Oprah and I have agreed on many things over the years; yet, imagine my surprise when I was reading her ‘What I Know for Sure’ column in this month’s magazine to find her expose on personal power. I quote:
“The secret is alignment: when you know for sure that you’re on course, and doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing, fulfilling your soul’s intention… when your life is on a course with its purpose, you are your most powerful.”
Well, Oprah and I are in ‘alignment around alignment.’
When I formed my company, Alignment, Inc., almost two years ago, my concept of ‘alignment’ was spawned through my own life experiences, personal and professional. Interestingly, when I bought the rights to my company name (and other alignment trademarks); the only hurdles we ran into were around wheel alignment garages and chiropractic offices! It has been fascinating to watch this concept grab hold in other personal and business circles; and what happens within individuals and companies as they tap into the power we (Oprah and I) call alignment.
So, first of all, what do I really mean by ‘Alignment’?
Alignment within oneself is the concept I offer. Once an individual is truly aligned around their purpose – and thus, they are indeed living their life on purpose – this is when and where Divine power is revealed and released. I believe that the most fulfilled and successful individuals are those whose thoughts, feelings, beliefs, gifts, talents, strengths, preferences and desires on how and where to contribute in the world are aligned. Their mind, body, emotions, and spirit are in harmony. There is simply no substitute for total alignment and congruency within a person or leader.
Think about it … when we see a person who truly walks their talk, whose life is a full and total manifestation of their beliefs, and whose profession is one that fully capitalizes and optimizes their gifts and talents – we see a person who is in their groove. One doesn’t have to look too far for examples – they are the ones that would do their work for free and that come to work with a spring in their step. They are the ones that have a passion for their work, an intense desire to make a difference, and are centered and confident in the manner in which they choose to let this unfold. Their personal and professional goals are aligned and they remain committed to doing whatever it takes to fulfill their purpose.
I’ll share just one unlikely example from my life. Mary, a nurse at a hospital where I was recovering from surgery a few years ago, exemplifies a person in total alignment. Her job is not an easy one; there is some heavy lifting, literally and figuratively, in the ward where she worked. Emotionally and physically there is pain, heartache, disappointment, fear – believe me, many of us would cower at the thought of serving humanity in this way. During the time I was there, I never saw or experienced anything but effervescent energy, can do spirit, and clarity of purpose from Mary. She heals, she listens, she cheers, she sheds tears with families – this is her calling and she knows it. Her soul’s purpose is in total alignment with her profession. It shows. It is authentic. It is powerful. I can tell you this – I came through my personal experience that year because of Mary. That is the power of alignment.
Of course, there are many public figures aligned with their unique purposes as well. Think of sports figures that have set world records such as Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong. Think of global figures that have made monumental life-changing contributions such as Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, and Mother Teresa. Think of artists who have followed their dreams against many obstacles to ultimately give the world their creative genius, such as Itzhak Perlman, Leontyne Price, and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Each of their unique gifts and talents were aligned with their inner most desires and intentions, and the results were phenomenal! That is the power of alignment.
The Power of Community
Although I believe that the purest power of alignment ultimately begins (and ends) within an individual, there is also the power of community – which is alignment among and between collections of individuals. I consult and counsel around this practice as well. Teams, organizations, and companies that are in total alignment around a common vision, congruent goals, collaborative metrics and compensation are undisputedly the most successful. Again, look within your own company or organization. When do you see and experience the most success? Do you experience it when the CEO all the way through the individual contributor level is fully aligned around the common vision? Do you experience it when the goals of the various functional groups are aligned with and between each other? Or is it when they are competing for resources, revenue credit, engaged in land grab tactics, or fighting for increased visibility?
We know the answer. It is easy to say and often hard to implement. We get caught up in our personal quests for success, fame, fortune, and status – often at the mercy of the collective community. “Alignment” goes out the window when we are striving for our individual success on the metric board or our own division’s success – and we perceive our individual success to fall outside the trajectory for the company. Thus, I believe– horizontally and vertically –toward a common vision is the secret sauce for collective (and individual) success.
It goes without saying that no company, organization, or movement is perfect. However, there are a few organizations which I have watched over the years; whose brands, corporate citizenship, vision, culture, rewards, hiring practices, firing disciplines and ongoing development – are in alignment with their overall purpose. A very short list: The Boys and Girls Club of America, Southwest Airlines, Rotary International, Target Stores, and General Electric. You may not agree with everything about these organizations, however, one thing is for sure: there is alignment from the CEO to the front line around their purpose. Whether it is ‘Helping children reach their Potential’ (BGCA), ‘Service above Self’ (Rotary), ‘Customer service and Company Spirit’ (Southwest), ‘Imagination at Work’ (GE), and ‘Expect more, Pay less’ (Target) – each individual in those respective organizations is marching to the same tune, for a common purpose.
As Margaret Mead so aptly stated many years ago: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I believe these ‘thoughtful committed citizens’ are indeed in alignment. That is the power of community – alignment among and between collections of individuals – whether it is in a business, a country, or a charity – around a common vision and purpose.
When coaching my executive clients, here are a few steps I have them take to become more aligned as an Individual:
- Listen to your heart. Pay attention to that little voice inside. It may come as a question in the middle of the night. Or as crystal clear as a voice in the shower. The voice is your soul – it is your core and it is the pure essence of what and who you are meant to be. Heed it.
- Let go. That is a hard one, believe me, I know. Many times we will have this ‘whisper’ to do or be something other than what we are presently – and we fight it (or just flat out ignore it) because it is not what we think we should be doing. The trappings of our world are intoxicating. We often get ‘drunk’ on these. What I believe, however, is if we truly follow our heart’s desire – we will be successful. All the other trappings will take care of themselves.
- Read. Read everything. There are many books I can recommend which may help to stimulate your juices. Here are just a few:
- The Seat of the Soul – Gary Zukav
- A New Earth – Eckardt Tolle
- The Power of Now – Eckardt Tolle
- Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
- Care for the Soul – Thomas Moore
- Living a Life that Matters – Harold Kushner
- Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson
- Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor Frankl
- The Wheel of Life – Elisabeth Kublar-Ross
- The Seat of the Soul – Gary Zukav
- Keep a Journal. This may be a stretch for some – that is ok. Even if you only write down only one or two thoughts you have – when you have them – it is amazing how they will grow and multiply in your mind’s eye. It is a great way to reflect on your day, the lessons learned, the observations of yourself and others. It is like living it ‘over’ in some ways – which is incredibly powerful.
- Connect with your body. Breathe. I have learned recently that our body is often the first signal that something is awry, not the last. If we are really in sync with our bodies – through yoga, meditation, centering exercises, walking, etc. – we are told when things are not right, or not in alignment.
- Finally, just get to know you. Give yourself freedom to be who you are. Just BE and let all things flow from there. Observe yourself – and be curious about what drives your behaviors. This can be such a revealing process. I can help with this journey. I have personally found “my own executive coach” (yes, I have one) to be incredibly supportive, and in many ways indispensable, in holding the mirror for me.
So, is alignment the secret to authentic power? I actually believe authenticity and alignment are synonymous. I also believe there is undeniable power in the authentic congruency of mind, body, heart, and spirit.
So, yes, I believe becoming ‘aligned’ with your core soul, and allowing this to manifest into the world through your choices, is the secret to living your life with powerful purpose and purposeful power.
I also believe that the organizations, teams, and companies who become aligned behind their core vision and purpose will be the one’s setting the pace for others to follow.
This was the basis on which I founded my company two years ago and continues to be the basis from which I lead and live today. If you are interested in learning more about this concept and how it may be of service to you and/or your organization, I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you.