From ‘at risk’ to Heart Centered Leader

The Road Not Taken: From ‘At-risk’ to Heart Centered Leader

I was never a strong student in the traditional school system. There were, however, some experiences that are still significant in my life today or, shall I say, where the true value and meaning has come to light over time.

Such is the case for one of my all time favourite poems from high school, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. I love Frost’s eloquent description of this contemplative place which sets out the question: shall I be different or go with the flow? To a large degree, I have taken this poem to heart: I have done things different; I have gone the non-traditional route, and I have taken the road less travelled.

When I explain my work to people I describe my journey and why this path has led me to where I am today. If I had to sum it up, I would say that through the lessons learned in facing both my successes and failures I have found that heart centered leadership is at the core of who I am and the choices I make. In fact, I feel it is not only the answer to what makes a meaningful life but what will help our youth find their way through this increasingly challenging world.

Why heart centered leadership?

First, it is my belief that all youth are “at risk” to some degree. While some face more challenges than others there is no iron clad immunity to things like addiction, bullying, eating disorders, or gangs.

As a society we spend millions of dollars on messages that warn against alcohol, drugs, and gangs. We spend far more money on what we don’t what kids doing rather than how we want our kids to be. And while there is a strong need for education in these areas I feel we also have a responsibility to provide space for youth to explore what they love and are passionate about… what their heart cries out for. This requires a change of perspective in all of us.

Looking towards the positive rather than the negative encourages individuality, celebrates uniqueness, inspires and motivates and, above all, empowers heart centered leadership. We need to let kids know that there is nobody exactly like them and no one with the same path; that there is no competition, no better than or not good enough. That successful living is about kindness, compassion, and courage….stepping outside our comfort zone, having healthy boundaries, speaking up and, most importantly, being ourselves.

Imagine a community where this is the norm? What would be different? How would we be treating one another?

Whether you have a young woman recovering from addiction, a 10 year old girl suffering from anxiety, or a straight A student being bullied, the solution is not to shame her or tell her to stop hanging out with the wrong crowd but to support her in practicing heart centered leadership. In self leadership she will reconnect with her dreams, find her passions and learn to walk with confidence on the road less travelled.  

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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