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Stepping into Their Shoes

A high school pitcher got the winning strikeout that sent his team to the state championship.  He ran toward home plate, seemingly to celebrate with his catcher.  As the catcher ran toward him, he waved him off and proceeded toward the opposing team’s batter — the one he just struck out. It turns out they had been friends for a lifetime. (Watch video clip here.)

He grabbed the batter and told him what a great season he’d had, how proud he was of him and how important their friendship was to him. While he lingers at the plate, encouraging and investing in his long-time friend, his team mates gather at the mound celebrating the win (without their pitcher).  Ty Koehn knew the celebration could wait, the relationship was the priority.  

In an interview following the game, Ty said the friendship was far more important than winning the game. Ty was aware that he would never get that exact moment back to comfort and inspire his friend. It’s not often that we see such a clear model of prioritizing people over accomplishments.  

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In a fast pace, high demand society, recognizing and understanding what the other person needs is a skill the majority are lacking.  I sat at a lunch table of five upbeat, lively conversationalists, except for the one — one woman was uncharacteristically quiet. In a meeting of professionals making a handful of decisions, a colleague was berated. Parents corrected a child for simple, childlike behavior without understanding what drove the behavior and the child walked away dejected. No one seized the moment to prioritize the relationship.  Instead, they focused only on the the accomplishments. Stepping into other’s shoes is not only for Hollywood actors. Prioritizing relationships accomplishes more than the task at hand.

What could you do today to place a higher priority on people than accomplishments? 

 

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Becoming, not Finished

Confusion leaves us wondering what is the next step.  We spend a great deal of our time thinking about what to do next.  When we find ourselves stuck and wondering what we need to do with our lives, careers, businesses, ideas, we might be asking the wrong questions. Rather than asking, “What do I do?” ask, “Who do I want to be?”   Over 2000 years ago, the Roman philosopher Epictetus asked, “Who exactly do you want to be?”  Our society is obsessed with doing, when being is really our answer.

What if we asked ourselves with every decision we make, “Is this helping me become the person I want to become?”  The answer to that question would give us our next step.  If we focused on who we want to become, the question of what to do next will likely resolve itself.

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A Harvard psychologist said, “Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.” We are becoming and that is something worth focusing on. Here is a great exercise to moving us along to who we really want to become.

1) Write out the qualities you want — who you want to be.  Here’s what I would say about me.

  • a person who resolves conflict without belittling and condemning
  • a person who adds value where ever I am
  • a person who gets outside of her comfort zone on a regular basis

2) Write examples or situation in which you will exhibit these qualities.  Again, a few of my own answers.

  • When team members have opposing ideas, I will listen with the intent to understand their point of view.  
  • When I meet someone new, I will purposefully connect them to someone or something that brings value to them.
  • When I start to feel uncomfortable, I will remind myself that growth comes when I get outside my comfort zone.  (And if I’m not growing, I’m dying.)

3) Create this person everyday.

My hunch is if we begin to create the person we want to be on a consistent basis then knowing what to do next will come naturally to us.  

If you want help getting in touch with who you really want to be, I’d love to support you in that.  Contact me at michele@lifebydesign.guru.

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Lettuce in Your Teeth

I desperately want to know what causes people to tell others things that might be important to them, while other people in the same situation refuse to speak. The last time you sat across the table from someone who had lettuce in their teeth, did you tell them? What would keep you from telling them?  

There is a kind of powerlessness that invades our minds causing us not to speak up. This powerlessness typically dictates taking the path of least resistance in order to avoid pain. The thought process sounds something like: “Even if I say something, no action will be taken.” “I’m not going to say anything, it’s none of my business.” “I don’t want this to come back to bite me.”  Because we are avoiding real or imagined pain, the bullying continues, the mistake gets printed, the direction takes a bad turn.

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Anytime people feel silenced there is a something about the system itself that supports the silence.  Creating culture that promotes speaking up will involve being intentional. 

  • Talking about our weaknesses, which allows others to recognize we need their strengths.
  • Being frank about our need to hear dissenting opinions. If the room feels the need to agree, we’ve lost our absolute best source of information and ideas.  
  • Purposefully being around people who are different from us — from a different place, season, culture. If everyone in the room looks, acts, and feels like us, we will make the same mistake we’ve always made because there is no one coming from another vantage point.  

If we don’t say a word, everything will stay the same — including our powerlessness.  What will it take for you to learn to speak up with compassion and kindness on the important issues?

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

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I Knew I was Different

The day the counselor suggested I was carrying around some shame, I protested,  “That’s not even possible. I grew up in a healthy, solid, happy home. I did not experience trauma in my young life. I have no shame. In fact, there is no door in which shame would have entered.”   Since I’d given the counselor my hard earned cash, I didn’t want to waste all of my hour on her couch refuting her suggestions. I decided to consider the idea that I might be experiencing shame.  

As a child, I knew that I was different from my mom, and even my sister.  In my eyes, they were the two role models for being female and I was not like them. They like frilly things. I’m a no frills girl. Their favorite pastime was shopping. While they shopped, I read. Crafting was their hobby, I preferred deep thinking and philosophical discussions. They enjoyed the indoors. I liked being outside. If they never had to make one more decision in their life, they’d be happy. I wanted to lead the decision making. I quietly, unintentionally, unbeknownst to others, decided that something was wrong with me. I didn’t even know that I had decided that. Because my design was different, I was wrong. No one was telling me that. In fact, everyone in my world was encouraging and excited about who I was.  

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This little pocket of shame about my essence was birthed out of comparison — comparison that started the moment I saw something different in me — my guess, before I left for Kindergarten. Even while my sweet world encouraged my design and I developed in it, I carried this small doubt about being the-right-kind-of-female. When I reached full on adulthood, operated in high-stress jobs, took on responsibilities, raised a family, and met with failure, this pocket of shame erupted.  

Shame can be introduced into our lives in many different ways. One of them is through comparison.  I want to say with absolute and complete confidence today — You are not designed like her (the one next to you) and that’s beautiful! Celebrate it. What you have in you, your passions, your preferences, your personality, your abilities, your bent is exactly what the world needs in you. Choose to step into your design.  

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Roadblocks

I am not a good traveler — I’ve never been.  At hour 10 on a 12 hour flight, I paced the aisles to try to calm my travel agitation.  When the flight attendant asked me to take my seat, I grabbed her shoulders, looked at her with crazy eyes, and emphatically said, “You don’t want me to take my seat!”  She received the message loud and clear — I don’t travel well.   

Recently, I was returning from visiting my son in Carlsbad, New Mexico. To get out of town, I had to drive through oil country.  This particular two lane highway was incredibly congested with 18-wheelers, pick-up trucks full of oilmen, and trucks delivering large machinery.  This slow moving caravan of oil-field related traffic tried my patience.  I don’t travel well.  Once we broke through the heavy traffic and began to move, we abruptly came to a complete stop.  Inch by inch we moved two miles in 1-1/2 hours.  There had been a serious wreck with a fatality.  The investigators had to gather all the data and evidence needed before they could release the traffic.  Eventually we made it to the next large town — 2 1/2 hours away.  It took us five hours.  FIVE HOURS! I do not travel well.

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I believed we would never make it to our destination. I was certain there was no way out. I most definitely wanted to quit. This is not what I signed up for.  I’m out.  

Roadblocks are external circumstances beyond our own thoughts and emotions. Roadblocks could be not having the people you want on your team or the funds you need to accomplish what you are working on or certain restrictions that inhibit the progress of your idea. When roadblocks come up, most of us see them as a signal to quit rather than just part of the process.  When we remodel our homes, we expect dust and disturbances.  In fact, we resign ourselves to it. It’s just part of the sacrifice to get where we are going. So are roadblocks. In other words, it’s not always going to be easy — sometimes we are going to have to persist in the face of obstacles.  

History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed.  They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats. ~BC Forbes

I did make it to my final destination. It took longer and required an attitude adjustment. When you get down to it, all I lost was a day to travel. But if I’d quit, I would have lost so much more. 

What roadblocks are you facing? 

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The Big Lie

The big lie: You have to have more points.  This is the message we are always hearing, you need more — more money, more help, more time. When we perform well in school we get good grades, when we perform well on the job we get a good performance review.  We live on a point system that calculates what we deserve.  We either win or lose.  

I do not like to lose, which causes me to work hard at winning. The constant running on the hamster wheel — update our software, put on our wrinkle cream, trim our fat, climb the corporate ladder, increase the kid’s vocabulary, get the latest style — is exhausting. There is a wonderful secret: You don’t need more points.  Whew, what a relief!  

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All the point system does is cause us to feel disqualified, incapable, unfit. That’s what the point system is good for, even used for, to keep us unknown, undervalued, and pushing for more.  What we really need, absolutely cannot live without is Grace — grace for ourselves, grace for those around us, grace for those far from us and grace from God.  

Grace operates on a totally different rhythm than our world.  It’s a quieter rhythm.  It requires stepping out of the traffic for a moment.  It’s a rhythm of watchful awareness with space to ruminate, chew on things rather than constant motion.  It’s a place that’s unforced — no pushing, pulling, dragging, struggling, slaving away.  It’s free and light, this place of Grace.

What keeps you from operating on a point system and grounds you in Grace?

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Label-Makers vs Change-Makers

I dread that question — the question that leaves you with a label.  The question that for whatever reason leaves the questioner sizing you up in a way that misses the essence of who you are.  You know that question?  

My Identity is on the line. The chore of taking someone day by day through years, experiences, moments of triumph and agonies of defeat in order to understand that label doesn’t fit me feels too daunting.  So I don’t.  I don’t make myself known.  I don’t choose to step in.  I don’t work at real relationship.  I leave the label in tact and find myself unknown.

Our choice to accept the disconnect often feeds more disconnect.  Humans long for connection.  Connection is at the center of our design.   When you actually see me — no assumptions, no accusations, no misunderstandings — it’s invigorating, energizing, confirming.  It’s not difficult to confirm each other’s worth but for some reason we’re not in that habit.

Labels are quicker, easier, save us time and allow us to put people in nice, neat categories.  You probably recognize that you don’t fit in a nice, neat category.  Neither does anyone else.   

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Last week, I sat around the table with some friends who purposely took some time to affirm a comrade. We highlighted qualities and characteristics in her that impacted us — not because she was in a bad place and needed encouragement, not because she was feeling fragile and we wanted to prop her up, not because she was focused on her weaknesses and we wanted to promote her strengths — just because.  Being at the table, affirming a friend took all of us to a new level of connection, even though only one of us was being affirmed.  Looking for the strengths, the positive impact, the value another person brings and verbalizing it to them elevates everyone.  

As change-makers, let’s stop letting the labels stick and start looking for the value every person we meet brings to the table. What would that look like for you?  What are the tangible steps you could take this week to turn the tables? 

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STUCK

Last week, my sister and I made plans to clean the pergola covering my parent’s back porch.  It is a cream color and gets covered in grime. Every year there have been three or four of us come together to tackle the job. This time, there was just the two of us — myself and my sister.  In the past, someone (never me) went up on the roof and sprayed a cleaning solution on the top of the pergola. It seemed like an important step.

I grabbed the big aluminum ladder on the side of the house, carried it to the back yard, set it as close as possible to the roof line.  There are many obstacles to getting a ladder up against the house in the back yard.  I climbed the ladder, moved down the roof line and perched next to the pergola. The hose and bottle of solution hoisted to me, the solution sprayed, then rinsed.  The bottle refilled.  The solutions sprayed, rinsed, repeat.  Back to the ladder I go.  

Everything has gone just fine until I attempted to get back to the ladder — reaching the ladder from the roof was different from reaching the roof from the ladder.  Due to the raised flower beds, the ladder was a distance from the roof.  Now, halfway on the roof and halfway off, I cannot squarely place my feet on the ladder.  By this time my hiking boots are wet, the ladder rungs are damp, everything feels slippery. Wobbly, wet, way far away.  As I hung off the roof reaching for the ladder with my feet, I knew there was no positive ending to this dismount.  

After some hanging and a boat loud of laughter from my sister (don’t worry, I’m used to it), I hoisted myself back up onto the roof and tried to think.  My sister moved the ladder to the porch where it could sit on solid concrete.  All I had to do was swing myself around the edge of the pergola to make contact with the ladder. Anyone taller than 5 feet 3 inches could do it.  Did I mention I’m 5’3”? Some say 5’ 2-1/2”   Again, I attempted.  Again, I hung half on the pergola and half off but was unable to connect solidly with the ladder.  Again, there was excessive cackling from below.  I’m without a doubt stuck.  

I’ve done the work to get here.  I’ve done the work required while I was here but I cannot seem to move on from here.  

There is one way, short of calling the fire department, for me to get unstuck. I have known of it all along, just never planned on taking this route.  If I climb to the peak of the roof and move half way down the other side, I can drop myself down onto a much lower roof above the shop.  The ladder can be placed on the concrete outside the shop door and I can dismount with ease.  (Let me emphasize, we have long since passed ease!)  The climb to the peak of the roof was something I wanted to avoid.  After the failed dismount attempts, excessive analyzing, and the consideration of just making a home on the roof, I’m crawling like a cat to the peak.  I lay my body flat across the peak (yes, my sister is doubled over with laughter, completely unfit for relocating the ladder), swing my legs over to the other side, begin to descend, again like a cat but without the grace.  

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Later that day I was thinking about how we get stuck in life — in a job we don’t like, an organization that isn’t effective, a routine that’s not helpful, a dysfunction that’s destructive, a pattern that no longer serves, a reaction that brings no benefit.  

We try several things to get unstuck.  Until finally, we resign ourselves to this "stuckness" knowing all along there is a way to get unstuck but we’re just not willing to go higher.  Imagine the absurdity of living on the roof because the first two ways you attempted to get down didn’t work.  So often, we’re not willing to face the fear or push the envelope or challenge the obvious.  We simply settle for STUCK, like it’s a geographical location.  

Where are you stuck?
What are you pretending you don’t know?
What action step is required for you to take the higher route?

Growth is painful, change is painful but nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.
— Mandy Hale

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A Women Worth Knowing, Part 2

Rachel Carson, among the earliest female scientist, discovered she was designed to take scientific material and translate it into understandable writing that peaked the interest of the non-scientific mind.  Her early life is reviewed in A Women Worth Knowing, Part 1.  In 1937, Undersea, an article Carson wrote for Atlantic Monthly, drew lots of attention.  The editor wrote to her, “The findings of science you have illuminated in such a way as to fire the imagination of the layman.”

On the heels of this article, a publisher commissioned  Carson to write a book, Under the Sea -Wind.  It created quit a buzz. Scientific experts and literary critics loved it.  Weeks after publication, Japanese fighter planes bombed Pearl Harbor.  The nations’s attention turned to war.  All book sales slowed dramatically.  An excellent piece of science and literature lay unread — a true disappointment to Rachel.  A decade later in the summer of 1951, The Sea Around Us hit the bookstores.  The result: New York Times bestseller list for eighty-six weeks, thirty-two weeks at number one.  

After The Sea Around Us, a steady income from book royalties enabled Carson to resign from her job and start a new project.  Her responsibilities as chief caretaker and provider for her extended families never waned.  Only now, she navigates her own health issues.  Her new book released at the end of 1955, The Edge of the Sea, landed on the New York Times bestseller list for a season and brought her a couple of awards.  Despite the fame, Rachel’s household (consisted of her ailing mother, her niece, Marjorie, and Marjorie’s young son, Roger) took center stage.  Marjorie was hospitalized in January 1957 and died a few days later.  Rachel was now the guardian of a preschooler.  

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The rumbling of controversies surrounding synthetic pesticides broke out across the nation and Rachel decided to focus her research in this direction.  By mid-1958, her mother and life-long encourager passed away.  Alone but propelled by the sense that her research on pesticide was to be her most important work, she concentrated on a connection between human exposure to pesticides and cancer incidences.  With the help of two assistants and a network of professionals, her research was gaining momentum. In Spring 1960, Carson wrestled with a number of serious medical conditions, chief among them — metastasizing cancer.  Radiation brought with it rheumatoid arthritis and temporary blindness.  She kept her health issues private, fearing her critics might question the objectivity of her work.

After extensive research, Carson knew that acute contact with DDT and other similar compounds caused potential fatal damage to major organs.  Her book Silent Spring, published in 1962, sounded the alarm.  Just before publication, Carson’s doctor uncovered that her cancer had spread.  The next round of radiation beat her up so much that she kept her public appearances to a minimum.  As her book and research broke, American’s were outraged to learn the dangers to which they’d been exposed.  Her work forced the government to do their own research.  Public outcry pushed for reform.  Carson was called to testify before Congressional committees.  April 14, 1963 she died at the age of 56 leaving the earth a better place.  

For the last decade of her life, Carson worked without the backing of an institution.  Even though she was reserved and soft-spoken, Carson intentionally spoke out on a huge controversial issue.  As she gave voice to her cause, she did more than identify critical problems and potential solutions, she pointed us to a path of awareness and action cautioning that we go with humility and wisdom.  

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.
— Mother Teresa

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The Power of Engaging

This is such a rich story about how she was trained to hate.  Most of us don’t think we were trained to hate and we probably haven’t displayed our hate in the same way but our thinking might be just as faulty.

 

What would it look like for us to have conversation with people who don’t make sense to us and really attempt to understand, even when we don’t agree?  Letting go of harsh judgement for understanding is the only way to get where we want to go -- goodness, health, peace . . .

Megan's experience, "They approached me with pointed questions, tempered with kindness and humor.  They approached me as a human being and that was more transformative than two full decades of outrage, disdain and violence."

"The end of this spiral of rage and blame begins with one person who refuses to indulge these destructive, seductive impulses.  We have to decide it will start with us."

 

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The Overflow

There is one line in a piece of ancient writing you’ve likely heard quoted, “my cup runneth over.”  You may not have afternoon tea in your world but if you did, it’s not likely that you would want your cup to be filled to overflowing.  That’s just not proper etiquette. Because I’m curious about words, I did a little research on this idea of running over or overflowing.  In the original language, it’s the word saturated.     

Across a large part of Texas in February, we experienced rain and more rain.  The ground was fully saturated and then we had a full day of even more rain.  I live in a home that backs up to a a sweet little golf course pond.  When the pond gets full, there is a spillway that carries the over flow into a creek just a few yards away.  On this particular day, the pond was full, the spillway was carrying water as fast as it could into the creek, and the creek was directing the run off into the nearest river.  At the same time, the rivers we’re filling the lakes and reservoirs all over the area.  The rain continued and for a few hours the golf course flooded as it waited for all the canals to catch up with the rate at which rain was coming down.  

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Saturated.  Things were saturated that day and as a result everyone benefited, not just the pond.  The creeks were filled, the rivers were filled, the underground reservoirs were filled, the lakes were filled.  

As I was looking at this poem King David wrote a lifetime ago, it struck me that a cup that overflows, overflows for the good of everyone else.  That’s not a statement that reflects how great our life is, although that’s typically how we use it.  It’s a statement that reflects how much we are impacting, improving, investing, and pouring into the lives of others.  

It’s just a little different perspective on a very familiar phrase.  Where’s the overflow of your life going?  Who is benefiting from it?

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A Women Worth Knowing, Part 1

In honor of Women’s History Month, I want to remind us all of Rachel Carson, born in 1907 to a traveling salesman and a piano teacher, grew up on a small farm that nurtured her special admiration for nature.  Her mother, a former school teacher, introduced her to great literature, as well as a love for the outdoors.  Rachel was the only one in her family to graduate from high school.  Her enrollment in a four year college brought additional financial hardship to an already strapped household.  China was sold.  Acreage was liquidated.  More piano students were recruited.  Four years later, with a degree in Biology and a flare for writing, Rachel was admitted to a PhD program on full scholarship.  

As her families financial situation worsened and her father’s health deteriorated, Rachel moved her family in with her — her aging parents, her two adult siblings and her sister’s two daughters.  At the beginning of the Great Depression, her brother and sister struggled to find employment, leaving Rachel as the primary provider.  She cut her course work in half and took a job as a lab assistant.  

In 1932, at the age of 25, Rachel was awarded her Master’s degree in zoology at a time when women were not represented among scientist.  As she moved toward her doctorate, she continued to financially support her extended household.  About the time Rachel’s sister was diagnosed with diabetes, Rachel’s brother decided to move out taking his small but meaningful income with him.  Rachel withdrew from school to find a full time job.  Months and months of searching turned up nothing.  

 Rachel Carson's 1928 Yearbook Portrait - Pennsylvania College for Women

Rachel Carson's 1928 Yearbook Portrait - Pennsylvania College for Women

A year and a half after her sister’s diagnosis, her father died of an heart attack.  She still did not have full time employment. Two days a week she wrote a script for a government educational radio program about the sea.  The success of the program prompted her to try the same thing for the general public —translating scientific material into comprehensible and interesting material for the nonscientific reader.  She was published in magazines and newspapers which brought her many accolades. This, as it would later be revealed, was what Rachel was designed for — translating scientific material to the general public. In June 1936, she was the second women to be hired by the Bureau of Fisheries as a full time scientist.  

This is only the beginning of Rachel’s story but we can already so many moments when she must have felt overwhelmed, frustrated, disappointed. She never resigned herself to settle for what her emotions were dictating.  She continued to press forward and when she did, she stumbled upon a way in which she would forever change the world.  (Keep watching the blog for more of her story.)  

Never be so focused on what you’re looking for that you overlook the thing you actually find.
— Ann Patchett

The Pull of the Mundane

People feel stuck — want something more.  They even see a vague path to get there (wherever there is?) but something holds them tight to where they are.  

I recently changed my morning routine in order to grab three uninterrupted hours — moments to work on thought projects before the world awakes.  What a glorious idea!  Did I mention, I’m not a morning person? Day One of this new routine, I awoke at 5:00, did great work, went back to bed at 7:30.  I have never found morning warm and fuzzy.  The benefits that come from these hours of solitude are clear. I’ve already experienced great progress as a result of this change in my routine.  Unfortunately, my body begins to rebel loudly at about 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening.  The rebellion is so intense that daily I consider going back to my former routine.  Why?  Why would I go back when I’m seeing good results?  Shockingly, it takes every ounce of strength to not go back.  

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We are creatures of habit. Routines become automatic. Our brain creates neural pathways from repetitive thoughts and behavior in order to make life easier.  Retraining our brain requires real work, work that is uncomfortable.  Psychologist tell us that our reaction to change starts with denial, moves to anger, crosses over to confusion, then dips into depression before it feels like a crisis.  After all that we then move into acceptance, followed by new confidence.  If there are that many stages before we arrive at acceptance, no wonder change only comes with intentionality.  I want the benefits of the change without disruption.  

While we are creatures of habit, we are also creatures of comfort.  It’s just plain uncomfortable to change something you’ve done for years.  Discomfort is typically a signal to retreat, go back, change course.  Like me, you may have to decide that you are willing to be uncomfortable to have the results that you want.  

What are you doing to get un-stuck?

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How's your Vision?

In Wonderland, Alice encounters a fork in the road.  She’s lost.  When she sees a feline with a big smile looking down on her, she asks, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to walk from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” the grinning cat replies.

“I don’t much care where,“ Alice responds.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you walk,” the Cheshire cat answers.

Vision sheds light on both who you are and where you are going.  Most of us move through life without a vision of where we want to go.  Vision will map out the road ahead, as well as clarify where we are going to end up.  

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Writing out a vision for your life doesn’t mean it will turn out exactly as planned.  Taking time to examine the depths of our heart and make plans that propel us in that direction is time well spent.  Most of us operate under the belief that we’ll get to the more important stuff tomorrow, next year, in the slow season.  But the slow season never comes.  We’re either going to be proactive or reactive today, this month, this year.  

Take some time to think about your future.  Identify the areas in your life that are most important to you — Community, Relationships, Career, Finances, Faith, etc — and write out a vision for each of those areas.  A simple example, if you want a deep connection with your children as adults, thinking through what that looks like helps you decide what you need to do daily, weekly, quarterly, annually for the next 10 years, in order to get there.  Crafting a solid vision of your future is both logical and emotional.    

Vision evolves. It needs to be reviewed, updated, revised. Work on your own clearly envisioned future until it compels your heart. Avoid being like Alice on the road to I-don’t-much-care.  

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Who Wants to Fail?

Nick Foles, an NFL quarterback, was not having much of a career.  In fact, he was contemplating quitting.  Less than three years ago he was traded by the Eagles — they didn’t want him.  He had a mediocre season with the Cardinals and asked to be released from his contract.  They gladly obliged.  Then played in Kansas City for a short season, and returned to the Philadelphia Eagles as a back up quarterback. A backup quarterback is only needed when the quarterback gets hurt, but he never does. Not much success or glory there.  

When the Eagles bright, young starting quarterback injured his knee, Foles walked on the field.  Having been cut from this team less than three years earlier, not experiencing any real success anywhere else, and contemplating leaving his NFL career, Foles walks onto the field.  Who’s feeling good about this?  

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There is no reason any of us would believe this is going to end well.  And yet, Foles carries his team to the Super Bowl, wins it, and becomes the Most Valuable Player of the game.  In an interview with NBC Sport, Foles says,

I think the big thing is don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is a part of life. It’s a part of building character and growing. Without failure, who would you be? I wouldn’t be up here if I hadn’t fallen thousands of times. Made mistakes.

He came.

He failed.

He got back up.

He failed.

He worked hard.

He failed.

He was only ready when the opportunity came because failure had forced him to practice often, forged tenacity, and enlarged his capacity.

“If something’s going on in your life and you’re struggling? Embrace it. Because you’re growing.”  ~ Nick Foles

Collaberation is like Entertaining Angels

You’ve heard me say I don’t consider myself a creative but what I really mean is I don’t create with art supplies.  All of us have creativity within us. Often times creativity comes in the form of problem solving or wordsmithing or idea generating.  Not all creativity hangs on a wall.  

This past week I had the rare opportunity to be in the presence of some great creative minds.  They offered me their time and generated idea after idea.  I’d ask a question, the gears in their minds churned out marvelous, wild, and moving ideas.  It was a beautiful thing to watch unfold.  

It’s humbling to recognize how desperately I needed their creative minds in order to move forward on my project.  And, at the same time, it was so comforting to be on the receiving end of their generosity and enthusiasm.  We may be able to go faster alone, but we won’t go far.  In other words, if you can do it alone, you’re not working on a big enough project.  

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In the ancient Middle East, there existed a code of hospitality in the desert.  These hospitality customs were a vital part of the culture — even sacred.  The arid, desert land is harsh.  Travelers need access to water while the settlers need protection.  Strict codes of conduct developed to govern these encounters between travelers and settlers.  Bedouins (desert dwellers who lived in tents as they followed the grazing of their herds) were obligated to provide for travelers that stopped at their tents and could expect of the travelers protection from any hostile action.  The host provided food, water and shelter — a place to wash their feet and rest.  The traveler was expected to accept what the host offered.  To refuse was an insult that only an enemy would inflict.  The entire code of hospitality in this ancient world was so strong it evoked a warning, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some have entertained angels unaware.”  

As I reflected on my time with people who freely offered me their ideas (food for my project), I saw how this collaboration (code of hospitality) benefited both of us.  They used their gift of creativity, I provided a place their gifts were needed, valued, and protected.  I used to think collaboration meant finding a business partner, or hiring more help, or at the very least, it required people who were working for the same company.  This experience shifted my understanding.  Hearing the desert code of hospitality helped me tie it all together.  It’s sacred to give what you have to those who need, value, and protect it.  

Who are you collaborating with?  How can you begin to operate in the desert code of hospitality?

Misunderstood? No Way!

Everyone does life from a little different perspective.  Just like we all have unique fingerprints or hair follicles, we all see things from our unique vantage point.  As a result, we communicate with each other from our perspective.  It seems so clear and obvious to us when we say it.  It’s unbelievably surprising when we realize that someone has misunderstood us.  In fact, we are so deeply entrenched in our perspective that it is difficult to even uncover that someone else has misunderstood us.  

I found myself consistently angry with a boss I had for a couple of years until I realized that I misunderstood him.  I finally wrote myself a note in big red letters, “If it doesn’t sound like a good plan, if you feel angry about it, you have misunderstood him.”  I went into every staff meeting with this note in front of me, so that I would not react to whatever he had communicated.  His perspective was different than mine and I was having trouble seeing things from his perspective.  

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When we understand other people’s perspective, we are better equipped to communicate well with them.  I have a friend who is detail-oriented, logical, reserved and has a high need to be accurate. (By the way, she’s a bookkeeper.  That style of hers is a perfect match for keeping the spreadsheets organized.)  Her biggest fear is being wrong.  Disorganization stresses her out in a big way.  When she is dealing with someone who is enthusiastic, talkative, all about people — not the task, she cannot expect facts and she needs to find a way to be encouraging.  No one perspective is better than the other, they’re just different.  When an outspoken, competitive, quick action, strong-willed boss, who needs control and fears being taken advantage of communicates to a friendly, sympathetic, agreeable, considerate, listening employee, what could go wrong?  Right?  The more we can understand those four different styles I just described, the more communication will flow with ease.  

As we begin to think about the other person’s perspective, their fears, their needs, the things that stress them, we will have the insight we need to communicate in a way that makes sense to them.  If you’d like more help with this, contact me at michele@lifebydesign.guru.

Push Pause, Not Repeat

I like to end the holiday break with 1000 pieces of 1/2" by 1/2" cardboard lying on the dining room table calling my name.  The challenge of fitting oddly shaped pieces together into a work of art is the kind of demand my heart loves to indulge.  I’ll admit, it’s not for everyone.  This year, I tackled a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle.  Most 1000 piece puzzles are slapped together in a weekend.  Perhaps 2000 pieces will take two.  Not so fast.  This delightful snowing scene where the sky and snow covered ground use the same shades and the pieces are very nearly all the same shape has thrown me a curve ball.  What used to be a thrill and even a race, is starting to feel laborious. The old way of getting it done is not working.  The back up systems I resort to when it’s getting difficult are not bringing it together.  And yet, I continue to stand there doing the same thing in the same way.  The only difference, I feel frustration instead of delight.  

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When we keep doing it the same old way, we keep getting the same old results.  It may sound like, "Credit card debt like this is normal."  "You can’t control teenagers these days."  "I have to work these long hours to get ahead."  "I need these to help me relax." Moving forward involves finding out why things aren’t working and discovering new ways to approach it.

When my extended family got together to celebrate Christmas, we played a raucous game of charades.  My very talkative niece kept repeating the same gesture to her team until her brother-in-law said, “That’s not working, we’re not getting it.  Move on to something else.”  And then she repeated it a few more times.  We love to do what we know isn’t working.  Maybe we think something even worse will happen if we stop our current action.  Stopping the repeating cycles and the recurring hang ups, starts with simply looking at the obstacle in a different light.

What do you need to push pause on instead of repeat?

Fresh Start

The smell of fresh bread coming out of the oven is undeniably the best aroma ever.  Fresh flowers sitting on the dining room table always bring a smile.  Fresh ideas can be incredibly energizing.  What we all love about the new year is it gives us a place to start fresh.  

This year I’m going to be intentional about allowing freshness into my life.  Fresh bread takes some work, it doesn’t just happen.  Turning the calendar year over doesn’t guarantee a fresh start.  It does provide an opportunity for something fresh.  A few things I am going to do this year to keep my life fresh.

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Look for Adventure — Find things that move me out of my comfort zone.  I’ve decided that 2018 is going to be my most adventures year yet.  What ideas do you have for me?  Going for the adventure invites new experiences.

Accept Change — Recognizing that change is good because it brings growth is a great way to step into a new year.  I’m the kind of person that drives the same car until the wheels fall off, never re-arranges the furniture and works for the same place for a couple of decades.  Change has never been my favorite but I’m learning to re-frame the way I look at change and see it as an opportunity.  Change keeps things fresh.

De-clutter — There is just something about getting the closet cleaned out or the junk drawer organized or the garage orderly that helps us make space in our world and mind. Go ahead and take the plunge, de-cluttering opens up new territory.  

Connect with new people — Friends are a human necessity.  Even if you have plenty, go find one more. If you feel like you don’t have enough, go find three more. New people in our lives bring fresh perspective.  It’s good to be around people who see things differently.  I’m very intentional about this one and am looking forward to the new relationships I will develop in 2018.  

Laugh often — So much of what is required of us is serious business — raising children, managing finances, investing in a career, serving the people around us.  With all this responsibility, we sometimes forget to laugh.  This Christmas break, my extended family got together and laughed raucously.  It was a blast to laugh and to be in the presence of people full of laughter.  Let’s do more of that this year.

Here’s to 2018!

The Essence of Christmas

Last night, I watched Josh Groban’s A Home for the Holidays special.  Throughout the hour of music, families who’ve adopted children were featured.  As each family was introduced my heart swelled with their story of love.  Many of the children being adopted were close to aging out of the foster-care system.  One girl expressed how her time was running out and what it felt like to be chosen.  Her parents talked about how closed off she was when she first came to their home.  They worked hard at connecting with her and breaking through to her.  She sat in front of the interviewer and cried as she explained what it was like to be loved for the first time.  Her story, and the story of all the families, pushed me to think about what love is and challenged me to consider who I’m loving well.  

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Love fights for you.

Love sees you.

Love wants you.

Love doesn’t force.

Love trusts.

Love looks for the best.

Love never looks back.

Love keeps going.  

Christmas embodies love. To find love, to become love is to find the source of love — the essence of Christmas — Christ.

Merry Christmas!