Connecting Consciously


Everything Will Be Ok

Over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, a group of fourteen high school boys sat around our kitchen table. They were in town from their boarding school as part of an exploration into civil rights (and as a result, themselves). Facilitated by two faculty members over brunch, they had a conversation about race, friendship, and creating change in the world. While they were “boys being boys” relative to the amount of food consumed, jokes told, and general camaraderie, they were also torch bearers—nothing ordinary about them—through the darkness.

I witnessed a conversation ripe with self-reflection and honesty. They talked about the microaggressions they unknowingly direct towards themselves and others. (Microaggressions? Really? That word coming out of male high schoolers?) They spoke about the need to find practical ways to up their game relative to emotional and social intelligence. They shared experiences of racism and even more stories of grace, resilience, and love in the face of failures and rejection. They completely “got” who understood them and who humiliated them. They were wise, self-aware, and poetic: athletes, artists, and academics among them. Who were these creatures? Who were these evolving souls, minds, and hearts who—despite the fact that their frontal cortexes are still not connected—managed to connect consciously? Deeply. In such a heart-stopping, authentic way.

Despite this awe-inducing experience, I know parenting this group is not for the faint-hearted. As the mother of one of these seventeen-year-old boys, I am painfully aware of the stats and stories of addiction, depression, anxiety, and suicide in adolescents. And yet, I am biased toward these boys’ well-being. So often it feels there is a misguided “attack” on boys, on the beauty, power, and wisdom in their maleness. In an era of important causes like “Me Too,” it seems there has become a war on boys, and the mixed messages we send them are damaging. They need our support to connect consciously with themselves in healthy ways, leveraging their purpose, and being okay about being male, instead of being in a constant defensive state, feeling bad about their very essence.

In an era of important causes like “Me Too,” it seems there has become a war on boys, and the mixed messages we send them are damaging.

If the boys in my kitchen are the boys-turning-into-men who will sit around boardroom tables, kitchen tables, and tables found in houses of worship, we are okay. In fact, if these are the boys who will help to guide the next generation of businesses, community services, spiritual questions, and children, we are more than okay. They are thoughtful. Reflective. Open. Empathetic. Courageous. Honest. As a result, we need to move in the direction of being hopeful and grateful, learning to celebrate that.

My experience tells me we all stumble, fall, and are broken open. We can all be less than who we are meant to be. And … we can also connect consciously and meaningfully so to transform ourselves, those around us, and our environments despite moments of struggle, the darkness of our ways, and the fear-based misunderstandings.

I see these characteristics and inspiration in my clients: captains of industry, leaders of many. I see this around my kitchen table: high school boys, intelligence and openness running deep.

We are okay. Everything will be okay.

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Karen Hardwick brings decades of expertise to her work as a trusted advisor and coach to C-level and senior executives, their teams, and organizations.

Karen is known for sharing her own life-stories with clients in order to role-model transparency, foster connection and empathy, and enhance success. She has created a unique model for deepening connection — The Connected Leader™ — which gets to the core of a company and its people with compassion, intuition, and business savvy. Her upcoming book, The Connected Leader, is filled with her powerful voice and inspires others to lead with emotional wholeness, spiritual strength, and mental well-being in order to become their best selves and help others do the same.

Karen lives in Atlanta with her husband, Greg, and their 17-year-old son, Matthew, where she can be found around the table with friends and family eating nourishing, home-cooked meals and sharing stories. She is the biggest contributor to the family ‘swear jar,’ despite her daily practice of meditation and prayer. And above all, Karen believes that living a life of connection is courageous; a sacred calling that requires all we’ve got.

Karen J. Hardwick, M.Div., MSW


The Power of Connection

Karen is currently writing a book about how the power of connection can transform leaders into catalysts, groups into teams, and businesses into places where people lean in to courage, clarity, and compassion.

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