We read a great deal about the qualities of good leadership. We develop models of good leadership and can enumerate the positive outcomes when we work under good leadership. But how well do we lead our lives? How is internal leadership connected to experiencing fulfillment in our lives, building our resilience and enhancing our engagement with the work we do? The answer lies in leading our lives with Inner Consent.
In the many conversations I have with clients, I frequently hear them express some of the following: “I do not feel any joy in my work”, “I cannot relate to my work”, “I do not feel like I have any mastery over what I am doing”, “What I am doing is meaningless”, “I am never asked for my opinion, input or perspective”, “The pace of my days is too hectic”, “this job loss makes me feel as though I have no say in my life, no control over my life”.
These feelings and experiences can cause us to feel alienated from our work and alienated from our personal capacity to direct and lead our lives. When we feel disconnected from the work we do, when we no longer feel the purpose and value of what we are doing we can feel frustrated. This frustration can in turn exhaust us. Burnout is one example of the trajectory from disconnection to frustration to exhaustion. Job loss, layoffs and career transitions are equally frustrating experiences where we may feel hopeless or that we have little or no control over our lives. We do not feel that we are leading our lives.
What is Inner Consent?
In Existential Coaching we speak of Inner Consent. Inner Consent is a personally felt “yes”! Inner Consent is an internal affirmation or experienced “rightness”: “this decision I have made, this direction I have chosen to take in my life, this activity that I am engaged in corresponds with my internal compass, it resonates experientially with me”. “I am leading my decisions and actions”.
We are more fully present when we heed this internal “yes”, when our actions are in concert with our sense of self, with our feelings, our experiences and our values. Inner consent is perception. It is being mindful of what resonates within “me”: “I feel the value of the work I do”, “I feel myself present and engaged in my life and my work”. “I am the primary leader of my life”.
Inner Consent is one of the first areas we explore with clients. Through exploratory and compassionate conversation, we help clients to deepen both their awareness of and their perspective on what they are currently experiencing in their lives. This supportive process opens-up possibilities for a client. Empowered by possibilities that resonate specifically with their lives, clients are able to identify and re-connect with those areas, both big or small, where they do experience Inner Consent. “I do lead my life in these areas…”
Experiencing Inner Consent
When we experience Inner Consent, we feel connected to the decisions we make, the actions we take and the commitments we make to others and to our work. “I lead my life through my convictions, my capacities and my commitments”.
When we experience Inner Consent, we have the capacity to look realistically at our expectations and behaviour: “I accept that I cannot do everything”. We may, for example, feel tired from our work but not exhausted: “I had a heavy work load today, but I feel good about the work I accomplished”, “I did what was possible at work today and I feel good about that”. “I lead my life with perspective and self-compassion”.
When we experience inner consent, we are both open to and accepting of our own limitations or the limitations of a specific situation at work. But we can also put these limitations in perspective, we can contemplate and put into action alternate possibilities. This builds our resilience. “I lead my life with acceptance and openness”.
Living with Inner Consent enables us to lead our lives with personally constructed and appropriate decisions and actions. This is especially important during periods of great change, stress or uncertainty. To know that we still lead our lives, that we still decide for our lives helps guide us through uncertain transitions.
Inner consent enables us to feel more grounded in ourselves. We feel more fully present in our lives. We recognize ourselves. We feel authentic. We feel connected to the meaning, purpose and value of our lives and our work.
When we live with Inner Consent, we experience fulfillment in our lives.
“I lead my life”.
Britt-Mari Sykes PhD is an integrative career counselor with an extensive background in existential psychology, career counseling and teaching. She helps clients create personally empowered solutions to career transition, burnout and the building of resilient and meaningful careers. To inquire about customized 3 session coaching packages please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org