Society tells us success means growing up, obtaining an education, getting a job, and climbing the proverbial ladder. In the meantime, maybe we can have a few kids, get them through college, pay off the mortgage, retire, take a few big vacations, and do some good things on the side.
For conscious leaders, this trajectory seems insufficient. They might have achieved many of the outward measures of success but feel lacking. Or they might not be gaining as much traction in their careers as they’d hoped, and are contending with stress and burnout. Usually, there’s a moment or period of time when they realize and acknowledge that the path they’re on is not fulfilling them anymore. Some embrace that moment. Others experience a “Midlife Crisis” (although it doesn’t always happen mid-life). Their relationships and health might suffer. Some suppress the sense that there is something more — that itch they can’t scratch — as it can be a very hard realization, especially when they have invested so much.
There is a better way forward — and it begins with presence.
After selling J Brand — which she co-founded in 2004 — for $80 million in 2010, entrepreneur Susie Crippen found herself seeking her next adventure. A self-described life explorer, Crippen was seeking personal and professional growth when she discovered Vista Caballo through a friend.
Vista Caballo is an award-winning, international personal- and leadership-development center for conscious leaders and organizations. Crippen chose Vista Caballo because of its experiential, research-based program in which participants work directly with horses to understand in real-time their strengths and weaknesses and how their confidence — or lack thereof — affects their environment. Working directly with horses took her immediately out of her head and into the moment.
Says Crippen about the experience, “When people think about energy, often, they think it’s this elusive thing. But the work I completed with the horses grounded what energy means to me — I can see it now. Now, I try to be as responsible as I can about my energy, recognizing when other energies are affecting me, and most importantly, how I can move responsibly through different scenarios.”
Alfonso Montiel’s path was different. Prior to the journey that led him to Vista Caballo, Montiel had co-founded and launched a $150 million private equity fund focused on real estate investments and the development of structured asset-backed securities in under-served Latin American markets. The world’s toughest doors, including those of the White House, were opened to him, and he had a seat at every table he had ever wished to sit at. However, he was unhappy — he was recently separated and single for the first time since he was 16-years-old, with a young child, and working hard to launch his business. “Up until my experience at Vista Caballo,” he says, “I didn’t know how to express my emotions with honesty — scratch that, I didn’t know how to feel. This lack permeated my life — in business, personally, romantically, and as a father. Up until that point, I’d been successful by most standards, but I was stuck; my days were filled with false moments. My journey was unlocked at Vista Caballo.”
Montiel adds, “The horses were big — thousands of pounds — and they made me present in ways I did not think or imagine were possible. The horses helped me become present to where I was both physically and internally.”
Awareness of thought patterns drives confidence and innovation in decision-making.
Crippen followed up her experiential work with The StillPoint Experience, a digital platform that helped bring into focus and transform her pattern of thinking through a validated psychometric assessment and series of 21-day digital sprints designed to support and encourage leaders to bring their subconscious thinking to a conscious state.
Says Crippen, “The awareness I gained on my thought patterns made me realize that I can change my outcome, which is like changing my story. What I discovered is, we spend years being unconscious in our thinking. It takes time to untie all the tethers that have been woven together to shape you as an individual — which is a wonderful thing. Recognizing that you can unwind those tethers and recreate a completely new tapestry — is liberating.”
Once aware of thought patterns, conscious leaders can gain the clarity needed to transform their thinking and decision-making processes and the behaviors that stem from them.
They changed themselves, and now are changing the world.
Crippen eventually started a new dress line called 4. Just as she took apart the paradigm of jeans — popularizing the skinny jean so women could make them their own — she aims to do the same with dresses, taking them out of the armoire and into real life. The dresses are named in part for the Ride 4 a Woman collective in Bwindi, Uganda, that is sewing them.
Montiel is now CEO of The Lemon Tree Trust, which works in conflict areas including Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran, supporting refugees and communities of forced migrants to create home and community gardens, garden competitions, and education projects. The Lemon Tree Trust has been recognized by Queen Elizabeth II and its work earned the second-highest honor at the world-renowned Chelsea Flower Show. Montiel also is a hospice volunteer, assisting terminally ill patients during their transitions, work he often refers to as “a calling.” He says, “Today, I’m happier and more peaceful than I’ve ever been. And, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing Mother Theresa about me. I have my many moments of being disconnected and falling down, but here’s the difference: I’m aware when they happen, I notice almost immediately. The best part: I laugh with myself and get back on the proverbial horse again.”
Personal awareness is not separate from being a leader.
Self-discovery is crucial to realizing full potential and changing from the inside out. When you come to the edge of your comfort zone, or the limit of what you know, you have two options: repeat what you have already done many times before, or try something new.
Crippen and Montiel had the courage and bravery to acknowledge — Crippen and Montiel had the courage and bravery to acknowledge — with no judgment — that outward success did not equal fulfillment, and that they wanted to find a deeper purpose for themselves. They learned to create new realities for themselves by getting outside of unconscious thinking.
The beauty is that progressive leaders and organizations can do the same. Vista Caballo has worked with organizations and individuals from entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 executives — all seeking leadership development. Companies including Ben & Jerry’s, Seventh Generation, Spiritually & Health, One World Play Project, and scores of others have turned to Vista Caballo to unlock their full potential and achieve business goals. By stepping outside of how they have been trained to think, or have trained themselves to think, they increase clarity, diminish stress, and increase their ability to create multiple solutions to problems (aka innovation).
Gaining the ability to access innovative thinking does wonders for self-confidence, which is our ability to trust ourselves in any situation. This self-trust allows us to make bigger, bolder, better decisions, enabling us to transform ourselves, our organizations, our environment, and our world.