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  • James McPartland

Access Point: The Truth

"There is no one version of the truth… No one person captures the flag."

— James McPartland

When we are children, we absorb the beliefs, opinions, and attitudes of our parents and teachers. As young adults, we take on those of our employers, friends, and colleagues. At some point, these adopted views become the truth and provide us with the rules on how to play the game of life.

We can live an entire lifetime protecting "the truth", regardless of the unhappiness and difficulties we may endure along the way. Put another way, we pitch our tent on the truth and plan to stay there indefinitely even if we’re camped on rocky ground.

A high level of self-awareness, a hallmark of great leaders, is demonstrated in the ability to tell oneself the truth. Distortion and denial are cornerstone traits of accidental leaders, those who prefer to be agreed with versus the willingness to weigh multiple versions of truth.

But what is the truth? Does anybody own it? What we see as true simply reflects our own personal view of reality.

The most powerful leaders reveal what is true for them by discussing it in an unarguable way – sharing their personal thoughts and feelings in a style that represents their own version of the truth. It’s much more difficult for people to argue with someone who is expressing how they feel about something. And as arguing is an attempt to be right, which only creates conflict, it would be wise for us to recognize that in reality, everyone owns a piece of the truth and no one owns the entire truth.

Consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • Is my version of the truth working for me, for my company, for my team, and for my family?

  • How is my truth shaping my life, my career, and my relationships?

  • Is my version of the truth yielding the results I want, and the results others want?

  • Am I happy, and are others in my life happy, as a result of how I hold onto my version of the truth?

  • What version of the truth am I adopting because I agree – and – what truth am I deflecting or ignoring because it does not fit my world view?

It's not our thoughts or feelings that get us into trouble, nor our disclosures that cause distress. It is our attachment to them. It is our ego telling us that what we believe is actually "the truth". But reality is unforgivingly complex. Multiple competing realities exist simultaneously. Look around and you may find – this is true, and this is also true, and even that is true. A daily practice of getting to the truth can best be answered with one question: what is the best truth for today?

Courageous conversations (starting with yourself) are a valuable tool and not for the faint of heart (as “courage” comes from the French word “Coeur” – meaning "heart"). You are likely to hear yourself saying things you didn't know you knew or perhaps didn't want to know. During courageous conversations, with ourselves and others, we are also more likely to get all of our answers questioned rather than the other way around. Before we can learn, we must unlearn. We must empty our chalice of truth and only allow ourselves to refill it, once we have tested our truths against competing ideas. The growth opportunity here is to free ourselves of our preconceived beliefs in order to be open to a broader, more enriching and empowering reality.

Finally, resist the urge to start a conversation with "truthfully" or "to be honest", as it causes the subconscious (and others) to question if you had been speaking truthfully before. Just speak truthfully, frankly, and honestly, and get on with it. Since everyone owns a piece of the truth about reality, consider what realities should be explored before the important decisions of your life are made. When we understand our truth at a deep level, we learn that there are very few hills to die on. As we climb the mountain of truth, we learn that no one captures the flag, not even us.

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