You are a leader, like it or not – What kind will you be?

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Not every person aspires to be known as a leader or even have the desire to be a leader. No matter if we are five years old or 85 years old it is likely that in some way we are a leader. As John Quincy Adams put it; “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

If you are five years old and you have a younger brother or sister or go to school with students who are younger than you are, you can be sure that your actions and words are being watched and even copied on some level. Some one person is likely looking at you and following your example or dreaming of being like you on some level. So like it or want it or not – you are a leader.

Because all of us fit into that role in our personal or public life the question I like to ask is what or how do I want to be perceived by others. What example do I want to set, how do I want to be known either as a leader by choice or just because others are watching me? Having clarity about the kind of leader you want to be whether, in your family, school, business, or as a mentor or friend will help you to meet all of those occasions on purpose and will give you confidence about being your best self.

The clarity and reminders to yourself of what you aspire too will also create a higher level of happiness in your life. Leadership is not something we may seek, however, given that all of us fill that role in some manner we do want to do so with our best self and with confidence.

Leadership is the opposite of Bossy even with children

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This month we are considering the skill of leadership at Balanced Life Skills for students of all ages because every one of us has the opportunity to lead others at some point in our world. No matter your age if we look at leadership not as a position of power, but rather as an opportunity to help others and to reach a common goal by working together.

For some leadership is about being the boss. Being a boss is simply a position of management of others and while a ‘boss’ may become a leader there are certain things they must learn to do that will help them be a leader.

For instance, a leader must know how to listen to those around them and be willing to consider all suggestions without favoritism for one person over another. Leaders must invest their time both in the work that needs to be done and in the persons around them. Helping the people around them to develop leadership skills is one of the most valuable commitments a leader can make to those who have committed themselves to the good of the group.

This month we will consider how young people can develop these skills and lead in a way that shows them setting a good example and making good choices for any group of which they are a part. Leadership is an honorable skill that brings out the dignity of everyone around them.

Gifts of Character: Leadership – The Definition

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Each month we will discuss one life skill with all of our students. This month’s skill is Leadership. This life skill will be defined in the following ways for our students.

Young students: I am a good example & make great choices – so follow me!

Older students: Inspiring people to come together & take action towards a common goal.

We are not your typical after school activity, in fact, we are an education center, working with students on physical self-defense skills while empowering families to bring out the best in our children and ourselves – through the martial arts. We believe every child has 52 gifts in them already. They only need to be taught how to grow and use them in their life. Balanced Life Skills serves parents, teachers, and students to reach that goal.

If you would like to see Joe Van Deuren and Balanced Life Skills at work, TRY CLASSES FOR FREE for 2 weeks.

How to deepen your capacity for compassion

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Compassion, as we noted before, begins with recognizing and giving ourselves the same kind of compassion that we would give to others that we see we can help in their time of need. Learning to be compassionate is a process that can be difficult in the simple moments of the day and maybe easier when there are large disasters taking place.

At the time of writing this post, there is a massive storm that is devastating the Houston, TX area of the United States. Every person that sees the results can feel empathy and may take action. Right here in our community, we may see a traffic accident and not give much thought to the impact on that one individual’s life. Even as a mere accident without too much physical damage to the cars or the people, the emotional impact and how it may affect their ability to get to work may have more of an effect than we may think about.

There is a meditation practice that I would like to share that in your time of reflection or meditation each day you may find will help to deepen your compassion for others. At some point in your meditation say in your head the following words:

For yourself say twice:

  • May I find relief
  • May I find peace
  • May I be at ease

Then think of someone in your life and apply the same mantra to them saying it twice:

  • May they find relief
  • May they find peace
  • May they be at ease

You can follow by taking these thoughts to the world saying them twice:

  • May all beings find relief
  • May all beings find peace
  • May all beings be at ease

These are just a reminder to ourselves to be compassionate with ourselves, those close to us and then the world. Saying these words will build our capacity for empathy and compassion, and you will find your heart growing for taking action to use the gifts you have been blessed with to help others in their need and to be kind to yourself.

To quote the Dalai Lama: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

Learn compassion for self and others

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Having compassion for others has three steps, and they are the same three steps that are necessary for us to have for ourselves. It has been my learning that for us to have compassion for others begins with a willingness to have compassion for ourselves in a balanced manner. So first let’s look at the three steps to get to compassion for others and then see how we can apply them to ourselves.

The first step is noticing the suffering of the other person. We can see the frustration, disappointment, pain or difficulty they are going through at the moment. If we ignore the other person or refuse to look at what is happening to them, it is not possible to go to the next step.

The second phase is when our heart is moved to want to take action to care for and help the person who is suffering. The word compassion has its roots in “suffering with,” so it is an appreciation for what they are going through and our desire to take action to relieve that suffering. This second step also involves showing understanding and kindness to another person when mistakes are made. We are not harsh in our criticism.

The third step is a culmination of the first two when we take action needed to help in the way that we are able; recognizing that all of us have and will suffer in many ways in our lifetime. We would appreciate any kindness shown to us; therefore we offer our kind acts to those we see who are challenged at the moment.

Imagine now these three steps applied to ourselves. When we have a difficult time, have had a failure or disappointment, have not lived up to what we would like from ourselves first we recognize the way we are suffering, and we admit that we are human. Just like others, we are not going to have everything go our way all of the time. Then instead of criticizing ourselves with harsh words, thinking of ourselves as a failure or not able to accomplish the thing we failed in, we ask ourselves what virtue do we need at this time for this situation and act in a way to care for our needs.

The reality shared by all humans is that we have limitations and fall short of who we would like to be. The more we are willing to open ourselves to this reality instead of fighting against it, the more we will be able to feel compassion for ourselves.

The practice of compassion for ourselves along with the understanding that all humans need and appreciate being shown compassion will help us grow this virtue and bring all of us into a peaceful existence with each other.

Strengthening our empathy and compassion

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Every person in the Universe has many things in common including our needs for food, shelter, love, attention, recognition, and happiness. Every human has suffered also, and there are many commonalities of those sufferings. They may be sickness, worries, loneliness, fears or sadness. When we recognize those feelings in another person if we react with understanding, we are practicing empathy. When we take action, we are practicing compassion.

How we take the rust off our sense of empathy and take action with compassion begins with understanding what all of us have in common.

  • Step 1: “Just like me, this person is seeking happiness in his/her life.”
  • Step 2: “Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in his/her life.”
  • Step 3: “Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness, and despair.”
  • Step 4: “Just like me, this person is seeking to fill his/her needs.”
  • Step 5: “Just like me, this person is learning about life.”

When we have difficulty understanding what a person is feeling or how we may be able to help them, go through these steps and ask how they are in each area, what do they need that I can give to help them?

This practice will make it very clear what we can do for them and how we can help them clarify what they can do for themselves to relieve the suffering they are feeling. Sometimes just listening is the most compassionate action we can take that will provide the most healing.

How would you demonstrate compassion for a friend or loved one if they were sick, lonely, hurt, worried or fearful?