Extraordinary Love -The Path to Personal Development.


“Extraordinary love flows from those who do their life’s work.” AD

A few years ago, when I took an intensive HarvardX edX course called Immunity to Change™, I was so surprised by the emphasis on love in the introductory lecture by Drs. Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey that I paused the video and rechecked the course information, thinking, wait…this is Harvard not, the church right? Well, I came away with some insights about how the love of self and of others factors into our personal development and growth.

Our culture and humanity are suffering deeply from the deluge of outrage and violence, so much so, that our aggressiveness towards one another has become the order of the day, the headline news, and the click-bait. We have leaders who are proudly amoral, children and families traumatized by senseless gun violence, and metrics of materialism and false perfection that ascribes worthiness. We also, risk becoming inured to the revolving door of acts of hatred and divisiveness that pervades our communities.

Still, I am hopeful because almost everyone has the same reaction to the sight of a baby in the arms of a parent. Our hearts give way to love, which in its purest form, is emotion free of judgment and expectation. If the child is crying and uncomfortable, we are immediately concerned. Concern and consideration are how love translates into action. And so, we make funny faces, we ask the parent if they need help, or we share an understanding smile. It is no accident that the most revered people in history were generous and empathetic  – think Jesus or Mother Teresa – they were moved by compassion.

In contemporary times, we’ve seen examples of extraordinary love and philanthropy from those who have also excelled in their life’s work – Bono, Oprah, Bill & Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett, Li Ka-Shing, Andrew Carnegie, etc. Okay, these are prominent people, but they all did not start at the top – but at some critical point that propelled them forward, they discovered their natural talents and intentionally applied these principles of love that I culled from my course, towards their personal growth and development:

  • In life’s work or vocation combine the two strong and grounding forces of belief and values.
  • Change expansively with compassion for yourself and others. Generously forgive yourself and others.
  • When faced with challenges, view them as opportunities that require growth, new tools, and strategies.
  • Meditate and dig deep within. We all have an internal “cheat sheet.” The answers always precede the problems, and our posture should not be that of trying to dig out from a stuck place. Think in abundant terms.
  • Acrimony and hatred deplete and dim our lives. Love liberates us from self-torture and limitations.

Our personal growth is directly tied to positive shifts in our thinking, to evaluating our choices, and by taking small behavioral steps to reach what Oprah calls the “best version of ourselves.” We’ve heard people say, “I can’t believe I get paid to do what I love.” or “This does not feel like work.” That sense of enormous gratitude comes from doing and excelling at our life’s work and opens up the heart. So, it’s worth finding and following our calling and passion. The most crucial self-development goal is to daily commit to becoming extraordinary lovers of ourselves and others. Let’s go be phenomenal!

“Freedom is the will to be responsible to ourselves.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Image Credit: Pixabay.com

Define Normal with Arms Open Wide

Define NormalI stood at the cashier’s counter waiting to pay for a steel-gray and orange patterned Under-Armor sneakers for my son.
Sean stood fidgeting  beside me, playing Super Mario cart on his red Nintendo DS-XL. He struggles with the racing games and does better with the logical games, where he uncannily unlocks secret tunnels, levels and special powers.

I was expecting his usual eighth place in this race (Ok, that would be the last place) when he suddenly chuckled unreservedly loud, and announced to the universe, “I won!”
At first it didn’t register, because I was waiting for my card status on the panel to announce that my further descent into debt had been approved by the goddess of wants – Visa.

“I won…I won, Mom!” He announced  again, excited and waving the large red screen in the air, startling the cashier and her colleague who just ducked behind the check-out counter, presumably returning from his break.

“…the war came to me in my dreams and showed me its sole purpose: to go on, only to go on.” Kevin Powers.

“He is really excited,” the young woman in skinny brown jeans remarked quietly, puzzled.
Well, You have no idea, I thought, as I turned to acknowledge my son’s victory over Mario, Toad, Luigi, Princess Peach, Bowser and the members of the Mushroom Kingdom. In my peripheral vision, I caught the same looks from the other customers on the line behind me.

I felt sorry for everyone else trying to wrap their heads around the fact that his speech sounded like he held two ounces of water in his mouth which meant the words sounded like they rolled over waves and that he was still dangerously waving that extra-large red screen over his head. I knew he wasn’t acting out, he was just too excited to contain himself and wanted to share his joy.

When people first see Sean, they always tells me, “He seems normal.” And my response usually is, “What do you mean normal?” How does one fully and without bias define normal?

“All pain is the same. Only the details are different.”  Kevin Powers.

For me normal is having a boy who has never told a lie, who is a maths genius and can calculate complex equations off the top of his head. A big boy who waits, beaming with arms always open wide – even in middle school – for a hug from his mom!

Does he have struggles? Yes, but he is a fighter and his heart is so pure and remains loving regardless. Somehow I think he already knows he’ll win. His progress in school has given so much hope to his teachers, that they have opened their arms and minds to accept that no matter the diagnosis, learning is not impossible.

He is my life’s guru, teaching me to be patient with whatever life presents. His light doesn’t need much help, it just shines!

Arms open wide - Define Normal

My Sean..always loving and ready with arms open wide.

We are all distinctly defined by circumstances and experiences. The cumulative or acquired set of values make up our life and that’s where we draw from and how we project our judgements and definitions of normalcy on others.

All around us, when we see all kinds of expressions and different flavors of the divine – we are often tempted to judge or super-impose the elements from our own cultural buckets. Instead we can choose to be open to experience new things, share someone’s pain or joy and strengthen each other with kindness and gratitude, knowing that we are all witnesses to grace.

Let’s keep our eyes and hearts open to fully embrace life’s rich experiences.

With arms open wide,