People say experience is the best teacher, but reflected experience can really reveal so much more. Experience alone teaches you skills and competencies that you can put on your CV, whereas when you honestly dig deep and investigate how your experiences have affected and shaped you, you just might discover more of your true self. Meditation and mindfulness gurus say that everything you know to be true and need, you can find within; we just need to stop searching for the answers outside of ourselves and free ourselves from expectations, limiting beliefs, societal benchmarks for success, and so on – easier said than done! Before I get too spiritual here, I want to say that I don’t think this mindset is only limited to woo-woo circles and can be such a powerful practice for living a more fulfilling and authentic life, regardless of your chosen profession or purpose.
I’ve been a long-time believer in bucking traditional career/life paths and following one’s heart; I wouldn’t be where I am today without having taken a leap of faith in 2010 to pursue something I deeply believed in and felt called to do. But up until earlier this year, I admit I was still chasing some pre-conceived label or badge of honor to boost my identity and ego, something that would say to everyone “see, this wasn’t such a crazy decision after all.” What I only fully realized during this period of transition and reflection is that validation and self-worth absolutely must start from within. The foundation for any meaningful growth, success, balance and joy in this life starts with believing that you’re enough.
Sure, Wedu taught me many things that I can add to my CV experience (and CPC consulting services :P), but the final and most important lesson it gifted me was to be okay with being myself. I used to fight with certain aspects of my leadership style – delegate more, don’t be so emotional, just put it out there and see how it goes – but once I found self-acceptance, I was all of a sudden more aware of how my qualities have the potential to add so much value. This doesn’t mean that I relinquish other responsibilities that don’t align, nor forever stay content with where and who I am, but rather – now that I accept and know my true nature, I’m able to navigate my relationships with myself and others with so much more confidence, lightness and vulnerability. This depth of acceptance also gifted me more inner power and creativity and enabled me to create CPC from a place of real authentic purpose and clarity.
During this period of honest contemplation, CPC started to take root pretty organically. I first started journaling to quiet the negative voices in my head as I grappled with moving on from Wedu – you’re giving up, you can still accomplish more, was I even a good COO? – and then gradually moved into a space of expansion and possibility. I wanted to figure out how I could continue to work in the social impact space while finding more ease and balance in my life. I knew I wasn’t ready to “give up,” but I needed to find a way for the work to be fulfilling for my whole self. And it’s not that I was no longer willing to work hard – I don’t think it’s possible to escape working hard when you do something you truly care about – but it was more about wholeheartedly focusing on and aligning the work with my values, strengths and passion.
And so this is what CPC is all about – all things systems, process and organizational improvement to help teams align in their day-to-day work and objectives, done with intention and empathy so that each individual team member is also aligned from within. Ultimately (and idealistically I’ll admit), I want the people who pour their energy into making this world a better place to feel like this is a viable, sustainable and fulfilling career path – financially, professionally and emotionally. I’ve been blessed to be friends and colleagues with; hire and be hired by; and battle, celebrate and cry with many amazing humans who both dedicate their life to or maybe just dip their toes in this sector. We can build great organizations together so that not only beneficiaries gain, but also so that the people who do the work to change the world don’t burn out, get jaded or have to make so many personal sacrifices.
So I’m super excited about CPC because it’s the beginning of a journey for myself (and whoever else wants to come along!), where I feel deeply connected to my purpose and potential in a way that I’ve never felt before. I’m structuring CPC’s services and approach to add tangible and intangible value to social businesses, while allowing myself to continue to grow in a very intentional and deliberate way. Through this work and hopefully lots of engaging conversations, I’m looking forward to learning so much more about what other organizations are struggling with and accomplishing, what’s working and not working, what best practices we can leverage from other industries and experts to build world-class organizations that are making a difference. Now that I’m no longer juggling a never-ending to do list, I have the luxury of stepping back and reflecting on all of my experience and structuring it into more thoughtful and strategic methodologies. I’m not going to lie – this is as much for me as it is for the people and causes I want to serve; after all, it’s true that “self-care is giving the world the best of you instead of what’s left of you” (Katie Reed).
Self-care is all the buzz but this quote really hit home for me. Changing the world is becoming more of an imperative and yet harder and more complex; at the most granular level, change starts with loving and showing compassion for yourself first so that you can then show up in the same way for others. Journaling and yoga are my go-to tools for turning inwards, quieting my mind and feeling like I can conquer anything the world throws my way. I really encourage everyone to find their tools and to make time for them. You don’t have to quit your job like I did to create space and find stillness – wherever you are and whatever your circumstances, try to find the little slices in your life to slow down, be present, or do something that brings you joy. Just start, and start small – you don’t need to deserve or earn it, and no matter what your brain or to do list tells you, it’s not unproductive time. It may get hard and messy and imperfect, but I promise you – it’s worth it.