If I Had One Wish

If I Had One Wish

…I would wish for organizations and leaders everywhere to seek to know their truth and be bold and courageous enough to live it.

I’ve witnessed the power of “knowing and living your truth” both in my own life experiences as well as with my clients in theirs. To me, it’s the difference between living an ordinary versus an extraordinary life. Between sleep walking through your life versus tapping into your most full, amazing self and unleashing your gifts in the world.

My “one wish” reflects the essence of how I most want to live my life and help others live theirs. I like the image of water and stepping stones to describe it.

Water represents two things as a constant…

Presence: You can’t seek to know and live your truth if you’re not paying attention. If you’re caught up in all the stuff of life and not noticing, you’re gonna miss it. And I get it, lives are full. Reeeally full. The aim is to “do” your rich, robust life while slowing the pace enough to “be” and focus your attention. It’s both challenging and possible, requiring some serious, conscious choice making, not to mention loads of courage.

Knowing and Loving Yourself: You’ve got to care…about you. YOU have to matter to you. Ground zero in knowing yourself and knowing your truth is first loving yourself (and for organizations, it’s about loving the “entity” as a living breathing organism…its people, mission, purpose, its reason for being).

Next, the stones represent…

a progression of steps I believe are present on the pathway to knowing and ultimately living your truth – what I call the “truth journey.”

  • Presenting moment: First, there’s a trigger – an event or situation that swings a person’s or an organization’s pendulum to either dissonance (things like exhaustion, burn-out, hopelessness, crisis, failure, conflict) or resonance (imagine ease, energy, joy, excitement, thriving). You have this experience, and your emotions get stirred, often strongly. Accompanying this moment, is an internal sensation – I’ve experienced it as unsettledness, restlessness, a stirring, or insatiable yearning. And like a nagging 3-year-old, it just won’t go away until I address it head on.
  • Stillness: Regardless of whether the experience is positive or negative, it’s important to stop and “sit with it.” If it’s particularly challenging, our tendency is to push it away, busy ourselves, or pretend altogether that it doesn’t exist. Resist the urge! It sounds counterintuitive to say “C’mon! Pull up a chair and sit with that misery for a while!” But it really is important to do just that – to stop, get quiet, be with what you’re sensing and thinking, and reflect, “What is this ‘thing’ trying to communicate to me? What knowledge and information can I get from it?”
  • Clarity: In this pause and inquiry of the stillness, the answers could come quickly, almost instantly, or it could take days, weeks, months, even. I promise, there’ll come a time of greater clarity when the knowing appears – it might arrive with gusto like an ah-ha or break through, or it can come almost unnoticed as the slightest movement like a cloud floating by. You’ll know it when you sense a shift inside you – the dots connect, suddenly things make sense, or you might feel an ease, a lightness, or a rise in your energy.
  • Choice: Next comes the most pivotal point in the process – you arrive at a choice point. Let’s say you’ve been frustrated in your job for a while. You haven’t been happy for a long time, maybe never. You’re burned out, exhausted, and feeling empty. Then comes the “event” that causes you to burst, “I’ve had it! I’m done!” And here you are…hello choice. You start contemplating your situation and exploring options. Often what happens here is we do what’s easy and take the path of least resistance: we stay, we tolerate, we settle, we endure. It’s here that I stand the firmest (and most compassionate) with my clients, because I can see what they can’t – their gifts, potential, resources, and courage (even if only a glimmer). I help them consider choices that empower, harness their strengths, and connect them to their passion.
  • Action: In my opinion, the most important consideration here is that your actions align with your values and what most fulfills you. One of the perils that gets in the way of action is living in the place of “should.” With the job example above…“I should stay. After all, people are counting on me, proving my loyalty is important, it might get better…” If you’re an organization considering these steps, it might sound like “We should continue this program. We’ve been delivering it for 20 years, and a lot of people count on us. The program may be making little revenue and have ‘run its course,’ but there would be a public outcry if we stopped.” To take action, first tune into your “why,” your purpose, to what calls to you and lights you up. From there, make your plan and work your plan.
  • Live: Once in action, live fully into the choice you’ve made and the path forward…no second guessing, no wondering if you did the right thing. Bravely, boldly go! As an individual, of course there’ll be personal check-ins, and you’ll continue to reflect and refine your path forward. As an organization, there will be assessment, evaluation, and measuring progress. That’s simply being smart and responsible. Lastly, remember that you are surrounded with resources you can leverage wisely: people, time, money, as well as practices like self-care, meditation, good nutrition, and fitness.

Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, and coach, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation. 


Seismic Shifts From the Tried-and-True

Seismic Shifts From the Tried-and-True

A few weeks ago, I began the practice of “morning pages” again, and I feel the shifting of my internal tectonic plates.

For those unfamiliar with morning pages, the tool comes from Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way, where she guides readers on a path to freeing their internal creative self, and introduces this pivotal daily morning writing ritual.

The idea is that you awake and, first thing as you rise, free write for about 30 minutes, emptying yourself of thoughts, ideas, wonderings, and such. Keep the pen moving for 2–3 pages’ worth and whatever comes, comes. The purpose isn’t to produce anything spectacular, although sometimes you might! Simply write.

For the last ten years, I’ve been on again, off again with this practice. Every time I start back, I wonder why I ever stop. For in these pages over time, I’ve scoped out a yearlong sabbatical, launched a business, and discovered and claimed my identity as a gay woman. Shifting plates…

I think of morning pages as a writing meditation of sorts – I watch my thoughts and feelings flow from my pen onto paper as I release about events, experiences, and dreams, and with them, anger, fear, love, joy, loss, excitement. I let go, I imagine, I question, I leap. I’m safe here – free to be whoever I am in this space and be with whatever emerges.

A practice so simple, yet I feel its quake. This time, it’s revealing my inner creative, me claiming who I am as a writer. A professional writer. Not an amateur, or hobbyist, and my craft isn’t play or my sidekick – although the roar of resistance sometimes tries to convince me otherwise.

This time around while reading The Artist’s Way, a particular passage really stood out to me – the one where Cameron describes the shadow artist…

“Artists themselves, but ignorant of their true identity, shadow artists are to be found shadowing declared artists. They often choose shadow careers  – those close to the desired art, even parallel to it, but not the art itself.”

“Artists love other artists. Shadow artists often gravitate to their rightful tribe but cannot yet claim their birthright. They want to write. They want to paint. They want to act, make music, dance…but they are afraid to take themselves seriously.”

“In order to move from the realm of shadows into the light of creativity, shadow artists must learn to take themselves seriously.”

I thought, “Could this be me?”

As I process coming out of this creative closet, it feels like the fruition of a decades-long crescendo.

  • As a child, I grew up with arts and creativity. My older sister, Melinda, and I took piano lessons and played our entire childhood. I performed flute in the school band, sang in my church choir and school chorus, wrote for my school yearbook and newspaper, and took up photography as a hobby when I got a camera for high school graduation.
  • In college, I studied journalism and wrote and photographed for university publications. And although I didn’t plan it, my early work out of college took me down a professional path of nonprofit arts administration – my first job with a private music academy, and a dozen years later I became CEO of an urban arts council…truly my dream job.
  • When I left that post, I took a sabbatical for a few months to gain clarity on what would come next in my career. How did I spend the time? I painted for the first time in my life, I learned Spanish with my son, I took up guitar lessons again, and I started a blog as a new writing challenge – all arts-related pursuits. I’d spent so many years helping arts organizations and artists build capacity and develop resources, that I was drawn to finally explore my own creativity again. The space and playground of the sabbatical inspired me to start my own business focused on my passion of helping people and organizations transform.
  • So attracted to artists I am, that I fell in love with one, and in October this year, I married Lyn Koonce – a professional contemporary folk musician. Music fills our home, and I have a front row seat to her amazing work and recent new album launch.

As I reflect back on this trajectory through my recent morning pages, I can see how central art and creative expression have been to who I am and who I’m becoming.

If indeed I have been the shadow artist Cameron describes, I feel myself emerging from that and claiming my artist self. I’m a bit in awe of the revelations that come from this practice. Plates shifting…

Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation.