“Courage is risking the known for the unknown,
the familiar for the unfamiliar,

the comfortable for the
uncomfortable arduous pilgrimage
to some unknown destination.

One never knows whether
one will be able to make it or not.

It is a gambling,
but only gamblers know what life is.”

– Osho

 

Oct 15, 6am, San Francisco: I’m already up, no need for my alarm clock to ring. It’s the third day at Dreamforce 2014, the world’s largest technology and sales conference. I already experienced two days with highly interesting sessions, meetings and conversations. Learning, rethinking and challenging new ideas and concepts and making my conclusions – typical conference days.

I checked my emails, just to find a surprise email from my boss. The headline “I’m ok, but in the hospital – call me when you read this” said it all. He was supposed to lead a crowd sourcing session on sales operations today, building on his previous presentation yesterday. At 9am. Three hours from now. As analysts, we have our areas of expertise. Although we discuss and challenge all the topics we cover, we are both focused on our specific fields of expertise. I knew the topic and the data points he was supposed to talk about this morning on a high level, but I haven’t seen his slide deck and his storyline before. Furthermore, I wasn’t involved in the discussion he had with a partner who brought us into this session. Do we cancel the session or do I stand in for him? We quickly discussed the structure of the session, the introduction and the three sections with questions to be discussed at the tables. Structure on the one hand and lots of improvisation on the other hand.

Within a few moments, I heard me saying “I do it. I will run your session.” Was that a conscious decision, considering potential risks? No. Not at all. I didn’t even think about potential risks. An inner voice just told me “go for it.” Jumping into the deep end, with great opportunities to succeed but also with high risks to fail.

Inhale. Exhale. Keep moving.

Quick shower, a few minutes of meditation for myself. Then, another call to discuss the main messages in each section to provide as much consistency as possible to the previous session. I enjoyed one of my favorite active greens food bar and lots of water to get my energy up and to flow. Then, I walked to the Hilton, the hotel for today’s session. I had to get familiar with the structure of the room, the technology, the way how the tables were set up, how I could connect with the attendees. All these little things were important to me to feel comfortable. Integrating my energy into this situation was another success factor for me. A short but very positive conversation with our partners made me even more confident in mastering this very special situation.

The Challenge

9 am; almost two hundred people came to this session, with lots of expectations. I was announced, and the show began. I started with a brief recap of this morning “This is what happens if you check your emails at 6am in the morning. You find yourself on stage three hours later with a presentation you have never seen before.” The ice was broken; people laughed, I could make a connection. Good energy level. I just continued to be myself and to lead this session. And it went pretty well. People listened attentively; they loved the content, and they loved the sections with data points and to discuss the questions on current and future state. They loved sharing their experiences and thoughts with the group. The only thing which was hard for me was to bring people back from a discussion mode to a sharing mode. It wasn’t hard because they didn’t want to share. No, it was hard because they had apparently so much more to discuss and not enough time to do so. Vibrant discussions, great sharing. What a session!

Eighty minutes later. Happy attendees, lots of great feedback, and a happy me, myself and I. One person said to me “for me, this one has been the best session at Dreamforce”. Wow, I didn’t know what to say, but “thank you so much”. She made my day!

Inhale. Exhale Keep moving.

On the way back to my hotel, I stopped at my favorite Italian coffee shop, ordered my cappuccino with almond milk and a green smoothie. Enjoying my late breakfast, I had some time to reflect what has happened today. Suddenly, the stress that didn’t have a chance to dominate me earlier today was now very present. But in a positive way, I just said, “hello” to my stress and “thank you that you didn’t confuse me earlier today” to get this emotion out of my body.

Then, I said thank you to myself. Click here to learn more on “Say thank you to yourself.” For the next moment, I was overwhelmed by emotions of gratitude to trust my inner voice and to take on a risky challenge, and to follow my inner self rather than to be perfectly prepared. A perfect lesson in self-confidence and trusting my capabilities.

It was not the first time that I had to stand in for somebody else, and that I jumped into the deep end – in my professional and my private life. But in this situation, there was not even time to evaluate options. You just go. And that’s different from decisions regarding your role, your business or your relationships. Those decisions take time, and different options are evaluated.

My lessons learned:

  • Fear doesn’t exist in the present moment. The present moment is about decisions, actions and leadership.
  • Listen to your inner voice
  • Trust in your creative confidence – yes, that’s what you need to master those challenges
  • Just be your beautiful self

And … don’t forget:
Inhale. Exhale. Keep moving.


Today, let’s focus on the often most difficult leadership and transformation issue – to drive change in our own lives, to lead ourselves in a new direction. I decided to share a personal story, rather than to write from a theoretical perspective, on a sensitive topic that’s very close to my heart. May this blog post inspire you to challenge your thinking. The focus is on the individual journey of self-leadership, not on facts and figures. At the end of the article, you will find a few selected links if you are interested to learn more on the specific topic of veganism.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
–Mahatma Ghandi

Going vegan – Change happens slowly and then suddenly

July 15, 2012: I will always remember this day, when I made the decision to go vegan. More on that day and what happened in a minute. For which reasons, you may ask. People answer this question very often. My first answer is this one: “Ethics, environment and health – in this sequence.” Depending on the situation some people have already heard enough and others want to know more. If so, I share my thoughts. Here we go:

I grew up consuming meat and dairy, I had a vegetarian phase in my twenties, but I consumed way too much dairy, I didn’t feel well and I changed back. Then, I became a vegetarian again which was then the foundation to go vegan. Over the last ten years, working on myself, learning and educating myself, I came more and more to the conclusion that we are all living beings sharing one planet. I also learned from a spiritual and a science perspective that we are all connected to each other. So, there is no single species that is more important than another one – which is the opposite of speciesism. That’s what I learned. That’s what I feel when I’m in balance with all elements. That’s what I feel in meditation. Now, what does that mean for animals? For me, it simply means that we have no right, no need and no reason to exploit, to abuse and to kill animals. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to love animals, we simply have to respect them as living beings. We don’t need their meat, their skin, their bones and their breast milk to survive. A palate pleasure – that’s no longer a justifiable reason for me. Speciesism is one of the reasons why the animal agriculture industry operates as it operates. People’s willful ignorance or their inability to make a connection to other living beings is what allows this industry to continue their bloody practices.

Often, change happens slowly and then suddenly. The trigger for me was The Real Matrix – 101 Reasons to Go Vegan, which I watched on July 15, 2012. This sixty-eight minutes documentary changed my life from vegetarian to vegan. I didn’t change to veganism because I learned lots of new facts. No, I changed, because this presentation connected so many dots for me on a deeper level, on a conscious level. The Real Matrix outlines the absurdity of the stories about our “food” we have been told over decades and generations, mostly justified with tradition. And that is just an excuse for not challenging the status quo, for continuing to believe the story and the ongoing practice. And these stories about food are different in different cultures. Or why do we pet a dog, while other cultures slaughter dogs and eat them? If it is wrong to slaughter dogs in China, then it is wrong to kill pigs and cows and chicken elsewhere in the world. There is no difference between a cow, a pig, a dog or a cat or any other animal. They are all sentient living beings. They want to avoid pain, and they want to live – their life. Just like us. Putting them in categories of “pets” and “food” is our judgment, it’s the consequence of the stories we have been told. Our diet is based on the cultural story we have been told. Now as this is discovered, it can be changed.

Furthermore, this documentary is very special for another reason. It sheds light on the bloody dairy industry. For many people who are not aware of the details, dairy seems to be “ok” because the animals wouldn’t be killed. This idea is an illusion. It is simply not true. Apart from the fact that these poor animals are exploited from their very first day, they all end up in the same slaughterhouse. Male calves are an unwanted “byproduct” of the industry; they become veal meat and female calves have to become dairy cows. So, the dairy industry is the meat industry. Horrible for cows and their calves – they are often separated immediately after birth or a few days later. If you have ever heard a cow crying because her newborn was taken away from her, you will think differently about dairy.  The core question for me is: Why should nature have structured humans in a way that they would need the breast milk of another species?

So, this documentary made me crying for the rest of this Sunday. I opened my fridge, identified all remaining dairy products (some goat and sheep cheese) and trashed it. Eggs were already off the menu for a while. I had to get rid of these things. Immediately.

Going Vegan – The Gifts

Since then, lots of things changed. I educated myself on vegan cuisine. I removed my old cookbooks from the bookshelf and replaced them with many new vegan cookbooks.  I tried many new recipes, and I’m still constantly learning new things, which is an amazing experience. Smoothies, most of the time green smoothies are now the favorite breakfast. The high-speed blender and a juicer are the most important tools in the kitchen. I also started to make my nut milks on my own; nut-based cheese in many variations is also on my menu as well as homemade banana-based ice creams. It’s that simple with a great blender at hand. It’s a gift to enjoy the abundance, the wellbeing and the fitness of a vegan diet. I’m feeling deeply grateful for every meal, I prepare – whether that’s a smoothie for breakfast or a quick salad with a nut-based dip or a vegan pasta dish or a moussaka. For me, buying organic food at the farmer’s market, preparing and eating these delicious things is like a peaceful prayer of non-violence and love to Earth. She provides us with so many amazing colorful different fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains. It’s pure abundance surrounding us. We just need to recognize it.

And I feel much better, I’m healthier and I was never in a better shape than I currently am. Getting rid of the remaining dairy elements in the body is like a detox program. The body finds a new balance with a much quicker metabolism.

Then, going vegan goes beyond the diet. I started to sell my remaining leather jackets, bags and shoes. I had no idea how many fashionable vegan shoes are available. What a joy!

Going vegan changed my life – literally. I could lead myself in another direction that’s much closer to my heart; it’s much more me, myself and I. I could achieve a new level of inner peace, balance and happiness. And I have even more energy than before – ok, that may sound like a threat for those of you who know me…

I feel every moment that I don’t have any longer the animals’ suffering and the violence they had to experience in my body. It’s a feeling of deep happiness, gratitude and connectedness. The way how deeply I feel this connectedness now, this feeling of being Earth – instead of living on Earth – changed so much for me, also to achieve another level of love. This concept of a conscious and compassionate life has now another, much deeper level for me. It became very solid and grounded because it is manifested on a daily basis.

And… my love is growing, my love is changing to a state of being.
Another beautiful journey, I’m deeply grateful for.

———————————————————————————————————————-
Links for those of you who are interested to learn more:

Animal Sanctuaries: Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary, The Gentle Barn, Hof Butenland,


I wanted to begin this post with “I’m grateful that I was not nominated for the ice bucket challenge.” But that’s no longer true; the ice bucket challenge hit me when the hype was almost over. No worries, you won’t find any “wet-t-shirt-ice-bucket-challenge-videos” with me, because I didn’t accept the challenge. I’m grateful that I said no, describing why not in a gentle way.

Then, I was nominated for the gratitude challenge. “Oh no”… was my first reaction. Then, I thought about the various approaches I have already made to write about gratitude. Several drafts, but not a single one was ever good enough for me to click the publish button, to ship my art. As Seth Godin says “without commitment, you will fail, because art unshipped isn’t art.”
That’s the simple truth.

I’m grateful that I accepted the gratitude nomination – on my way. This first blog post is my approach to tackling gratitude as a topic. I captured for one week all my gratitude moments. Then, I tried to cluster them, and I realized that there are so many things I’m grateful for in my life that this blog post can only be the beginning. Approaching gratitude as a topic, and exploring what gratitude means for me was and is a lovely, deep and eye-opening journey. I learned that there are prerequisites to feel gratitude in a conscious way: So far, I identified self-awareness, a positive mindset, a tendency to reflect deeply and to share experiences, the ability to look from different perspectives at situations, the ability to let go, to trust your heart and – the ability to love.

Today, let’s begin with two areas I’m grateful for in my life. More will follow within the next weeks.

Yoga practice

I’m grateful for my daily yoga practice. This practice is one of the biggest changes I made in my life this year. Yoga was always something I focused on when I had time. Reality was that I had no time, apart from my annual yoga retreat week. I had no time, because I didn’t make yoga a priority in my life. That changed when – at the last day of this year’s yoga retreat – my yoga teacher gave me his new yoga DVD course, ten modules, one hour each. Perfect, that was the trigger I needed. No excuses any longer. Now, I get up earlier, make time for my yoga practice. The practice gives me so much more than an hour it takes.  It’s such a beautiful gift; it helps me to align the body, mind and soul, every day. It helps me to focus on my breath, to get prepared for the challenges the day may bring. Since I’m doing this for four months now, my inner peace is growing, my body-mind-soul alignment is much better, I feel myself more in my center. The practice is always a journey to my center, by working with my body and my breath. Yoga helps me to calm down my mind, but also to refocus and to sharpen my mind. Side effects? Meditation is much easier for me. And I’m more productive as I was before I practiced yoga like this. And the love in my heart is growing, as a state of being. My body is even more flexible than before, which is just a mirror of my mind. I’m grateful that I was gifted with such a beautiful body that allows me to practice yoga like this. Namasté.

Changes, challenges and growth

I’m grateful to accept challenges, to drive change and transformation in my life – in order to grow. Challenges, problems, small and big disasters in all areas of my life are apparently situations I have to go through to grow. They are meant to teach me something, to get to the next level on my personal journey of growth. Finally, I’m grateful for the experiences I could make and for the lessons I could learn over the last couple of years – getting a deeper understanding of different situations and how to perceive those situations, getting a deeper understanding about others and – most important about myself. Processing some of the bigger challenges, I had to change my approach to deal with these situations. First of all I look inwards, what does this situation do with me, and why is that so? What are the patterns to be understood and to be considered next time? What do I need to do now for my mental health without hurting somebody else, even I was hurt in the first place. Approaching tough situations this way, and focusing on my spiritual practice changed a lot for me. It helped me not to create additional negative energy when situations were already difficult. I also learned to step back and to learn that situations are never as we see them. There is always another perspective, another dimension, something unknown included. Another reason to look inwards and to focus on re-establishing my inner peace. Whatever happens next, then I’m free to decide on my actions and reactions.

I’m grateful for the experiences I could make, and for the opportunities to learn and to grow. Growing is not an easy journey, but stagnation is always worse. The journey of accepting challenges, of driving transformation, of growing is worth the journey.

  • Take the way of courage
  • Take the way of truth
  • Take the way of non-violence
  • Take the way of love

 

“I wanted to feel, smell, hear and see, but not see with my eyes and my mind only. I wanted to see with CANTE ISTA – the eye of the heart.”

–Lame Deer, LAKOTA


I love roses. My favorite flower shop is just around the corner. The shop’s owner knows me and my passion for roses pretty well. I buy roses every week. She always has a special offer for me. Not because I asked for it. It’s because I’m apparently a special “rose” customer. My flower shop lady explained it to me: Most customers expect roses to be perfect. That includes also to expect that roses shouldn’t have thorns. Unbelievable for me. She said that I was one of the very rare customers who loves roses just the way they are. They are beautiful, but every single one is a unique being, and they look differently. That also includes that roses come with thorns. That’s how roses are. And roses as all living beings are not perfect.

What is it people project to roses? Their ambition to be perfect all the time or is it their ambition to remain forever young?

Roses and thorns – there are two side of the coin

A rose and her thorns represent how life works. Every situation you may find yourself in has at least two sides to look at it and at least two sides how to respond to the situation. For me, it’s always interesting to observe how two persons perceive the same situation differently. What’s beautiful and comfortable for one person, can be perceived as stressful for another person. Individual context matters. Always.

How we respond to different situations, the same principle can be applied. The simple alternatives that are always available are to accept the situation or to walk away. Either way, the beauty of the rose and her thorns can represent the one way or the other. Whatever you decide to do, security versus risks, stagnation versus change, remaining in a job versus initiating a big change, these perceived two sides of the coin can change along the journey that follows your decision. What seemed to be a secure decision (e.g. staying in a big corporation because of the safe job) can turn out to be a risky approach. Imagine what disruption in many industries made with large corporations that did not adapt quickly enough. Staying in a relationship that doesn’t fulfill your inner needs, but seems to be comfortable, can turn out to become a great risks, when damages in your heart and soul turn into serious diseases.

This principle of the two sides of the same coin, is the same in our professional and our private lives. There is often one alternative that seems to be an easy one, a beautiful one, and there is most of the time another one that has more risks and bigger challenges or that may take longer. On the one hand, the rose represents beauty, love and joy and inner peace. On the other hand, the thorns represent the challenges that have to be mastered along the journey, the obstacles we have to overcome along the way.
Growth doesn’t happen without thorns.
As soon as growth happened, enjoy the beauty.
That’s a lifelong iterative process.

Thorns can hurt – or life is risky

Nothing that’s worthwhile to achieve is easy. Nothing that’s worthwhile to achieve comes without risks, challenges and obstacles to overcome. Whatever your journey looks like, some things will work pretty well, and other things will go wrong. You may be hurt in certain situations, and you may have to adjust your behavior or to change your approach. The thorns are those experiences that we need most to grow personally. The rose then represents achievements, joy, happiness, inner peace, and a growing amount of wisdom. Also here, that’s the same for our professional and our private life. Thorns also represent the unknown. Do they really hurt. If so, how much? How will it feel when I touch them? Map that to any unknown situation you are facing. No known patterns, no known formula will work because the context is different, maybe complex, unpredictable, or volatile. Don’t miss the unknown. The unknown is risky, yes. But the unknown provides the biggest potential to learn and to grow. In my experience, you will always get the energy you need to master your challenges.
The unknown is also the foundation for creativity – how to connect the dots this time? In a completely different and new way, I guess…

“Courage will come to you.
Just start with a simple formula:
Never miss the unknown.”

–Osho


I appreciate that you are reading my blog posts. Let me express my gratitude for both – your time for reading and your time for asking questions and challenging my perspective. Apparently, my content makes you think, reflect and question the status quo – a great gift for me as a writer and exactly what a blog like Sand Hearts wants to achieve.

Regarding the post on courage – your question was “how does it really look like?” “Could you share some examples from your experience?”

Of course, I can. So far, I decided not to do that too often because this blog shouldn’t be about me sharing stories of my life. On the other way, I see your point and your question, how did it come, what were the experiences that made you thinking as you think?”

It was in 2009, when I first stumbled upon the term “sales enablement.” At this time, I was at an interesting point in my career: After having an own company with a partner for several years (IT software and services sales and delivery), I worked as a freelancer, then as an IT consultant, then as a management consultant (sales and delivery in all roles). In 2005, I joined a large corporation which was at this time my customer. I started in a corporate strategy implementation function, overseeing a number of strategic initiatives from sales to production. A great starting point to learn everything about this organization, but no sales role. I wanted to go back to sales, and the opportunity occurred – leading a sales force restructuring program in 2008. Perfect! This program with all its challenges made me thinking how we supported and enabled our sales force to deliver higher numbers every year, but with a reduced sales force. Everything I found regarding sales content, training, sales infrastructure to create value for sales professionals, all that didn’t really deserve the name “support”. A few weeks later, I stumbled upon the term “sales enablement.” A friend of mine made me aware of it. I researched and tried to find a way to apply what I started to explore. My next role in 2009 was a business development role, I led a team with the aim to develop business around smart energy in the utility industry. Perfect. I could experience directly, what the salesforce would need to be more successful, and what we didn’t have. We spent countless hours to create content that was maybe already existing somewhere in the organization, but nobody knew where it could have been. So, I started my own project on sales enablement, first of all for my team. Then, I found a senior executive, who was interested in what I did (and he had a complementary challenge, and he became my most-important sponsor at this time), and I found a platform, that could build a foundation for what I tried to build.

In parallel, I found online communities on different platforms to share experiences and to learn from others. I wanted to learn as much as I could, as fast as I could. I was very aware of the fact, that I needed a quick success story, or I wouldn’t have any success at all. Then, I found via these communities an announcement for a conference in Feb 2011 in San Francisco on sales enablement – it should be the first conference on this new topic, and they were looking for key note speakers. I didn’t spend time to reflect that (could I really do that?), I immediately filled in the form and clicked the send button. There was an inner voice guiding me. I was sure I would have a story in Feb 2011…

Let’s make a long story short. The program became more and more important. I had two full time jobs in parallel and I had to make a decision: to continue my business development role, with an excellent team, nice title, nice status or to start the sales enablement adventure from scratch. That would mean a small project budget only, no team and not a lot of sponsorship in the beginning (more skepticism to be honest). It was all about leading a virtual community, inspiring others to join the program, to become part of my sales enablement vision, and to develop it together in a meaningful direction.

Interestingly, all my male colleagues and also my boss tried to guide me the other way, to play it safe, to keep my executive status, to avoid any “career risk” as they said, etc. As you can imagine, I didn’t follow their advice. I decided for the adventure. Sales enablement was exactly what I wanted to do; it was a topic where I could make sales a better place, to create value for customers, a topic where I could really make a difference, not only pioneering concepts, but creating significant business impact. It was a challenge I could only win (luckily I thought so!), but I started – from an organizational point of view – again as a program manager with a virtual team and lots of cross-functional virtual leadership challenges within a very hierarchic organization. End of 2011, I had developed the topic with my new sales enablement team to a maturity level that nobody could ignore. This situation led again to an executive position for me, but at this point, it was exactly the role I wanted to have. It was a consequence, not a goal.

And yes, I was in San Francisco at this conference, and I had a keynote there… Our project called “Spot on” was one of the rare global implementations at this time.

Was it risky? Yes, it was, more than expected.
Was it difficult? Yes, it was, more than expected.
Was it worth it? Absolutely. It was a journey of intense learning and growing
Would I do it again? Yes, I would. Always.

When I left this organization last year to take another professional challenge (same topic, but different role in another organization), one of the most-beautiful gifts came from one of my team members. He simply said, “thank you that I could grow so much with your leadership, thank you that I could learn from you.”

As I said, extremely rewarding…

The challenging, the difficult and the risky tasks, the tasks that stretch our perceived limits (limits are mainly perceptions of our mind), these are the tasks and events in life to grow personally. It takes all your leadership abilities and more, and it will require all your energy.

This is how we can learn the most, also about ourselves. Those challenges bring us to our next plateau, especially when the causes are very close to our hearts. Those challenges are our soul calling along our individual journey of growth.

Be aware that you don’t miss your next calling.

“Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.”

–Bruce Lee

 



Courage – what was the reason for not including courage as one of the life principles in my recent ebook? That’s what some of you asked. It’s an excellent question, and it deserves a thoughtful answer.

How is courage defined?

Courage is knowing that something is challenging, risky and dangerous – and to do it anyway. Courage doesn’t mean to suppress fear, it rather means to work with fear, to face it. Osho defined courage in an excellent way: “…basically, courage is risking the known for the unknown, the familiar for the unfamiliar, the comfortable for the uncomfortable, arduous pilgrimage to some unknown destination.”

The origin of the word “courage” is very interesting. According to Oxford Dictionaries, “courage” comes from Middle English, “denoting the heart, as the seat of feelings,” from the old French word “corage” and/or the Anglo-French word “curage”, as Merriam-Webster says. Both dictionaries agree on one core element: The word “courage” goes back to the Latin word “cor,” which means heart. Analyzing the German translation of “courage,” which is “Mut,” adds another perspective. “Duden,” says that the term goes back to the middle German word “muot,” which is closely connected to passion. So, the connection to the heart and to passion leads us in the same direction.

The way of the heart is the way of courage.”
–Osho

That brings us closer to the real meaning of courage and why it is the foundation of the life principles. Facing potential risks and doing it anyway, facing potential dangers and doing it anyway, facing potential disadvantages, but also facing better future states, great achievements – all that requires a few essentials:

Hoping for a better future state and confidence that in spite of all fears and risks, the desired future state can be achieved. Hope and confidence includes that the risks and dangers along the way can be mastered successfully. That’s about trust – trust in oneself and trust in the universe. Underneath of that, courage requires passion. Passion for what you do, for what you stand for, passion for your values and beliefs, passion for your way, your journey. All these driving forces – hope, confidence, trust and passion – don’t come from the mind; they come from the heart.

The mind captures all you know; it captures the past, all the well known things. Additionally the mind is a control freak, always suggesting playing it safe. The heart is totally different. Even if the mind says, “no,” the heart will whisper “give it a try”. The heart means hope; the heart means future. The heart guides us to meaning, to our role in this life, and the heart guides us to love, our intrinsic quality, it guides us to discover love as a state of being. Osho captures it perfectly when he says “The heart is always ready to take the risk, the heart is a gambler. The mind is a businessman. The head always calculates; it is cunning.”

Courage and the Life Principles

If we look at the seven Life Principles, there are a few things to consider: First, they should be perceived as a pyramid, and each principle builds on the next one. Second, they are all connected to each other. Third, these principles need a foundation, and this foundation is mostly about courage – and self-leadership. Fourth, courage as a foundational virtue is connected to each of these principles in a different way. Overall, it takes courage to walk your talk, to live by those principles. Those represent a level of ambition, and we all know that we don’t achieve our own level of ambition every day, but only by having defined this level of ambition for ourselves, we can become better every day.

Responsibility:
It takes courage to change own behaviors. It takes courage to take full responsibility for all own actions, reactions, behaviors, emotions and thoughts. It takes courage because at the end of the day, there is nobody else to blame. Taking full responsibility for the own life is a courageous decision, it brings you always back to yourself.

Play
A play means that we don’t know the result beforehand, which is why we can lose, or we can win. Even if we lose, we may consider it as an opportunity to grow. And that’s exactly what takes courage. Growing can be painful, getting rid of other people’s or society’s belief systems is not an easy thing to do. It’s not an easy way, but a worthwhile journey.

Choice
That’s based on the first two principles. Being aware that our perception of situations is our choice that current situations are the consequences of past decisions, that requires courage. Making own choices in a conscious way to shape our future, to grow along our journeys – that requires courage. At the end of the day, there is nobody else to blame, it always comes back to ourselves, to our choices.

Energy
Getting into your energy requires different steps than the usually promoted ways. It has nothing to do with energy drinks or stuff like that. No, if you look at the steps I mentioned here [Link], this is a journey that requires you to make conscious choices and changes.
Then, energy and focus create movement. Make sure that your energies and your focus are shaped according to your vision. Your vision has to require courage to get there (if not, the vision is too small), and you won’t oversee the entire journey, only the first steps. Follow your heart, be courageous and go in spite of all fears.

Creativity
Creativity is the principle which I already connected to courage [Link], regarding creative confidence, which is basically the confidence and the courage to follow your heart. Creativity jumps into the unknown, connects things that weren’t connected before, and it creates new things that didn’t exist before. And creativity looks for new ways to solve problems and to master challenges. Creativity is not playing it safe. That’s why creativity and courage are so closely connected.

Love
It takes the highest level of courage to liberate yourself from common misconceptions about love [Link], because it’s against the crowd. It is different from what people you are closely connected to may expect from you. And it requires courage to live by your own beliefs and values about love. It requires courage to grow into love as a state of being. It takes courage to accept the fact that love happens, that it’s nothing you can “do”. Go for it.

Consciousness
The more conscious you become, the crazier the world around you will look like. The more conscious you become, the more different your actions and your choices will be. Such a process on consciousness takes a lot of courage. Your journey, your values and beliefs and how you live by them will be very different from the crowd. Go for it, it’s your journey of growth.

 

 


My recent seven posts covered seven different life principles – responsibility, play, choice, energy, creativity, love and consciousness. These life principles are all connected to each other, and they are a beautiful journey to consciousness.

This is why I decided to create an eBook to invite you to enjoy this spiritual journey – from Scotland to California, to Scotland, to Italy and back to Scotland. Correct – Scotland dominates the journey – it’s my spiritual home.

Ready to begin the journey? Download your copy here. That’s what “Life Principles” covers – in a nutshell:


Responsibility:
Being responsible for what we do – for our behaviors, decisions, actions and reactions, is an essential part of self-leadership. Understanding what responsibility means that’s where our journey begins…

Our point of departure is in Oban, Scotland.

Play:
Based on responsibility, we recognize that our life is a journey with unlimited potential to grow. It depends on our ability to understand that winning and losing is always an opportunity to learn.
Enjoy the nature, the power and the beauty of water – Isle of Staffa, Scotland.

Choice:
Understanding that we always have a choice, understanding that our life is the result of the choices we make and that choices have consequences – that’s the third stage along our journey to consciousness. Enjoy a peaceful place, I love very much – Halfmoon Bay, California

Energy:
How to get into your own energy and how to focus your energy to create movement – that’s the fourth stage along our journey.
Enjoy a beautiful, peaceful but energetic moment with seagulls in motion – Callander, Scotland.

Creativity:
We are all born creative. Creativity is a human nature. Let’s see how to unleash your creative potential.
Enjoy the beauty of this lovely hydrangea, which lives in one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen – Arduaine, Scotland

Love:
Let’s get rid of all the misconceptions about love. Let’s understand that love is an intrinsic quality, speaking from the irrational wisdom of the heart. Let’s discover that love is a state of being…
Enjoy these beautiful corn poppies – Il Cerreto, Italy.

Consciousness:
What can come after love? Consciousness…Developing your own consciousness is probably the biggest gift you can make to the world.
Enjoy a peaceful and spiritual place, this is where my soul is at home – Lendrick Lodge, Scotland.

Download your copy here, enjoy the journey – and let me know your thoughts!

 


Consciousness is defined in many ways. “The state of being aware of and responsive to one’s surroundings,” that’s how Oxford Dictionaries define the term. Merriam Webster defines the term as “the quality or state of being aware especially of something within oneself.” Both dimensions are important to consider, an individual’s environment and his/her inner world.

Additional definitions focus more on consciousness maps and levels and their distribution across societies. Today, let’s focus on the individual perspective.

Consciousness occurs when you develop awareness regarding your thoughts, emotions, actions and reactions. Consciousness means that you recognize “your” perceived reality differently. Because this perceived reality is just a mirror, a projection of your inner world. The conscious person knows that every change begins from within. It is based on understanding yourself, followed by changing yourself.

Developing consciousness is a journey. It begins with getting aware of all our mental and emotional actions and reactions. It’s about noticing and observing those reactions, but without any positive or negative judgment. That’s one of the core elements of meditation, wherever you sit or walk in meditation. I tried to meditate for a long time with different techniques, and I wasn’t very happy, until I learned this simple truth. Notice your thoughts, say hello to them, but don’t get involved with your thoughts when you are in meditation. Notice that your mind is working like crazy, sending all these different thoughts your way. And be aware that your mind wants to control. Always. Use your awareness and don’t allow your mind to take control all the time. Master your mind, but don’t let your mind master you. Develop this mental switch that puts you in meditation mode. That’s the best way to uncover and to understand your unconscious and often automated reactions. It’s a discovery process to develop a deeper understanding how you are functioning.

Part of the consciousness journey is also to recognize that many (past) disappointments are just a result of not being conscious enough, of not being aware, of not knowing and not understanding yourself. Whenever fear or anger comes back, take them as a “wake up call” to continue your discovery process. Working with fear or anger like this is an opportunity to become more conscious, to get a deeper understanding and to learn more about yourself.

Only awareness and understanding of your (up to now) often unconscious behaviors and emotional reactions, leads to a more conscious and more effective behavior. Then, you can reach another state of mind, a deeper level of consciousness that allows you to act more consciously, rather than to re-act automated to certain situations.

Consciousness is a life-long journey, a rewarding journey, but not always an easy one. It often feels like a twisting road. The more you develop your consciousness within yourself, the more relaxed you will become and the more clarity, ease and inner peace you will achieve. Relaxation means to be at ease with yourself, it means to be at home. You have gained a lot more distance, you know how to collaborate with your mind.

Based on this clarity and deep relaxation, a new power to act and to create is growing within you. Relaxation and action are now two sides of the same coin. These two sides of the same coin – focused action and complete relaxation – are a specific state of consciousness. This state of consciousness enables the highest qualities of human behavior. That means a level of human behavior which is based on the principles of responsibility, choice, play, energy, creativity and love.

Be aware that your journey of consciousness is a life-long journey and your key to personal growth.

There is no silver bullet – only consciousness!


Love is the most beautiful and also the most challenging topic to write about. Why? Because there are so many misconceptions, so many false interpretations about love out there. Sorting them out in one blog post is almost impossible. But to shed light on a few dimensions that are essential and inspiring – that’s what I’m trying to do here.

Common Misconceptions

Most of the time, love is connected to a relationship to another person. This belief is closely connected to the idea of the “perfect man” or the “perfect woman”. Finding this perfect person, happiness seems to be guaranteed. This is what daily trivia and many Hollywood blockbusters are all about…

Let’s uncover a few false belief systems.

Happiness comes from within, it should never depend on another person. If you cannot be happy with yourself, how should you ever be happy with another person? Instead, happiness is a state of being, it’s an attitude. It’s being aware of the fact that most of the time, it’s not what happens to us. It’s more about how we respond to what happens to us, and that’s our choice. Happiness comes when our heart, our mind and our actions are well aligned. Therefore happiness doesn’t depend on another person.

“Love has nothing to do with the other. A loving person simply loves, just as an alive person breathes and drinks and eats and sleeps. Exactly like that, a really alive person, a loving person, loves.”
– Osho

Love is not something to be projected to another person. Instead, love is an energy flowing within us. It’s a natural function. We are born with love as we are born with trust, but we need to develop both on our own.

Demanding perfection is another misconception. Look around how many people take others for granted, showing no gratitude, no awareness at all. Another attitude that’s based on false belief systems, how men and women should behave in a relationship and in a certain society. Those stories were told to us, over and over again. What’s the good thing with that? Stories can be changed. Develop a new level of awareness and appreciate what a person who loves you, is doing for you. Nothing is self-evident. Love needs a climate of gratitude, love needs a non-demanding atmosphere to grow.

Another false belief is to focus on how to get love. It’s closely related to the perfect man and perfect woman belief. How to get to this person? Why not changing the approach fundamentally?
Why not start giving?

“That’s how love grows. Give, and don’t wait to see how much you can grab. Yes, it comes, it comes a thousand fold, but it comes naturally. It comes on its own, there is no need to demand it.”
–Osho

Getting rid of those misconceptions is a “must have” challenge at some points in our lives. Those challenges come in iterations, triggered by people and life events, we were subconsciously looking for – to grow. These are experiences we have to make. Often, we discover ourselves in the other person in different forms and shapes. People who love are often a mirror for each other – a mirror that can be pretty challenging from time to time, a mirror that allows us to grow to a next level of understanding. Growth only happens, if we are open to it. Growth only happens, if we learn from what we see in the mirror. Every time you will learn a bit more, and you will get a deeper understanding. Now and then, that’s a painful way to grow, but a necessary one. The pain of growth is decreasing in each iteration, and the joy, your overflowing heart of love is increasing. A beautiful journey of personal, spiritual growth.

Growing this way, love is experienced and practiced differently. It becomes a state of being, it becomes a practice that goes way beyond relationships to other people, it’s becomes the core value of being, of living your life. Then, you are love. Two fundamental consequences can experienced along this journey:

Love transforms

As mentioned above, love is not something to be searched for in another being to combat loneliness or unhappiness. Instead, love is in your heart, but it needs to be unleashed, it needs to be liberated from misconceptions. Love has a tremendous transformational power. It allows you to touch your inner completeness. It allows you to find the key – for whatever you are seeking for – within you. That’s discovering aloneness, which means nothing else than to be complete.

“Real love is not a search to combat loneliness. Real love is to transform loneliness into aloneness, to help the other.”
–Osho

Love’s transformational power is so essential to understand, because it connects all areas of our lives. Love is our life energy that connects the dots between the personal life and the professional life.

Understanding love as being love is what enables creativity, and personal transformation. Being love is the prerequisite to your creativity, to develop your creativity to another level, where creative energy is just flowing through you. And that doesn’t come from many activities, it comes more from meaningful actions. That includes to accept that some things just happen and that not everything can be planned, done and controlled. This is what our mind always wants to do – to control. Let your heart lead your mind, but not the other way around. If so, your mind could control too much, your mind could prevent you from experiencing this amazing journey of personal, spiritual growth of being love.

Love strengthens freedom

Finally, experiencing love as being love – love and freedom are two sides of the same coin.

“Love allows freedom; not only allows, but strengthens freedom. And anything that destroys freedom is not love. It must be something else. Love and freedom go together, they are two wings of the same bird.”
–Osho

Experiencing love as a state of being, as a transformational energy is key to what we need to change in this century. Experiencing ourselves as spiritual beings, getting rid of love misconceptions is essential to master this century’s challenges, regarding all aspects of our existence on Earth.

We need leadership that allows playfulness, leadership that leverages people’s individual creativity, leadership that engages people to drive transformation towards a better future. We need leadership that is based on authenticity and integrity, we need leadership that leverages the power of communities and networks. We need leadership that is based on freedom, not on driving fear. This kind of leadership should be based on love…

Stay tuned – next time we will talk about consciousness!

 


“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”
– Steve Jobs

For many years, I considered myself as not creative at all. I was raised to fit into the system, to be good, great and perfect. Making failures was not an option for my parents. Not an ideal environment to discover my creative potential. Whatever I created as a kid, I didn’t want to show those creations to anybody. I was afraid, it wouldn’t be good enough. As a student, I developed a passion. I tailored almost all my clothes on my own. I educated myself how to do it. As soon as I mastered the basic skills, I enjoyed creating beautiful dresses, nobody else had. Did I perceive myself now as a creative person? No, it was only craftsmanship.

I had lost my creative confidence during my childhood. The fear of being rejected hold me back. Then, when I started my spiritual journey more than ten years ago, I got my confidence back, the confidence in myself, step by step. I experienced this:

“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.”
–Rumi

A few years ago, a special friend connected me to Seth Godin. Wow! Now, I could connect all the dots. “Tribes” and “Linchpin” were a real breakthrough. Now, I was able to transfer the power of creativity in all aspects of my life. It was at the same time, when I found my professional passion, when I started to use my creativity in all aspects of my work. It was about the same time, when I started writing…

We all have creative potential. It’s a unique gift we all have deep within us.
Creativity is part of human nature.

  • Creativity is a gift:
    It’s your decision to unwrap the gift or not. If you decide to do so, unwrap it with love, gratitude and joy. Be always aware that what you unwrap is just the potential. It’s up to you, how to leverage your gift and how to integrate creativity in all aspects of your life.
  • Creativity requires playfulness:
    A playful environment, ideally in nature, when mind and thoughts can ramble, helps to create the best ideas. Capture them, always. You will be surprised how many of those ideas will help you to solve a problem or to unlock a stagnant project. A playful situation helps also to question the status quo. Questioning the current state can unfold a whole range of new ideas. If you want to read more about playfulness, check out these previous Sand Hearts posts here and here.
  • Creativity is action:
    Don’t wait until all final reports and data are available. This moment will never happen. Trust your gut instinct and begin to develop that new idea, that new product or begin to write the book you have in mind or to launch your own blog. Whatever it is, creativity is first of all about action, beginning and making the first step in the right direction and to keep moving.
  • Creativity requires confidence:
    “That combination of thought and action defines creative confidence: the ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them out.” Tom Kelley, Creative Confidence.
    Creative confidence needs to be discovered once, which is a kind of initiation into a new life. As soon as this confidence is established, it’s all about practice – practice to improve, reinforce and strengthen your creative foundation. The more you practice, the easier it gets. The secret is “to unlock your creative thinking as a bridge to creative confidence.” I highly recommend to read this book: Creative Confidence, by Tom Kelley and David Kelley. It’s extremely well written, contains lots of encouraging stories and practical tools to boost your creative confidence.
  • Creativity takes courage:
    Courage is the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous. In reality it means whatever you are passionate about – do it anyway. There will never be a perfect moment without risk. Your courage makes the moment perfect. Courage is to trust your creative confidence and your ability to connect the dots between elements that were not connected so far. Learn along the journey what works and what doesn’t. The learning you will get from failures will equip you with the right skills and the right mindset to achieve a next level of creativity. Courage allows you to see a learning opportunity instead of a problem. That’s how your creative potential will unfold. In plateaus, in batches. Courage is the driving force to boost your creative potential. Courage drives creativity. Courage and creativity drive innovation.

 

Be brave.
Start creating.
Be the creator and the creation at the same time.
Create art.

Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.”
–Seth Godin