We can see what happens when we experiment with choice and precision in language. We can give it a try. "Words are events, they do things, change things. They transform both speaker and hearer; they feed energy back and forth and amplify it. They feed understanding or emotion back and forth and amplify it," Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in her essay Telling is Listening. What might be distinctions between need, want, desire, for example? How do we as leaders use just these three words? What energies do we choose to feed? Some thoughts to play with:
Need is about basic survival and urgency: Food, shelter, medicine, water, clothing, for example. But some less tangible things in life are also real needs: Such as love, belonging, safety, human connection, respect. We wither and die without the fulfillment of these needs. What if in our conversations we are more careful with the word need? ('I need the report on my desk by 10am tomorrow.' Really??? Truth is, in most cases, no one will die if it isn't on that desk...)
Want comes from the head. It sources from a perception of lack even as our basic needs are met. Its specifics are embedded in culture or environment (we want iPhones, the newest flavor of gelato, a Tesla). Its urgency often derives from a pressure to fit in (everyone else has an iPhone too). Receiving what we want is usually a privilege. But while it seems cool to go after what we want, it is an exhausting way to live. Because each wanting satisfied drifts off, and then another wanting takes its place. The danger in wanting: We can never get enough of what we do not really need. We become hungry for more and more. The brain fools us here. It doesn't make clear distinctions between need and want. Just to make sure we are always getting our needs met, it doesn't want us to not be wanting. But what if we think of our wants as preferences? So that we can enter a dialogue, a collaboration, an agreement, an openness of heart and wonder, void of expectation? (Is it possible for you to finish this report by tomorrow morning at 10am, which would really support me? If yes, can we agree to it? If not, are there ways that we can make this happen? Or: I would like to try that new flavor of gelato. May I?) The beauty of this approach is that we move from expectations into agreements, into gratitude, and a little less clinging to our wanting.
Desire comes from the heart. Desire expresses a longing for the stars, literally. We have been separated from our star; we are trying to find our way home. Desire often springs from a deep longing, a hunger to experience our oneness, our belonging. It has a propelling energy that can take us into harmful directions: External highs can give us a powerful but very temporary sense of oneness. But that same energy can propel us into dreams filled with light...and meaning. Desire is about connection to source. Desire runs much deeper than want and goes further than need. Desire is not craving nor lust even when our language mixes these up (they are some of the external substitutes). It is a calling for our journey. It bears witness to our humanity. It can be very painful. And beautiful. The star as destination doesn't even matter. What matters is the irresistible pull into the light. To own our story. Because we already belong. Because we are human. Because we are okay and worthy. What if we allow the word desire to connect us to purpose, humanness, and fulfillment? So that desire becomes a force for good that allows us to live with meaning and flexibility in the space of belonging, in the here-and-now process of creating an unlimited future?
Thanks for pondering choices in words!
A week ago I had the honor to co-host the Inspiring Leaders podcast with my dear friend Terry Lipovski, an executive coach in Ottawa Canada. Once a month he mixes up his series with an "Intolerable Bosses" theme. I am thrilled that we could collaborate for a wonderful edition around vision: The Visionless Boss.
You have asked, What are the podcasts I listen to, such as on morning walks? Well, it changes a lot, and often I prefer silence, the wind, or the songs of birds. As it is, I have my podcast app tuned to about twenty podcasts and once a week I download what seem to be a handful of interesting episodes. So here goes, in alphabetical order, for ten of them.
Akimbo. A podcast about our culture and about how we can change it. About seeing what's happening and choosing to do something. With Seth Godin, a writer, a speaker and "an agent of change" with a deeply zen, contemplative approach.
Beautiful Writers Podcast. Writer Linda Sivertsen (aka Book Mama) brings together bestselling authors and creatives for conversations on writing, publishing, deal-making, spirituality, activism, and creativity. Guests have included Maria Shriver, Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Gilbert, Brené Brown, Geneen Roth, Martha Beck, Anne Lamott, and Seth Godin.
Coaching for Leaders. If you don't have access to formal leadership development or aren't working directly with a leadership coach, podcast founder and host Dave Stachowiak has you covered. In each episode he interviews a guest with a passion for leadership and elicits practical tools so you can take action immediately.
Invisibilia. Stories into the invisible forces that shape human behavior — things like ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions, coupled to fascinating new psychological and brain science. The show is co-hosted by two of NPR's award-winning journalists, Alix Spiegel and Hanna Rosin.
On Being. Conversations diving deep into the big questions of meaning — spiritual inquiry, science, social healing, the arts, the immensity of our lives. Hosted by Krista Tippett.
Rhad Awakenings. Raw and vulnerable deep-dive conversations about about getting unstuck, navigating transitions, and embarking on new adventures. Khe Hy is a writer, speaker, investor, and entrepreneur. He also is the creator of RadReads, a weekly newsletter well worth subscribing too.
The 1-3-20 Podcast. In each episode, 1 important book, 3 key questions (What’s the big idea? Why should I care? What should I do?), in under 20 minutes. In each episode, bestselling author Dan Pink (one of my favorite books is Drive) talks directly with his chosen business book's author.
The Coaching Habit Podcast. The best strategies for leading yourself and others by tapping into the wisdom of thinkers, leaders, writers and coaches. With Michael Bungay Stanier, Founder and CEO of Box of Crayons.
The Reboot Podcast. Entrepreneurs, CEO’s, and Startup Leaders discuss with Jerry Colonna the emotional and psychological challenges they face daily as leaders. This one goes deep into the heart and soul, the wins and losses, the ups and downs of startup leadership.
The Unmistakable Creative. Insanely interesting people from every walk of life share their stories with Srinivas Rao, himself an unmistakably productive writer and creative. Guests have included authors, successful entrepreneurs, world class artists, social scientists, and people who are up to amazing things in the world.
Another item, and I am really excited: The first online women's leadership cafe begins this fall. Our discussions and deep dives will absolutely awaken your fierce and fearless compassion, from insight to impact. The cafe is for a small group only. If you are interested in learning more, drop me a line.
Thanks as always for reading. Liked it? Please share with others. And of course I love to know, what is your most powerful desire, your dream for unimaginable, extraordinary success and wellbeing, for impact and fulfillment? Are you willing to belong and own your unstoppable leadership? Here is an invitation to expand into the unlimited space of your truth, a deep conversation to explore. Contact me at Space Beyond Words.
With gratitude, Sophia.
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