Change in Perspective

Recently, I found out that a friend’s husband had died unexpectedly. As someone who does empathy for a living, it’s rocked my world, imagining the pain she must be in. He was too young. It was too soon.

How fast our reality can change.

When I snapped at my son this morning, irritated that he was being loud while I was trying to concentrate, I stopped myself and apologized. What if this was his last interaction with me? Is that how I’d want him to remember me?

Perspective changes under the weight of our humanity.

Look, I know that it’s not healthy to live with the constant reminder of “What if…”—that it could be a fear-inducing, debilitating, joy-sucking pastime. At the same time, I wonder if we allow ourselves too much distance from this inevitability? If we truly elevated ourselves to honor and seize the present moment, how might that change things? If we were to follow Thoreau’s example and “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life” would we rise to be our better selves, to leave our petty grievances at the sidelines, and focus on what matters most?

If we want to live a brave life—to be and bring our best most authentic and powerful selves to our work and our lives—to be brave leaders, I don’t think these are questions we can afford to avoid.

Maybe it’s only by dancing with our own mortality can we fully live.

©OnStage Leadership


Kimberly Davis
Kimberly Davis
An expert on authentic leadership, Kimberly Davis shares her inspirational message of personal power, responsibility, and impact with organizations across the country and teaches leadership programs world-wide; most notably, her program “OnStage Leadership” which runs in NYC and Dallas, TX. Additionally, Kimberly teaches for Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) Cox School of Business’s Executive Education Program's Transformational Leadership Program and their Latino Leadership Initiative. She is also privileged to teach for the Bush Institute’s WE Lead Program (empowering female leaders from the Middle East). Kimberly is a TEDx speaker and her book, Brave Leadership: Unleash Your Most Confident, Authentic, and Powerful Self to Get the Results You Need, is the 2019 winner of the Benjamin Franklin Silver Award for Business and Career; an Amazon Bestseller in Business Leadership, Business Motivation, and Self-Improvement, and Motivational Business Management; and was named as the number one book to read in Inc. Magazine’s “The 12 Most Impactful Books to Read in 2018,” with a cover-endorsement by best-selling author Daniel Pink.

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  1. “I stopped myself and apologized.” Great presence of mind.

    I’m with you and the “What if…” question. I try not to take my wife’s exiting of our apartment for any reason for granted. I try not to make “Love you!” sound perfunctory. It’s all too easy to be oblivious in our self-absorbed pace and world.

    Great reminder, Kimberly.

    • I’m definitely a work in progress, Jeff. Some days cleaning up my mess or bringing that presence of mind comes easier than others. These days I recognize how fragile it all is and am more mindful. I pray I carry this awareness into the day when normal finds us again.

  2. “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” We all have those moments of saying the unsayable or thinking the unthinkable about or to someone close, and then we’re stopped in our tracks by that very thought that you hang this entire post on… “What if?” As someone who has yet to lose a close relative, I know there are many of those days ahead of me. I can’t fathom where you are now, how warm and wonderful our conversation was just last Friday, and the loss of your dad being still fairly fresh. If we truly embraced that impermanence, that fragility, we would certainly temper those most strident of thoughts when we’re about to verbally slice and dice someone. I have found that sacrificing a wee tad bit of spontaneity is worth it, as trying to take back an ill thought out word bomb just isn’t doable. We more often regret things said than things unsaid. While I agree that sucking the joy out of life is a risk of living with the great “What if” – we still need to lean into the greater “what if” of “What if we err on the side of generosity and see where that takes us?” Thank you for this important reminder!

    (Don’t you have to wonder about a goof who can yak on almost longer than the original post?)

    • Thank you so much, Vicki. I appreciate you taking the time to read it and your thoughtful comment.

  3. Kimberly, maybe this is not the place to mention my personal Source for peace, but I am going to do it anyway. I have been a student of ACIM (A Course in Miracles) for more than a decade. In the course we are encouraged to see we are not human bodies alone. We are connected to one another and to our Source. The closest we can be to Divine is by expressing love.

    I have two reactions to your lovely article. One is about the body dying. While some people see my perception as all wrong, I do not grieve for the loss of people like others. I feel their loss and miss the human communication with them, but I know the person who has left their body is everlasting.

    The second reaction is about how we, in our humaness, lash out on others when we are stressed. Forgive and let go. It’s part of living here in our bodies. Focus on extending love only.

    This is something you obviously do in a natural way. You have been very loving and supportive of me in the short time we have been communicating. Rest in knowing you are perfect. Extend the love you have so naturally and accept you will sometimes be something less than pure love. It’s all good.

    • Kate, I have heard nothing but good things about ACIM and have been a fan of Marianne Williamson’s for years. That’s a beautiful perspective and I appreciate you taking the time to share it. My father passed recently and this is a wonderful way to frame his passing. I so appreciate your thoughtfulness!