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Center for Enlightened Leadership

Finding Our "Good Twin"

  Dr. Paul. D. Houston
  Dr. Paul D. Houston
Founding Partner

When I was superintendent of a very large urban school district we faced a major budget crisis that called for draconian measures. The timing was terrible, giving us little time for thought or reflection. It was a very ugly time for the district and for me. I had to do things as a leader that ran against my best instincts and my soul’s guidance. I cut programs that I knew were wonderful for children, laid off staff members whom I knew were doing a great job, and had to do it all without much consultation or empathy.

        When we had made it through the crisis I went into my cabinet meeting and started the meeting by asking how “Phil” had done. My senior staff looked at me and asked, “Who’s Phil?” I told them that “Phil” was my “evil” twin and that I had asked him to take over my job for a few weeks. Again, I asked how he had done. They said, almost in unison, “We don’t like him and we’re glad you’re back. Please don’t ask him to take over again.” We enjoyed a laugh together, and the levity I had hoped for allowed us to get down to business and put the unpleasant past behind us.

        As I thought about the issue of our “higher self,” I realized that we all have an evil twin—our lower self that runs things far too often in our lives. Our evil twin leads us to do things that we know aren’t right and that can be harmful to others. That “lower self” tells us that it’s necessary and that we just have to do what we have to do.

        But do we? Do we really? We all have access to that other twin—the good one that arises from our higher self. That one knows that there are higher purposes and that serving others is the way to our own happiness. It tells us how we should be living and could be living. Why, then, is it so hard to let that twin speak in place of the lower part of ourselves?

        We could argue that it is really hard to stay on that higher plane, or that the realities of life call for “realistic responses” that might not be as high-minded as we would like, or that we just don’t have time to call on our higher self in every instance. Yet we all know, in our innermost selves, that these justifications are pure “bullpucky.” What I have learned and must honestly admit is that accessing my higher self doesn’t need any special incantations or meditating or doing yoga or praying and fasting. The truth is my higher self is always there, waiting to be invited to the party. It is always there ready to help me find a better way to do things. It’s not hard or time consuming. It just means that I have to make a choice of which twin I choose to listen to.

        Accessing our “higher self” (our spirit, our guide, or whatever you want to call it) is simply a matter of choosing to access it. In the midst of tough decisions or personal crisis or just going through our daily lives, we must simply stop and ask ourselves “What should I do?” That is the proper question. Asking yourself “What can I do?” leaves you at the mercy of your lower impulses. Then you’re inviting “Phil” to take over.

        Adam Sokolow has often talked with me about our “shadow self,” which represents the darker part of who we are. From observing myself and others it seems that the shadow self, that darker brother, is the one that tends to gain control far too much of the time. Our task as humans is to find ways to bring our brighter brother to the light and into prominence. Our good twin is always there, just waiting to be asked in. All we have to do is tell Phil to take a hike.

        There is a wonderful story about a Native American grandfather and his grandson who are talking one day. The grandfather tells his grandson that he has two wolves fighting inside him. And, in fact, all of us have two wolves inside. One wolf is mean and angry and destructive and cruel. The other wolf is loving and kind and good to others. The grandson becomes quite alarmed and asks, “But Grandfather, which wolf will win?” The grandfather smiles and replies, “The one you feed.”

That story is right on target. We all have the two wolves within us, fighting it out. Our task is to make certain that we feed the right one and then follow that wolf’s lead.​

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