My Dad died on 9 July. It was a peaceful and timely departure for him.
His passing made me think about the conversations we had had. He was the strong, silent type so there were few, but each had great significance for me.
The Importance of Challenging Questions
The main conversation that came to mind very vividly was when he found out that you could do an Honours degree in Law. He then challenged me: “Why aren’t you doing Honours?”
I had no answer for him. The next day I went to see the Dean of Law School and asked if I could do Honours. I was duly admitted and later graduated with Honours. This created a turning point for me where I started to put myself forward again.
What Happened When You Were Young?
On reflection, the interesting thing for me was that I had not myself sought to do the very best I could. I had been flying under the radar for many years following an incident on my first day at high school.
I was a country girl attending a private city school. When the best friend of the only girl I knew of, someone who had come from the same town as myself, basically insulted me for doing well in a Maths test on my very first day at the new school, I crept for cover psychologically speaking.
What Life Pattern Emerged as a Result?
From that point onwards, I followed precisely the same pattern. Whenever I started a new course at a new institution, I would actually top the first exam and then fly under the radar from that point on.
In a totally unconscious way, I would study hard to grasp the content, sit the exam and then see where I sat alongside my fellow students. Even though there were no other offensive comments ever, after the first test I just did enough to do well rather than doing my very best.
And I didn’t realize this until a few years ago when I finally saw the pattern. I found myself with a new group of colleagues during the course of my MA in Management Research because I delayed my enrolment in the final paper by a term. So what did I do? I tested myself again against this new cohort and aced the paper.
How Mindful Are You In What You Say?
It’s amazing how a few unconsciously rendered disparaging comments by someone we barely know can create a pattern over a lifetime where we do less than we are capable of.
And how a challenge laid down by someone important to us, someone who cares deeply for us, can encourage us to realize more of our potential.
This is particularly potent to me, as it has been my life purpose, understood and articulated when I was 30 years old, to enable people to realize their potential, and organizations, their aspirations.
What’s The Reactive Pattern In Your Life?
It seems to me that if we review our life for patterns of over and under-achievement, we can find their source in a childhood incident. A situation where we were feeling vulnerable, were hurt emotionally by someone who did not have the conscious awareness to appreciate the emotional impact of their words or actions, and we reacted with our reptilian response of fight or flight.
My predominant reaction is clearly flight. To fly under the radar so that I would not be noticed and therefore not attract nor warrant any offensive remarks.
For others it is to fight, attack being the best form of defence. Again this becomes an unconscious repertoire of the bully who speaks out in a derogatory way, however minor, to acquire the acquiescence of others.
Without positional authority or personal authenticity, we often do not have the wherewithal to stand our ground.
The Value of Guiding Principles
I concluded Dad’s Eulogy by sharing three guiding principles that I believe he would’ve wanted us to know. The first was to do our very best in everything we undertook.
The revelation since for me was that even after I had already recognized my own sabotaging pattern, the guiding principle had only just dawned on me.
Despite the example of my parents in my life who modelled excellence all their lives, I was still undercooking myself. If I had led my life by following the guiding principle, and giving it more attention, more power, than the emotional hurt, perhaps my life experience would have been different.
Without conscious awareness of our reactive pattern or conscious attention to higher guiding principles, we become paralysed in the dynamic in order to stay safe, to stay out of harm’s way. And in the meantime, we undercook our own potential to realize higher aspirations and contribute more meaningfully to the world around us.
The Three Elements that Change Your Life
This dynamic can be overturned if we are challenged by someone more senior or influential to do better, to contribute more, to realize higher goals, provided they also offer us the faith and confidence that we can! Their encouragement is the fuel that ignites our potential.
Second, if we undertake a Life Review to appreciate obsolete patterns of behaviour that do not serve us or others and identify their source, the moment when we were emotionally hurt, they lose their power over us. Once seen, our shadow moves into the light. In other words, once we are consciously aware of our inner psychological drama, we can change the script.
And third, if we articulate and appreciate the guiding principles that will empower us to aspire to our greatest potential to give our best to contribute to the world around us, then our spiritual capacity often has the power to transcend emotional hurt in the moment and save us from unconsciously creating disabling life patterns. This unleashes the power of mindfulness.
The last conversation I had with my Dad is my most treasured and cherished memory of him. We spoke to each other from the soul. While he had already lost much of his former fluency, he was still highly perceptive and was able to share a new truth with me that has since and continues to open up new frontiers in my life. Thank you Dad. I love you. Rest in peace.
- Challenge others to do and give of their best so that they feel encouraged to try. Note that this is not a carrot or stick approach. It is a transcendent approach that seeks to realize their intrinsic latent potential to become more.
- Undertake your own Life Review to identify your own sabotaging patterns. Not just those that undo you – but those that prevent you from becoming all that you can be and give. Then release the hurt and go for gold!
- Articulate the guiding principle that has been thwarted by the reactive pattern. Once this is clearly understood, you will have the mindful focus and the spiritual fuel to enable you to realize your full potential to serve others.
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All the very best,