After the last Eileen Fisher Leadership Institute closing ceremony, Eileen asked me a question: What makes EFLI different? How can we show or tell what is special about what we do here?
The first thing that came to my mind is: We fearlessly open the space to let young women BE themselves. Meaning, we let them take the time to talk about what’s actually on their minds. We validate their opinions – not because we want to merely compliment each other and feel good – but because THESE young women have VALUABLE and VALID thoughts that aren’t often valued in the world as we know it. Easier said than done.
So, what actually happened this summer?
My key learning for the summer: We Let go to Let grow… Each and every one of us grew in different ways. One of the questions that I asked myself, especially this summer, is, What has allowed ME to really take the lead in my own life? What are the times (moments) when I experienced the most growth? I realized that it is when people have LET GO around me. That very act of releasing allowed me to step into myself by using the space that has been created. Eileen and Cheryl (and those who collaborate with them in so many ways) created the space for this to happen. For me, and for about 59 other young women.
This summer alone we had 45 young women from local high schools, 3 recent high school graduates, 3 college students, 1 recent college graduate and a few of us a few years out (or thereabouts in age range OR life experience). The growth we’ve encountered within this program is unique. We LEARN by DOING, which, at times, has been MUCH more valuable than learning by being told or reading it in a book…
In a short period of time we have experienced the challenges and great accomplishments of what practices like collaboration and deep listening truly bring….
So much of our lives, we walk through with a routine – a routine that we maintain (sometimes for our own sanity) but also a routine that we maintain because it has become so COMFORTABLE. For the last six weeks, we have taken ourselves out of our comfort zones, pushed ourselves to our limits (and sometimes beyond) and asked ourselves – what would it TAKE to be our HIGHEST SELVES all of the time,
EVERY DAY. As Cheryl has told me many times, in this program we are ON all the time. Being in that “ON” place all of the time is not an easy task… We are not perfect. In periods of growth, in times of transition things, (LIFE) is not always (or very rarely) CLEAR.
That said, during our time with EFLI, we take the time to create a new social contract we can all adhere to: Community agreements – and… despite the cloudiness, we make the full attempt to COMMUNICATE. to COLLABORATE. and. to CO-CREATE. By doing this we develop deeper connections, follow our creativity and strengthen our inner confidence. We start to follow the EILEEN FISHER INC practices, best knowing ourselves through knowing and partnering with others. We come to higher levels of awareness. Levels of awareness that allow the layers of cloudiness to BEGIN to dissipate… and for clarity to emerge.
As we move on tonight from this moment, our community will physically move on… to the next year in school, the next big project, the next phase of life… perhaps in a new community or back to ones we’ve known all our lives. Either way – we’ve learned tools and practices HERE. The seeds have been planted, we feel it in our muscle memory, in our bones, in our bodies, minds and souls.