Where Wisdom Meets Compassion With Annie Perrin
“We’re being called to integrate the heart and the head because neither one is sufficient on its own to solve these challenges.” This is what today’s guest, Annie Perrin, says as she highlights the value of cultivating both wisdom and compassion in this day and age. Annie is the Founder of the Annie Perrin Consulting, where she leverages all of her education and experience to help leaders tap into their innate wisdom and compassion to achieve better business outcomes in a humane and sustainable way. In this episode, she talks to Katherine Twells about the importance of doing this much deeper inner work—mingling both the mind and the heart—for leaders to create a stable and unshakable core and become the absolute best of who they are: their wisest and most compassionate self. Join Annie as she tells us more about how we can cultivate this, how it’s related to the Spiral Dynamics Theory, why emotions are critical, and why we need to keep our hearts open. Let’s all be a fuller expression of ourselves so we can be in greater service. Tune in to this conversation where wisdom meets compassion.
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Where Wisdom Meets Compassion With Annie Perrin
Leading From The Inside Out To Bring Your Best Work To The World
Greetings, friends, and thank you for joining me in the lab. In this episode, I welcome someone with incredible heart and wisdom. My guest is Annie Perrin. Annie spent the first sixteen years of her career working as a psychotherapist, specializing in the integration of physical, emotional, and intellectual health to promote resilience. She completed additional postgraduate training in developing and transforming organizational culture under conditions of chronic stress, which, quite frankly, is the way it is all the time for business nowadays.
She not only looked at how the organization was operated but added the spiritual dimension of leadership and the neurobiology of change. When the pandemic shutdown came, it accentuated issues like interconnectedness, emotional wellness, and the critical need for creative people-centered problem-solving. She decided to redirect her energy towards helping business leaders create more humanitarian cultures and better transformative solutions.
She leverages all of her education and experience from organizational development to the arts, neuroscience, and spirituality to help leaders tap into their innate wisdom and compassion to achieve better business outcomes in a humane and sustainable way. I hope you’ll enjoy the conversation with Annie. She is so passionate and wise in how she approaches her work and she has so much that she can share with us on how we can evolve to be better business leaders in the future. Without any further delay, I bring you the conversation with the amazing Annie Perrin.
Annie, it is so nice to see you again. I want to say thank you upfront for taking the time to join us in the show. I’m looking forward to our conversation.
Thank you, Kathy. I am very happy to be here and thank you for inviting me.
It is such a joy because every time I do this, I get to learn from amazing people like yourself. I appreciate it. Let’s dig right in. At the beginning of this interview, I will have already shared the formal bio of your background, but our bios don’t tell our story. If you would not mind, share a little bit about your origin story and how your life path led you to do what you’re doing now.
I am happy to do that. It’s one that I never could have possibly planned as you and I spoke about in the past. I’m 1 of 10 children. I came from a family of ten kids. There are 9 girls and 1 boy. I’m the seventh daughter. Growing up ever since I was very little, I dreamed of being a teacher. I was passionate about teaching. I used to steal school supplies, and I created my own little school room in my bedroom. That’s what I ended up becoming. In the first part of my career, I was a teacher. I studied Education and Dance in undergraduate school.
Dance is a huge part of my life. It still is. I taught for about eight years and was also dancing here in New York. I would finish school and then run to dance class. My experience with the combination of dance and education prompted me into the next phase of my career, which was as a dance therapist. I got my Master’s in Dance Movement Therapy, which now might be called Somatic Therapy or Body-Centered Therapy. At the time, no one knew what it was, but it was the study of psychology incorporating the body in the movement in healing modalities. I was drawn to that not entirely consciously, but because dance was and is such a healing modality in my own life.
There was a lot of love in my family of origin, but there was also a great deal of trauma. Dance was one of the ways that I was able to stay connected to myself, my strength, and my emotions. I worked as a dance therapist for about eighteen years. During that time, I began to specialize in the treatment of trauma. I was fortunate enough to do additional training with an Institute called The Sanctuary Institute, which is a systems-informed trauma-based theory. That was very instrumental in my career and my life to this day. I rely on what I learned from that model and incorporate it into my work.
Toward the end of my time as a dance therapist, I was going through a divorce and, just to be blunt, I needed to earn more money. Believe it or not, dance therapists don’t rake in the big bucks. It was an interesting time because money had never been a particularly high motivator for me, but at the time of my divorce, I had two very young kids, and providing for them went to the top of the list. That is when I transitioned into leadership development and executive coaching. I went to a vocational counselor. She guided me by saying, “If you can help traumatized people, you can probably help executives in large companies.”
It didn’t seem like an obvious leap, but it ended up being a good fit. A lot of my trauma-informed knowledge and skills were applicable in big organizations in terms of chronic stress and the way that people were working and feeling in the workplace. I was doing that work and I worked for a company called The Energy Project, which I know you’re familiar with, which focuses on the four dimensions of human energy. That was a very amazing opportunity for me. It was also influential in my life and work. Toward the end of my time there, I had that irritating, niggling feeling that I was supposed to be doing something else and something more.
I didn’t even know what it was, but it was a calling. It was also in the spiritual dimension of energy. At The Energy Project, we talked about the spiritual dimension of energy, but we didn’t go very deep into that dimension. I was very interested in trying to explore more in that area. It was very vague, not knowing what was next. Through a series of grace-filled coincidences, I came across an institute here in New York where I live called One Spirit Alliance. When I was looking at their website, my whole body started to tingle. I just knew, “This is what I’ve been looking for.” I enrolled in a two-year program in Interspiritual Counseling, so not necessarily religious but working as a counselor with people in the spiritual dimension of their lives, whatever that means to them.
During the course of my studies, I was transformed as a person in a way that I had never been before despite years and years of training. I was in therapy myself for most of my adult life. There was something about working in this realm that was transformative. It was also pretty fast. Toward the end of my time there, I started to consider, “If this had this impact on me, what might working in this dimension mean for leaders and organizations?”
The pandemic hit and I decided to take a layoff of my full-time role at a leadership development firm. It is not The Energy Project but a different one. It ended up being the perfect time because the world was coming to a halt. I knew I was ready for something new. I didn’t know what it was. I thought, “This is a great time to get quiet, reflect, and see what happens.” It was during the early months of the pandemic that I began to write a curriculum for leaders. It is very much grounded in everything I had learned at One Spirit.
To this day, I don’t quite remember writing it. It felt like it came out in a way. I brought that body of work to a colleague that I had worked with over many years at a Big Four professional service firm and we just started talking. He loved it. He was very excited by it. He ended up sponsoring me to collaborate with an in-house team to design it for their firm. That was the beginning of my own business or practice. That was a few years ago and still doing that work, doing executive coaching and other facilitated programs. I wake up every day pinching myself, feeling extremely grateful.
It’s so fascinating to me, Annie, when we look back at our past. We have these ideas when we’re young. Sometimes, we have no ideas when we’re young. I had no idea what I wanted to be. Oftentimes, we get these ideas like you had this idea of being a teacher. As you look back, you’re a teacher in a completely different domain, but everything unfolds in such a beautiful synchronicity even with the dance movement, counseling, and all that. When you saw that website, you had that full-body reaction because you were so tuned in to the somatic part of yourself to be able to be guided by that.
Sometimes we’re guided and we miss those cues because maybe we’re too much in our heads and not in our hearts. I know we’re going to talk more about that integration in this conversation. Thank you for sharing the story. It’s beautiful. I love it when people end up doing what it seems that they were meant to be doing. It shows in the quality and integrity of the work that they do. Here you are now, dealing in the business space.
Inner Work In The Business World
We talked a little bit when we were when first met and we were talking about having this conversation on the show about what’s changed in business because there is language in the business world now, whether it’s trauma, anxiety, or mental health that simply wasn’t allowed in that domain in the past. There was a very clear separation. In the last few years, you’ve been engaging with people. What are you seeing that’s changing in the business world in regards to doing this type of inner work?
It’s a great question. I’ve been reflecting on it a lot. I don’t know that I have the answer, but I have a few thoughts. One is the pandemic. That collective experience around the globe that affected every single human on earth changed our perception of concepts that, before the pandemic, were present in business but a little bit abstract, the notion of global connection or complexity. We lived that and leaders lived that in a way to your earlier point about feeling something in an embodied way. We all felt our connectedness in a deeper more embodied way.
Having an existential crisis like the pandemic prompted a lot of us to think more deeply about who we are, what we are doing, and why we are here. All those big questions became at the forefront for a lot of people and a lot of leaders in particular. That might be part of it. As a result of the pandemic, mental health and people’s wellness also moved to the forefront in a way that hadn’t been as obvious in the past. That’s continuing to happen.Having an existential crisis like the pandemic prompted a lot of us to think more deeply about who we are, what we are doing, and why we are here. Click To Tweet
It might get more intense before it gets better, in my opinion. I don’t see that trend changing anytime soon. I also think that the climate crisis is another factor where businesses are being, in some cases, forced to consider the impact that their products and their way of doing business have on the climate and are being called to a higher purpose around that as well. Those would be my two obvious answers.
That’s right on. It’s funny. Your practice was born about the same time as the show began all triggered by the pandemic, the very same circumstances where we were invited in to have higher-level conversations about the whole being. We come into work and we bring everything into work like what’s going on in our lives, who we are, what type of wounds and traumas, how we’re triggered, and how we communicate.
To me, it’s only natural that we would do the work of the whole person. It’s very typical in the business space for many years to talk about your physical health, do step challenges, “Here are the programs to help you be physically well,” because we know that connects, but our mental agility is equally, if not more, critical to our ability to thrive and operate in the business world and our lives. I do think it’s funny how when the timing is right, the dialogue changes, and things are invited in.
Spiral Dynamics Theory
I’m wondering. You and I talked about something that I’m guessing a lot of people aren’t familiar with. We both have studied a little bit of Spiral Dynamics Theory. It’s not something that a lot of people know about, but it’s a fascinating piece of work because it talks about the evolution of humans and how we work together. We could spend the whole show digging deep into this, but just from a high level, can you explain a little bit about what that theory is and how it applies to business?
I want to qualify my sharing by saying that there are myriad experts in this field that have devoted their entire careers to this work. I am not an expert but I’m a huge fan and student of the work. There are several different thought leaders that lead what they call different things, but Spiral Dynamics is one of them. The idea is that since human beings have been on the planet, we have collectively evolved our consciousness as problems have arisen that we need to solve. There are very predictable things about the model. For example, the stages of our evolution alternate between being individually focused, and then the next stage is very much group focused and it has alternated all through our history.
If we think of an example like the Bubonic plague, this one was shared with me that was helpful in me understanding like, “How do the problems help evolve our consciousness?” When the Bubonic plague emerged on the planet, the primary worldview was grounded in ritual spirituality, praying to the gods, and offering sacrifices to the gods as an attempt to control natural events. When that didn’t work so well with the plague, that prompted a new way of thinking. That’s when the scientific era emerged in the Age of Enlightenment. Things like astrology and chemistry all grew out of a response to the fact that the way humans were thinking and operating at that time wasn’t sufficient to solve that problem as an example.
The idea is that we are continuing to evolve our consciousness. There are ways to locate levels of development within countries, organizations, and regions. The primary level now in the US in the Spiral Dynamic model is orange. They’re identified by colors. Orange is individually focused and very much about achievement, winning, striving, and capitalism. Patriarchy is much a part of orange.
The stage that comes after orange is green, which is all about the group, social justice, the planet, harmony, and love. Orange and green drive each other crazy. If you think about environmentalists and business people, it’s not surprising through a Spiral Dynamics lens that those two groups would clash. The phase after green is yellow, which is called integral thinking. It’s the first level in the evolution that includes everything that comes before it and transcends it. It’s the first phase where the heart and the head are integrated and working together.
I love this theory. For anyone reading who wants to look into more of it, there are a lot of data out there around Spiral Dynamics. There’s been such tremendous work done in observing how we as humans evolve our way of being. This is obvious in a way, but you think about your own journey in life. Our obstacles and challenges are what force us to grow and to think about things in a different way. It’s taking that natural way that we evolve and looking at cultures and societies and how we do that together.
You mentioned the pandemic earlier and the fact that we realize our interconnectivity. The more we understand that we are not isolated beings but we are connected whole, it changes the way we work, the way we treat other people, and how we understand our role in the collective good. It’s very powerful, this shift in paradigm.
Overcoming VUCA With Wisdom And Compassion
Let’s take that and look at the world we’re living in nowadays. There’s a term used very often in business leadership called VUCA. VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. Here we are living in this environment of immense challenge and crazy amounts of change. As we think about whether it’s Spiral Dynamics or just our natural processes, why is the cultivation of wisdom and compassion so important now to address these issues?
Building on the Spiral Dynamics question, I’ll start there by saying that we’re being called to integrate the heart and the head because neither one is sufficient on its own to solve these challenges. The other reason why it’s so important is because, in my opinion, if we don’t “get our interconnectedness,” I don’t think we’ll make it as a species.We're being called to integrate the heart and the head because neither one is sufficient on its own to solve these challenges. Click To Tweet
There is an urgency in the work, although I know, and maybe we’ll talk about this more later, that holding both ends of inviting people in and accepting what is with that sense of urgency in our own mission. The other reason is that I’m a deep believer and practitioner in the connection and integration between what’s happening in our inner life and how we’re managing external circumstances. I don’t think you can skip that step.
Especially when we talk about VUCA, if we’re not able to explore, expand, and navigate our inner complexity, we’re not going to be able to navigate the outer complexity. There are a lot of brilliant quotes by Anderson and Adams who wrote Mastering Leadership, and you shared this quote day about the evolution of the consciousness of the leader that the organization cannot surpass the consciousness of the leader. There is a responsibility of leaders to continue to develop themselves including their inner life in order to lead skillfully, successfully, and humanely through the VUCA environment. There’s a practical component of you’re just not going to be able to do it if you rely on what’s gotten us here so far.
The other way I think about it is that, for personal leadership to sustainability, the more that we orient to an internal locus of control, the more resilient we are in the face of challenge. That’s very much grounded in research. There’s a great researcher named Al Seibert who that is out of his research. A lot of what I’m up to in my work with leaders is cultivating an inner core that is so stable and unshakable. It is that inner core that represents the absolute best of who they are, their wisest and most compassionate self.
I work with leaders to practice locating it. It’s impossible to live from that place 100% of the time unless you’re the Dalai Lama or an enlightened being, but we can get better at locating it and going, “This is the best of who I am. This is my most compassionate heart and my most wise mind,” and repeatedly calling ourselves back to lead from that place when everything in our external environment is going haywire. That’s another one of my passions in terms of the relevance of this for leaders.
It’s a passion that is so important as I think about my own journey as a leader. On the days when I feel like there’s a level of overwhelm with all the things, you’ve got your inbox and maybe customers who need something, your team needs something, or someone’s going through something on your team, and then you’ve got your kids, your family, your health, yourself, and the world. You turn off the news so that you don’t lose your center entirely. When I was doing a value hierarchy exercise a while back, I was always so attracted to equanimity and this idea of no matter what happens to be able to be equal and to be steady, not even to label it good or bad but to be the observer of what’s happening, and then choose the response to it.
Some people might hear that and be like, “Yes, but we’re human. You’re going to feel the emotions that we feel.” I’m certainly not a fan of becoming robotic there-is-no-human emotion. Our emotions are part of what’s beautiful about us. At the same time, what you’re talking about is that grounded center in the storm, a place you return to when things are crazy. What are some of the things you work with leaders to cultivate that?
We had a speaker and we were talking about the power of retreat. You might go on a retreat for a week or a couple of days and get centered. That’s a beautiful experience but you can’t do that all the time and some people maybe can never do that. That retreat might be an hour in the afternoon. What are some of the ways you guide leaders into that center? I know there’s a lot to it, but just a couple.
Emotions Are Critical
Before I go there, Kathy, I wanted to respond to what you said about emotions because I feel it’s very important. There’s a saying in the work I lead that I learned at the institute. It’s the saying all is welcome. Emotions are critical. They contain so much wonderful information. It’s not like we want to get rid of them or suppress them. It’s almost like a wave. The emotions come in and you ride the wave. You are aware of them. One of the practices is awareness followed by a pause so that we can make an intentional choice. It’s an incredibly simple practice. It’s harder to do and harder to implement but gets easier when we practice it.
There’s something called a Spiritual Bypass. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that term. That’s when we want to float above all the human messiness and all the emotions and stay above the fray. That’s not what spiritual work or work in this dimension involves. There are some theories in spirituality around the ascent. The ascent refers to our highest self of who we aspire to be if there’s something that we orient to that’s deeply meaningful for us or grounding for us. That’s that direction going up, aspiring to grow up. The other aspect of spirituality is called the descent. That’s going deep down inward into the muck, into the messy humanity, into what some people might refer to as the sole territory. Both are required both are required. Emotions are important.
I’m in this new thread. I will go back to the other question but now I’ve got to pick up on what you’re saying here, too, as we let this organically unfold because this is so interesting. When I first started doing this work, and I’ve talked to others in the same boat, you suddenly do feel like you have to be some Zen warrior and never get upset. All of a sudden, your kids do something and you lose it. You’re like, “My gosh.” That inner critic comes out like, “I haven’t arrived. I haven’t done my work because I just lost it.” To your point, it’s so informative to what we need to take a look at. It is our work.
It is so much a part of the process that we do want to deny because we want to say, “I’m always going to be in a state of peace,” and we’re not. The other challenge is how do you coach during the times when you’re so triggered that, if I get this right in in the whole neuroscience piece, literally the front part of your brain is shutting down, you move into fight or flight, and you’ve lost all ability to be aware? You are in this place of protection and defense. Maybe in that situation, you have to let it pass and then revisit what happened.
This does relate to practices because a lot of the practices that I teach in the course but also in my executive coaching have to do with regulating oneself. A key to regulation is awareness to notice when your body is either in fight, flight, freeze, or flop. There are a lot of different varieties of extreme stress responses. The first step is you always start with the body because you cannot bring your prefrontal cortex back online if you’re still in in that threat response. You have to first regulate your system or calm the body. Aside from genuinely life-threatening triggers, most emotional triggers, the body recovers in about 90 seconds. The problem is we talk to ourselves in a way that keeps retriggering us over and over again.
The simple practice is for people to understand what happens in their bodies when they’re triggered because it’s not the same for everyone. For me, my cheeks tend to get hot. My stomach starts to swirl. Even if I don’t know why that’s happening, I know something happened that has me feeling threatened. To tune into your own body’s signals and responses is a great first step and then regulating the body is the next step, just to simply get your system back to neutral. There are a lot of ways to do that. The fastest most efficient way is through breath.
There are many different breath techniques, but there’s a great technique by Peter Levine, who’s one of the leaders of somatic therapy called Vooing. He has videos on YouTube. It’s a simple practice of making the sound voo as low and with a certain breath as you can. That’s very research-based that down-regulates the system. The next step, once you’ve got your brain back on board, is to start doing the cognitive work of, “What just happened? What was the threat? Am I actually in threat?” The Energy Project work calls it the facts and the stories sorting through, “What’s the story I’m telling myself? Is that story serving me well?” It’s not until you can regulate the system that you can bring in your thinking mind and start to analyze what happened.
Let’s stay on emotions for one more moment before we get back into some of the other places we want to visit. I am raising boys and there’s still a lot of cultural dynamics of, “There’s no crying in baseball. Be tough.” In an orange world, going back to Spiral Dynamics language, it’s about competition. It’s about, “If I’m going to win, you’re going to have to lose,” and all this achievement. There’s an unbelievable amount of pressure.
I don’t think this stops at boys and men, but with women, it’s a bit more acceptable in the culture to experience our emotions and experience our true feelings about things. How have you seen that in your practice? How have you seen your clients? Even in resistance, I would think that there’s a level of admitting somehow weakness if we take a look at the descent and the things that make us feel insecure or afraid. That’s not something a lot of people certainly in the business world want to go near.
I have a lot of stories I could share with you about that. Education is crucial. We need to teach our boys about the broader system that they are a part of. Patriarchy splits masculine from feminine and values certain things in the masculine domain and certain things in the feminine domain. There are costs to both men and women and non-binary people as a result of that. There’s a high cost to our young men, our boys, and grown men that came up in this system. There’s a high cost for women as well.
There’s a wonderful book called Why Does Patriarchy Persists? by Carol Gilligan. She does a beautiful job of explaining her research around the costs to members of a patriarchal culture. We need to talk to our boys and start to dismantle those myths, false splits, and dichotomy and start talking about what it is to be a human, less about a boy, a girl, or a non-binary person but what humans are like and that humans feel things and express them. It is to try and help our boys name those situations that aren’t so healthy and to help our girls. Women are more comfortable and socialized to be in touch with our emotions, but we’re often not allowed to say them or say other things that we think. We also need to help our girls with education as well.
So much of this is education. I was thinking, as you were talking, Annie. If you’re reading this, I already mentioned the overwhelm of what’s coming at us on any given day. At the same time, let’s see you work in the business environment and you are a salesperson. You’re like, “I need to get better at presentations. I need to get better at public speaking. I need to get better at negotiation. I need to do this and I have to take care of this.”
You start feeling that, “How much development? Where do I develop and do my development? Where do I begin all of this work?” What would you say to that person who might say, “This is all great, but I don’t have time to do this type of work. It’s too difficult. It’s too vague. It’s not a place I want to go.” What would you say to that person?
First and foremost, I would trust their system that they might they might be right. They might not be ready to do this work and there’s wisdom in their system that knows why that’s the case on some level. I might offer them the idea that it’s not an either/or. I love all sorts of trainings. I’m like the training queen. I love learning anything. There are skills we need to get better at and I’m 100% for that. I happen to believe that you can do both. I don’t think they have to be separate.
I also think that when you cultivate a deep inner life, when you deepen your knowledge of yourself, when you know who you want to be or what you believe in, it only enhances everything else you do. That’s probably what I would say. I deeply trust people’s knowledge of themselves. If someone says to me, “I don’t want to go there,” fine. Don’t. I’ve grown in that respect in my career. Earlier in my career, I was much more attached to convincing people. As I’ve matured, aged, and evolved, sometimes it creeps in, but I’m very aware of not doing that to other people. I try not to.When you cultivate a deep inner life, when you deepen your knowledge of yourself, and when you know who you want to be or what you believe in, it only enhances everything else you do. Click To Tweet
It goes back to something you mentioned earlier. We spoke about in a previous conversation this balance of urgency versus invitation because it’s very natural when you discover something in any domain. It transforms you. You tend to want to run out there and go, “Everybody, come check this out. It’s amazing.” You want everyone to come along with you, but everyone’s on their own journey, ready at the time they’re ready. That can be a hard balance. As we spoke about the other day, there is a level of urgency.
Keep Your Heart Open
Let’s take a look at the world we’re living in. There’s a tremendous amount of separation of tribalism whether it’s on the political front or social front where there is one group pointing at the other group about the wrongness. If we go back to our interconnectivity and our evolution as a species, how does that serve? We’re so busy trying to knock each other down, which feeds the urgency of the work. You answered it with you managing it, but how do we keep this tension of an invitation without force?
It’s such a good question, one that I grapple with a lot. Going back to the Spiral Dynamics Theory, Ken Wilber is one of the leaders in Spiral Dynamics which was originally started by Dr. Clare Graves. Ken Wilber predicted this polarized time that we’re in now. He predicted it many years ago based on the model. My analogy is if you think about kids, and I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, Kathy, but sometimes before kids are going to make a big developmental leap, they regress. They want their blankie again, or they start wanting to sleep with you at night, or whatever the thing is. There’s a version of that collectively.
When there starts to be a pull toward evolving into something different, the current system is like, “No way,” grabbing on with fingernails to resist the change. I tell myself that because it makes me feel a little better and more optimistic that, “This is a very predictable thing that’s happening now.” It’s painful and scary, but there might even be some hope in that. The answer that I come back to most of the time in terms of balancing urgency with equanimity, to borrow your word, is to just focus on my small part of what I can do to be a part of the change and make it very simple where I can at least start with myself and, hopefully, that will generate a positive impact or positive ripple.
One of my mentors and spiritual advisor is Diane Burke. She founded One Spirit Alliance. I remember asking her once. It was during the pandemic when the Ukraine war broke out. There were a lot of racial protests and murders by police, etc. It was an overwhelming time and I remember asking her, “What do we do?” It was so overwhelming. She said, and I’ll never forget it, “To keep our hearts open in the face of all of this is a radical act of resistance.” That was very helpful to me because I thought, “That I can do.”
It’s so powerful to distill it down because, sometimes, when you get overwhelmed, you just want to shut down. You want to close off. I know Michael Singer talks a lot about that in his work about the power of an open heart versus being closed down. You might be cruising through your life doing fine but in a state of being closed. It’s such a different energy. It’s such a different ability to show up for people and to receive and even discover. If we did that one thing, how would things change?
When in doubt, try and keep your heart open. In some ways, many of the systems that were in are by design. It is keeping us busy, anxious, and feeling like we need a lot of stuff to be okay. It is an act of courage to keep your heart open because it’s not always the natural thing to do in a lot of the environments we’re in. There is another beautiful quote by Rick Hanson. He said that one place of refuge in turbulent times is your own goodness. I thought that was beautiful.
That’s very beautiful and important for everyone to remember their own goodness because I cannot tell you how many conversations we get into when we do some of our workshops in the lab and we talk about the voices of people’s heads. It’s so full of judgment, criticism, shame, lack, and what we’re not. We all have room to grow. If we didn’t, it would be quite boring. We have much we can do, but there is an innate goodness and beauty in every person. If we see that and celebrate it, we can bring it forth into the world.
In the Leading With Wisdom and Compassion Course, we talk about the concept of wholeness. Each one of us is whole and intact despite our growing edges and our limitations. That, too, is something that we can orient to. We continue to grow, learn, try, and improve, but we’re whole and intact exactly the way we are now and so is everybody else. To throw in another practice, we work with leaders to look at their team members to practice looking at them either as whole and intact, capable, and resourceful of solving their own problems, or are you looking at as broken and needing fixing?
We do an experiential where leaders are listening to each other. They’re sharing a challenge that they’re currently struggling with. They’re in pairs. We invite one leader to be the speaker. The other leader is the listener. Without telling their partner, they decide if they’re going to gaze at them as broken and needing fixing or if they’re going to gaze at them as whole, intact, resourceful, and capable of solving their own problems. The speaker then gives feedback about how it felt and, almost to a person, people feel the difference. That’s another powerful practice. I did that practice with my teenage son. He’s now in his twenties, but when he was a teenager, I was so worried about it. I never knew what he was up to.
I’m right there now. I’m anxious here about what you’re going to say next.
I had all the normal mother anxiety of a teenage kid. In this case, a boy. I realized that every time he came in the door, I was looking at it like, “What’s wrong?” I caught myself doing it and I thought, “I’m going to do this practice.” I practiced looking into his eyes and holding him as whole and intact. After about two weeks, he came up to me in the kitchen. I was cooking dinner and he said, “Mom, I don’t know what you’re doing, but your communication has gotten so much better.” He felt it.
I love this practice too. We’re talking about business because it hasn’t been in the business world. When you do this work, it’s your whole life. It’s your guarantee. It’s your friendships. It’s your marriage. It’s all things because, all of a sudden, you are looking at life through such greater intention and levels of consciousness, understanding, grace, forgiveness, patience, and all those things that help us get by. I love it.
It’s also very freeing because when you can practice holding others as whole and intact, it takes a lot of pressure off of like, “I don’t have to manage other people.” I don’t have to solve. If they ask for help, I can be available, but I don’t have to rush in to fix anybody, including my own kids. That’s a big relief.
It’s a huge relief because we’re always balancing that tension between active-passive like, “I have to intervene.” Certainly, if you’re in the development world and you gained knowledge and wisdom and you just want to tell them everything, it doesn’t work that way. Not that you can’t plan a few seeds, but they have to live into it from their own experience and inner guidance, trust, and ability to be whole and intact. It takes work.
In the business world, there’s so much conversation on development, “What does this person need to develop?” We talk about strengths and weaknesses, but there’s an air of what needs to be advanced in somebody. You can understand why, and it’s good that we’re being proactive in developing our people and giving them chances to grow. We probably need to be very aware of the energy of how that is communicated.
You can do the same exact thing, but the inner motivation behind it can be entirely different, which changes everything. I agree. In the resiliency research that I mentioned earlier by Al Seibert, he talks about the three selves, self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-concept. I love a lot about what he says about self-esteem. We strive to improve and grow not to be more worthwhile but to be a fuller expression of ourselves so that we can be in greater service. You can grow and develop from a standpoint of, “I’m not good enough. There’s something wrong with me,” and all those things, which are human and normal, but wouldn’t it be nice if development was framed as, “We want you to be a fuller expression of yourself?” I’d sign up for that.We strive to improve and grow not to be more worthwhile but to be a fuller expression of ourselves so that we can be in greater service. Click To Tweet
I am totally signing up for that. That’s awesome. I love that. Annie, there is so much power in this work. I know we could talk about these things, have and will again for a very long time, but I want to be mindful of your time. I do have a few fun, short rapid-fire questions if you are game. It is what first comes to mind on these things. The first one is, your superpower is?
What gives you the most peace?
Being with my family, my kids, my partner, Michael, my step kids, Emily and Ben, and dance. That wasn’t one word. Sorry.
It can be. There are no hard fast rules here. Definition of a life well lived?
A life that was lived with love and service.
What is your wish for the world?
Amen to that. I want to thank you for this time together and for what you have taught me not just in this episode but in our conversations previous to this one, and for how you’re using your gifts in the world. It’s fabulous. I want to make sure people know how to find you if they want to go deeper into the work and learn more.
You’re welcome. Thank you, Kathy, for inviting me. I, too, have learned a great deal from you and would love to continue the conversation. Probably the best place is my website, which is AnniePerrinConsulting.com.
Again, this has been a gift and delightful. Thank you so much, Annie.
- Annie Perrin
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About Annie Perrin
Annie Perrin spent the first 16 years of her career working as a psychotherapist, specializing in the integration of physical, emotional, and intellectual health to promote resilience.
She completed additional post-graduate training in developing and transforming organizational culture under conditions of chronic stress, as well as in the spiritual dimension of leadership and the neurobiology of change.
When the pandemic shutdown came, it accentuated issues like interconnectedness, emotional wellness, and the critical need for creative, people-centered problem solving. Annie decided to redirect her energy toward helping business leaders create more humanitarian cultures and better, transformative solutions. Annie Perrin Consulting was born.
Today, Annie leverages all her education and experience – from organizational development to the arts to neuroscience to spirituality – to help leaders tap into their innate wisdom and compassion and achieve better business outcomes in a humane, sustainable way that poses less of a cost to themselves and others.
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