The Whole-Hearted Life

I went out for dinner the other night with a dear friend; the food was amazing, the company even better.  We covered topics both light and heavy – industry gossip and catch-up about kids and spouses, but also hopes and possibilities, new directions and how best to be open to them.  Just before she dropped me back at my hotel, she said, “You’ve got watch this amazing TED video.  It’s about the power of vulnerability. The speaker talks about living a life of connection and openness. It’s how you live your life, and how I’m trying to live mine.”

Flattered, of course, and intrigued, I watched it to see what she was talking about – twice – and it’s quite wonderful.  The speaker, Brene Brown, is a researcher in the area of human connection.  She talks about trying to find, as a researcher, the differences between people who live lives of love and belonging, and those who don’t – who struggle to connect.  And she discovered that the only significant difference between the two groups was that those who were living love-and-belonging-filled lives believed they were worthy to have those lives.

So she got really intrigued, and spent the next six years investigating.  She found that the key to the whole puzzle was vulnerability: the willingness to be exactly who you are, and to be fully seen in all your glorious human imperfection.  She found that those who didn’t feel worthy of feeling loved and connected were terrified by such vulnerability and found it excruciating.  Those who felt intrinsically worthy neither loved nor hated being so vulnerable: they simply found it necessary.  They somehow knew that being open – to their own imperfections, to uncertainty, to being disappointed or hurt – was essential to being loved, to connecting deeply to others, to feeling joy.

The irony was that those who resisted being vulnerable because they were afraid of feeling rejected by or disconnected from others – were walled off by their own lack of vulnerability so that they felt rejected by and disconnected from others.

As I was watching, I realized how profoundly true I’ve experienced this to be, not only in my personal life, but professionally as well.  When I’m feel loving and lovable; when I’m comfortable and confident in who I am and what I bring to a situation; when I feel willing to enter with full hope and curiosity into a new relationship – my interactions with others tend to be fun, fluid, productive, creative and joyful.  And this is true whether I’m spending time with friends, cuddling on the couch with my husband, meeting a prospective client, hanging out with my kids and grandchild, working with a client group, or collaborating with a colleague…pretty much whatever.

Brown says so many true and resonant things.  One idea captured me most: she spoke about the fact that people who are vulnerable, who live lives of ‘love and belonging,’ demonstrate three qualities – courage, compassion (for themselves and others) and connection.  She then went on to note that the word courage comes from the French coeur – heart – and that the original definition of courage was ‘to tell the story of one’s life in a whole-hearted way.

I love that.  I want to do it every single day.  So: here’s to the whole-hearted life.

About Erika Andersen

Over the past 30 years, Erika has developed a reputation for creating approaches to learning and business-building that are custom tailored to her clients’ challenges, goals, and culture.

Visit Erika's Forbes.com Blog

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