Dragonfly lessons of BEING true
“The freedom you need to lead in loving rhythm
is secured by the privilege of being true.”
“Too often we get wrapped up in the here and now, the day-to-day, and we don’t take the time to take a step back and look at who we are and who we have become. We often overlook the messages that are telling us to get out of our rut and try something different, even uncomfortable. Or maybe we just need to get back to who we really are. Exploring these messages is where we can find inspiration that often leads to the creative tension that becomes our pivot point of innovation. That chance to actively make a change.”
These are the words I wrote last August when Jeff and I began this Creative Tension journey, for ourselves and for you. And as I began to reflect on this journey that began at then end of summer, and where we are today at the edge of a new summer, a familiar being has made its presence known to me again, the dragonfly. I’ve known for a long time that the dragonfly has a strong symbolic meaning in many cultures. So I did some research to find out what the symbolism behind the dragonfly was. As I was reading through various sites, it became obvious that the dragonfly symbolism was very relevant to my personal journey over the past few years. In many cultures, the dragonfly is a symbol for change. This isn’t so much about doing as it is about being. It’s about the change that comes from a deeper understanding of yourself, a greater sense of self-awareness. It’s change as a result of a deeper mental and emotional maturity. My journey through the recent few years included a lot of change: personally, professionally, mentally, and emotionally. For much of this time, it seems the dragonfly was making its presence felt. So as we conclude our current journey and prepare for the next, I wanted to share five lessons from the dragonfly as a way to acknowledge where we have come from, what we have learned, and embrace the journey ahead of us and the potential this will bring.
Lesson 1: Take time to reflect and embrace what you see.
GATHER. A dragonfly can live as little as 3 months or as long as 10 years with most of its life as a nymph, a child, living in the water and not yet flying. Once the dragonfly emerges from the water as an adult, it can immediately fly. It goes through a metamorphosis and spends a short time as an adult skimming lightly across the water.
As leaders, because we are so busy worrying about others, we often don’t take time to reflect on ourselves. The lesson here is take the time to look beyond what is on the surface and look at the deeper aspects of life. Look inside and clearly identify what makes up who you are, your most important values, your strengths, your personal purpose. This exercise in Gathering will help you to be better prepared mentally and emotionally to embrace a change when the time is right.
Lesson 2: Dance with strength and agility.
RENEW: The dragonfly has the ability to move in all six directions: up/down, forward/backward, side to side. It can fly up to 45 miles an hour or just hover. And all of this is done with a grace and strength that defies the simplicity of effort used. The dragonfly’s wings beat only 30 times a minute. Through the power exerted, and the agility of movement, the dragonfly is able to “dance” through life rather than fight to survive.
As you look to create life balance for yourself, remember to identify ways to renew and replenish your energies: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. This renewal will help you to build your own strength and agility so you can engage in the dance rather than the fight, and lead others to do the same.
Lesson 3: Focus on living IN the moment.
PRESENCE: The dragonfly is the epitome of living IN the moment. With only a short time as an adult and able to fly, the dragonfly lives a full life and leaves nothing to be desired.
Living in the moment is something we humans find very difficult to do. We are almost always worrying about the past and how we could have done something differently, or concerned about the future and if we are going to do something just right. Living like this has a way of transforming human beings into human doings. By slowing down and living IN the moment, we are more aware of where we are, who we are with, what we are doing, and most importantly, WHO we are. With this internal and external clarity, we can make more informed decisions about those we lead, including ourselves.
Lesson 4: Eliminate self-created illusions.
TRUENESS: The iridescence of the dragonfly’s wings and body will appear as different colors depending on the angle and polarization of the light touching it. This property of the dragonfly is seen as an end of self-created illusions and a beginning of self-realization and a clear vision of the future. The magic of the iridescence symbolizes a discovery of one’s own strengths and abilities, helping to reveal the true self.
We all have our stories that we tell ourselves. These stories can reinforce a negative cycle of doubt and worry, or even delusion. Or these stories can support a positive move forward toward our goals, our purpose. The key is to cast aside any stories that hold us back and strengthen those that reveal our true selves.
Knowing who we REALLY are, will help us to set appropriate and achievable goals.
Lesson 5: Keep your eyes, and your mind, open.
GROW: One of the key traits of the dragonfly is the eyes. Over 80% of a dragonfly’s brain is used for vision. And with the compound, spherical vision, a dragonfly can see in all directions at the same time.
This symbolizes the ability to see beyond what we may be currently experiencing, the limitations and the barriers, to see a much bigger, more complete, picture. As leaders, we set goals for our personal and work lives, and as we diligently work to achieve those goals, it’s easy to lose sight of a bigger picture. Remember to stop and look around, in all directions. Reflect on the past, BE in the present, and look forward to the future.
As one of the oldest living species, going back over 300 million years, there is much we could learn from the dragonfly. From the beginning, it lives in creative tension, yet manages to dance through life with a strength and agility that defies perception. As leaders, the creative tension we often feel is the conflict between trueness and perception. When we lead with our true selves, the result is freedom.
I hope you have enjoyed this journey and engaged in a bit of divergent thinking and play. Thank you, Jeff, for this wonderful opportunity! I look forward to traveling with you all again someday. But for now, I can’t help but look forward to warmer days, by the water, looking for a chance meeting with a colorful dragonfly. May your future be full of elegance, strength, insight, and color!
All that Jennifer does is driven by a commitment to help you look inside and identify your passions and strengths. Jennifer is a practitioner and consultant for organizational effectiveness.
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