Guest Post: Journey to the Center of Oneself

If one completes the journey to one’s own heart, one will find oneself in the heart of everyone else.

Father Thomas Keating

Regular readers of this blog know I like quotes. So when I find one that resonates with me, I often share it, as I did recently with the one above. It wasn’t long before I received a thoughtful response from my friend Mary Beth McEuen. Father Keating’s thoughts and work have become a major force in shaping her worldview. Fr. Keating is an internationally renowned theologian and accomplished author.

This is the first of additional guest blog posts that you will see here from time to time. Written by colleagues, team members and friends of Barry-Wehmiller, these posts offer a new or complementary perspective to help all of us become more truly human leaders.

– Bob


I’d like to start with a bold statement. The only way to be a truly human leader is to take the journey into one’s own heart. It means we must first be able to lead our self from the inside-out. The journey to one’s own heart is not easy.  It means we must be transformed in a way that we are no longer ruled by afflictive emotional programs for happiness based on what Maslow coined as “deficiency needs.”

What are deficiency needs? Have you ever felt yourself being We must first be able to lead our self from the inside-out Click To Tweettriggered emotionally by something? Someone really pushes your button, so-to-speak. Perhaps you felt dismissed by someone because they did not return your phone call and then the next time you saw him or her, you kept your distance. Why? Your need to feel esteemed and respected was aggravated which resulted in avoidance behavior that is inconsistent with Truly Human Leadership values of authenticity and transparency. Wouldn’t it be better to address the issue directly with the person in a way that can then build the relationship?

Thomas Keating describes three deficiency centers that can arise out of biological needs that are frustrated or unfilled:

  • Security/Survival Center: The instinctual survival urge at the heart of the security center is focused on accumulating possessions and other security symbols. People oriented toward this center may find that they can never have enough of these symbols, because tangible accumulation does not address the emotional insecurity at the heart of such programs.
  • Power/Control Center: People oriented toward the power center tend to seek out positions where they can control others. They may exert control over their families, loved ones and co-workers. Anything that threatens their power can be met with very strong emotional reactions.
  • Affection/Esteem Center: This center is concerned primarily with affection and esteem. When a person is overly oriented at this level, it can lead to vanity, oversensitivity and indignation at even a hint of rejection or lack of appreciation.

These emotional programs often whir below our own awareness, but don’t be fooled, they do drive our behavioral patterns.  Have you ever asked yourself, “Why do I seem to get stuck in behavioral patterns that are not really serving me and are keeping me from making a real difference in my work, family or community?” and “How can I make the shift into a more life-giving pattern of thought, behavior and impact?” As Fr. Keating says, it starts by shifting the direction in which we are looking for answers.  We must take the journey to one’s own heart. We must go inward.

How do we do this? Interestingly, there is agreement between science and spiritual teachers. Both worlds point to mindfulness practice. We cannot change that which we cannot see. Mindfulness opens our eyes to see more of our habitual thought and emotional patterns. It allows us to see what motivates and drives our choices and behavior. The essence of mindfulness practice is paying attention to present moment experiences with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to be with what is. To better understand how to practice mindfulness, click HERE.

Scientific studies show that people who are more mindful are better able to carry out their intentions and goals. The heightened awareness to inner experiences and societal influences, characterized by someone who is mindful, is essential to one’s personal leadership journey and the ability to lead guided by purpose and values and focused on visions and goals that will make a meaningful and important impact.

Mary Beth McEuen has spent her career focused on leadership, human motivation and development. Her Master’s degree is in Organizational Leadership from Regent University. Her thesis topic was Life-Giving Organizations and Leadership. Mary Beth holds a role at a major St. Louis corporation and also invests time in her vocation focused on helping people from all walks of life lead from the inside-out in order to make the difference they are uniquely called to make. For more information on how to lead inside-out, visit

Truly Human Leadership is found throughout Barry-Wehmiller Companies, where Bob Chapman is Chairman and CEO. A $3+ billion global capital equipment and engineering consulting firm, Barry-Wehmiller’s 12,000 team members are united around a common belief: we can use the power of business to build a better world. Chapman explores that idea in his Wall Street Journal best-selling book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring For Your People Like Family, available from Penguin Random House.

1 Comment

  • John Lochner says:

    John, Keating—the man quoted—is a universalist and new ager. When you parse his words he is saying “all people are connected when we connect with each other’s hearts.” Yet God tells us that the human heart is capable of only deceit and wickedness. The New heart He gives us as believers is the heart and Spirit of God.

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