As we all face the challenge of a global pandemic––as we separate from others but still look to connect, and as we feel its effects on our own lives and others’––perhaps we could all take a moment to pause, to consider who we are and who we want to become, as individuals, communities, and humanity as a whole. It’s never a bad time to build from the patterns and themes that emerge when we look at our lives.

So, I’ll unravel a few from my own.

The first is the power of female leadership.

We need female leadership now more than ever. Female energy brings empathy, nurturing, welcoming, love, and compassion to the world. We all can develop these qualities––and need to. And female leaders will show us the way. That isn’t to say that we don’t need a balance. But achieving our ends with whatever means necessary can’t be the way of the world moving forward. The decisions we make, and the actions we take, have to have human well-being at the center.

There’s an energy out there that lifts individuals by forcibly repressing the value of others. In my own life I’ve watched other people ascend by limiting my role––my value––as a leader. But for all of us, know that replacing that energy makes way for connection, well-being, and love. The challenge at the moment is to welcome the change, and to show every woman and young girl alike that their way of leading can make all the difference.

The second is about the word “love.”

We’re frightened to experience real love with other humans––especially when we feel that they’re somehow unlike us. That fear keeps us separate, alone, and apart. When we let ourselves look into somebody’s eyes, when we open ourselves to the joy, the sorrows, the pain, the beauty, and the fullness of their being, we feel connected––and that feeling is love.

It’s no small commitment to love and be loved. But if you want to commit to others’ lives and well-being, the path there is clear: figure out who they are. I’m working with students, parents, teachers, principals, and communities of schools on just that––removing the barriers that exist between people to open the passage to love and well-being. Replace preconception, prejudice, and bias with a true understanding of who others are, and watch as your fears and subtractive assumptions give way to a yearning to add to their lives.

The third is the manifold nature of well-being.

There’s a pressing duality that exists in our lives: the face we show the world and the face we keep hidden. Whatever the reason behind that disguise, we continue to develop more sophisticated ways to lie to ourselves and the world. One of the most meaningful dualities in my own life is that I’m both Māori and Pākehā (white). I look white––so, growing up in New Zealand, often when I said I was Māori I was laughed at. As a result, and like so many people among us, I presented one face and concealed another.

Living in the lines of those faces are multitudes––humans are made up of so many things, and they all play a role in our levels of well-being. It’s no wonder, then, that it’s hard to achieve. But it is a great wonder how little we nurture so much of what makes us feel happy and well. School systems and employers, and at times even friends and family, either narrow the picture of success in our lives or promote one that feels inconsistent with reality. In schools’ case, they want kids to know a great deal––but do very little to help kids know themselves. I couldn’t stand tall as a woman, or as Māori, or with love and connection and true meaning and purpose, until I could see––and could show––who I am.

So, while we have the time, remember what makes us both human and whole: our self-understanding, our knowledge and competency, and the connections we share with other people and the world.

Get to know who you are, make connections with others, and release the unwanted within you for good.