving yourself the opportunity to actually connect with the deepest part of yourself without the noise and demands of daily living. Meditation is a powerful tool, as are yoga, journaling, mindful walking, and breathing. Our true nature is always alive within us no matter how buried it might have become. Spending time in nature can also bring us back to our true nature. These pauses and moments of inner connection allow us to explore what is there underneath it all.
We can consciously or unconsciously choose to live disconnected from our truth. Only with awareness can we drive change.
2) Giving Yourself Permission to Share
Like anything, willingness is a critical component to put something into action. So one must be willing to step courageously into sharing our truth and expressing it fully. Depending on the setting and situation, some sharing might be easier than others. Once we are fully in tune and aligned with our truth, this step actually becomes easier over time.
I want to acknowledge that different cultures may be more or less accepting of this, especially when you factor in gender roles, etc. This becomes a very fine balance, as freedom of expression and speech does not look the same around the world. Allowing ourselves to express our truth with our words, actions, and decision-making is an incredibly liberating experience that not only benefits ourselves, but others. You see, when you have the courage to express your truth in whatever way you choose, it also gives permission for others to do the same. It starts to create a new standard that is grounded in celebrating and sharing our truth, beyond habits and customs. Being a part of that overall shift is extremely rewarding.
3) Get Comfortable with the Discomfort
Sharing our truth can either invite an increased sense of belonging in certain settings or groups, while the complete opposite in others. It will be important to be able to sit with the discomfort and allow space for it. As a leader, being able to have uncomfortable conversations is necessary as both a skill and a gift. It is also important to reflect on whether it is actually comfortable to go along with situations that do not align with our truth to begin with. These situations can lead to other feelings, such as lack of fulfillment, and not feeling seen or valued. When fully connected to your truth, you may find that trying to be something that you are not is actually more uncomfortable and difficult than speaking your truth, even though it might not be well received. Numerous studies show the benefits of diversity in organizations and societies. We can thrive with our differences, uniqueness, and chosen forms of expression.
4) Respond Versus React
Mindfulness is a wonderful practice to help us be more responsive versus reactive in day-to-day life. It is something we can lean on when our truth is not welcomed or when the truth of others causes discomfort within us. It is an opportunity to pause and reflect on what feelings, thoughts, and emotions are arising. We can give ourselves space to process and then determine the next step. When something triggers us, we always have a choice as to how we respond.
Last year came with a lot of triggers, especially as a leader of this nonprofit organization. So much pain and disappointment as a result of unconscious bias, as well as blatant discrimination, came up for me and the many times I had had to experience it in my lifetime. Being in a leadership position and still not being able to bring a resolution also came with more pain and disappointment and feelings of not only letting myself down, but other women like me. It took everything in me to pause, reflect, and then write my observations and recommendations after each incident. I knew reacting and getting into heated conversations was not the way through. For any hope of change in the future, documentation and reflection was key. When faced with triggering environments, it is also important to be compassionate with oneself and create space and distance when necessary.
5) Know Your Boundaries
Your connection with your truth helps you set unshakable boundaries. It helps life be in less of a limbo state, status-quo state, or as I like to say, a “sleep-walking” state. Your boundaries help you wake up in situations that seem off. Knowing your boundaries is incredible for decision-making, for all individuals and certainly for leaders. When you are so in-tune with your values and truth, you will struggle less to compromise to things, people, or situations that do not serve you or align with your highest and best good.
Ultimately, it was my connection to my truth and knowing my boundaries that helped me make a really tough decision and know when to walk away. I do not stand for any kind of discrimination, or with organizations that continue to consciously repeat the same behaviors that bring harm and pain to others. Making a decision to depart has given me my time and energy back to serve organizations that both see my value and walk their talk. We all have an opportunity to revisit our boundaries and be sure our decisions are aligned with them.
6) Hold Onto Compassion
When we experience emotions like pain, frustration, anger, resentment, it is easy to lash out and give back a dose of what we might be experiencing. Mindfulness again helps us stay connected to compassion. Compassion can look like a willingness to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and then try to be a part of the solution and understanding. We all carry our wounds; I have just shared some of mine. So in our practice of sharing our truth and being receptive to the truth of others, we can listen and respond with compassion as much as possible. Let’s remember that hate does not drown out hate, love does. This is really hard to put into practice, as sometimes we are not being shown the compassion we are willing to give. Just like we cannot change or force anyone to be, do, act, or think a certain way, we can only be responsible for ourselves and act from a place we will not regret down the road.
Waking up to ourselves and our truth is a profound form of self-empowerment and freedom, not only for ourselves, but as we give others the courage to do the same. As I reflect on so many of the greatest challenges impacting our organizations and our world today, I know a practice of connecting to our truth is part of the solution.