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Center for Enlightened Leadership

Doing What's Right by Reversing the Golden Rule: Do Unto Yourself as You Would Do Unto Others

  Bea Mah Holland

Bea Mah Holland
Founding Partner and Executive Coach

We are living in an increasingly complex world where people work harder and put in longer hours, yet derive less security and satisfaction from that work. This frenetic, anxiety-producing pace is leaving people ungrounded, as their tangible benefits shrink or are threatened: jobs, savings, housing, entertainment, and—for some people—even access to basic food and clothing. If rates of abuse, neglect, suicide, homicide, and unmanaged aggression are indicators of endangered well-being, then our health appears to be diminishing on every level—individual, family, organization, community, and global.

Given the chronic mega-stresses caused by the unprecedented changes that the entire world is experiencing, how can people care for themselves? Is it at all possible to attend to oneself in the avalanche of today’s relentless urgencies? And do we even have the right to think of “me” when the most primitive survival needs of so many others are not being met? If so, how and where do we begin?

People are born dependent on others, and this i s coupled with a culturally shared assumption that as we grow, our initial self-absorption must be expanded to caring for others as well as for ourselves. While stereotypes exist about particular demographic populations who are masterful self-care givers (and we sometimes judge harshly those who seem oblivious of anyone else), many of us, particularly women, may have overlearned the Golden Rule, “Do unto others….”

These orientations in beliefs and accompanying action are further supported by several faith traditions that advocate service to others as being both the highest calling and a significant contributor to the “ticket” to eternal life. Given the mosaic of both conscious and unconscious forces in our lives, we can benefit from asking ourselves: “What is the healthiest balance between caring for me and caring for others?”

My experience is that a grounded, peaceful pres ence has an expansive ripple effect. In addition to contributing to our own health, our stable presence can profoundly influence the health of our immediate loved ones, our network of personal and professional relationships, and on beyond that network. When you “Do unto yourself as you would do unto others,” and take what might be regarded as extreme self-care, you can then be a powerful positive presence—even to the extreme!—in a broad range of unpredictable situations.

By consciously paying attention to your very es sence and intuiting “what’s right” by respectfully choosing to be congruent with yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually, the power of your presence can increase exponentially. With a full measure of clarity and an absence of doubt, one’s capacity to act proactively, courageously, and with full strength is realized. Like Jill Jackson Miller’s song about peace on earth, “…Let it begin with me,” we can model being “well beings” and catalyze positive contagion.

What are some baby steps toward self-care? Spiritually, inner clarity and strength can come from many modes of reflecting, such as beginning your day with a period of sitting meditation, exploring your core beliefs on a 10-minute walk, attending a house of worship, or reconnecting to past meaningful spiritual practices. How about a daily connection to nature? Would treating yourself to favorite music give you time to get clear as to what you most care about—and then act on it?

Are there ways in which you can improve your ph ysical self-care? What about taking a daily walk and/or doing yoga and preventive strength training? Would dancing—even in your living room—lift your spirits? What about making time to expand the quality and quantity of your life by using your food as medicine—and preparing good-for-you delectable dishes that totally satisfy your body? How about eating an apple rather than that donut?

What about nurturing your mind? What topics exc ite you; what additional knowledge would really turn you on? Instead of saying “Someday I will….,” how about committing to reaching for expansion today? What “hot” speakers are in town; what radio and television programs would stretch you? Are there just five minutes with which you can gift yourself to listen to a provocative tape? For me, a practice that is key to my own self-care is sharing challenges, successes, and life’s overall journey with people who deeply care for me, and I for them.

Paradoxically, small steps toward self-care actually enlarge your ability to “do unto others.” By recharging your spirit, you are more able to face life’s unpredictability, and to replace fear, vulnerability, and powerlessness with both increased love for self and love for others.

Center for Empowered Leadership ®
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