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Creating Space for Your Soul

Saturday Spark #34

By Susan Hunt Stevens, Founder & CEO

Last Saturday, I attended my first TEDx event, nearly 3,000 miles away from Boston in my hometown of Spokane, WA. The catalyst for this trek was the last speaker of the day, my 79 year-old mom. Yes, my mother gave a TedTalk. She’s amazing. Even more so because she prepared for and gave this 15 minute, memorized presentation while battling her third bout of metastatic breast cancer.

Her topic was the importance of finding space for, caring for, and really listening to your soul, a topic she covers in a book published earlier this year. I would argue that she is alive today, after losing a brother and a daughter to car accidents, her cancer bouts, and a number of other situations that she labels “the shipwrecks” of life, because she has mastered the art of creating space for the soul. The connection between that soul space and overall wellbeing is incredibly powerful and in her case, clearly life-giving.

Her TedTalk barely focused on her story. Instead, she focused on the stories of some of the Krista Colleagues, nearly 350 young adults who have dedicated a year or more of their lives to inner-city or international service. Her connection is through the Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship, which she and my dad started after my sister died. One of the key features of the foundation programming is a retreat where the colleagues come to connect and reflect. After these retreats, they’ve changed careers, started new programs, dropped out of schools and applied to schools, and started businesses. The keys to unlocking these personal insights and life course changes seem to be a magic combination of community, nature, silence, and reflection.

A mere 6 days after this TedTalk, I find myself preparing for my own annual retreat with our church. My attitude has not been particularly good about it. I just do not have time to be gone for another two days, especially for the second weekend in a row. I could tell based on my call schedule for the day that we’d likely arrive late and we already have to leave early. My son was asking the legitimate question of when he would get to see his friends and get his homework done. Every bone in my body is questioning this time allocation decision and wanting to bail out.

But thanks to my mom, I have a living, breathing reminder of why making time and space for the soul is important. I will drag myself through rush hour traffic tonight knowing that I’ll be glad I did on Sunday.

Making space for your soul is hard for everyone, not just busy start-up founders. I have a team member who finds her soul space in Sedona. I have others who go sailing. But business leaders don’t only have to create space for their own soul. They also need to think about the soul of their business as well. How do we pull our people out of the day to day rush of decisions to truly connect and reflect? Then based on what we hear, move forward in a better way?

At WeSpire, we’ve done it with one day offsites that are a mix of community building, personal reflection, and strategy. We’ve also added a weekly fifteen minutes in All Hands for people to share their highs, lows and “big rocks” and reflect, just a bit, regularly. One CEO I know built a retreat center for his company to use to ensure they kept a long term focus. It’s easy to overlook or skip this investment, but that comes with consequences not always appreciated at the time. We helped a large services firm uncover that they’d had a big drop in people feeling a sense of belonging. The partners believe that drop started when they stopped bringing people physically together once a year.

Whether it’s the formality of a retreat or the informality of a quiet 15 minutes in the car with the music off, there is huge power in the pause. We just need to commit to finding it today, with the belief that we will be better tomorrow because we did.


Quote of the Week: “In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.” – Albert Camus

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What is Saturday Spark:
As the leader of a purpose-driven company, I’m challenged daily to ensure our company is “walking the walk” and that I’m personally leading with purpose and impact at the forefront. The result is that I read, think, and learn a lot about the intersection of purpose, impact and leadership and have a few successes and a lot more “lessons learned.” I realized that my own insights may be helpful to other purpose-driven professionals if I took the time to reflect each week. If you find this inspiring, practical or helpful, I’d be honored if you shared it with your colleagues, your families and your friends.

Read Previous Week’s Spark: What Does Funding Inequity Feel Like

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