If You’re Awake, You’re Responsible: The Evolutionary Leadership Challenge

When we think about spiritual awakening, most of us tend to think about it in experiential terms. In other words, we relate to awakening primarily in terms of how it’s going to change our experience of being alive. 

When we devote ourselves to a path of spiritual transformation, it’s natural that most of us focus on the experiences and states of consciousness that we hope awakening will catalyze: feelings of expansiveness, joy, balance, peace, love, and inspiration. 

But as we walk the spiritual path, we often don’t consider what we might call “the implications of awakening.” These are the less-anticipated consequences of being a more awakened person. 

One of the most powerful implications of awakening is that, as you begin to wake up, you find that you have more clarity, more perspective, better judgment, and a deeper care for making things better. You begin to care more deeply about others and what happens in the world. 

In this process, something interesting begins to happen. You start to find that in many situations, you have more clarity and insight than others around you. This is something you notice yourself, and also something that others begin to reflect back to you. Oftentimes, you find that you’re the person in the room with the most wisdom. 

This is partly because awakening opens us to a deeper intuitive sense of what needs to happen in any situation. But it’s also because we’re becoming sensitive to the movements of ego, in others and in ourselves, and want to do what we can to steer around these obstacles to reach higher, more positive outcomes. 

I’m not saying this to make any of us feel proud. If you’re the most enlightened person in the room, it doesn’t really mean anything about you. It doesn’t mean you’re special. It means you’re lucky. You’re fortunate that you’ve had the eyes to see and the ears to hear and the higher potential to awaken. 

What’s awakening in you is something that’s a universal potential for all of us. So it’s not about going around thinking you’re the most awakened person. But nonetheless you’ll often find that you have access to a clarity and wisdom that others aren’t in touch with. 

And with this wisdom comes a kind of responsibility. Because you’re awake, you’re responsible for what you’re now awake to. 

This presents us with what I call the “Evolutionary Leadership Challenge.” As you awaken, you start to find that because you’re more clear and aware and passionate about changing things for the better, you’re in a natural position of leadership—whether you think of yourself as a leader or not. 

The more you awaken to a deeper dimension of reality, to deeper parts of yourself, and to higher possibilities for humanity, the more you feel a calling to serve the further evolution of the process. Because you’re beginning to see how non-separate you are from this bigger process, and everything that’s part of it, you begin to feel a greater sense of responsibility for all of it. 

We’re awakening to the future that’s trying to be born for the human race, and there’s an inherent obligation to do whatever we can to bring that potential into the world—to express it, to model it, demonstrate it, and possibly even to awaken others to it.  

It’s Up to Us

So the big evolutionary challenge in all of this, is that as you wake up to this potential, you begin to realize that it’s “me” that has to do this. Whether we see ourselves as leaders or not, it’s up to us to evolve the world. We can’t wait for someone else to do it. If we see things about this world that need to change, they’re ours to change.

This can be a difficult point for many people to take in, because a lot of us feel ambivalent about the idea of leadership. Some of us feel uncomfortable about the idea of holding power. We’ve seen leadership and power abused and we don’t want to risk falling prey to those temptations ourselves. 

Others of us just don’t want the burden of responsibility that comes with stepping into leadership. After all, if things don’t go well, the leader often tends to get the blame. Being a leader means being willing to take that responsibility—to be the one out front with arrows in their back.

But from the point of view of this cosmic project of higher evolution, there’s really no one else who’s going to do this. And if we awaken to ourselves as the evolutionary impulse, we realize that we were the one who created this whole thing in the first place and it’s ours to take care of. It’s ours to evolve. There’s no one else to point to for that. 

On one hand, this sense of Evolutionary Leadership can feel like an obligation. But another way to look at it is that as our heart begins to open to an evolutionary relationship to life, we also awaken a deeper care for the whole. We discover a care for the evolution of the whole event. And in that deeper care, we come to a place where there’s nothing that we feel is not, in some way, our responsibility. 

This doesn’t mean that everything is our fault. It means that if we can do something about it we’re going to, because we care that much. We’re no longer drawing boundaries around what we’re willing to care for and what we’re not willing to care for. The whole thing is ours. We love all of it equally and we will do whatever we can, in any situation, to help it move forward and realize its potential.

The End of Victim-Consciousness

If you make this shift in perspective, you’ll start to notice that it changes the game. It changes the way you’re relating to your day-to-day life. Situations that used to just seem ordinary or run-of-the-mill are now opportunities to practice stepping up. In a sense, every relationship, every social context we’re in presents an opportunity to show up differently and forge something new. 

As you start to become more proactive in this way, you’ll also find that you stop taking a victimized stance in relationship to dysfunction around you. A common response to situations that irritate us is to feel victimized by them. We tend to feel like a victim and we blame others for the things that aren’t working.

But what if instead of allowing any room for victimization, you assumed the position that you’re the only one who can transform these frustrating situations? 

This speaks to the heart of the evolutionary leadership challenge. It’s recognizing that if you have the eyes to see and the ears to hear what’s wrong, it means that it’s yours to change. It’s yours to do because you can see it. Other people might not be aware of it. They might not see what you see. 

This doesn’t mean that it’s only your job to do. But it’s about letting go of any notion that somehow somebody else is the one who’s supposed to fix it or evolve it. It’s allowing the burden of the evolution of the whole world to fall on our own shoulders. 

For instance, let’s say you work at an organization that has terrible environmental habits. All kinds of recyclables are getting thrown away and the windows are regularly left open with the heat or air conditioning left on. Or let’s say you work in an organization that has an unhealthy organizational culture in which the leadership is out of touch with what’s happening within the company and there are all kinds of unhealthy dynamics. 

What if, instead of just feeling frustrated about this situation, you saw it as an evolutionary leadership challenge? What if you took responsibility for being the one to change it? 

Now, you might think that you don’t have any power to change these situations and if  you raise your voice, you would just get fired. And that might be true in some cases, so it might not always be worth the risk. But very often we have a lot more power and potential to change things than we initially sense or admit.

Putting Evolutionary Leadership into Practice

I want to leave you with a simple exercise for putting this challenge into practice. Take a moment and think about a context in your life where you’re frustrated with what’s happening. It could be in the political sphere. For instance, many of us right now are feeling incredibly frustrated with how our governmental leaders are responding to the pandemic.  Or it might be in an organization you’re a part of. It could be in your community or in your family. Think of a situation or a context where you’re frustrated with what’s happening and with the lack of good leadership. 

Write it down, and include what’s frustrating about it. Now think about how you could respond differently from the perspective that it’s all up to you. Take it on as your evolutionary leadership challenge and see what role you might be able to play in moving this particular situation forward. Think about what steps you would take to evolve the situation if it was yours to do.  

Then, commit to experimenting with this new perspective by putting it into action. And observe what happens.

I’d love to hear the results of your experiment! Please take a moment to share your reflections on this article–and your observations from your own evolutionary laboratory—on my Facebook page here.

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