Getting to the Heart of Transformation

Cara Staff

Think about a time when you couldn’t shake the hurt of a challenging relationship with a friend or family member. How did it impact your sense of self-worth?

Without the courage to be vulnerable, to express care for yourself and the people in your life, we know even the most experienced professionals struggle to find and keep a job. That’s why love is, quite literally, at the heart of true transformation.

A lot of love and transformation starts right here in the Motivations circle

Since 1991, we have been laser-focused on providing a program for motivated job seekers to develop and demonstrate workplace competencies (like time management, teamwork, and communication), but our former CEO Eric Weinheimer recognizedwhile essential for long-term successthese skills didn’t get to the heart of how someone truly transforms their life.

And so, the Love Letters exercise was born, created by Eric; artfully written and taught by Ms. Vicki Hudson-Stapleton; and used to unlock thousands of hearts by Mr. Jesse Teverbaugh. The exercise goes like this:

  • Identify a person who you love but have a challenging relationship with.
  • Meet with this person and ease into a conversation.
  • Place your hands on their face, look into their eyes, and say “I love you.”
  • Then write a letter, describing what happened and how you felt when you put your hands on their face and said those three powerful words.

Anyone feel sweaty, even a bit nauseous, picturing yourself doing this? Whose face would you hold in your hands?

Generations of Cara’s heart: Director of Student & Alumni Affairs Jesse Teverbaugh,
President & CEO Ma
ria Kim, Cara’s Founder Tom Owens, Former President & CEO Eric Weinheimer

While the instruction of the Love Letters exercise may seem simple, performing it is very complex, to say the least. To get a better understanding of the Love Letters exercise’s difficulty, vulnerability, and intimacy, we asked love leaders Ms. Vicki Hudson-Stapleton and Mr. Jesse Teverbaugh to break it down for us:

Jesse: “You’ve got to understand the purpose of it [the exercise] and how we build up to it; no matter what your background, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, education level… Everyone comes with some lack of self-worth. Whatever the reason.”

“How do you restore that sense of self-worth and self-love when people define love with hurt? That’s not what love is. We redefine what love is so that we can rely on it more heavily when we need it. We need to lean into it, not shy away from it.

Vicki: The majority of people who come to Cara are here for a job; I wouldn’t even necessarily say a career because they don’t go as far as to say, ‘This is something I want to do for the rest of my life. This is my purpose, this is my passion.’ So much of the work is changing the mindset to get them to understand what purpose and passion look like. That’s where the transformation part comes in, that’s where the love comes in; identifying who you are.”

Ms. Vicki Hudson-Stapleton leading our Transformations training, including the Love Letters exercise

Vicki:From a trainer’s point of view, you can’t do this job if you are not willing to be honest and share your story. We can’t get them to do that if that’s not something we can do ourselves. That’s the end goal. We always say we have a long way to go but a very short time to get there. By that fourth week of Transformations, they’re identifying who they are.”

“One of the biggest takeaways of the exercise is that I am worthy of love. A lot of people don’t believe that: ‘I am worthy of the best life has to offer.’ You can’t believe that if you can’t love yourself. That’s what we want them to gain by the time they not only leave Cara but continue on.

Jesse: “The Love Letters exercise focuses on touching someone’s face. It’s called intimacy: ‘Into me you see.’ Here you have the opportunity to give someone their flowers while they’re still alive and to live your life out loud, loving people and sharing your love.”

“When you teach people about goals, the first thing you tell them is to write it down. List your goals. Start journaling. Part of the Love Letters exercise is just a bit of that same philosophy. There’s something about writing it down that makes it really powerful and sustainable, so it sticks with them.”

For a glimpse into the power of the exercise, read a Love Letter written by a former Cara participant.

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