Richard Barrett is a globally recognized thought leader on Values-Based Leadership, Cultural Transformation, Personal Transformation, and the metrics of personal, cultural, and societal wellbeing. He is the President of the Barrett Academy for the Advancement of Human Values, the Founder of the Barrett Values Centre, the Initiator of the global Humanity Awareness Initiative, creator of the Global Wellbeing Indicators, a Fellow of the World Business Academy and Former Values Coordinator at the World Bank. Richard is a Founding Member of the V20 (Values) Task Force of the G20.
I’ve been working with Richard’s value work and levels of consciousness for years and love the way he approaches transformation and the stories he tells about it. I recently met him on a webinar and just took the opportunity to ask him if we would do an interview with me. His clear and immediate answer: “Yes”. In our conversation I saw a super personable, down-to-earth, humble and inspiring man who really follows where his soul leads him.
My conversation with Richard is about the connection between transformation, values, soul and consciousness. He shares with great openness one of his own transformation stories and how important it is for each of us to get out of the way. Enjoy the read!
Richard, thank you for taking the time to talk to me, I have been really looking forward to this conversation. So, let’s just dive in.
What does transformation mean for you?
For me transformation means a different way of being. I make a distinction between change and transformation. Change is doing what I do now but doing it differently. Transformation is a new way of being. I use a different set of higher order values to help me make decisions.
Can you share a story of your own in which you have experienced a fundamental transformational shift that contributes to who you are today?
Yes, I’ve got two stories to tell you. The first goes back about twenty-five to thirty years when I was in my mid-forties and working at the World Bank as a transportation engineer. That was my career. I was very successful at it. And all of a sudden, I became bored.
The funny part about it is, that when I was seventeen and I was trying to figure out what to do at university, I thought I heard my soul say “transportation”. And actually, it must have said “transformation/ I was telling this story to a friend of mine a couple of years ago and she said, “you know, it sounds as if you’ve been living a misspelt life”.
So here I was, forty-five years old, suddenly bored, wondering what the heck am I going to do. And I thought to myself, “what have I been interested in all my life?” And yes, I was interested in transportation, but all my private reading was on spirituality, psychology, altered states of being, I mean, just about everything you can imagine from that world. I realized that this was what was interesting to me. I came to the conclusion that I somehow had to shift from being a transportation engineer to a transformational engineer.
How was I going to do that? I started the ‘World Bank’s Spiritual Unfoldment Society’, which met every week on a Wednesday for an hour. And then I changed jobs in the World Bank and for a couple of years I worked on values. I gave myself the title of ‘values coordinator’. We were looking at values throughout the World Bank. And during that period, I wrote a couple of books. A Guide to Liberating Your Soul, and the second book, which was called ‘Liberating the Corporate Soul’, which was my passport out of the World Bank.
When I decided to leave my friends of the World Bank were shocked. “Why?” they asked. “If you stay for another ten years, you’ll get a six-figure tax free pension. I mean, you’re going off to do something that you’ve got no experience with and you’re absolutely not known in the field. It’s crazy, man!” And I said, “well, I cannot not do it. I simply have to do it.”
At that time, they were trying to whittle down the number of troops in the World Bank which worked out beautifully for me. I negotiated a one year’s salary in order to leave. And that’s when I started on my journey to build the Barrett Values Center. That was thirty years ago, and I have never looked back since. Actually, that’s a story of self-actualization rather than transformation.
Have you ever regretted your decision?
No, not at all. It has been so fulfilling. My self-actualization journey has been an unbelievable journey. And you either accept it or you don’t and if you don’t, you get depressed and sad. And if you do, well, you’ll begin a soul infused journey.
During this period, from when I got this revelation to the actual point when I left the World Bank was several years. During this time I started facilitating workshops on finding meaning and purpose and a mission in life. I was doing this workshop one weekend in Boulder, Colorado, because I lived in the States at that time. One of the delegates asked me on the second day, the last afternoon, “well, what’s your mission?” I had a very well-rehearsed affirmation, which was ‘I’m an internationally recognized speaker and author on personal and organizational transformation’. I can remember it now, but at that particular moment when he asked the question, I could not remember those words. It was very embarrassing. Here I was teaching a course on finding your mission in life. And somebody asked me, what is my mission? And I couldn’t remember.
Hang on a minute, I closed my eyes. It must have been a full five or six seconds. And out of my mouth came the words ‘I’m an architect of global transformation’. And I never uttered those words before. That was a complete revelation to me and I thought to myself afterwards, “if this is true, this is my soul speaking”, because I’ve already written a book on liberating your soul. And so, I thought I better get out of the way and let this happen. And effectively, that’s what I’ve done. Now, some twenty-five years later, I’m on the G20 Task Force for Values and I’m creating the Humanity Awareness Global Initiative. All of this is manifested through my soul speaking through me.
This really goes beyond transformation. It’s mega transformation. There was my soul speaking up to guide my future life and actually telling me what the future would hold for me as long as I could get out of the way, which means letting go of the fears of the ego, basically. And that’s where I am now.
I still haven’t quite fulfilled my life yet, I’m still very creative. My soul speaks to me all the time, tells me what to do. Every night, around three or four o’clock, I get up for an hour and I get messages, I write them down and then I do whatever instructions I get. My whole life is guided. I become the servant of my soul because that’s who I am. I don’t have a soul anymore. I AM the soul. And it’s an amazing life, really. I feel so blessed being given this life. I sit back and think to myself, “wow, I’m just a regular guy with a soul that has got a big ambitions”.
When you say you just need to get out of the way, what do you mean and how do you do that?
In fact, I have written a book (What My Soul Told Me) where I talk about how you become one with your soul. It’s a journey and there are certain principles. First of all, everything that happens is absolutely perfect. It’s perfect because it’s either great or it’s very painful. Pain is a blessing. It tells you exactly what you need to change or work on to get back into alignment. For example, if you hurt your knee it’s painful and you know you need to focus on your knee to heal it. It’s the same at the emotional level. Whenever you feel emotional pain, you’re out of alignment with who you really are. The fears of the ego are out of alignment with the soul’s desires, and that’s what you need to work on. In this respect, pain is positive.
Secondly, whatever is going on in the world, I give it all the meaning it has for me. I can also choose to give it a different meaning. The meaning I choose to give to things now is simply whatever is going on is absolutely perfect. It’s an opportunity. If it’s painful, then I say it’s an opportunity in disguise. I have got this optimistic outlook on whatever happens, I’m never a victim.
The only way through something is to go directly through it, not to hide from it, not to take depressants or anything, just to accept it. By letting go, you are moving forward and upward. I remember when I decided to stop being the CEO of The Barrett Values Centre. Even though it was me who had taken the decision it wasn’t easy. The fellow who took over from me, Phil, he said, “you know, you’re not stepping down. You’re stepping up to be who you really are”. And that was absolutely right. That was twelve years ago, and it was perfect. You can’t quite see how it’s perfect in that moment when there is pain involved. But you get through the pain by letting go of whatever it is you felt attached to, because whatever you’re attached to dominates you.
And that’s the third thing I often I use: practicing detachment. Detachment is about letting go of your idea about how things should be. I ask people, “have you got some goals?” and they say “yes”. Then I ask them “ What if you give those up right now?” Stop limiting yourself. Surrender to the impulses of the soul and watch for the synchronicities in your life.
They are coming fast and furious right now. I’m in the midst of the most amazing synchronicities, and the reason I’m in the midst of them is because I’m totally in alignment with what my soul’s intention for my life. My soul pulls the strings at another level of awareness, another level of consciousness. I call it the fourth dimension, the energetic dimension. It is the dimension we can’t see, but we live inside that dimension in this three-dimensional material world with our very limited perception and in that fourth dimension, the energetic world, that’s where our souls live.
In his famous song ‘Anthem’ Leonard Cohen sings “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”. And you see the light comes through from this fourth dimension. When you surrender to soul, the light gets through all the time.
We think we’re in charge of our lives but we’re not. Stop trying to control your life, for God’s sake, just go with it, get out of the way and stop thinking. Stop attaching yourself to your ideas. Listen to what’s coming through. My whole sense of mission now is simply to be the servant of my soul. There is nothing else for me to do.
What would be your most important recommendations on how to get started with transformation?
Up to the age of about twenty-one or twenty-two, we’re going through three stages of development, which are basically determined by the physical development of the brain and the body. You don’t have a fully functioning brain until you get to around twenty-one or twenty-two.
Up to the age of two you only have the reptilian mind which is focused on one thing and that’s survival. From about two to eight, your limbic brain, also called the emotional mind is dominant and you’re focused on feeling safe, belonging and feeling loved. From eight up to the age of twenty-two or twenty-three our neocortex develops which is in charge of our logic thinking. In this time, you’re focused on belonging, but in a larger external sphere outside of the home, you’re looking for recognition. These are the first three stages of development and we all go through those.
Now, depending on the context in which you grew up, you learned a whole lot of beliefs about your life because you’re like a sponge. Some of those beliefs may be very limiting. For example, if your parents say, “you’ll never make it” you just take it in, and it becomes part of your programming. Once you get to your early twenties, you move to the individuating stage and you have to let that go.
The first rule if you’re over twenty is: look at who you are. Who am I? Am I these beliefs? Am I this programming that I got from my parents and my culture? Are these values important to me or not? What are my fears? You have to overcome any programming that has to do with fears. You have to let go, because fear is an energy that prevents you from experiencing the energy of love. What does letting go mean?
Those fears that we learn in the first 20 years of our lives are deeply ingrained. The best you can do is master them. Let me give you an example. Even at the age of 70, if my wife got upset with me, I’d spend two days in a blue funk. I would say I’m not loved, which went all the way back to my childhood. So, I learned how to master that. And now it still comes up. But I can get past it in five minutes. Because I use my mantras like “this is perfect, this isn’t my issue, it’s my projection”. I am accepting that it isn’t my wife who is upsetting me. I’m upsetting myself through my beliefs. Wonderful. I still get triggered, but I know how to deal with it. This is called ‘personal mastery’. This is what individuating is all about – letting go of your fears.
Next is the stage of individuating. This is the first stage of soul activation. It is all about self-expression. What are some of my talents? What are the things that my soul uniquely has, that wants to come through me? Self-expression is a fundamental stage, and it usually happens in the Forties.
I was very passionate about transportation engineering till I got to my forties, but that wasn’t really what I was supposed to be doing. That wasn’t my soul purpose. When you find your purpose, you want to do only that, it brings you joy and you get into a flow. Once you found what you love to do, you want to make a difference in the world by giving your gifts and talents. But you can’t do that unless you can connect with other people. So, learning how to connect, is the fundamental next step – integrating.
This stage is about using your emotional intelligence. This typically happens in the fifties. I’m connecting and making my gifts and talents available, making a difference. And then I come into the sixties and I just want to serve. I want to do this all the time because it brings me joy. These are the steps along the path for a fulfilling life.
How would you describe the essence of your work today?
I work towards one thing alone: everything I do is focused on the evolution of human consciousness. What I’m working on are two things right now.
One is the Humanity Awareness Initiative, which is to bring a global curriculum of transformation to all age groups in every country of the world. It’s about increasing the percentage of people on the planet who are conscious. We’re creating a curriculum for toddlers, children, teenagers, young adults, mature adults, politicians, business leaders to take them to what I call humanity awareness. Humanity awareness is the new worldview that is emerging on the planet. The initiative starts with children. Helping children become conscious and helping them to make value-based decisions, recognizing their gifts and talents, self-expression, helping them to be inclusive, and connect with others, helping them to make a contribution to their community. Inclusiveness and contribution from the very earliest educational programs that we give our children, this is what facilitates the individuating stage in their twenties and all of the other stages of development.
There are already people living from the worldview of humanity awareness but there are no countries operating from that worldview. Another initiative I am working on is the Global WellBeing Indicator. I have been working on it for four years now. And we’re just about to launch the Global Well-Being Indicator at the same level as the World Peace Index. The GWI provides a a way of measuring the wellbeing of nations all over the planet.
What next growth step do you want for yourself?
Ijust continue doing what I’m doing. Just keep listening, waiting for instructions of my soul and watching the synchronicities. I just keep getting out of the way and keep working on my triggers. Even though you are involved in consciousness and you are living the life of your soul, you still have those memories of childhood and teenage years when you didn’t get your needs met. And then you get triggered and personal mastery is needed. I got triggered today by something, but it’s no big deal because I know how to deal with it.
If we meet again for another conversation in a year from now – in the meanwhile you have been super happy and satisfied with your contribution to the world – what are you telling me that you did?
Well, I’m going to tell you now that I don’t want to answer that question, because if I answer it, I am going to limit myself and that’s not how I work. You are asking me to look into the future and set some sort of goal and thus a limitation. I don’t want to limit myself by telling you what I think the future might bring. I honestly don’t know. I don’t know what I’m going to do tomorrow. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve got some ideas, but these ideas come from my soul and I will see what wants to emerge. I don’t want to open the doorway to achievement and restriction, I don’t want to limit what’s possible. So, let’s wait and see.
What do you believe in?
I believe that we live in an energetic field. If you really want to live a fulfilling life, you have got to live from that higher level of understanding the love and fear energies that are at play in your life. That is the key to living a fulfilling life: to get out of the way and live in alignment with your soul.
What are you grateful for?
I am grateful for my soul in my life and that I managed to get out of the way.
What do just few people know about you?
I find that a very difficult question because I’m not in the minds of other people. I’m just a regular guy basically who gets downloads and I write them down and put them into books. And somehow my soul chose me to be a channel for certain revelations, understandings and wisdom. Well, maybe there is one thing, I used to do fly fishing. Not many people know that about me.
Richard, thank you so much for your openness and insightful stories, it was a pleasure having this conversation with you.