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Leader, listen to your soul


In the midst of the craziness the messages our souls aspire to send us may get drowned out. Like most people,
I had some good downtime in December. Good times for tired bodies, essential times for weary souls. Unexpectedly, my soul spoke to me from the very pith of my being.

Our family was enjoying a few days away at an exquisite spot nestled between Lydenburg and Sabie in Mpumulanga. My mate Chris and I, had the pleasure of entertaining three teenage lads while the ladies soaked up the sun and devoured their long awaited novels. We had packed bat and ball and we found an expanse of lawn to play our very own T20.

I hadn’t held a bat in years, and I was first up to the crease. It all came flooding back: be still at the time of the bowler’s delivery, move your feet and watch the ball onto the middle of your bat. I found the zone and smashed sixes and fours but more than the smile on my face was the smile coming from the middle of my soul.

In his masterful work, ‘Mindfulness for Creativity’, Dr Danny Penman asks whether we are open to new thoughts? Will we be able to recognise them when they come and most importantly, will we implement them?

In my case, I had departed from my love of ball sports, something that for me, pounding the road can’t replace. I rode the momentum of what my soul had told me and for the first time in my life I have signed up at a tennis club. Even though I spend a large part of the game apologising to my partner for my unforced errors, my soul is singing. This is just a small, practical example of tuning in to my inner voice.

Webster’s defines the soul as:

1. The immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life; and
2. The spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe.

Are we listening to the deepest part of us? A few weeks later, I was flying back from a day of coaching in Richards Bay and my soul was speaking again. This time it was an entirely different message. My soul was hurting and processing deep disappointment. I knew that I needed to process this with someone whom I trust and who understands me deeply. I did that and my mentor and I recognized some wagon tracks that I can follow through this valley of disappointment until I find the right path out of it.

My strong advice, based on personal experience, is to find the place where you can listen to your soul. For me it’s sitting in a well-worn deck chair on our patio, fountain pen in hand, blank page of my journal before me – I am expectant. I dump the noise, all the ‘to – dos’ on an exam pad, turn the iPhone off and listen.

Are you feeding your soul? For me, my soul food is mainly words and time with loved ones. One of my favourite authors Eugene Peterson, a modern mystic writes, “Reading today is largely a consumer activity – people devour books, magazines, pamphlets and newspapers for information that will fuel their ambition or careers or competence. The faster the better, the more the better. It is analytical, figuring things out; or it is frivolous, killing time. Spiritual reading is more a lover’s activity – a dalliance with words, reading as much between the lines as in the lines themselves. It is leisurely, as ready to re – read an old book as open a new one. It is playful, anticipating the pleasures if friendship.”

But how does one find this rhythm of shutting out the noise and tuning in to the inner-voice? I’ve found a pattern that has become my blueprint to follow: Daily Distract (even ten mins counts) Weekly Withdraw and Annually Abandon. It takes discipline and determination but the rewards in insights from my inner voice are significant.

I strongly recommend this approach to all leaders. Leadership becomes less lonely and stressful if you draw on all the resources you have.

Leader, take time to listen to your soul!

Iain Shippey is a Partner at Change Partners Coaching.

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