This past week I found myself thinking about the well-known story of The Lion King, the young cub Simba on roller coaster ride to adulthood through connection, love, loss, adversity, wild days, reflection and maturity – the Circle of Life. A famous story, but one that plays itself out in the lives of families across the world daily!
As I have African ancestry and a love of safari life, this story holds so much meaning, so allow me to take you on a journey to the Pride lands!
Simba’s wise and majestic dad, Mufasa, holds him up to look out over the kingdom and speaks earnestly of the Circle of Life, of the endless chain that links all living things from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope. Mufasa passes along the wisdom of the pride, telling Simba how the great kings of the past look down from the stars and will always be there to guide him. Some may call it religion, others simply a deep spiritual connection, a knowing that there is a universal love greater than ourselves guiding and influencing our lives. My beautiful mother passed away a few years ago and I still feel her presence in my life every day, reminding me that she is always there and with me. She is one of my ‘great kings of the past’.
Sadly in this story, a bad uncle Scar connives to murder Mufasa, leaving Simba orphaned, vulnerable, and manipulated into feeling a false sense of guilt, shame and despair. How many times in the lives of our young people do we see a similar pattern where people of influence abuse and misuse trust? Young people dealing with situations of domestic violence within their own homes, a shocking inditement of how they have been let down by trusted adults. The movie Spotlight shines a light on the abhorrent sexual abuse of adolescents by religious clergy, again men of faith who should have been trustworthy. How can this happen? Life throws terrible hands of cards at time – yet they still have to be played!
As we see so often in life, adolescents can find themselves in a world of exploration when they are trying to play a difficult hand and it’s not always a positive place to be! Difficult hands arrive randomly and often unexpectedly. Our lives can be ‘hijacked’ by ill health, depression, the passing of a loved one, loss of employment and financial struggle, relationship struggles and so much more.
Simba aligned himself to two wastrels, Timone and Pumba. About as deep as a puddle, they were great to hang out with but didn’t have much substance. The days rolled by without direction or purpose; they felt good yet there remained a yearning for something deeper and more meaningful. Rafiki, the wise shaman, kept prodding Simba and reconnecting him with his purpose – his family connections and a subconscious shove towards his destiny.
I love the moment where Simba finally has the courage to gaze into the waters of a pool and sees the image of a full grown lion there – merely his reflection. That moment in life when our adolescents are brave enough to start self-reflecting, and can find the strength in themselves that has been there all along. That moment when they are prepared to really start thinking of their own ‘why’, their purpose and the legacy they are wanting to create. The story they are personally wanting to write.
In the words of Rafiki: ‘Look inside yourself, Simba. You will find that you are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life. Remember who you are . . .’
Drawing on his Character strengths and reconnecting to his purpose, Simba makes his way back to the Pride lands where his relationship with his childhood friend, Nala, blossoms and he successfully challenges scar to become King. The Pride Lands return to life, tender shoots and sweet grasses bring the great herds back to the water holes, and the union of Simba and Nala brings a new cub into the world – the Circle of Life.
So what happened to me last week that this beautiful story came to mind?
I was privileged to attend a Leadership day for 160 adolescents, listening to their profound stories and varying life journeys. Hearing about how much they treasured their Nala’s in life, those trusted other mates who were there for them when life dealt a hard card. Hearing about how they were able to listen to their own Rafiki’s, the wise elders who kept prodding them into searching for a noble goal and a reconnection with purpose in life. The emotional affirmations they shared as they openly brought to life the strengths that they saw in others. The profound life changing experience of being brave enough to self-reflect and dig deep to find the strength that always lies within (and can sometimes be forgotten), and reignite the flame of personal leadership.
Each day should be a Leadership day in life. Why wait for those special once off occasions? On this Anzac day, a day in which we remember the millions who gave their life so that we can live in freedom, let us reflect on personal leadership and the courage and strengths we all need to draw on in life, especially when we are dealt a difficult hand.
• Who is your ‘great king’ from the past?
• How in touch are you with your own set of Values, your moral compass, your True North, in your life?
• Who is your Rafiki? What is he or she saying to you right now?
• How do you stay connected to your Purpose, your ‘why’ in life?
• When you look into the waters of reflection, what Character strengths do you see in yourself?
• Who would you like to thank, right now, for something they have done for you? What do you want to tell them?
• What does taking your place in the Circle of Life look like for you?
Like all good adventures, there is always a moral to the story. My wish for you is that you will take time in the next week to reflect, to reach out and to reconnect, with yourself and with others and get in touch with the moral in your own story.