New Year Reflections

Happy new year to all of you and heartfelt gratitude for your interest, engagement, and contributions to this blog.  Your participation has made it what it is today.   As is my custom, I like to share reflections for the New Year.  This posting is meant as thought provoking and an invitation for a conversation across the community.  So please feel free to contribute your thoughts, hopes, and insights.

2015 was one of the most challenging years of my life.  Foundational assumptions and principles that had motivated my decisions and actions were challenged and tested through a series of events.  Like many of you, I also have a leadership role and therefore am accountable and responsible for the welfare of others including my family, work colleagues, and clients.  It is in those dark hours, in those valleys, and in those moments of uncertainty and loneliness that leaders must find their calling and voice.  It is when everyone around you is wondering how you can hold it together that you must find a way. It is when you feel the world is closing in on you that clear mindedness and equanimity must rule.  Your highest form is the only thing that stands between survival and disintegration and collapse.  What will you do in those hours? How will you push through the dark night to wake up to the inevitable rays of sunshine? In those dark places when you are groping to find the light switch, what faculties will you trust?  And what will you do when some of your actions backfire? How will you pull yourself out of the downward spiral?  Each of you will find your own way.  My journey is not complete.  However, it is starting to feel like dawn and the kaleidoscope of magical colors are in the horizon.  I thought I would share some of the lifelines that I clutched.  My journey would not have been possible without friends and family that showered me with unconditional love and support, and mental health professionals and coaches whose artistry steered me towards hope not despair.  In my journey, numerous questions and challenges remain.  However, the strategies I am using to address these issues will remain intact.

I Found a North Star

The North Star is perpendicular to the North Pole and therefore accessible from any earthly rotation.  One of the most precious gifts I have received is a painting of Nelson Mandela given to me by my colleagues and it is a centerpiece in my office.  In those dark hours and moments of indecision I look at that portrait and ask “what would he do…”   In my view, Mandela is the personification of a servant leader who places the interest of the cause and people he is serving first.  Like us, he was human and he sensed his fear, hurt, anxiety, and despair.  However, he was guided by a higher vision. One that guided him to the right choice and in the midst of conflicting voices inside him and from others.  In periods of despair, one’s North Star acts as the ultimate arbitrator of actions.  It helps one to talk back to the inner voices that are each shouting and competing in our minds for attention.

I Forced the “Now”

The mind was doing all it could to highjack me into endless and obsessive preoccupation with “could of”, “should have”, “what if”, or “what will happen”.  These thoughts, which are often anchored in the past or the future, take away from the power and possibilities that the present offers.  I decided to practice techniques to notice when I was not present to bring me back to the here and now.  I asked my support system to point it I out, I placed reminders in noticeable locations, and I started reading great books on the topic such as The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

 I Focused On Wellness.

I became keenly aware of the effect the stress had on my physical and mental health.  Under stress, Cortisol generated by the “fight or flight” response has devastating effects on numerous aspects of health.  My sleep, eating, and general health was deteriorating.  My motivation and focus was being compromised.   I made a declaration to combat the effects of stress through rigorous exercise and meditation.  These practices centered me, and over time, the adverse effects of stress induced Cortisol were countered with the uplifting symptoms of Serotonin and other hormones associated with exercise and mindful meditation.

I Cleansed My Environment

I decided that the dark place I was in was an opportunity to cleanse my environment of people and things that were not healthy for me.  I reallocated my time and attention to those that brought me joy and positivity.  It was a great time to see the true colors of people and to see who would invest and engage with me.  Those that did will forever be my sisters and brothers and I am so grateful that I had the chance to truly understand who they are and to make them the focus of my emotional life in the future.  Making deep and meaningful connections is a basic human need.  I will remember this period for giving me the insights to know in whom to invest my time and energy.

I Surrendered

We live in a culture that stresses control.  However, so many of the twists and turns in life are outside of our control.  Yet we obsessively try and hang on to the notion that we are in charge of the events that occur in our lives.  Once I let go and surrendered to a higher power I started to gain peace of mind and balance.  I began to appreciate how blessed I truly am to have my health, people who love me unconditionally, and so much more…   The idea that what is happening is part of a bigger plan, and as one door closes others will open was no longer a theory.  I started to witness it and experience the wonder and joy of the journey and to start to make connections with fellow travelers who found themselves in dark valleys groping to find the road to the mountain top.  The   connections I made will fuel my journey.


Questions for Online Conversations

  1. When was the last time you found yourself in those dark places?
  2. What did you reach for? How did it work?
  3. What did you learn? What will you do the next time?






About Kaveh Naficy
Kaveh is the leader of Heidrick and Struggles executive coaching practice in North America. Kaveh focuses on working with leaders placed to make transformational and creative changes in their organizations. Kaveh has a proven record of success in harnessing the strengths of these leaders to achieve accelerated business solutions. He is able to create significant insights through reflective thinking, presence, and disciplined follow-through. Executives who have worked with Kaveh say that his strengths are his deep insights into the realities of the current and future business world, accelerated scanning of the environment and competition; creative out of the box thinking, and leveraging the collective intelligence of their teams and creating the organizational culture to support and foster the appropriate organizational design and strategies. They also point their deep trust and personal connectivity with Kaveh, his coaching approach, and style.

2 Responses to New Year Reflections

  1. Rich easton says:

    Brilliant introspection and action.

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