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Archive for Personal Growth

The Journey Through Loss

It’s a journey familiar to anyone who has lived more than 20 years. Loss is a painful and challenging road.

Several months ago I started watching a television show on Acorn.tv – my new favorite streaming membership. The show is “800 Words” about a man and his two children who moved from Australia to New Zealand just after his wife was killed in an accident.

Against the wishes of his in-laws he uproots his family, seeking to outrun the ghosts and memories of his beloved wife who was taken too quickly from her home, her family and her future.

And who among us hasn’t had someone taken too quickly from us?

He finds a loving and generous community who takes him in and supports him as he tries to find his way through grief and loss. He’s a writer who produces a weekly column that is always 800 words long – not shorter or longer – just 800 words.

Hollywood – or Australia version of Tinseltown – does a phenomenal job of giving us a glimpse into the world of loss and grief while this man is supported on all sides by women who see him as their next husband, children wise beyond their years and the town bully who suddenly becomes his benefactor.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this is how we all walk out loss – as a single challenge in an otherwise unchallenging life?

But, it isn’t like that. Loss happens among the bills, financial problems, difficult bosses, cranky  children and irritating neighbors. Loss feels never ending, eating away through sleepless nights, coffee-drenched afternoons and evenings arguing with children. Loss is overwhelming, all encompassing and empty.

Above all, loss is empty.

And the enemy would like us all to believe that loss does not just FEEL never ending, but actually IS never ending.

Thankfully it just ain’t true.

If I am to think hard about loss in my own life, I can trace it back to when I was nine years old – and the same feelings of sadness and overwhelming angst that followed me through the next decades. It wasn’t always present, but when loss happened, the same feelings resurfaced.

I was convinced it was just how I experienced loss and what would be the path I took until the day I died. I was convinced everyone felt the same and had the same experiences, because – let’s face it – we don’t go around telling people how we suffer each day or every week over a loss we think we should have gotten over months ago.

But Jesus talked about grief and mourning many times in the Bible. He grieved over the death of his friends, and told us that grieving has a purpose in Ecclesiastes  7:2 “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.”

Grief refreshes our personal perspective on life and living each day. And Jesus reminds us that grief is to be temporary in Psalm 30:5 “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

But, what I had been experiencing was unrelenting night – there didn’t seem to be a morning. Through over 30 years of living I consistently found a reason in my daily life to explain the sadness I experienced.

What came first . . . the sadness or the experience?

In other words, was it the current experience that made me sad – and EAT – or was it the sadness I carried which influenced current experiences, and made me sad?

How much of a vicious cycle was I walking out since I was nine?

The first step in my journey through loss and grief was identifying the experiences that had triggered these feelings in the first place. It was a freeing experience to write out each and look at them objectively. So many times I had had seen all these experiences through a global lens of pain and suffering without picking them apart to see they were bad – but I had lived through and conquered more.

But what about the more immediate losses? What was necessary to attack and defend against those?

Grief is important. It’s healthy. It’s necessary to purge from the pain. But it should never be continuous. It’s not supposed to be forever.

How we move individually through that loss is a function of our own personality and relationship with Jesus. But the hard reality is that it IS supposed to end.

 

And that gives me hope. The knowledge that I might wallow now but must pull myself out of the mire by grasping the hand of my Savior is where hope lies – hope for a future, hope for a better tomorrow and hope that hope lives.

 

Living on the Edge

When my ex-husband and I were first married, we began to use a budget. I was used to saving and living a bit frugally – while my ex was more accustomed to eating out and spending much of his paycheck every month. It’s not that one is better or worse than the other – it’s just different.

One of the more common fights between couples is over how money is spent, but for some unknown reason I gave a little, he gave a little and we learned to adjust to each others spending habits, while still saving money in the long run.

However, I still stressed over some of the expenses I didn’t feel we should shoulder and he didn’t. I remember one day adding up what he was spending on lunch every week. I stood in the middle of our apartment kitchen, hands on my hips and stated – you really like living on the edge, don’t you?

It became an expression we both used any time an expense popped up that fell into a specific category of not too much to be overwhelming but more than $10.00 – one of us liked living on the edge.

Of course, it wasn’t really living on the edge, and neither of us really spent money recklessly – but I thought about that expression the other day.

When was the last time I lived life on the edge?

When was the last time I took a risk? Tried something outside my comfort zone? Rather, when was the last time I lived on the edge of what I considered home?

It had been years – and years – and it didn’t feel good. As a young woman I was used to change and making changes in my life with excitement at what the future would hold. I moved from Chicago to Indianapolis to see where a relationship would lead. It led nowhere.

I moved from a cozy little college town to Chicago to get my bachelors in nursing at a large prestigious university. My roommate from college and I moved into a great condo along Lake Shore Drive with a view of Lake Michigan after stumbling onto the lease. My hospital unit manager in Indianapolis fired me after I took a risk and didn’t call her when a child died one night because the mom asked me not to call her in.

Business ventures were tried and failed – and others succeeded.

But through most of my first decades of life, taking chances was a way of life that I embraced and enjoyed.

Today, raising the last of my four children, it feels like the right time to start living life on the edge once again.

The issue now becomes HOW to do it. What decisions are made first? What risks are worth the effort and which are those better left on the roadside?

My youngest and I joined a discipleship class about three months ago. We’ve learned a LOT, made some new friends and watched how God is moving in our lives in a very powerful way. We took a risk and it’s paying off in big dividends.

The other day I was out for a walk and God presented an opportunity I didn’t take. I didn’t take the risk that God presented – always a bad decision! – and I was again reminded I’m living a comfortable life and finding comfortable results.

Any great business person will tell you – to experience great results, many times requires big risk. The risks may not be obvious or even make you uncomfortable – but there will be risks.

The point where risks became undoable happened after the birth of my second son. Dragging around two children was much easier than three – and having four children felt like a risk in and of itself.

 

Today, risks will present themselves when God brings them into my life. In much the same way they happened before – except at that point I called it serendipity and coincidence. Today, I know better – but it doesn’t make the wait or the risk any less fun or exciting.

Living life on the edge also means being ready for failure – being able to accept the failure and move on to the next path, road, or decision.

However, the opposite side of the failure are the rewards and experiences that come with risk taking. AND, another benefit lies in the experience of the risk. The more you take, the easier the next one is, and the one after that.

Do you remember watching your children learning to walk? Each time they pulled up to stand and took a step out, they took a step in faith that at some point they would remain standing. With each failure they learned better balance, what they did wrong and they tried again.

Taking risks can be exactly like that – trying, failing and then getting up and trying again. The difference is to learn from those mistakes and after getting up to try doing it all differently. Maybe that’s where risk taking becomes scary – because failure may be inevitable, but success doesn’t come without failing, usually many more times than once.

In the next months I’m taking another risk – a business one this time. However, while it’s a new business venture, it’s not a huge risk as there isn’t much more than my time invested.

I can hear my sister yelling at me that my time is VALUABLE and I should stop de-valuing the time I spend doing anything. But, no matter how you slice it – I’ve not invested much money in this project and the time I have invested is time spent after my clients and without taking time from my daughter.

So, all told, is that really a risk?

Maybe it’s time I looked for something else to call a risk. My oldest daughter wants to move and wants me and her little sister to come along. A different part of the U.S. A new city. New friends and a whole new environment.

 

THAT sounds like a risk worth taking!

Tell Your Children You Don’t Know

How much courage does it take to tell your children you don’t have the answer?

 

When I was a child, my mother always had an answer. And, according to her, she was always right. I remember a neighbor asked her once what would happen when her children finally realized that she really didn’t KNOW EVERYTHING. She laughed it off, thinking it would not cause a problem. In later years I found out it didn’t cause a problem for my sister. However, I wasn’t so lucky.

We are all different and we all process information differently. When I finally realized that my mother didn’t know everything, it was a huge emotional blow to me. It literally took me years to get over the fact that my mother was not nearly as wise and intelligent as I had once believed. She wasn’t the All-Seeing Genie I grew up believing she was.

And maybe for that reason I moved in the other direction with my own children. From the very beginning I learned how to say I was wrong. My ex-husband enjoyed it when I practiced on him, because he thought he was right all the time too! But when they came along I knew exactly how to say, I don’t know or I’m sorry I was wrong.

In fact, just this morning I was out for a walk with my dog and God opened up an opportunity for me. Unfortunately, I walked right past it and immediately regretted my decision. After all, God had entrusted this opportunity to me to share his love with someone else and I ignored it.

I didn’t have to and it wasn’t necessary, but when I got home I told my daughter all about it. And I prefaced the story with, “I’m telling you this so you don’t do it yourself. I want you to know where I messed up so that in the future you might not make the same mistake that I did.”

There is a certain power in this vulnerability. There Is power in acknowledging that you don’t know everything, that you make mistakes and that you are still growing as a person. This gives you the power to learn from someone else without feeling as if you’re more vulnerable than you really are.

I think we all get this in the abstract. It’s easy to say that as humans we are all fallible. But, when it comes down to us PERSONALLY making a mistake and owning it – it’s a bit more difficult – a bit more real.

 

I believe that when we can step outside the fear of being wrong and acknowledge that we really are wrong, it empowers us to move forward and grow in a way you just can’t if you’re always right. After all, if you’re always right – where is the room for growth? There isn’t anywhere to go but down at that point.

A long time ago I had a close friend who played racquetball. My friend was excellent at the game and, in fact so much so, that I refuse to play with them. It wasn’t that I was a bad racquetball player but that I knew I was much worse than my friend. And somehow, making myself vulnerable felt bad. If instead I had approached the situation by asking for help to become a better racquetball player I probably could have gotten in some good games and had some good fun.

In fact, what I found over the years is the time when I am most vulnerable to attack is the point when I am ahead of the game. When I turn it around and become vulnerable I suddenly have more power.

Whether vulnerability with your friends or coworkers is something you want to learn or not, vulnerability with your children is definitely something worth learning. Your children are a lot like computers, they’ll do what you show them to do and not necessarily what you tell them to do.

I remember when I got my first computer. This was before user-friendly operating systems. Everything was run in DOS. Faced with a black screen and computer language I was frequently caught screaming at the screen – “Do what I WANT you to do – NOT what I told you to do!”

Children have this unique ability to see past what you tell them to do and they do what they see you doing. When they see you saying you don’t know, they are more comfortable saying the same and acknowledging it may be time to learn something new.

 

It’s a short article today because there is a LOT I don’t know and a lot you and my children can teach me.

Thanks for listening!

 

Unconditional: Love or Acceptance?

The first time I became a parent I had twins. It didn’t seem real when I was pregnant and looking at pictures of ultrasounds. I was confined to bed rest for 3 months and it didn’t seem real when I was hooked up to monitors twice a day to ensure that premature labor hadn’t started again. In fact, it didn’t seem real even after the delivery with two neonatologists, two neonatal nurses, my doctor, my nurse and an anesthesiologist all crowded into a room waiting for two little babies to come out of me.

It wasn’t real until my ex-husband was out getting the car, strapping in two car seats and I was sitting in the room staring down at two infants sleeping soundly on my bed. I had been a pediatric nurse for 10 years and as I stared down at them I had no idea what to do.

But I knew one thing. I knew with all my heart that I loved those two children. I knew then I would give my life for them in that moment. Despite my fear and my inability to conceptualize what the next day would look like, I knew that I loved these two little ones.

It was unconditional love because I didn’t know anything about them. I didn’t know my son would have colic for months. I didn’t know my daughter had low muscle tone. I didn’t know my son would grow up to have attention deficit disorder or that my daughter would have a beautiful voice. I didn’t know my son would have a heart he would give freely to anyone in need and I didn’t know my daughter had a heart for Jesus. I just knew they were 6 pounds, they were infants and they were mine.

As they grew I began to learn the difference between loving them unconditionally and accepting everything that came from them unconditionally. And in the process, I also learned that I could love my ex-husband unconditionally and not accept his behavior.

I think sometimes the idea of unconditional love gets confusing, especially for Christians. Women are held to a standard of the Proverbs 31 woman and marriages are held to 1Corinthians 13: 4-7. It’s a favorite Bible verse about love often quoted during marriage ceremonies, but it’s a definition of what we should aspire to, how God loves us and not where we exist today.

1Corinthians 13:4-7
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 

In the search for a life partner, too often we look for a soulmate and unconditional love. And the expectation is will also find unconditional acceptance. We might yearn for unconditional love because we didn’t get it as children or because first, second and third relationships had failed. And too often, we are not taught as children how to give unconditional love, because in seeking it we must also be ready and willing to give it.

 

Unlike romantic love, unconditional love doesn’t seek gratification, pleasure or reward. It is the giving of yourself to someone else without the expectation of receiving anything in return. This kind of love transcends time and place and everyday concerns. This kind of love is not often found and even more rarely given. Ideally, unconditional love is an experience that unites two people. It means you give it as often as you get it – or more.

A long time ago, God brought someone into my life who loved me unconditionally and who I loved unconditionally. And as quickly as he came, he left to honor a commitment that had been broken 3 years before. He left because honor and ethics were what he lived and not just terms from the dictionary. And today, I still love him unconditionally.

But unconditional acceptance is something different. Unconditional acceptance means that you’ll accept what other people dish out without protecting yourself or them. Although God loves you unconditionally He does not unconditionally accept all your behavior, and neither should you unconditionally accept everyone’s behavior.

Natural consequences happen with each of the choices we make. If you forget your lunch at home, then you have to buy lunch or you have to go without until you get home for dinner. It’s the natural consequence for the behavior. And each decision we make, each behavior we have has a natural consequence. If you gossip about other people, the natural consequence is others don’t trust you because if you’ll gossip about others, then you’ll gossip about them.

I believe as parents, and especially single moms, it’s important that we love our children unconditionally because it gives us the opportunity to model for them how they should love others. But I also believe that we should not accept their behavior unconditionally. By accepting behavior unconditionally we give the other person the opportunity to treat us poorly and to walk over whatever boundaries we put up for ourselves.

 

Boundaries are what protect our emotional health and the emotional health of our children. When we model for them what unconditional love looks like without unconditional acceptance of someone’s poor behavior, we set up the next generation for greater success.

7 Ways to Make Your Life Better

In a world ruled by rules, some make perfect sense and others you may accept as true without proof. You may have discovered them in a book, from a teacher, from your parents or even your friends. You may have learned them on your own and believed your experience or your friends. These are often unwritten and sometimes splashed in funny memes meant to poke fun at what may be a bit of truth, or all truth.

 

But, whether you learned them from someone you trusted or a stranger, there are seven critical strategies that will help you achieve your success. It doesn’t matter how you define your personal success – health, financial, recreational or emotional – these are strategies that will move you faster and further on your journey when you use them than when you ignore them.

 

  1. Be comfortable in your own skin.

There is one person you’ll never be able to get away from in your life, and that’s you. If you don’t like your own company it can get pretty crowded, pretty fast. And, if you don’t like yourself, how can you expect others to enjoy being with you? Do you want a permanent relationship or maybe improve an existing one? It’s time work on the relationship you have with yourself, before the relationships you have with others will ever improve. Do you want to be a better leader? A better parent? A better friend? It’s time to be a better you.

 

Being comfortable in your own skin will help you react to others with confidence, and will help you learn how to . . .

 

  1. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

To do anything, learn anything new, experience new success you have to stretch yourself. Stretching yourself to do new things will mean being uncomfortable – and thus being comfortable with being uncomfortable. I used to hear this and never really understood what it meant. On a basic level I knew that in order to grow in anything I had to do things I’d never done before or I wouldn’t experience anything new.

 

If you want to learn to ski, you have to strap them on and go down the hill. If you want to pray for people, you have to open your mouth and do it. If you want to be able to code a computer you have to take classes and TRY it. I got it about 10 years ago when I got very, very sick. As a nurse, there was one procedure I NEVER wanted performed on me – and that was a nasogastric (NG) tube. That’s a tube passed from your nose into your stomach to decompress your stomach and upper intestines. I had undergone a rather common abdominal surgery and went home the next day. By day two I was doubled in pain with a physician who kept telling me this was normal.

 

I knew it wasn’t. My ex-husband drove me to the hospital where I almost begged the ER doctor for an NG tube. I sent my ex out of the room so he wouldn’t faint (history of that!) and couldn’t get him to move quickly enough to get this done. The pain and pressure was unbelievable and not relieved by the hourly vomiting I had been doing for the past twelve hours.

 

I lived through it. The procedure didn’t kill me. And I learned a valuable lesson about myself. It’s ok to be uncomfortable because you get comfortable on the other side.

 

  1. Have a life philosophy and know your worldview.

Every decision you make is filtered through your personal philosophy and worldview. If you believe there is a God but aren’t a disciple, your decision will be different than if you are a disciple or you don’t believe at all. The decision to vacuum the floor, take a job, talk to a friend, make a meal or even go for a walk – these decisions are all filtered through your philosophy about life and your worldview. If you don’t know what these are then your decisions are haphazard – and without consistency you won’t experience success in any area of your life. If you do experience success but are not sure what your philosophy IS you may be tempted to believe you don’t have one.

 

That’s not true. You may not KNOW what it is – but in order to experience success you have one.

 

  1. Question everything and listen closely.

You may THINK you know why your child is “miss cranky pants” today – but you may also be wrong. Ask and listen. You might think you know why your boss passed you over for that promotion (they just don’t like you!), but it’s likely you’re wrong. You don’t know until you ask – and listen. Most people are formulating their response to the first sentence out of the other person’s mouth. Listen to the WHOLE conversation before you respond, you may be surprised by the results.

  1. Listen to your gut, your intuition, your inner voice.

As adults, we’re often taught to follow the facts and figures as opposed to listening to our guts. I’m talking about the part of your brain that gives you the answer more quickly than the reasoning part. In several research studies, participants were given two different choices. The researchers found the pores on the participants’ hands opened when they were about to make the right choice and closed when the choice was not the best one for the situation. Scientists encourage you to develop the ability to recognize responses in your body to improve the results you get in the choices you make. For instance, in one study, people who spent a lot of time evaluating their car choice were satisfied with that choice only 25% of the time, while those who made a gut decision were satisfied 60% of the time.

 

  1.  Build trust.

People who trust themselves are more often trusted by others. In other words, when you trust yourself to follow through on your own promises, other people can also trust you. This can be a challenge! When you make a promise, do you show up every time or do you regret it and make an excuse? When you make a promise to yourself, do you follow through or do you write it off because no one is looking? Only you know the answer to that question, and that answer identifies a deeper issue. You recognize trustworthiness in people when you see it. It’s memorable. Your goal is to be memorable in your own eyes first. You’ll experience greater confidence in your abilities and better self-esteem, all of which can lead to added success in relationships, finances and business.

 

  1. Do not act on your feelings.

Feelings don’t have a life of their own. In other words, you can control how you feel based on how you think. Here’s the equation: Your thoughts produce feelings which drive your actions that determine your results. This means you control your feelings based on what you think, and consequently the success you experience. Don’t act on feelings that may produce results you don’t want. When success is the goal, you can’t afford to carry around envy, jealousy, anger and bitterness. Toss them away like the garbage they are.

 

My surgeon didn’t want to believe she made a mistake and when she discovered it was possible, she waited another 24 hours before addressing the issue. Her fear almost cost me my life.

 

 

 

Keep It Super Simple:

Keeping your life simple will bring great results. Life is complex enough without creating challenges by complicating the situation. When you feel the world sitting on your shoulders, it’s time to simplify.  My oldest son has been looking for a new job and is downhearted. He started listing off all the things that were going wrong, and that list was long. However, it included everything from the time he was in high school until last week.

 

It took a bit of work but he could finally isolate the reason for his discouragement to a declining bank account as he was paying off his college bills. Simplifying the situation and finding the solution to the underlying problem helped him to feel better. We all feel better when what’s going wrong can be identified, simplified and a solution developed.

 

Seven simple strategies, which when followed and incorporated into your life, will bring more success and happiness. Today, it’s time to evaluate your own life and where you stand with each of them. Do you need to simplify your reaction to a situation? Should you focus on becoming a better version of yourself? Is it time to listen to your intuition and start that small business at home?

 

 

How will your life be different when you make seven smart changes?

Getting Off the Emotional Treadmill

Have you ever experienced the crushing weight of expectation? If you’re a woman, this is likely a common everyday occurrence for you. Your children have expectations for what you can provide and what you’ll do. Your boss has expectations of your performance and your friends have expectations of your ability to be there for them.

But woven into each of these groups is the expectation you’ll approach life with a smile and a positive attitude no matter what is happening in your personal life. No matter what you’ve experienced, no matter what loss you’re facing, no matter how overpoweringly sad or frightened you are, the expectation is you will smile and take it in stride.

I had a friend many years ago who was a single mom. She had adopted two children from Russia and in the process of the adoption her husband left her. Her mother had developed cancer and came to live with her as she died. She lost her job two months after the children came home. Life was coming down around their ears and she was holding herself up by her bootstraps. We had a conversation about depression and talked about what that meant and how she felt.

She commented to me that while she found her life circumstances challenging and it was a struggle to get through each day, depression was not a feeling she felt she had the opportunity to experience. If she allowed herself to become depressed, her entire family would fall apart and she would have nothing left in the end. Instead, she chose to see her circumstances as challenging. They were something she needed to get through but not something that would overcome her.

She made a choice and she followed through.

On the other hand, she didn’t feel it was necessary to be obsessively positive all day, every day. While it was essential that she address the challenges in her life in order to maintain the safety of her family, she also believed it was important that she felt her feelings and express them to her friends. She didn’t put on a brave front – she felt her feelings, dealt with them and moved on.

It was the last part that’s been so difficult for so many – to move on.

Society has certain expectations you will always smile, always be in a good mood and will always treat people well. No matter what’s going on in your life and no matter how much of a challenge each day brings, the expectation is you live in positivity.

While research demonstrates those who have a greater positive attitude will experience better achievement and greater success, it’s not always possible to keep that attitude of positivity rolling along each and every day. Oncologists recommend their cancer patients watch comedies and uplifting television because research shows those who stay positive experience better outcomes – but no one can be positive all day.

So, suddenly, you’re on an emotional treadmill.

 

On the outside you’re positive, upbeat and strong, while on the inside you’re wilting and unsure how you’re going to make it through the rest of the day. It’s tiring, tiresome and often overwhelming. It stresses you more than if you owned up to the feelings you had and acknowledged that you are not Superwoman!

Yes, you are wise, but it’s wisdom born of pain. And as the song continues, “If I have to, I can do anything. I am strong. I am invincible. I am Woman.”

BUT, no matter how many times you sing those lyrics, you likely can’t do anything (meant everything). You are not invincible – but you ARE woman.

It’s important to find that friend, that safe place, where you can let loose and let go. That person who doesn’t judge you for your feelings, what you think or say In the heat of the moment but lets you say it so that you can get it out and get it over with.

Whether that person is a therapist, a friend, counselor or your pastor – this is a crucial and vital person in your life. This is someone who may make the difference between becoming totally burned out with life or enjoying greater success than you ever dreamed possible.

A treadmill it is designed to strengthen your muscles. I treadmill is supposed to give you greater cardiovascular fitness, improve the large muscles in your legs and even help you strengthen your core.

But an emotional treadmill does not. In fact it has the exact opposite effect.

An emotional treadmill is a little like the hamster on the wheel going around and around and getting nowhere. The hamster enjoys greater physical fitness on the wheel but a human experiences chronic stress. The hamster needs his wheel in order to burn off his energy, but moms need to get off the wheel and find a different release that does not generate high levels of cortisol with the subsequent health-related damage.

I had this conversation with a friend recently. She took a long look at my life and didn’t understand where I was finding balance. In her mind, I spend the day, all day, on a hamster wheel, running from one thing to another without a break or without experiencing any balance in my life. But from my point of view, I spend several hours every day experiencing the release of working out, walking my dog and practicing with my daughter. For me, that was balance. For her, it is not.

That’s a long way of saying that you might find getting off an emotional treadmill looks different for you than it does for your friends or your family. The idea is to understand yourself and recognize what you need in order to achieve emotional health without putting on a constant face of positivity to a world that expects only positive women.

Unlearn Your Need to Be Liked

As a teenager, I was the last to be picked in any sport, team or in physical education class at school. I was the last to be chosen for any group or activity. That’s not to say that I didn’t have friends, because I did. But it is to say that the cheerleaders, Geeks and science nerds avoided me. I didn’t have a set group. I belonged to the outside group.

I believe the result was I grew up with an intense desire to be liked and to be chosen. Even more so than other people. It was important that groups liked me more than I was able to join a group or an organization. My friends chose me, I didn’t choose my friends. And as age and wisdom caught up with my incredible desire to have others like me, I realized my mistake.

By this time I had children and I was teaching them it was more important for their friends to choose them, than it was for them to choose their friends. I was passing on my incredible desire to be liked by others to the next generation.

This type of superficial behavior will eventually rot you from the inside out. It’s essentially toxic and not being you will eventually destroy the you, you want to become.

It took me years to stop wanting to be liked and chosen by others. I still struggle with laughing at jokes I don’t find funny or going places I don’t necessarily want to go. I don’t so much mind eating at restaurants I don’t enjoy, but I draw the line at doing activities that aren’t in my nature.

Before I could change, I had to grow. Before I could learn how important it was to like myself, I had to learn to like myself. It was a journey that was eye-opening and sometimes expensive – and it started with motivation.

I was motivated to teach my children that it was more important to be you, the person  you were born to be, than it was to be liked by those around you. You can always find new friends, but you won’t find another you.

What you may not realize, is you can’t sustain a life trying to please others. You can try, but the price you pay will be heavy. This should scare you – and maybe provide you with the motivation you need to make a few changes.

Support

The foundation you need to become the person you want to be is to find a supportive and nourishing environment. One friend. On confidant. One person is all you need to be accountable and reveal the real you. When one person knows you –  the real you – and they still love and respect you, it becomes easier to recognize that others will do the same. And – ultimately – not everyone has to like you.

That was difficult for me – not everyone has to – or will – like me.

I grew up believing it was important to be a likable person. My mom taught me the importance of getting along to get along. And then I took it to a whole ‘nother level.

I may have reversed the trend a bit further in the other direction today, but I’m happier with myself today than I have been in the past.

Something else I learned over the years is . . . if someone doesn’t like me, the world doesn’t end.

Have you ever watched “Friends?” It was a sitcom about six mid-20s (growing into their 30s) friends who lived life together. Each of them had their problems and challenges and each had their talents. Monica was the woman who couldn’t stand it when anyone didn’t like her. She went to extremes to be sure other people liked her, and almost made herself sick when they didn’t.

One Christmas she began making chocolate candies, placing them in a basket outside her door. The hope was to meet her neighbors. What she created were neighbors ravenous for her chocolates, who didn’t care who she was or how the candies arrived in the basket. People knocked on the door at 3am when the basket was empty, and she volunteered to make more.

It’s painful to watch her character as the behavior is exaggerated. But, it’s likely the same behavior I exhibited for years, just not as BIG.

I kept myself small – so no one would notice me.

Negativity

Changing your behavior may mean cutting ties with negative people in your life. You know who these people are – they don’t like what you do or how you do it, and they make sure you know about it. You feel horrible each time you share something with them. You feel better when you aren’t around them.

And yet, if you struggle with being liked, it may be difficult to cut ties.

Self Talk

This was something that was difficult for me to learn. If I asked myself honestly, I didn’t realize that I was talking to myself at any point. I knew that I would daydream, but I didn’t count that as talking to myself. However, after much reading, learning and even counseling, I realize that what I said to myself was something that my brain believed.

So as I walked through my day, when I would jokingly say, “oh gosh that was a stupid thing to say/do,” or “I can’t believe I just did that, how dumb!” I learned those statements were heard by my brain and believed.

This was demonstrated in an exercise I learned several years ago. It’s really rather fun and you should try it because it gives you a very real understanding of how what you say out loud or to yourself is heard by your brain and interpreted by your body. The exercise requires two people and you don’t have to believe it in order to see the results. Here goes. . .

Start with both arms out to your side, shoulder height. Have your partner push down on one arm while you try to keep it up. Ask your friend to feel how much effort they have to push in order to get your arm to move.

Next, put your arms to your side. Say out loud three times – “I’m not good enough.” Be sure to repeat them slowly, out loud three times.

Now do the same strength test as you just did, with your arms at shoulder height and your friend testing how much effort it takes to move your arms.

You will likely be VERY surprised (as I was!) at how much strength you lose just because your brain hears your comments.

It’s one reason athletes talk out loud to themselves before a competition and “talk themselves up” – so to speak. What you say has an effect on your mind, your body and your performance.

Ignore Others

There’s a fine line we walk between believing what others have to say when they are people we trust, and listening to everyone for their garbage into our brains. It’s important to ignore the people who need to be ignored and identify the people you can trust.

I recently joined a discipleship group and one of the topics in last week’s small group was about finding people in your life with whom you develop a trusting relationship. That relationship is so deep that these are the people who know you best and will call you on whatever you’re doing wrong.

Although it’s not easy to let other people’s opinions go, it is simple. It is simply recognizing and understanding that their opinions don’t mean anything. They can have whatever opinion they want because God has given us the ability for free will and free choice. And, if you live in America, the government gives you the same choice. However, with that choice comes responsibility and it’s time to exercise the responsibility of knowing when to listen and when to let go.

It’s not easy but it is simple and this is where an accountability partner or trusted friend can help immensely. When you bounce these ideas off of someone you trust, you learn to hear the truth in what others say. The more you practice, the better you get at it.

I eventually learned to let go of much of my desire to be liked by others because I knew I was teaching my children a habit that was not healthy. I was teaching them and they would be teaching their children. And suddenly, I was looking at generations of people who would value the opinions of others before they value their own opinion; who would change themselves in order to be liked by others while in the meantime disliking themselves.

Today is the day to start looking at your own future and determining it for yourself, because remember, your children are watching!

The Danger in Silence

“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

 

Although the attribution of this quote is in question – some attribute to Dr. Martin King and others have found it was an error in cutting and pasting from a Facebook post by Jessica Dovey – the reality is that the words ring true no matter who said them.

This was aptly demonstrated as the #MeToo campaign was joined by women around the world, finally able to talk about the harassment they had experienced. This was only one consequence of silence. Others have led to genocide, racism and war across the centuries.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

We each have experienced times in life where we stayed silent – because it was easier, more accommodating or when we felt threatened by others in power.

I think women are more likely to stay silent so as not to rock the boat (accommodating) or when they feel threatened by the person in power. When your job or career is on the line you may feel it’s better to allow someone to say things you wouldn’t normally allow, so you can be promoted or to keep your job, salary and a roof over your children’s heads.

Unfortunately, it’s in these circumstances we teach our children – who are carefully watching EVERYTHING we do – when to speak and when to stay silent. The tightrope you walk being a single mom, required to bring home the bacon – so to speak – and teach your children why it’s important to speak up for yourself and those unable to speak for themselves, is a challenge.

It has been helpful to have rules for my children, but I find those rules also help me. There have been times when my children have called me on my behavior or on a decision made because it doesn’t align with the rules we created to keep peace and harmony in our home. It is these rules I can rely on to help me make difficult decisions when speaking up has as many consequences as staying silent.

This has never been more evident in my life than recently. I have a friend who is struggling with her life decisions, her children and her future. She was once a single mom, raising three children on her own. After a season she met and married a very nice man and together they have made a home and merged their families.

But in the past her youngest daughter had experienced horrific abuse at the hands of her father. It was a couple of years before my friend could prove the abuse so she could permanently remove her daughter. Years of prayer, relying on friends, talking about abusive situations and opening up to strangers.

Today her daughter continues to experience the effects of those years of abuse, and her mother does as well. Silence in her small community, silence in her husband’s family and her silence for years only perpetuated the problems and ultimately the negative emotional effects.

My friend did what she could, at the time, with the resources she had – but she paid the price of the silence of her neighbors and his family, and will continue to pay a lifelong price.

When we don’t speak for ourselves or others, we are validating their ideas and behavior. This same friend has asked for advice several times and I have been brutally honest. I won’t do her any favors by agreeing or disagreeing to make her happy – and thankfully she understands that and desperately wants someone to speak the truth in love to her.

I believe with all my heart that is what our world needs – speaking the truth in love. We have watched what silently agreeing, being silent or participating has gotten us. Our country is suffering under the burden of a growing number of people who have no compassion or mercy for people who don’t look or act like them.

I recently joined a Christian discipleship group. The first thing that struck me was the safety within the group. The leader said it was a safe group, a safe place to express yourself and enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit. But I didn’t BELIEVE it. I had never been someplace where there wasn’t at least one person who was a bully, talked back, didn’t obey the rules or otherwise made of fun of everyone.

But not here. Here it’s safe.

Everyone is accepted and there is no silence. And silence is not needed since everyone is after the same thing – to experience His presence.

I have a situation at home now that requires I’m not silent. My oldest son needs a bit of direction, and doesn’t want it I’m sure. After all, at the age of 26, which one of us wanted to hear from our parents we might be making poor decisions?

While I won’t be silent, I also won’t be derisive or condemning. This is his life and he has the choice to live it in any way he chooses. But as his mother, I have the responsibility to point out the end of the journey he’s currently taking. I have the RESPONSIBILITY to NOT remain silent.

He has the choice.

I have the responsibility.

And once communicated – a time or two, but not more than three! – it’s his decision and his life. His consequences and my responsibility to allow him to live the consequences.

There are so many ways and places we may or may not remain silent – and consequences to staying silent that affect more than this generation. The time to pick your battles is when you have battles to pick – and not when they’ve all been chosen for you.

The time to speak up is when you have your voice before the world has stifled you.

The time to speak is when your children are watching so they also learn speaking up is important to retain their dignity, to help those who can’t help themselves and defend the ideas they hold dear.

The time to speak is NOW.

 

Sources:
Root, Fake MLK Quote Goes Viral, https://www.theroot.com/fake-mlk-quote-goes-viral-1790863806

Do Your Children Know Your Safety Rules?

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, my oldest children were born. While it seems like only yesterday, it was actually nearly 26 years ago. I remember it like it was yesterday. The twins were lying on the hospital bed and I teasingly asked my then husband at what age did he think he would let the girl start dating.

While it was a joke, he seriously answered that she would be 40 years old or over his dead body. And I laughingly replied that it probably would be over his dead body if he made her wait until she was 40!

But my own question got me thinking about safety and the rules that I would want my children to obey in order to stay safe. And I started reading about stranger danger, puppies in the park and men who used women to lure children into cars.

As they grew and began talking I began teaching in terms they could understand all the things they needed to know in order to stay safe without telling them all the things they didn’t need to know that would scare them.

And this again started me thinking. What about when they grew older and they were off on their own, at school, at the park or at the mall with their friends. What did I want them to know? What were the rules I wanted them to follow because they were important to me?

Not because the rules were important to me, but because my children were important and I believe their safety was of the ultimate importance.

All this concern likely stemmed from my professional background as a head injury and spinal cord injury nurse. For instance, I used to warn my boys they could break any bones but they must protect their head and back at all costs. It was just a function of everything I had seen in my professional life. This meant that they always wore helmets in whatever they did that had wheels.

My sons were some of the only boys in the neighborhood with gas powered GoPeds. They loved them and one son learned how to repair and rebuild them. But every time they got on them they wore a helmet. Even when they built ramps on the front driveway and spent hours riding up and flying off, they wore their pads and helmets.

Safety might have been of the utmost importance to me because I knew the consequences to families when children were severely injured. You never think it’s going to happen to you, but it’s got to happen to somebody. It’s devastating and life-altering and something I wanted desperately to avoid.

Of course that’s not always possible, and as with most children, we had our share of broken bones and minor head injuries. However, while some like to call them minor head injuries, at no time when the brain suffers a trauma, is it “minor.” And at most times there are some long-term consequences, even when they aren’t experienced immediately. But that’s another story.

As they grew, my list of safety rules grew. And the children seem to accommodate to each new one. We didn’t start the car until their seatbelts were fastened and if they tried to unbuckle themselves before the car reach the garage they were chastised. They didn’t walk across the street unless they were holding an adult’s hand, usually mine.

As they became teenagers I got them cell phones so I could stay in touch and knew where they were. That was another safety rule that was incredibly important to me. I needed to know where they were and how to get in touch with them, not because I wanted to control their behavior or control where they were, but because it was important in case something went wrong.

As they learned I could trust them and they could trust me, they stayed in touch and kept me up-to-date with where they were. Except one time, when my then 17 year old boy decided to go out on a music job with his friend and neither one of them charge their phones.

He and his friend were expected back at his friend’s home after the job was over. They were running audio for a band in a downtown area not known for being a safe neighborhood. At 3 in the morning I got a phone call from the boy’s mother. She had no idea where they were, she couldn’t get in touch with them, and we were both frantic.

It was after that instance, after she and I had been on the phone with the police, after she and I had been on the phone with the music venue and worried sick for at least an hour, that my son learned the importance of keeping his cell phone charged!

We all have rules for our children but I have learned the most important of those is they know what those rules are. Too often a situation occurs during which a new rule is established based on the consequences of what’s happened. Unfortunately, if the children don’t know the rule before the situation it’s hard to hold them responsible, unless it’s reasonable.

For instance, my now 26 year old was 10 years old when he thought jumping out of a 10 foot high treehouse would be fun. His friends egged him on and he did it. When he came home he told me all about it. He was proud that he had the courage to jump out of the tree house. He told me it was 10 feet off the ground because they measured it with his friend’s father’s tape measure. He also told me the first time he jumped out was a little scary, but it got better the second and third time!

We talked about how it was reasonable for him to know better than to jump out of a tree house 10 feet off the ground with the real potential he would break a bone, including his back. And so he was grounded from going up into the tree house for 3 days, the number of times that he had jumped out.

This was one of the twins, and he was fiercely loyal to his sister. It wasn’t until they were 25 that I learned that she had jumped out of the tree house three times as well. He never said. He never told me and she never got punished.

Well jumping out of a tree house wasn’t the worst thing he could have done, it also wasn’t the smartest. And overtime, through trial-and-error, my children and I learned what safety rules were the most important to create and enforce and which ones could be left by the wayside.

The most important part of everything I learned about safety rules, and rules in general, are that they cannot be enforced unless the people affected actually know and understand what those rules are. Spend the time talking to your children and establishing rules with them. When they buy into what’s important to you and why, they are more likely to remember what the rules are and generalize them to situations they find themselves in.

And after all, that’s what’s important . . . keeping them safe.

Make Failure Work for You

“. . . the only thing we have to fear is fear itself . . . “

 

What if you could make a reasonable prediction about your life?

Would you want to know what it was?

When Anne was born in 1866 the world was a much different place than it is now. Women didn’t have the opportunities, nor the support, which Anne might have had today.

Her parents had moved to the U.S. from Ireland during the Great Famine. But life in the U.S. was not easy. The family lived in poverty and Anne developed an eye infection at the age of five that plagued her for the rest of her life, eventually blinding her.

Her mother died when she was 8. Her father was impatient and abusive. Eventually he abandoned Anne and her younger brother, Jimmie, and they went to live at a home for the poor. Jimmie died just months later, leaving Anne alone in the world at a dirty, rundown and overcrowded facility.

When members of a special commission were visiting the home, Anne worked up the nerve to ask if she could attend a special school for the blind.

Around 1879, at a time when children were “seen but not heard,” Anne stepped out of the shadows and asked for the privilege of attending school.

She had no family to encourage her. She had no siblings to care for. She was alone, in a dirty home at the age of 13.

She found her inspiration and desire to be more in life than what seemed to be planned. She struggled through surgeries to repair her sight, through an education for which she had no foundation and eventually graduated valedictorian of her class.

She told the students, “duty bids us go forth into active life. Let us go cheerfully, hopefully, and earnestly, and set ourselves to find our special part.”

When she arrived at the school she couldn’t read or write, had never owned a nightgown or a hair brush.  In other words, she was pretty backwards, even for 1879!

But that didn’t stop Anne. In her early years at school her memories were of others making fun of her and humiliating her.

But Anne pressed on.

Then, at the ripe old age of 21 Anne Sullivan met Helen Keller and the world was changed. Would you have predicted Anne’s fame and success based on her start in life?

How does failure look in your life?

In point of fact, failure is just another name for deferred success. Without failure we wouldn’t learn lessons – and lessons learned from failures are the best lessons. Unless we learn from failure, it’s a point of pain.

There is an incredible distinction between people who achieve great success in life and those who struggle, even when that successful person is struggling against overwhelming odds.

Women who are successful see failure as an opportunity.  That’s right . . . failure is an opportunity to learn from mistakes and do it right the next time.

Unfortunately, from the time we’ve been in preschool failure has meant a big fat red “F” on our report card. It has meant feeling defeated and unsuccessful. And those feelings have been ingrained over decades.

In school you either got it right the first time or got an “F” on your report card. In the business world there is an expression – “Fail fast and often” – which means it’s important to fail fast, learn from those mistakes, get up and do it again – BETTER.  But by the time we graduate from high school, we’ve learned that you get it right the first time or you have FAILED.

In other words, our school systems gradually teach all of us the undercurrent of fear of failure that runs through our lives.

Does this mean because fear has been ingrained for nearly 12 years we are hopeless?  Of course not! If you look around at people who have found success in relationships, business, finance and entrepreneurship, you’ll notice that at some point they “unlearned” this learned behavior.  To gain greater success in life, it’s time to see failure for what it really is.

Failing is nothing more than falling forward. If you fall and never get up again, ONLY THEN you have failed.

Presidential Failure

In 1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt campaigned against then President Herbert Hoover for the Presidency of the United States. He said as little as possible about what he would do if elected and allowed the downward spiraling economy speak for itself. On the heels of his election came the Great Depression. During his first inaugural speech, President Roosevelt said something that has been passed down and incorporated into other speeches, motivational works and conversations between parents and their children.

“. . . the only thing we have to fear is fear itself . . . “

 

But those are only a few words in the actual quote which reads:

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

~President Franklin D. Roosevelt
March 4, 1933

In those final words of that sentence, “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance,”  Roosevelt speaks volumes about the kind of fear that we should be afraid of.

There are specific physical obstacles that should generate a fear response. Being attacked by a bear, falling off a cliff or facing a gunman all SHOULD evoke fear. But, what we more often face are fears that are not based in reality.

Fear is real. But, the thing you fear may not be.

The feeling of fear is powerful, real and sometimes debilitating. But, the thing you fear may not exist. Left unchecked, fear can deflate your confidence and destroy your dreams.

Psychologically, there is an emotional toll when you try something new and it doesn’t work out. But that has more to do with our own personal fear than any measurable loss.  Something that doesn’t end up working out the way you planned is just a step in the process of success.  Innumerable successful people have that same understanding of fear.

The loss we experience when something is not a success is only measured in how much we learn.

But, if you fall, get up, brush yourself off and try again you have done nothing more than to learn from your mistakes.

If you are trying to ride a horse, you’ll likely fall off at some point. Falling off won’t discourage you from getting back on again. But you will learn from your mistake.

Several years ago I was in the middle of a riding lesson at a local stable. During one of the exercises in the rink, the girth on the saddle snapped (the leather that goes under the belly of the horse and holds the saddle to the horses back). We were cantering around the indoor ring and I was enjoying the ride – without stirrups.

Well, the saddle went one way and I went the other. Smack down on my back. Thankfully it was in a large pile of newly spread sawdust.  Although I had the breath knocked out of me, I got back up, re-saddled the horse with a different saddle and continued to ride.

BUT, I also learned to thoroughly inspect the equipment before using it.  I fell, but didn’t stop riding.

We all fall at some point – whether it’s in business, relationships, health or finances. The question isn’t WILL you fall – but what will you do AFTER you fall?

Will you get up, learn from the experience and do it better next time? Or will you stay down?

 

Life is all about falling forward, learning, getting up, changing and doing it again – BETTER.

 

Have You Mastered Success?

Success comes in all shapes and sizes. The shape and size of your success may be different than one I define.

You can read a book or three about how to become a success. You might attend several conferences, buy several DVD home study courses or even pay for the services of a life coach.

But ultimately, the potential for your success rests on your shoulders. And how you define your success is fundamentally up to you.

I’ve also discovered something no one ever told me.

Success is fluid.

It isn’t stable. Yes, it’s a journey; but no, you never arrive.

Success, however you define it, is achieved during the journey and your definition of what IS success will be fluid and change throughout life.

What you once thought of as a success when you were 20 may be completely different by the time you’re 40, and change again by the time you’re 70.

What Do You Do To Define Your Success?

Success happens in the moment but what you celebrate as success could more often be defined as mastery.

When you master a talent or craft . . . when you become the big fish in your pond . . . you’ve mastered a task or function, you ‘feel’ successful, when in fact you are experiencing mastery.

However, you can’t consistently be the master. Learning is a journey. Life is a journey.

You aren’t born being the best mom you could be. You didn’t start your first job as the CEO of the company. You weren’t the star basketball player on your team the first time you stepped on the court.

In other words, neither you nor anyone else was born successful. You have to work for it.

From the outside, it may appear that others have it easier than you do. But, you don’t know their struggles and challenges. And, while their challenges are different from yours, they still have obstacles they must overcome to achieve what they define as success.

Success is Driven by Failure

Not everything you do will be successful. However, by the same token, not everything is a failure.

In fact there are very few things you do that are totally one thing or the other. Each accomplishment has an element of failure and every time you fall down there is an element of success.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to learn from the failures and to find those kernels of success in everything you do.

Whether you want to be a successful author, entrepreneur, mother, missionary, business owner, or dog trainer . . . it’s important you learn from your failures and celebrate your successes no matter where you find them.

Dictionary.com defines success as the attainment of your goals, accomplishments or attaining wealth.

In order to reach those goals, you must find the successful moments in times of frustration or inadequacy. Maybe the training session with your dog went miserably, but you can find success in understanding why, so you don’t repeat the mistakes.

Every time you stumble as a mom, you have the potential to learn something very important about yourself and your children.

But. . . too often we hide inside PRIDE.

TV moms are either screaming and abusive, or have an abnormal amount of patience. We aspire to be the second and sometimes end up acting like the first.

The hard part comes when you have to humble yourself before your children and yourself to admit that you did something wrong. You must first admit you aren’t right all the time before you can learn from the mistakes and do a better job the next time.

The same is true in business.

Before 2008 my business was flying along. At the current rate of growth I could expect to break 100 K in the following year.

And then the recession hit. My business bottomed out at the same time that I took a huge emotional hit.

Instead of doing what was necessary, I buried myself in feelings of inadequacy and failure.  It was a very difficult time . . . financially, emotionally, relationally and every other way you can think of.

It took longer than I wanted but eventually I learned to look at what happened, learn from my mistakes and move on.

How I define success will be different from how you define it. What I celebrate will be different from what you celebrate.

But the journey to achieving success and mastery is paved with persistence, dedication, insight and a humble attitude. You must look at your failures square in the face and take responsibility for your part in the achievement – or lack thereof.

I didn’t and paid a high price for years. It wasn’t until I could look at the why and make changes to the way I was doing things did I begin to experience greater business success.

It wasn’t until I could hear and incorporate the constructive criticism of my family did I become a better parent.

And, it wasn’t until I could admit my ex-husband was treating me inappropriately could I understand that it was time to move on.

My definition of success has changed along the way. The dreams I had as a young woman are completely different than the ones I have today.

How I define it might be different, but how I arrive will be the same.

Definition, persistence, focus, dedication and a humble spirit to face the truth.

Consult Your Inner Child When You Make Decisions

Have you had the chance to watch a young child playing? Of course you have! They are amazing – children can find joy in the smallest things and be happy playing with a box.

Do you remember how that felt? The pure joy of feeling rain on your face or mud between your toes? Can you reproduce that feeling in what you do today?

Go back in time . . . what did you want to do when you were a child? What were your dreams? When I was a child there were two things I wanted to do – or be. Studying oceanography was first on the list. Studying dolphins, whales and sea lions appealed to me. Living near the ocean, being on a boat, diving and becoming familiar with sharks – it all sounded like heaven on earth.

Of course, I grew up in Illinois and the option of going to college on the coast – any coast – was completely out of the question.

The second dream was to become a writer. Books, articles, programs and screen writing were all possibilities.

Today, that’s exactly what I do. After practicing medicine for over 20 years and going through a number of different life experiences, the experiences have all come together to make this life work.

What did you want to be when you grow up? Can you remember?

Maybe you had a dream to be a doctor, cowboy or a ballerina. No matter how silly you might think these dreams are today, do you think your life is close to what you dreamed? In other words have your dreams met your reality?

You may not have become a doctor, but maybe you practice nursing, or veterinary medicine. Maybe you volunteer on medical missions or volunteer at a local clinic. Each of these activities fulfills the dream of helping others.

So while you might not have become a doctor, maybe you have realized your dream to help others. Too many times we listened to our parents and move toward a career or choice that seem to fit with their vision in life. And all too often we do the same thing to our own children.

My youngest son is a talented basketball player. He could have played a division II college – but his dream was to get a top-notch education, which didn’t include practicing for hours on end each day. While I would have thoroughly enjoyed watching him play college ball it wasn’t in his dreams.

Were your dreams thwarted by your parents or relatives? Sometimes even well-meaning friends can stifle a dream. BUT – nothing is wrong with any job – as long as you choose the job and as long as you are happy and satisfied with the choice.

The same is true for your children – you can’t live out your dreams through their actions and their actions will not complete you. I was happy with my choice of becoming a nurse – until I wasn’t. And when I wasn’t, I chose another route, a different path. A new path is not always smooth and easy and many times it’s so far from easy that you aren’t sure if you made a complete mistake by choosing it!

If you decide to do something and then your life plans fall apart, you won’t have been the only one. Events can conspire to push you toward choices you may not have otherwise made. But, those choices may leave you feeling as if your defaulted on a contract with yourself, leading you to feelings of depression, anxiety and lack of self-esteem.

No matter how well you perform your job, you may feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled. . . unless you consciously change your choice and honestly enjoy what you’re currently doing. No one can make you do that or feel it. Even you can’t force yourself to feel a way that you don’t.

The great thing about feelings is they don’t have a life of their own. There is no life in your feelings. You give them life by meditating on them and believing them to be true – but that’s an entirely different conversation!

So what’s happening today to make you doubt your decisions?

It’s likely that something is – it’s possible that you want something different without fully appreciating that you want it.

Or

It could be you’re perfectly satisfied with your life and you would be a very blessed person.

Society and  advertisers prey on your desire to have more, be someone better, do something memorable. And, while these desires are not bad – they are not good if they tempt you to want more than you actually DO.

It’s okay to be satisfied and to enjoy who you are and what you have, but if you honestly don’t,  it may be time to start evaluating your choices and your options as you did when you were a child.

Without the addition of an adult filter, take a good look at your life, consider your options and decide if those choices are:

  • Smart
  • Considerate
  • Made from love
  • Won’t hurt anyone
  • Will help you and your family
  • Smart financial choices for your family’s health
  • You are willing to make the sacrifices to achieve those goals and enjoy the results

 

These are difficult questions  – and the right answers are those only you can provide for yourself and your family.

 

Learning to Live Outside Your Skin

Every year I choose to do only what’s expected and what I KNOW I can do, is another year I’ve wasted – it’s another year that passes without testing my limits or the boundaries of my comfort zone.

But, the only way to truly understand what I can do, and achieve my dreams, is to test my limits. I don’t want to just achieve my goals, but my dreams as well. I dream about:

  • Publish nonfiction books
  • Write a (small) collection of Christian-based books
  • Create a nationwide support system for single moms
  • Go down in a shark cage
  • Travel to Bora Bora
  • Ride a motorcycle across country
  • Go on a cattle drive

I’m afraid of scuba diving, so the shark tank is a real stretch!

The only way to achieve some of these dreams is to boost my income by ALOT. Bora Bora is definitely not cheap. In order to make these happen I have to step outside myself and do things I haven’t done yet.

Because, if I continue to do the same things, I can expect the same results.

I don’t want the same results. I’ve enjoyed the results I’ve experienced so far – but I know that there is more to me than what I’ve done so far. And there is more to you!

When you want to make a change in life and experience different results, of course you have to DO different things. You HAVE to learn to step outside your comfort zone, or outside you skin, and get it done.

The wonderful thing about being human is that we were made in the image of God. He made us. He gave us abilities, desires, and drive.  What we do with those things is completely up to us. In other words, . . .

We have free will.

The challenge with free will is that you don’t have to stretch it. You don’t have to do the difficult things. You can put your head down and work and work every day. But, one day you’ll look up and wonder how in the WORLD you got there. And, you’ll wonder if you could have gotten anywhere else if you had done things differently.

The blessing about free will is that you will get somewhere else if you do things differently. This is your chance to experience different results this year than you experienced last year.

An example is the #MeToo campaign that went viral in October 2017 after actress Alyssa Milano encouraged women to tweet the hashtag used by activist Tarana Burke if they had been sexually harassed or assaulted. Milano had suffered under the misconduct and assault of Harvey Weinstein of the studio that carried his name.

Milano stepped outside a comfort zone inhabited by women for centuries at the hand of abusive men and suddenly, after the first domino fell, more women followed suit. Men from around the world were outed for their abusive behavior that had been accepted as socially appropriate for years.

Some men were appalled by the extent of the problem. But, more were not. More men understand that the extent of the problem goes far beyond what’s been reported thus far and are hoping that no one speaks out against them.

Men in positions of power have always had the greatest ability to subjugate women, and many like Moira Donegan have lost their jobs when trying to warn women of the men they should steer clear of.

At no time in history has it been more obvious than now that it’s time for women to step outside their comfort zone and speak up – whether it is FOR or AGAINST.

And before you can take the second, third or fourth step, you must first take the first step.

Having the courage to skydive doesn’t start at the door of the plane, although you can turn back at any point until then, but it starts when you sign up for the classes, pay for the lesson, get hooked into the harness, go up in the plane and stand at the door of the plane, ready to take that last step.

Why you choose to speak up, do something differently, live outside your skin – then you are choosing to make the world a different place. It starts in your corner of the world, and like ripples in a pond – your choices have an effect on other people.

The choices you make at home have an effect on your children, and the way they raise their children.  However, it’s also important to remember that the choices you make are filtered through your children’s own lens or perspective. For instance, my mom, her sister and her brother were all raised by the same parents. The choices her parents made were based on their beliefs and abilities.

As they aged, each of the three children interpreted the information differently and became much different people. My aunt was open minded and loved to talk about sex, while my mom was unable to even say the word “sex.” And the differences continued.

The point being, each decision you make at home will have an impact on your children and on their children – like the ripples in a pond. The effect of those decisions become less powerful the further from the source they travel, but there continues to be an effect.

It is important that you learn to live outside of your comfort zone and make choices that change your future, but it’s also important that you filter those choices. Ask yourself:

  • Do you mean what you’re saying or will you change your mind later?
  • Are you moving in a positive direction for yourself and your family?
  • Can you defend your actions or choices?
  • Are you making changes or choices from the backbone of love?

 

Be able to answer “yes” to each of these questions and THRIVE!

 

It’s Never Too Late to Experience Change

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” ~Edmund Burke

 

Edmund Burke was an Irish statesman who lived in the mid-1700s. This quote is often repeated and more often ignored. Even in our own homes and lives, we often overlook the mistakes we made in past years, dooming ourselves to making the same mistakes again in the future.

The end of one year and the beginning of the next is a time of transition when many people start to identify the hopes and dreams they want to see realized in the coming months.

We call these New Year’s Resolutions.

According to Forbes Magazine, an amazing 90 percent of these resolutions are never achieved and most are forgotten by February.

As I look back on this year I find I’ve accomplished a couple of the goals I’d hoped to achieve last January, but not nearly the number that I dreamed I could. I would guess that the same holds true for many single moms, who don’t have enough time in one day to meet all the demands of the family, much less make any additions.

But, realistically, the same is true of all people. We all tend to expand our universe to meet the furthest reaches of our influence. Not too many people carefully guard space in which they can relax and refresh themselves.

I remember walking into a new home my then-husband and I had just purchased. I looked with amazement at the cabinet space in the kitchen and declared there was NO WAY I had enough stuff to fill them – and would never have enough to fill those cabinets.

Within six months, even the cabinets at the top near the 9 foot ceilings were full of ‘stuff.”

We will fill our environment to capacity – whether it’s cabinets in a kitchen or time in our day.

As I look back on this year I have determined to learn from my past mistakes and do my best not to repeat them again next year.

Of course, I’ll slip, but the trick, I believe, is to get up from those slips, wipe yourself off and do it all over again. In the time between the fall and the rise is when character grows, making the next slip further down the road and the next rise a little easier.

 

An important piece of the puzzle is reflection. Being able to reflect back on the mistakes I made this last year, identify them, realize what triggered them, and put into place processes so those slips come further and further apart.

The way I use reflection is to ask questions. I find that sometimes it isn’t the answer that’s as important as the question itself. Sometimes there is more information to be learned from the question than the answer.

Here are 5 of the more important questions I ask myself at the end of the year, as I prepare for the next year.

  1. What are my life circumstances at Christmas this year as compared to Christmas last year?

    I use Christmas as my benchmark. You might use another date or time in the year. But pick a time, and ask yourself how “is life different now compared to then”? Our daily lives are filled with minutiae, lists of things to do and places to go. When we compare against something that is larger, it’s easier to see the bigger picture.

 

  1. What would I have done differently this past year?

    Identifying the mistakes or lack of success is as important as celebrating the successes in life. If you can identify what didn’t go so well, you can make a plan for it to go better.

 

  1. How many of last year’s goals were achieved or are in progress?

    If the percentage of your goals achieved is small compared to last year’s list, then maybe you made a list that was too long, or maybe you didn’t concentrate on achieving those goals. Or maybe, just maybe, there isn’t enough time in the day, no matter how hard you try.

 

  1. What can I give up or give away?

    The end of the year is a wonderful time to look forward to achieving more, but also a time to think about what you can purge from your life. What “things” can you leave behind and make your life lighter? Do you want to downsize your home? Can you give away some of your ‘stuff’? Do you need to put some of your goals on the shelf for the next year and concentrate fully on achieving one or two?

 

  1. What are the new goals or dreams I have for this year and do they fit into my life’s vision?

    When you put together goals for your life, do they fit into another overall vision for where you want to be in five or ten years? If your vision for your life is to be a millionaire then your goals this year should be pointed in the financial direction – and not just making money, but also learning about investments and growing money.

 

This concept of having a life vision is not common. More often we are like Queen Latifah in the movie The Last Holiday. In the movie, Georgia Byrd, played by Queen Latifah, works in a department store. She learns that she has a disease from which she is sure to die in several weeks.

In an effort to live all of life in just a few weeks she cashes in all her investments, takes all her money and flies to a luxury resort in Europe. In one scene she tells the people around the dinner table: “You know how it is. You keep your head down and you hustle and hustle. Then you look up one day and wonder, “How did I even get here?”

I’ve always thought that quote sums it all up quite nicely. Caught up in the everyday motions of going to work, taking care of children, being a friend, getting the groceries, making the dinner, cleaning the home, taking the children to their events and the myriad of other things that make up the day . . . most of us forget that when we get to a point when the children leave the nest, we will be alone.

We’ll be alone with our thoughts, dreams and goals – whether we have a spouse at that time or not. There will no longer be a long list of “things to do,” and suddenly we’ll wonder, “How did I even get here?”

That’s why, at the end of every year I also believe it’s necessary to look at the vision you have for your life. . . for your whole life.  And then determine if the goals you’re making this year are taking you toward or away from that vision.

Even goals that run parallel with the vision aren’t going to intersect at any point, so it’s important that you fit your goals to your vision and not the other way around.

The vision you hold for your life is what will drive you when you think you can’t keep moving forward.  Your vision is what you want your life to look like in 5, 10 or 15 years. Your vision is yours and no one else’s, so take care to develop your vision and dream for your life because . . .

 

“You have this one life. How do you wanna spend it? Apologizing? Regretting? Questioning? Hating yourself? Dieting? Running after people who don’t see you? Be brave. Believe in yourself. Do what feels good. Take risks. You have this one life. Make yourself proud.”  — Beardsley Jones

Act With Power

Power is something many people seek, even before wealth since in many cases wealth will follow power. Having power in a relationship may increase your confidence and just make you feel powerful. And, while this can be a heady feeling, it may not produce the results you want.

For instance, in many cases abusive men are driven by their insecurity and lack of power in the rest of the world – or their perceived lack of power. Men who are abusive come in all shapes and sizes, but one of the underlying commonalities is how good they feel when they have power over another individual.

In this case, what the abuser is exhibiting isn’t actual power but rather a perversion of power. For instance, the pharisees were driven by their fear of Christ to have him crucified, believing His death would give them back the power they had with the Jewish people. What they did was a perversion of power.

Real power comes from inside YOU. It comes from a knowledge that YOU are capable, able and powerful and not from what you believe you can exert over others.

Body language is one of the ways that people who are truly powerful communicate their power and confidence.

If you consider the animal world, there are many male fights that are averted when one male is obviously more powerful than the other and exhibits recognizable signs indicating the other animal would not win the fight. That is power the other animal understands through body language.

Sometimes you may not FEEL powerful but can still show signs of power and then, by experiencing the results of power you eventually believe yourself to have that power.

In other cases you might accept the power given to your by others.

But the best kind of power is the kind that comes from your security in who you are, where you’re going and how much power you actually need or don’t need to succeed.

Let’s start with acting as if you have the power in order to control a conversation and end with understanding where your power comes from and how to tap into an unending source.

Having and enjoying the results of power in a conversation begins and ends with body language. But, although you may exhibit the body signs, you have to BELIEVE them in order that others perceive you to be powerful.

Eye Contact

People in control are not afraid of looking another person in the eye and holding eye contact. Of course, holding contact for long periods of time may make the other person uncomfortable, which is NOT the emotion you’re trying to arouse in someone who’s interviewing you for a job! On the other hand, consistently averting your eyes when looked at is a sign you aren’t sure of what you’re saying, how you’re feeling and even that you just want to get the heck out of Dodge.

The trick is to use eye contact appropriately without staring down an opponent or looking like a scared rabbit. There’s a middle ground where you will look, act and BE powerful in your demeanor and your attitude.

Think about it – anytime you have a conversation there will be an alpha (most powerful) and a beta (second in command). Even having a conversation with the barista behind the counter, one of you has more power. This line of power can fluctuate between two people when both have similar levels of power.

The next time you’re talking with someone, start to notice the natural give and take between your eye contact. If you’re the one constantly looking down, then you’re the submissive one. It is certainly good to know how to be and look humble, but it is perfectly acceptable to also be powerful. As a woman, you’ve likely been told – either in words or body language! – that power is not acceptable. There are some women who gracefully take on the mantle of power gracefully and others who stomp through life as if they are owed everything by everyone.

Examples? Oprah, likely one of – or maybe THE – most powerful woman alive today, is graceful in her power. Have you ever seen “The Devil Wears Prada”? The film was written for a former personal assistant of Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, portraying Wintour as a tough, demanding, short-tempered, easily angered executive who wielded power in the fashion industry and who scared most who met her.

Two women, two different styles but with one thing in common – immense power.

 

Voice

When I was in high school I had a sweet friend who was “soft spoken.” At least that’s what it was called in those days. It was difficult to hear her speak, even when she was angry. She didn’t PROJECT her voice and it never got above a whisper.

Definitely NOT the way to project power.

On the other hand, I was just at the doctor’s office with my oldest son the other day. I could hear the doctor speaking in the hallway – normal tone, easy voice. The minute he came in the room he was practically yelling – all in an effort to gain power in the relationship. It was interesting since he was tall, the doctor and obviously the one in control in the room by default. But, he gave that up when he started acting like he’d lost his power.

Your voice can project power or you can completely lose the battle before it even starts when you are whispering or yelling.

Power comes from a strong voice that isn’t yelling or whispering. Instead, you goal is to project your voice to the back of the room without deafening the person directly in front of you. It can be done! The power in your voice comes from within your chest and the back of your throat. And it comes when you believe that what you’re saying is true, right and must be said.

Even conversations about the smallest things – like saying hello or offering help to someone in a parking lot. If you believe what you’re saying, you are paying attention and present during the conversation and you believe what you’re saying is right – you’ll speak with confidence and power. But, the moment someone asks a question you don’t have the answer to, or challenges what you’re saying, it may cause a meltdown.

Unless your power comes from deeper within you and not JUST your voice.

 

Leading

Powerful people lead a conversation and it’s done naturally – NOT by overpowering the other person.  Start the conversation with a positive statement to relay information you want. But don’t interrupt the other person or try to take over the conversation.

Power also comes with patience, quietness and submission. When you’re around people who are bullies, you won’t get the upper hand because they never relinquish it. However, you remain more powerful without becoming the bigger, better bully.

Your power may also be communicated well when you have expertise and passion about the subject matter. Your passion and knowledge of the topic has a way of lighting up your face and engaging others – just another form of power.

 

The Ultimate Power

Ultimately, your best source of power comes from the ultimate source of power. God will walk through a journey during which you attain and remain as powerful as He wants you to be. Mother Theresa may not have LOOKED powerful, but that tiny woman was held in His hand and wielded more power across the world than you may imagine.