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  • Writer's pictureKevin Humphreys

Awaken: The Foundation of NOBLE Self-Leadership

In pursuing Noble Self-Leadership, the first crucial step is to awaken — to break free from the autopilot mode and become conscious of one's surroundings and, most importantly, oneself.

Awakening begins with a commitment to education — a deep dive into understanding our physiology, psychology, and neurology. We must understand the intricacies of how our bodies and brain’s function, comprehending the 'why' behind their workings. This knowledge lays the groundwork to identify our values, strengths, weaknesses, biases, and passions.

Following my breakdown, this awakening journey had profound implications. Cognitive-behavioural therapy initiated the process of heightened consciousness, making me aware of my body and brain's actions. Subsequently, coaching sessions delved into introspective questions, challenging me to confront my identity, purpose, and perceived limitations.

"If you look outside, you will see yourself.

If you look inside, you will find yourself."


These challenges involved a shift from looking outside for answers to looking within. Author Drew Gerald knew the value of this when he said "If you look outside, you will see yourself. If you look inside, you will find yourself." Looking within becomes a transformative experience, guiding us toward authentic self-discovery.

Expanding on this theme, renowned psychologist and Zen Buddhist Polly Young-Eisendrath, PhD., identifies three types of awakening: near-death experiences, psychedelic-induced awakening, and the intentional cultivation of awareness through meditative and spiritual practices. She emphasises that awakening experiences challenge our limited identities, encouraging us to question ingrained patterns and seek a more authentic way of living.

It’s little wonder then, that awakening experiences can potentially shake the foundations of our understanding of reality. To continue the transformative process we must perceive ourselves as part of a more extensive network of being or awareness.

A wave of emotion that seemed as deep as the ocean…

In the same way that happiness is about the journey, not the destination, so too is awakening. Awakening is not a singular destination or achievement but a continual path of learning, reflection and growth that brings both insight and foresight.

Mindfulness, meditation, and breath work play pivotal roles throughout, providing tools to enhance self-awareness. Indeed, for some, meditation itself can lead to profound shifts. My very first meditation was exactly this. In a room of about 300 people, I participated in a guided meditation and encountered a point marked by vibrant white light and a simultaneous wave of emotion that seemed as deep as the ocean. To me, this occasion symbolised the beginning of my own awakening.

Once we understand the perceptions and realities in our bodies and brains, we are ready to appreciate and empathise with others, for they too, are human. However, that is not to say we are all the same; far from it! Instead, it speaks to the fact that if our experiences, beliefs and emotions are valid to ourselves, then other’s experiences, beliefs and emotions are equally valid to them. Just as we have self-talk and interpret our thoughts, feelings and actions in specific ways, so do others. Their perception is their reality, just as yours is.

'In that space is our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our freedom'.


With this in mind, awakening to others includes understanding that what they think, do, or say is based on their biology, psychology, biases, knowledge, and past experiences. This awakening to-self and of-others offers an incredible capacity to be present in any given moment, especially during periods of distress or conflict. Viktor Frankl (Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor who wrote 'Mans Search for Meaning') calls this capacity to be present, the space between stimulus and response and says, 'In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom'.

From this space we can be compassionate towards others. Respect and reciprocation of this compassion may or may not occur. Regardless of their response though, if we have acted with integrity and compassion, we cannot take on their emotional load or hate if we truly lead ourselves.

The path to noble self-leadership commences with awakening — an intimate exploration of our behaviours due to physiological, psychological, and neurological functioning. We shift our perspectives, question ingrained patterns, and ultimately embrace a more authentic way of living.

Ultimately, by increasing the space between stimulus and response, we gain both greater peace for ourselves and greater compassion towards others.


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