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Leading with Wholeness in a Disruptive World

Guest Post by Wendy Tan

I’m delighted to host this guest blog post from my friend, Wendy Tan, author of Wholeness in a Disruptive World. This really is a book whose time has come—at a time when we need it most. Wendy offers a wholistic/holistic look at at what it means not just to be successful and happy—but also human. Filled with practical, actionable and inspiring advice to support deep integration, Wholeness in a Disruptive World is a user’s manual for the soul for anyone operating in today’s fragmented, VUCA environment. Wendy’s post provides a great preview of her book and her powerful perspective.

This is my life five years ago. I think about the 100 things I need to do for the day, while still in bed, at 5 am. I jump out to record these tasks in my notebook, which becomes my Bible. I organise my life in blocks of 15 minutes, you know the drill – meetings, proposals, presentations, emails and so on. Then thank goodness it’s Friday, right? Finally, time to relax in the weekend! What do I do? Create another to-do list!

And I wonder why do I feel tired? My time, energy and attention was fragmented.

Then one day, I collapsed. The doctor said, “You’re very sick. If you had come in three days later, you would be dead.” A sense of unfinished business exploded within me.

As I regained my health, I thought, “What’s the alternative to the fragmentation I experienced? How can we thrive in this disruptive world?”  A manager described her daily experience as being spun around in a washing machine. Change is faster. Workload is higher. Stress is higher. None of this make us whole.

Unable to do any vigorous exercises, I turned to Taiji. One day, I felt a flow of energy, or qi, within me. I felt whole in the moment. It struck me that perhaps wholeness is the alternative to fragmentation.

Wholeness is a sense of balance and completeness within oneself and the world around us. After interviewing many leaders and drawing from both Eastern and Western thinking, I distilled it to these ABCs – Anchoring, Balancing and Clearing.

Anchor to be Whole in our Heart

In face of disorienting change, anchoring is more important than ever to keep us focused on what’s important. My anchor is an explorer of ideas, a mother and a professional. Awareness of our anchor gives our clarity, courage and commitment. Consider your anchor – who you are as an individual and in relation to your community:

  • Values: What do you value in your work and life?
  • Purpose: What is meaningful to you?
  • Identity: Beyond your job title and roles in your life, who are you?
  • Responsibility: What or who are your core responsibilities?

Balance to be Whole in our Thinking

The quality of our thinking determines our range of actions. When our thinking is fragmented, we focus on the parts and tend to make either/or options. As leaders, we want to be whole in our thinking and embrace opposites; strategy and implementation creates success, balancing short and long term interests enables sustainability, or being caring and direct together is assertiveness.

Wholeness in our thinking comes from a dynamic balance of 100:100 across opposites over time. So consider these questions:

  • What is a dilemma in your work? What are the opposites involved?
  • What is created from integrating these opposites?

Clear to be Whole in our Action

With clarify of our anchor and thinking, the last hurdle is taking the right action in the moment – now. In our scurry of activities and frequent distraction from our gadgets, it is easy to lose sight of what’s important in the moment.

Clear ourselves and purposefully be. A bowl is useful, when it is empty. We are useful when we are empty – of our judgments, ego and mental clutter. We increase our capacity to reflect in the moment, to be aware of our impact and to sense what’s needed in a situation. This helps us act in wisdom.

Consider these questions:

  • Do you intentionally clear yourself in between activities? This could be as simply as breathing intentionally as you walk to the pantry.
  • Do you start the day jumping into activity like checking emails and phones messages, or do you take time to exercise or contemplate?

In face of whirling change around us, we anchor ourselves and stay rooted. Taking guidance from our anchor, we balance our thinking and embrace opposites, so we are expansive in finding our solutions. With some clarity on our solution, we empty and clear ourselves to act wisely.


Wendy Tan is founding partner of Flame Centre, a speaker and author of “Wholeness in a Disruptive World: Pearls of Wisdom from East and West”.

Wendy_Tan@flamecentre.com | www.wholenessinadisruptiveworld.com


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