There are so many words that are bounced around these days – words like purpose, passion, happiness – meaningful, important words that are losing their power like a song that is played too often on the radio. But really, aren’t they the point? What else could we be here to do other than to be happy? To feel purposeful? To live passionate lives?
But the cynicism of the day has us turn up our noses. And the responsibilities we women have to everyone else turn us to resignation — to “Oh well.” How I’ve come to hate that phrase.
I was definitely living an “oh well” life. A career I hated, a family I LOVE, but that didn’t seem to fulfill me in the way I imagined being a full-time Mommy would. And I remember thinking, quite clearly “Oh, well. Guess this is what it’s going to be for me.” I’d ruined my once lofty career. So now what? I went to one of the best universities in the country, all the promise of upward mobility, an excellent education, a six-figure job, a once brilliant mind that I believed I allowed myself to lose. “I used to be smart, really smart.” I would actually say that to people. A defense. An excuse. Permission to be ordinary.
So what to do? I needed to do SOMETHING. I became an aerobics instructor. When I told my husband my plan, he laughed. “How is it going to feel for you to tell people that you are an aerobics instructor?” he asked.
Like many girls, I started dancing when I was 3 years old. There is nothing special in that. I had the benefit of growing up in New York with access to amazing ballet schools and performance opportunities. But I don’t ever remember LOVING to dance. I was good enough – never great. But what I LOVED was to perform. To be on stage. Performing was, and is, my bliss. In college, I discovered that my love of performing easily transferred to acting – and I realized I had come to hate to dance. Crazy to me now. I quit.
So here I am, 10 years later, a newly certified aerobics instructor. And I decided to teach people to dance. Not dancers, not children – just your average gym-going woman. Young, old, thin, heavy, tall, short, years of dance experience, or none at all. They came. And I taught them to love to move, to love music, and suddenly after years of trying to succeed in school, and in my career, and as a mother – I found success. Teaching something that I was passionate about – and that I let myself lose. Enjoying more than I could have ever imagined watching these women learn to dance. My class is amazing. It is a shining example of women feeling so proud of doing what they never would have believed they could. Through no effort at all, in a role that my own husband felt was a bit of a joke, I learned to lead.
Leadership is another one of those words – at word we scoff at, a word that has lost its meaning because of its absence at the highest levels. But there is brilliant leadership all around us. In the teacher who magically creates serenity in a room full of five-year olds. In an author who inspires strangers to take meaning and inspiration from her words. In the small business owner who believes so fully in what she is doing that there is no chance she won’t succeed. There is a leader in all of us.
Throughout the ages there have been many that have tried to define leadership with words.
“Leaders provide a mental picture of a preferred future and then ask people to follow them there.” – Adam Stanley
”Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.” –Alan Keith
“A leader is one who mobilizes; one whose focus is influencing people; a person who is goal driven; and someone who has people willing to follow them.” — George Barna
“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” –Dwight D. Eisenhower
In the book “Launching a Leadership Revolution” by Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward there is a definition I especially like, which states “leadership is the influence of others in a productive, vision-driven direction and is done through example, conviction, and character of the leader.”
Looking back on it, that is exactly what I was doing in my aerobics class. I was influencing, through my passion, a vision of women learning choreography, that I used my creative faculties to develop, by showing them what to do and fully believing in their ability to do it. Leadership.
And that first real experience brought me so much happiness, and purpose and passion for what I was doing that it lead to the creation of my first business, Wise Workshops.
I know that you are a leader. I know that you have gifts to share with other women that will enrich their lives and lead you to feeling a sense of purpose that creates a very blissful life. What makes your heart soar? What fuels you? You can lead. You can grow. You can be more.
Your own personal development is the thing you’re left with at the end of the day – not what your children do, not what your spouse does, not what anyone else thinks about you. YOU. A leader – a happy, purposeful, passionate leader, whose song could be played over and over without becoming stale.