Today I have an interesting challenge for you, inspired by the words of Colette Baron-Reid: “So many people are realizing that in spite of outer conditions we all have the capacity to choose to face our lives, turn on our light and address the shadows we have cast head on.”
The words that stood out to me when I read this was that we first and foremost have the capacity to choose to face our lives. It’s really a big wake up call to those of us who are unhappy with our lives and haven’t made any decisions about how to move forward. You’ve heard it before: the only person who can really do anything to change how happy you are with your life is you. I may be able to help you be happier or bring you things that make you happier, but you’ve got to choose to be happy about those things and welcome them into your life.
The second thing that stood out to me was the reminder that we have to “address the shadows we have cast head on.” I get it, our shadows (and what causes them) can be scary. It’s not exactly exciting to look at the mess you may be in. It can be intimidating to talk with our boss, our family or our partner about our unhappiness. You may think that you know the reaction (or rejection) they’ll give you. I wish that everyone had the supportive relationships that I do in their lives. The unfortunate reality is that not everyone has someone in their life that supports them (shame on you if you’re not supportive of the people in your life).
Sometimes we can get through the mountains we face by drilling through, other times we have to take the time to go around, and sometimes we have to take what might be the most challenging route and go over those mountains. But we’ve either got to pick one of those routes or we’ll never get to the other side (it’s very unlikely that the mountain will move for you, although sometimes it does).
As you look ahead to the last few days of this month and what you’re going to do with the last 4 months of the year, I would encourage you to grab the courage and confidence to face those mountains, those challenges, those people, those fears, those things that you’ve let hold you back and choose that you’re going to move forward from this point on.
As we look ahead to July 4th and the celebration of Independence Day here in the USA, I want to talk a little about this special day and one of our topics for this month, taking a stand. In case you’re confused or forget your holidays, July 4th celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, which declared the US as separate from Great Britain. This wasn’t a decision like saying they’re not going to celebrate the same holidays or worship at the same type of religious center, they choose to make a really big difference in the direction that the lives of all who call the US home took and still take. The signers of the Declaration of Independence chose to take a stand in a really big way, a way that changed the future for the US and the world forever.
Are you taking the stand you really need to in your life? I’m not necessarily talking about attending big ‘save the world’ rallies or even making the big commitments that the signers took some 200+ years ago. I’m talking about standing up to the people who say not so nice things about you, or standing up to bullying and peer pressure, or learning how to say ‘no’ or find better solutions to all that you’re asked of at work that’s really outside of your job description, or getting out of the relationships that aren’t helping you grow or don’t support you.
I’m talking about choosing to make commitments that are in your best interests, being in relationships that will support you and those you care about, getting involved in the causes and organizations that speak to you personally, and taking a stand for the things that you believe are right and add value to the world. I’m talking about seriously looking out for yourself and your future as well as the life, health and happiness of those you care about most, like your partner, children or grandchildren. The signers all those years ago believed that not only did something have to change in their lives, but there had to be a clear statement made about exactly what that change meant and establish a clear separation between themselves and their past.
This week as we head into Independence Day and the next 2 months of summer, I encourage you to really think about the choices you’re making in your life and if you’re taking the stand for your life and future that you need to. I know I’m looking forward to being more proactive about that stand, will you join me?
I’m a fan of saying no to people, you know why? Because you don’t have to be everything to everyone. Not only is is about being honest to who you are and not putting yourself in positions that you’re completely unqualified for or incapable of doing, but because every time you take on something that you’re only slightly capable of (or not at all), you take away an opportunity from someone else who is qualified. If we really want this world to be all it can be, I think we have to be willing to share a little of the control with others, have to be willing to let them do their thing, and not get in the way when they take charge.
Yes, there are time when you’ll go a little outside your preferred box to help a friend or to try something new, and that’s a good thing. We should be trying new things to keep our minds engaged and learning. But we have our safe zones for a reason. The good news is that my safe zone isn’t the same zone as yours. You’ve got talents I don’t have and don’t have any inclination for developing. I believe there are plenty of opportunities for us within the things that interest and drive us that we should never have to take work, resources or life away from someone else.
But that does mean that we all have to step up in that which we are gifted in, and a whole lot less slacking, hiding or letting someone else’s sub-par job suffice. You need to take responsibility for what you can do in this world with your unique talents. Be proud of who you are and what you can do. That doesn’t mean you have to start a business or blog, it may just mean finding a company to work with and bring your unique talents to (one that fits better than your current one), or donating your time on weekends or vacations.
This week I encourage you to give others the chance to do what they do best, and choose to do what you do best. Who knows, you may not cure cancer today, but you certainly may bring a smile to someone’s face or relief to their life in some other way.
This past week was the celebration of Purim in Jewish communities around the world. It’s a celebration that anyone who has read the Christian Bible is familiar with as well because the story is told in the book of Esther. The story is noteworthy for many reasons, but it all boils down to a queen (a woman) stepping up for her people (Jews) and stopping an evil plot that would have been one of the earlier examples of genocide. Because of her bravery she has been remembered throughout the spiritual histories of both Christians and Jews.
This story of deliverance is an excellent example of the way that one person can step up and do something great for many people. Esther took a big risk by pleading for not only her life but the life of her people before the king. While most of us are not in the position of great power and responsibility that she was, we can still learn from her courage and her story.
Royalty in that day and age wasn’t always a by-birth thing. Esther grew up a normal girl who got picked to be queen, she didn’t know her life would take that turn. We don’t know where the journey we’re on will take us. We can make some educated guesses based on the decisions we’re making and things we see showing up in our lives. Most of us do have the power to change that path if we’re not happy with it or if we want something different/better/else. If an ordinary girl can become queen, I have to believe that the options for the rest of us are just about endless. What will you choose to do with your future?
What motivates you? Today I’m thinking about motivation as I deal with unmotivated clients and have personally struggled to find my stride again after dealing with some life and health situations. I think the biggest challenge is that we say to ourselves that we’ll deal with “x” when we’re through this challenge. But as soon as we get through a challenge we’re hit with something else and that thing, “x”, that seemed so important still seems really important, but is just getting further buried under the challenges of life, things that seem more pressing than “x”.
So what if we backed up a whole lot and thought about why we get up in the morning. And no, I’m not really talking about the fact that you get up because the sun is up or the alarm goes off or the kids run in and bounce on the bed or because you have to go to a job or because the kids are up and may be heading to school. Some of those things can be indicators for why you get up, but in most cases if we really were honest, they’re not the reason we get out of bed. The unfortunate thing is that many of us don’t get out of bed because we’re excited and thankful for a new day. We get up because we have to, or at least that’s the attitude we have about it.
Sure, you could stay in bed, and maybe your boss or kids would be willing to work with you on that. Maybe the kids are willing to climb in bed with you with cups with lids and watch a TV show or two for an hour so you can mentally wrap your head around the day ahead or just rest with them and maybe even catch up on your emails or read a book. Maybe your boss would love someone to come in an hour later and leave an hour later because it will help deal with the client issues that always seem to crop up at the end of the day better. You don’t know until you ask.
But now we’ve completely gotten sidetracked. The question, if you remember, is why do you get out of bed in the morning? What really and truly motivates you to live your life each day? Is there anything that you’re really feeling motivated by, or have you let life get the best of you and you’ve stopped looking forward to what the day will bring. I believe each and every day can hold some really amazing things, but we don’t always have the open eyes or heart to receive them.
As part of what we do for the last week of the month I do want to take a look at being motivated, but I really want to work on tapping back into our hearts and listening to them again, believing in them and ourselves and opening up to the best this world has to offer, rather than just floating along.
“The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of.” Blaise Pascal
It’s been a busy week for me, I’ve been doing lots of thinking and discovering. Of course with that typically comes up a lot of the feelings, thoughts, and memories that you wish could stay buried forever. While some can be reburied immediately (or as soon as possible), others need to be considered and dealt with, typically because they haven’t been dealt with in the past. It’s not bad to have these things come back up, and honestly, the sooner they do, the better. Because it’s not until you’ve dealt with them truly that you can really move forward. Even if you didn’t remember the pain, fear, anger, frustration, hurt or other painful emotions from the past and the memories that they’re connected to, they could be holding you back. While I’m not a big believer in digging up as much dirt and the past as possible over and over, sometimes it’s necessary to work through what happened and how you felt in the past because it will help you navigate the current change you’re going through in a better way and free you to see the world in a new light.
Whether you’re reinventing yourself, bringing things back to life, looking at things from a new perspective, creating something new, or making changes, you will have to deal with some challenging emotions, including those of failure. While I don’t expect that you will fail in your process (I hope you don’t!) many people do experience some failures when they’re working through the change process. Why? Because when things change we typically run into things we haven’t experienced before, or we’ll hit our personal stumbling blocks (including those we haven’t dealt with from the past) and we’ll trip and fall or not get it right on the first try because it’s new to us. And again, while it’s not fun to fail, no one is perfect and few of us get things right on the first try.
So if you’re going through a time of transition like me, don’t hide or run from the past or the emotions and challenges that you face as you transition, change, think, grow, create or discover. Know that they are part of the journey and could teach you valuable lessons to apply to your future. And even if they don’t apply to your future, finally working through them can free you from baggage you didn’t even know you had holding you down.
I can remember as a child the town I lived in planting evergreen trees to hide water containment units. Some towns are proud of their water towers, but we didn’t have pretty ones or ones with our town name or mascot on it, they were simple green cylinders. While I don’t live in the town any longer I still drive through occasionally to visit with friends and work with clients, so I see how things change and grow. Some of the most remarkable growth in the town is with the trees that were planted at the edge of the property where the water units are: it’s almost impossible to see the units anymore unless you’re at the (short) driveway of the property. It’s the best result they could have hoped for when they planted them, many towns aren’t as successful with trees they plant and replant each year hoping for better results.
Sure, the town could have come up with a different plan, maybe painting the units, having the town get involved in painting them (perhaps something patriotic) or just telling people to deal with it like many other towns with a visible water unit do. But instead they took the time to think about a solution that would be visually appealing and good for the environment, even if it might take a little extra work. Trees do require some care, they need watering especially when they’re in their early years, and they could look scraggly if they aren’t cared for, which would defeat the purpose of having them. But the town has taken the time and put in the effort to care for them and grow them into trees any tree-hugger would be proud of.
These trees are a great reminder for us that some things take work and time. We may start something today that won’t show a lot of fruit until our children or grandchildren are our age. We may not even live to see some of the great results. If you think about the men and women who sailed on the Mayflower and other ships, they didn’t know all the trials and tribulations we would go through to reach this point, or the great things and people that have happened and been part of the journey thus far. Don’t give up because you’re not seeing a great result today, keep putting in the effort day by day and don’t give up on your dreams.
“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” Warren Buffett