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Wisdom From a Montana Cowboy

(Originally published by Bizcatalyst360)

THIS PAST WEEKEND, my wife and I hit the open road to Montana in part to celebrate our 34 years of marriage and, in part, to celebrate the pending wedding of our oldest son whose fiance calls Montana home. As we planned our road trip, I discovered that the small town we were to visit was also home to a craft brewery that had been founded in the 1800s and recently revitalized by a new owner who had honed his skills at another famous craft brewery located here in the great Pacific Northwest. Being a craft beverage aficionado, I added the brewery to my “must see” list. Being a practical husband, I asked and received permission to scoot out early during the bridal shower festivities to check the place out.

As it turned out, the patriarch of the bride-to-be’s family—a favorite and much-loved uncle—offered to show me around the town where he had lived and worked for most of his life and was more than content to let me buy him a beverage in return for chauffeuring. We loaded up and “lit-out” for town…at a top speed of 25 mph. It’s a very small town.

After the tour of the town, we sat in the brewery nursing our excellent beverages. As my host told stories about the town and his history in it (he had been a rancher and owner of several of the town’s small businesses), it became clear to me that I was in the company of a perfect example of a self-actualized leader. He displayed no pomp or circumstance, no puffery, no “Look at me!” arrogance. Instead he embodied a pride of accomplishment balanced with a humbleness of spirit. He exhibited a full acceptance of his own nature and possessed an objective perception of reality that one rarely sees any more. He was truly comfortable in his own skin.

How did he get that way? Abraham Maslow is credited with bringing the concept of self-actualization to prominence. His classic article “A Theory of Human Motivation,” drew on earlier psychological research and defined self-actualization as “the desire for self-fulfillment, namely the tendency for him [the individual] to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.” Maslow and other writers (Bruce Charlton, Kendra Cherry, G. Privette and others) offer any number of paths or steps to self-actualization. For most, the path to self-actualization begins with an awareness of self.

In his book, Excuses Begone!, Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “The reason awareness of awareness is so powerful is that it immediately puts me in touch with a dimension of myself that knows that here in awareness, all things are possible.” Servant-leadership guru, Robert K. Greenleaf, writing in Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness, suggested that self actualization begins with personal value-building and value clarification that helps “build serenity in the face of stress and uncertainty.” Daniel Goleman in Emotional Intelligence, stresses the importance of being in touch with one’s makeup, proclivities, moods, and emotions, being able to recognize personal strengths and weaknesses, and understanding the impact one has on others.

When I begin working with a client, we begin with one or two assessments designed to both inform us in an objective way where the client’s strengths and weaknesses lie and to give us a sense of how self aware they are (or are not). Then we work together to craft a path toward self-actualization.

Why the need for a coach? After all, I’ve just offered an example of someone who has, presumably, done it all on his own. The need comes from the obstacles we all encounter. In reality very few people can accurately see their own obstacles and path forward. Valery Satterwhite, an inner wealth consultant, said everyone is capable of self-actualization, and most people want this for themselves, but many people don’t completely become self-actualized. “Whether or not they achieve it depends upon how willing they are to step beyond the comfort zone of conditioning to explore new perspectives, new learning, and new insights." Coaching helps build a foundation of self-awareness, new perspectives, learning, and insights which creates a path to self-esteem and eventually facilitates the process of self-actualization.

Headed home, grateful for all the blessings of life and for having met some wonderful people on our trip, I reflected on something by Joseph Campbell;

If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.
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