In August I’m speaking at Tauranga TEDx 2016. It’s been a long time coming. Last year, out of 98 nominated speakers I was finally listed as speaker number 11, after four rounds of elimination. The experience was a bit like being a contestant on American Idol – involving auditions, elimination rounds and coaching from the judges. On the day, there were only ten speakers; I was the reserve speaker, nervous and ready to step up on the stage but never heard by the public. Looking back, I’m glad. My talk this year will be ten times better.
TEDx is a big deal for me. I’m an accomplished public speaker having given hundreds of talks in many countries around the world. When I’m on the stage speaking about my passion – humanity and compassion in healthcare – I feel truly fulfilled. My best talks are probably those where I allow myself to be more vulnerable, to talk without slides or notes. Thus for me the upcoming TEDx talk represents a culmination of my lifetime of learning, the opportunity to share personal stories and deep insights about the nature of identity and purpose.
Yesterday I was working on my slides for the talk. I began the day feeling centred and purposeful. By the end of the day I was tense and bothered. The little voice in the back of my head was whispering, ‘Your slides aren’t good enough.’ I was having a crisis of confidence and my body was feeling the stress.
When you devote a lifetime to a cause, it’s very easy to become attached to the outcomes. Am I really making a difference? Is anyone listening? Did my latest blog hit the mark? How many Facebook shares did I get?
I notice that if I spend too much time checking Facebook I began to feel tense. My ego is telling me that to be effective I really need to have this ‘feedback’ to correct and improve my efforts. But my soul is telling me that if I act from a place of deep authenticity in sharing my message, I don’t need to worry about feedback, I will just know when I’m on mission.
I woke this morning refreshed and wondering how I could avoid repeating the stressful feelings I’d experienced yesterday. So during my meditation I reflected on the aspects of ego and of deeper purpose and asked my guide for help. Lucy is a wonderful being; she shows up in my meditation and offers love, wisdom and joyful delight. When I’m troubled I can pose her questions but she never offers advice: she has complete faith that I know the answers already.
This morning I sought help from Lucy in answering my dilemma. She responded with a question: ‘Where inside you does this feeling of insecurity come from?‘ I immediately had a feeling of being a small child, anxiously seeking approval. Lucy asked if that was a part of me that I wanted to feed and grow, or was there another aspect of being a child that could serve me better? I knew the answer immediately – that wonderful childlike sense of curiosity and awe, of infinite possibility, of deep connection to all things around me.
‘So which child will you feed?‘ she asked, with joyful delight!
The theme of my TEDx talk is about connection and purpose. How can we find deeper meaning in our work and how can we help build a better world? As a teacher, can you go beyond teaching the curriculum to inspire the creativity in each pupil? As a farmer, will you just grow commodity crops or devote yourself also to healing the land and nourishing your community? As a policewoman, will you only fight crime or build peace and security? As a health professional, will you merely treat illness or find ways to help your patients heal?
In ten years of trying to make healthcare a compassionate and healing profession, we’ve tried many strategies that didn’t work. But over the years, step-by-step, we’ve found better ways of changing the system. Here’s some examples of the way we changed:
- Rather than being the experts, we now find ways to uncover the wisdom already present in the room.
- We moved out of transactional business models – negotiating a fee for our time and work – towards a ‘gift economy’ where we offer our time for free and then invite a donation.
- Instead of blaming the system, we try to change our own attitudes and beliefs.
- We replaced a focus on what’s wrong in healthcare with Appreciative Inquiry to bring out stories of the best.
My TEDx talk reflects on these lessons and finds a common theme: all the old ways we tried to change the world involved separation; the new ways involve deeper connection and a sense of abundance.
I thought back to my image of the two inner children: one symbolised fear and separation, the other a wonderful sense of openness, connection and possibility.
‘Which child shall I feed?‘ echoed in my mind.
It struck me then, I had stumbled on a simple rule to guide a meaningful life: at each moment we can ask, ‘Does this action connect me or separate me?‘
In my dealings with people, can I be open and curious, or else rushing to put forward my argument? A few days ago I had an uncomfortable and public exchange with someone who commented on my Facebook post. I defended my point of view and the way we do our work. If I had applied my new rule it would have gone better: I could have been openly curious about a contrasting point of view.
When I lose sympathy with the ‘difficult’ patient in front of me can I choose compassion and non-judgment, or will I blame the patient?
Can I offer my writing and my upcoming TEDx talk with an open heart, arising from a sense of authentic purpose, childlike curiosity and wonder – or will I be anxious to check how many views I have on YouTube?
One choice connects me, the other separates. One nourishes the child who has gifts, the other grows the child who is afraid. Which inner child will I feed?
So I offer this blog as a gift; I will not be checking the number of Facebook ‘likes’ or website ‘views’. I sincerely hope my writing will touch someone, somewhere, but I don’t need to know.