Leadership

April 1st, 2010 by Steve Pavlina

When you’re on a path of personal growth, inevitably you’re going to encounter some social resistance as you grow and change.

For example, suppose you make major progress in improving your diet. Maybe you go vegetarian or vegan or raw. Or perhaps you find another path that generates positive results for you. And suppose most of your family and friends still eat something close to the Standard American Diet (SAD), with lots of animal products and processed foods. Your way of eating falls out of sync with theirs, and everyone can’t help but notice. Now you’re in the minority — you no longer quite fit in.

Or suppose you decide to give up alcohol, and most of your friends are still social drinkers. Maybe they invite you to go out and drink with them, but this is a lifestyle element you’ve shed. Perhaps you’ve outgrown the desire to consume toxic substances because you’ve learned that being super healthy allows you to access much more vibrant states of being, but your social circle hasn’t yet made the journey you have.

Or maybe you’ve worked a lot on your attitude, and you’ve fallen in love with talking about your dreams, goals, opportunities, and positive ideas. Meanwhile other people in your life still insist on complaining about what they don’t like, and they want you to participate in their pity parties.

Or possibly you’ve had some kind of spiritual awakening. Maybe you’ve gained a new level of clarity about your life purpose, but no one around you can grasp what you’re going through. Often it seems like they don’t care to hear about it, and you lose interest in wanting to explain it to them, yet you still wish they could understand — and share — in the new joys you’re experiencing.

Or maybe you’ve had a relationship breakthrough. You’ve discovered a whole new way of relating to people — with love — and it creates very positive results for you. You see your friends and family suffering in disempowered relationships (more like shells of relationships), and it breaks your heart to watch them suffer needlessly in apathy and confusion. You very much want to help them achieve greater happiness, but if you reach out to them, they resist your help and defend their decisions.

Disconnection

In such situations you’re going to experience a disconnect — a disconnect between your new self and your preexisting life situation. You’ll notice that you’re no longer vibing with certain people, places, and circumstances anymore. Maybe at one point you got along great, but now something feels off. At first it may be this nagging sense of discomfort, but over time it can grow into a massive chasm of disconnection. You feel like you’ve drifted away from your old life, and you don’t know how to recreate the feelings of belongingness you once took for granted.

Initially there’s a certain sadness when this happens — a feeling of loss. In a way, it’s sad to see yourself drifting away from people you care about, especially if you’ve enjoyed a lot of closeness and camaraderie with them over the years. But you can’t deny the disconnect. It’s there, and it’s real. If you try to pretend that everything is “normal,” it just makes you feel empty inside.

In your mind you may try to rekindle the old feelings of closeness. You may dwell on remembering the good times — when you felt really connected and close — and try to recreate them. But your attempts meet with failure, and you always end up disappointed in the end. You might even feel a bit disgusted with yourself afterwards.

You may also try to distract yourself from the mounting feelings of emptiness. You may find yourself more prone to procrastination. Perhaps you’ll catch yourself spending inordinate amounts of time web surfing, checking email, watching TV, or playing video games. The pattern will be that you’re desperately trying to recreate a feeling of connection in your life. You’re trying to re-ground yourself. Even answering emails can give you that feeling, but it’s only temporary. When you aren’t obsessively checking back in, the emptiness returns. You may find it difficult to feel grounded while alone without this clawing feeling that you need to reconnect with someone or something… just to feel that sense of belongingness again.

Partly you may be disappointed in the other people in your life. You may feel disappointed that you’re on this incredible path of growth, but they’re declining to join you. You want so much for them to come along and share in this wonderful journey with the same level of enthusiasm that you have, but it just isn’t happening. The more you talk about how great things are, the more they resist you, and the more disconnected you feel.

Futility

At this point most people go through a period of clinginess. They try to keep one foot in both worlds. On one side they pursue their own amazing path of conscious growth. And on the other side, they cling to their old family and friends. So they try to keep one foot on the accelerator and the other foot on the brake.

Unfortunately this pattern ultimately leads to stagnation and a feeling of pervasive inner emptiness. This is where people feel like they should be happy — because they are indeed learning and growing — but when they take a good look inside, they have to admit they aren’t really, truly happy. Something is missing. The desired feelings of joy, bliss, and centeredness simply aren’t there consistently. In their place are feelings like dread, boredom, disenchantment, and quite often… addiction.

This is the period where someone who’s a vegan clings to sharing meals with meat-eating family members who neither respect nor understand the vegan diet. It’s a time when positive, goal-oriented people still hang out with stagnant, low awareness friends simply because it’s what they’ve always done. It’s a time when a person clings to a dying relationship, hoping against hope that his/her partner will eventually grow into someone else.

The problem of trying to keep one foot in both worlds is that it inevitably degrades one’s self esteem. It leaves you feeling empty, alone, and misunderstood. The people you cling to don’t really know you anymore. They may have known you quite well in the past, but they don’t understand the person you’ve become on the inside. You’ve changed, and they can’t keep up. And consequently, the way they relate to you is at odds with the new self image you’re struggling to step into. The more you connect with them, the more their communication makes you feel diminished. You feel less than whole in their presence.

Asking for Help

This Dark Night of the Soul period may continue for years. In fact, people rarely get through it on their own. Without outside help most of the time they’ll continue to remain stuck, repeating the same patterns over and over and feeling increasingly disconnected. For some people this feeling of disconnection becomes so great that they contemplate — perhaps even commit — suicide.

If you find yourself in such a situation, let me tell you that it’s not your fault. It’s not a matter of self-discipline or courage to push through it… not really. Those factors play a role, but it isn’t a question of willpower. As an individual you most likely aren’t strong enough to complete this transition process on your own. You need help to get through it. Fortunately such help is available.

One of the best intentions you can hold during this time is to request help. Simply hold that intention in your heart. Instead of dwelling on the relationships that aren’t working, focus on the person you’re becoming — the person you most want to be. Then hold yourself in the place of requesting guidance to take the next step. Remain open to that guidance appearing in your life.

When you’re ready, guidance will come to you, but the form may not be what you expect. It may show up as a new mentor or friend. You may happen upon an article or blog post that’s just what you needed to read at the exact time you needed to read it. Maybe you get multiple synchronicities about a certain book. Whatever shows up in your life at this time, follow it. You will know it by how you feel. Your feelings will tend towards curiosity and enthusiasm and wonder. If you wonder if you should follow a particular new lead, that sense of wonder is reason enough to do so.

When I go through this process, guidance often comes to me in the form of a person. Someone shows up in my life, and in that moment, I recognize that they have something to teach me. I feel drawn to spend more time with this person and to learn from them. I may have thoughts like, This person is amazing. I need to spend more time with him/her. And when we’re together, the time just flies on by.

It’s good to have some humility during this time. Openness is key. Be open to receiving new information. You do not have all the answers yet, but if you remain open, the answers you seek will soon come to you.

Know that help is coming. The guidance you seek is on its way. Know that you deserve help and that you’re worthy of it. The transition you’re making is a good one. You don’t have to go it alone, but you must say yes to it. Guidance cannot come into your life until you issue that internal yes. Life cannot override your free will. You must decide that you’re ready to complete the transition.

Welcoming Your New Vibration

Once the guidance begins to flow, and you follow it, eventually a whole new world opens up to you. It really does feel like that. It is a wondrous experience when this happens. Within a matter of days, your eyes are opened to wonders you never knew existed. Elements from your dreams begin to manifest in your real life. The experience may leave you breathless for a time. You may exclaim, “How is this even possible?” Life takes on a magical quality. Synchronicities are everywhere. The universe practically blasts you with clues that scream, Yes, you’re on the right path. Keep going!

This is the period where you undergo a quantum leap from one vibrational state to the next state in your evolution as a spiritual human being. You may go through quite a bit of emotional upheaval during this time. It may feel like your world is coming apart at the seams.

You’re finally letting go and allowing the disconnect with your old vibration to complete. Once you finally let go of the old, the gravity of your new vibration pulls you in. You don’t really have to do much. The process largely happens automatically. However, depending on your freakout factor during this time, you can still apply the brakes and slow the process down, such that it plays out at a pacing you can handle.

Your job (to the extent that you must exert any form of effort here) is to allow yourself to welcome the new frequencies of being that are coming into your life with as little resistance as possible. When these new frequencies show up, say yes to them. And by extension, begin actively saying no to the old frequencies, such as by declining invites from people you no longer resonate with.

Finding Your Tribe

As part of this process, you will soon find your tribe. Empowering new relationships will come into your life, possibly at such a rapid pace that it will stun you. One week your social life may become black-and-white completely different than the week before. This will be a very positive change.

As you find your tribe and begin to enjoy an unimaginable new circle of social support, your self esteem will rise a great deal. Instead of being surrounded by people who bring you down, you’ll come into contact with people who uplift and inspire you. You may even feel a little intimidated by some of the new people coming into your life because they may seem very advanced to you. You might even feel inclined to ask, Where have you wonderful people been all my life? The truth is that such people couldn’t come into your life until you were ready for them.

For example, if you’ve been improving your diet, then finding your tribe may take the form of meeting new people who are on a similar path, including some that are much further along than you and from whom you can potentially learn a great deal. You’ll meet people that feel perfectly grounded in such a lifestyle, even as you’re still getting used to it.

As your self esteem rises, it will be much harder for people to drag you down to the old frequencies you’ve left behind. You may look back and wonder how you ever could have stomached being there. You’ll cease to tolerate connections in your life that disempower you. The new, more empowering connections will feel too good by comparison, and the contrast will be undeniable.

This is one of the reasons our Conscious Growth Workshops have been so empowering for attendees. Several people have posted feedback stating that being able to hang out with so many growth-oriented people is the best part of the experience. In fact, we have a group of people planning to come to Las Vegas overlapping the dates of the May 14-16 workshop just so they can be around that energy again. It can indeed be a very powerful experience for people who are ready for it. Whether your personal experience of finding your tribe manifests through a workshop or through some other means, you will eventually get there when you’re ready for it. But you do at some point need to say yes to this kind of experience; otherwise you’ll repel it and stay stuck.

Life takes on a very different quality once you find your tribe. Your self esteem goes up, and there’s a pervasive feeling of optimism. It’s like being in love all the time. Life is beautiful. The flowers are blooming, and the birds are singing. You still have problems and challenges, but you feel more than capable of handling them. Exciting new opportunities surround you. You’re bathed in support and encouragement from people who care about you.

After the Shift

Once you reach this new place of being, the tone of your life undergoes a major shift.

Some of the same events from your past may still recur, but they won’t have the same effect on you as before, and you’ll respond to them differently.

For example, suppose that as part of your path of growth, you made dietary improvements that led to a disconnect with the diets of your old friends and family members. (I keep going back to the diet example because it’s fairly simple and easy to grasp — and also quite common.)

During the time when you still kept one foot in both worlds, you may encounter social situations where you’re the odd person out. Maybe you have a holiday meal with your family, and you’re the only vegan there. Or maybe your friends invite you out for drinks, and you’re the only non-drinker. Maybe you’ll feel a bit pressured or uncomfortable in such situations. You give the situation your power, so you feel weak. Other people can push your buttons by teasing you about your health changes. And even though you may not show it, sometimes they get to you. You may even dread such situations in advance because you know it’s going to be awkward. You may go into such situations feeling guarded in advance.

However, after you complete this shift, your experience will be very different. Similar circumstances may still occur, but now you’re locked in to your new vibration, and you’re radiating strength and certainty. First off, other people will subconsciously pick up on your new vibration, and they’ll be less likely to tease you. They may even feel intimidated by you. More often than not, they’ll be curious about your diet and will ask you questions about it. They’ll sense your power and vitality and will be inclined to think, I want what s/he has. Even if they tease you, such remarks will just bounce off of you, and their teasing is more likely to backfire and make them look foolish. You’ve become far too strong for them to bring you down. On the contrary you begin to elevate them instead.

It’s like you’re the Captain of the Enterprise, and in the first situation, you’re trying to sneak though through hostile Borg-controlled space, where virtually any encounter could send you running for the escape pods. The mere sight of a Borg ship makes you shout, “Red alert! Shields up!” and you go into fight-or-flight mode. You have one eye on the sensors and another on the weapons console. You maintain a defensive posture because you anticipate a possible attack at any moment.

Do you know anyone who’s still in this phase?

Now in the second scenario, it’s like you’re taking your ship through friendly territory, and you’re in command of the flagship. You have no need of shields or defensive posturing because you know you’re safe. No one would dare attack you on your home turf, and even if they did, you’d phaser and photon torpedo their asses into the Q continuum. Your posture is neither aggressive nor defensive. You’re an explorer, happy to meet and share ideas with other explorers. Sometimes people are intimidated by you, and you have to reassure them that you aren’t going to take out their freighter for spite. You have the ability to defend yourself with great force if necessary, but you don’t make a habit of picking fights. You’re too busy exploring and learning.

Those of us who are on a path of lifelong conscious growth will undergo many shifts like this.

I’ve gone through this process multiple times, and there’s usually a striking difference between the before and after phases. If you look back through some of my old blog posts on certain topics, you might even see the shift gradually taking place, reflected through my writing style. Initially when I’m embarking on a new transition, I typically don’t know what I’m doing, my competence isn’t that high, and if it’s something controversial, I’ll often assume an aggressive or defensive posture to stave off any criticism. I anticipate attacks and declare “Red alert! Shields up!” before anyone can even fire a shot.

But then once I’ve completed the shift, I become much more centered. The new place of being feels normal and natural to me because I’ve locked in the new vibration. The sense of defensiveness fades, and I’m more likely to be playful and joking in the face of criticism. I have more fun with what I’m doing. All the social support and encouragement is there. I also attract less criticism because people sense it would be futile anyway. I attract a lot more questions as well as people who are on a similar path of growth and learning. It’s a wonderful place to be.

One of the reasons I’m willing to go through this process publicly is that it keeps me from getting stuck. It’s a lot harder to stagnate when so many people are keeping tabs on you because you’ve publicly committed yourself. I also like that by sharing my own experiences along the way, many people can relate to what I’m going through and apply it to situations in their own lives, and it helps them to keep progressing too.

Leadership

Ultimately this process takes us to a place of leadership.

Like it or not, if you’re committed to a path of conscious growth, you’re a leader.

There’s a reason you often find yourself as seemingly the only person you know with certain qualities. There’s a reason you seem to always be the one who goes first (or one of the first), as compared to your family and friends.

Your role is to lead.

I know that going first can feel scary. It can leave you feeling isolated, alone, and disconnected at times. That is part of the process though. Those phases are necessary to help you build your strength. You need to become resilient enough to maintain your power and certainty even in the face of adversity. You need to learn how to stick to your guns when you know you’re right, even when it seems the rest of the world disagrees with you. On behalf of the universe, I wish I could apologize to you for all the hardships you’ll endure through these transition phases, but please understand that the challenges you face are necessary to sculpt your character.

In order to live consciously, you must make your own choices, independent of social pressure. You must summon the greatest inner wisdom you can muster and learn to trust it. You must lead.

If you’re the one in your social circle who declines alcohol… if you’re the one who leaves a disempowering relationship… if you’re the one who shuns frankenfoods… then you’re the leader. As one of the first to hold that new vibration, you must give the rest of humanity a chance to catch up… without backsliding yourself.

It doesn’t matter if you’re outnumbered 10-to-1, 100-to-1, or even 1000-to-1. Being centered in your role as leader is a force multiplier. One strong, committed leader can outthink the masses any day of the week.

In your role as leader, you cannot lead by force. You must lead by true power. This is the power not to command others; it’s the power to lead by example.

You don’t have to try to convince others to be on a path of conscious growth. Don’t obsess over what others are doing. Instead, turn your gaze within, and focus on being the best example of conscious living you can be.

I’ve never convinced anyone to make serious changes by trying to convince them to do so. However, I’ve helped thousands of people make improvements simply by sharing where I’m at. For example, each time I post photos of my raw vegan meals on Facebook, I get comments from people who are inspired to make healthier choices as a result. My goal isn’t to get people to eat as I do; rather I want people to make more conscious choices that work for them — and to stand up to social pressure.

Leadership is about sharing. Think like an explorer. Report back on what you discover. Let people know about the wonders that await them. The ones who are ready to embark on a similar journey will do so.

If I’m sitting down to dinner with a dozen SAD eaters, I assume that I’m the leader. It’s not my place to convince them to eat differently. All I need to do is hold the vibration of where I am. And inevitably what happens is that someone notices I’m eating much differently than anyone else at the table, and they get curious and ask me about it. Then we have a cool discussion about the benefits. I may be just one of many influences on them that day, but much of the time the experience will plant a seed in their mind, a seed that will eventually sprout. A year later I get an email from such a person telling me they’ve lost 50 pounds after making some dietary changes.

As a leader your job is to inspire. You can do that by keeping yourself inspired. If you keep learning and growing, you’ll automatically inspire others to do the same. And when you do that, it benefits all of us. Inspired people are walking gift-givers.

Strength

When you resist your leadership role, you disconnect from your core self, and you broadcast weakness instead of strength. That weakness will attract criticism. Some people will pounce on you because you’re weak. They’ll tease you and berate you for your choices. They may rip you to shreds at times, leaving you feeling beat up.

You’re stronger than this, however. You succumb to weakness when you resist who you’re becoming, when you cling to the past, and when you try to salvage relationships that are destined for transformation.

You cannot transform your old relationships unless you complete the process of transforming yourself. You have the option of keeping your old friends and family in your life, but when this process begins to unfold, it’s better if you disconnect from those old relationships for a while. Go into your cocoon, so to speak, and allow yourself to emerge as a butterfly. Then you can return to those old relationships, and you’ll be strong enough to transform them one by one. In that case your role will be to demonstrate how beautiful it is to be a butterfly, so you can inspire the other caterpillars in your life to begin their own process of transformation.

Recognize that even though it may feel lonely at times, you’re never truly alone. There are lots of people who understand what you’re going through. We can relate to it. We know it’s hard at times. We know how it feels to be stuck with one foot in both worlds, still clinging to those old relationships while deep down knowing that you must eventually let go… yet harboring some fear and trepidation about what may exist on the other side.

Let me tell you that the other side is golden. It is wondrous and beautiful every single time. The grass is vibrantly greener.

Allow yourself to be strong. Release that from your life which weakens you. You may get yelled at for doing so, but realize that this is just your own fear and hesitation being reflected back to you. Once you reach the other side and rebuild your energy and self esteem, you’ll wonder why you ever hesitated.

Lead.


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