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Stop Making Yourself Small

Want to get smaller? Maybe around the waist but not necessarily in the conference room, a vital conversation, or your next presentation. Those are places we want to be remembered as valuable contributors.

When the neighbors cat wants to avoid being chased up a tree by the dog lopping down the street, she makes herself small — crouching down in the grass as if to say, “Don’t mind me. I’m of no significance — no threat. Don’t give me another thought.” When we make ourselves small, we are delivering the same message both to ourselves and the people in the room. The crazy thing is both will accept and believe the message. If we find ourselves complaining about feeling invisible or unheard, chances are we are making ourselves small. We can have valuable information and use language that devalues our message.

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A few ways language creates the message we are not verbalizing and yet everyone is hearing:

Starting with an Apology

Starting a conversation or presentation by apologizing when there is nothing to apologize for sends the message that we are unsure. Often times when we want to jump into a conversation or take center stage, we start with, “I’m sorry, I just wanted to say. . .” What are we sorry for exactly? Speaking up? Communicating insecurity and uncertainty, even subtly, translates this is not important — there is no need to listen. And so they don’t!

Using Tiny Words

Tiny words like just, only, quickly, little, small mimic the stance of the neighbor’s cat. “I just have this little comment.” “ I have a tiny suggestion.” “Let me quickly mention . . .” This language makes us small. Whatever the comment, suggestion, idea articulated, the message delivered is don’t give me another thought. And they don’t!

Including Disclaimers

I have a friend who likes to tell jokes. He always starts with a disclaimer. When you have to start with a disclaimer, the joke is likely not going to hit the mark. This would be the case for my friend EVERY TIME. His disclaimer is usually, “I’m not a sexist.” Oh boy! Immediately, before I even hear the joke, I think, “Wow! He is a sexist!” Then when I hear the joke, the message is reinforced. When we use disclaimers, it’s like announcing, “Disregard everything I am about to say.” Disclaimers sound like, “I’m not sure if this is important.” “You’ve probably already thought of this.” “I don’t know if this is what you were thinking.” As soon as the disclaimer is out of your mouth and before you make your valuable comment, articulate your brilliant idea or deliver a stellar suggestion, everyone in ear shot has decided to disregard what you are about to say. And so they do!

While the world you live in might be encouraging you to work on a smaller waistline, I’m challenging you to get larger. Eliminate the language that makes you small and start showing up in a way that you are heard and seen. The world needs your input. Stop telling us not to listen to you.

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Why You Need a Sweaty Mob

A 5K.  It was a warm night, the park was over-crowded, when the gun went off many began to run, others walked briskly, at the back of the pack were momma’s pushing strollers.  Sweat flowed freely and mingled often.  The 3.1 miles wasn’t going to be a tremendous challenge for me because I walk 2 miles fairly regularly — alone.  Why anyone needs to gather a mob for the occasion, is beyond my understanding. But I accepted the invitation because it was wrapped in a health challenge.  

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3.1 miles an hour is an average walking speed — 20 minutes a mile.  Knowing that I walk an 18 minute mile on average, my only goal was to do all three miles at the same pace.  Walking 4 mph is an extremely brisk walk, which would be a 15 minute mile.  At the end of the 5K and as a result of the mob, my pace was 16 minutes per mile.  That’s when the light went on — when I had my “aha” moment. This is why you get in the middle of a mob and exchange sweat, even though it sounds unpleasant.   We gather people around us to push us, set the pace for us, cheer us to something beyond what we were expecting of ourselves.  I walked faster that night than I typically do and faster than I planned or hoped for because of the people around me.

Where in life are you walking alone?  What would it look like to put people around you who are pushing the limits, challenging the current pace, expecting more?

~originally posted October 5, 2017

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Think About It

The life we have is a reflection of the thoughts we think. Our life is always moving in the direction of our strongest thoughts. If we think we can’t, then we probably won’t. If we’re always looking at the problem, then it will likely overwhelm us. This is the beauty and the curse of our magnificent brains.

A few short years ago, thoughts like I can’t; It will always be like this; I don’t have what it takes; were holding me hostage in a place I didn’t want to be. I had allowed my thoughts to limit my actions. What came into my mind, actually came out in my life! Life is moving in the direction of our strongest thought. Are you excited about where your thoughts are taking you?

Pause for a moment right now. Identify the thought that has dominated your mind the last few days. What destination is it leading to — peace, worry, others, self, positivity, negativity, action, defeat? Is that where you want to end up? Be honest with yourself.

Our brains are redesigning themselves around our thoughts. When we think something over and over, a path (neuropathway) is created in our brain, much like the path in the back yard where the dog runs out the back door around to the back gate 42,789 times a day. The grass no longer grows on that path, the dirts becomes smooth and tight. When it rains, the path becomes a little canal for runoff water. The pathways in our brain work the same way. Thoughts begin to run easily along them — even though it wasn’t our intention to create that canal.

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If our thoughts are not taking us where we want to go, it’s time to identify them and pay attention to the direction they are taking us. What direction do we really want to go — who do we want to be; how do we want to act; what do we want to feel. Write it down. This gives us clarity on the new direction. Find a true statement that gives us permission to be, act and feel the new way. Write that statement down and repeat it multiple times a day for an entire month. Watch what starts coming out of into your life, as a result of changing your thoughts.

If we are becoming our thoughts, than what exactly are you becoming?

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Where in the World are You

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Where in the World are You

It’s such a fun story but such a heart breaking point — finding yourself in the middle of a story you no longer want to live. Perhaps the script or plan or purpose that was laid out for you worked for a season but now it’s time for you to live out of a plan, intent, design that’s a better fit. We get so caught up in the familiar routine, we lose sight of the fact that we can shift from this story.   

Getting started, a big first step, can feel monumental. If you’re looking to head down a new path, start by thinking through where you are right now. If I’m holding a map of Texas with plans to travel to San Antonio, the map won’t get me there unless I know my starting point.

Take stock of your current situation. Create a “I Am Here” gauge, like the dashboard on a car.  The gauges on a car tell us something — is there enough gas for the journey, is there oil in the engine, is the car running too hot. These gauges assist us in identifying what to take care of first.

When we want to design something new, finding the problem is part of the process. That sounds so easy. Unfortunately, more often than not we are working on the wrong problem. The identified problem in the video was a long trip in a small car. We solved that problem by breaking up the trip in two hour increments. A long trip in a small car turned out not to be the problem. If you are disinterested in mechanical engineering but you are working on the problem of raising your grades, you are solving the wrong problem. Creating a gauge or dashboard that identifies where you are in the area of health, work, play, love (or whatever categories you want to use as gauges) will reveal the flashing lights that need to be addressed.

After we assess where we are, accepting where we are is the next step. Just because I don’t want to be headed to San Antonio from DFW doesn’t mean I’m not. Knowing my starting point helps me evaluate the option of heading down I-35 or taking a more scenic, less stressful, longer route. Understanding that my joy gauge is on empty, pushes me to explore the question of what brings me joy. Seeing that what I am “doing” (work, school, volunteering) is leaving me empty, causes me to ask questions about what would fill my tank. Asking questions that move me to explore are the next best step.   

As you think about a new story, operating from a more intentional place, begin with where you are. It’s the only way to get there from here.  

 

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Be Sure of Yourself

My momma always told me, “Just act like you know what you are doing.” So I did because I was pretty devoted to doing what my momma told me to do. I didn’t realize I was practicing confidence. I’m guessing she did.    

Confidence is the feeling that one can rely on someone or something — firm trust.  That means self-confidence is firm trust in ourselves. “If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life,” Marcus Garvey.

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Self confidence is a developed skill, just like playing basketball. Basketball players practice — not just once, but every day. If we want more confidence in a certain area, repetition becomes the vehicle for arriving at our destination. Malcolm Gladwell says that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice are needed to become world-class in any field. Where ever you lack confidence, start practicing over and over. It’s common for us to bail when we hit a little adversity. When we make our first attempt at public speaking and it flops, we quit. The 10,000 hour rule encourages us to stay at it. Thomas Edison’s teachers labeled him as too unintelligent to learn. Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb but he just kept at it. Confidence comes as we practice.  

Confidence is also a reflection of what is going on in our mind. Thoughts influence actions. Let me slow down here and repeat that — thoughts influence actions. Tearing ourselves down will never result in building anything up. Self-confidence cannot come from self-deprecation. If we want more confidence, we need to start with more affirmation. Step one: put distance between us and the people who feed us negative information about ourselves. Step two: find people who are positive about themselves and learn from them. Step three: deliberately affirm ourselves every day.  A good place to start, believing in our ability to improve.  As we make these changes the pathways in our brain begin to alter — the ruts that negativity had burrowed begin to fill in and our positive mindset starts building new roads to different places. Remember Muhammad Ali saying, “I am the greatest!”  He knew affirming himself would lead to confidence. And he definitely had confidence.

Follow my momma’s advice and act like you know what you’re doing — you’re practicing confidence.  

 

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Change your Mind about Change

Junior High seemed daunting, too much, too different, too foreign.  I didn’t want to go. My sister was a year ahead of me, I drilled her on everything that happened her first day of Junior High. A full year had gone by, she couldn’t remember.  How could she do this to me? I need to know.  

Three years later, I did not want to go to High School. It was too much, too different, too intimidating, too foreign. Again, I drilled my sister — no real answers. Three years later, I did not want to go to . . . Are you getting the picture? In my adult life, I moved nine times in 20 years. Change became a familiar pattern. Eventually, I learned— this is life.  Embrace change or lose life in the resistance to change.  

The start of the new school year brings change. Students headed to different campuses; mommas sending off babies to college; college graduates taking on full time positions in the professional world. Change is the content of life. Our bodies are changing. The earth is changing. Technology changes. When change comes our way, we can either cooperate and benefit or resist and feel defeat.  

Think back to a time you resisted change. What happened once you surrendered to it?  Recognizing that change is not the enemy, it’s simply part of life, helps us shift our approach.  Choosing to look for the excitement and anticipate the new chapter, adjusts our attitude. With a new approach and a new attitude, now we can embrace change with a little introspection.  Here are some questions you might find helpful. Grab a journal and thoughtfully sit with each question.

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What’s changing that I am resisting?
Why am I resisting this new chapter?
What am I afraid of with respect to this change?
What’s the payoff for keeping things the way they are?
What’s the cost for keeping things as is?
What benefits might there be in this change?
What would I have to do to cooperate?
What’s the next step I could take to cooperate?
When will I take the next step?

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.  ~George Bernard Shaw

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Mountain Lake Contentment

Three days of solitude among the majestic mountains around Trout Lake, Colorado overwhelmed me with beauty -- quiet hiking trails complete with vistas that took my breath away leaving me silenced. The tranquility of the vast mountain lake captured my mind and all mindless chatter ceased. This is contentment. Alfred Nobel, a Swedish Scientist of the 1800s, tells us, “Contentment is the only real wealth.” Trout Lake contentment in the middle of real world chaos appears unattainable. All it takes is some powerful intention.

Choose Forgiveness

To cultivate contentment we need to be willing to forgive. I know this is not where you were expecting to start. Forgiveness is two-sided: letting go and moving forward. There is a releasing of the old and a creating anew. Grieve the hurt, the loss, the trauma. Let go of the blame. Honor the moment of loss. Acknowledge who you are becoming. Cut the ties to the past. Use our energy in new ways. Find compassion. Create new patterns. As we practice forgiveness, choosing to forgive ourselves becomes a priority. Nothing robs us of contentment more than choosing not to forgive. It’s a process that is well worth the effort.

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Practice Gratitude

Often we find ourselves content until we compare ourselves to others. We see they have something we do not. They appear happier, healthier, more successful, more financially stable, more influential, more . . . Our minds begin to focus on what we don’t have compared to what (it appears) they do have. Immediately we are discontent. Cultivating a posture of gratitude restores contentment in the wake of comparison. Practicing gratitude re-focuses our mind on all the things in our world that are good.  

Use Goals, Don’t let Them Use You

Pushing ourselves to grow and develop requires us to set goals, expect more, and push beyond our current circumstances. This creates a tension between the idea of contentment and dreaming big. Letting our goals guide us but not hold us hostage is a key to contentment. Goals are simply targets. When I first tried archery in school, anytime I hit the target I celebrated (and so did everyone else). A bull’s eye was not necessary. Hitting the target was a significant accomplishment. Rather than using goals in a way that leave us discontent with ourselves and our world, using goals as a guide toward a great target will reduce the tension between dreaming big and choosing contentment.

Stepping into contentment requires intention on our part. It will take time and consistency, support and encouragement. As we choose forgiveness, practice gratitude and allow goals to simply guide us, we will see contentment begin to mushroom in our world. I still recommend Trout Lake and, at the same time, I know we can tap into the wealth of contentment without ever leaving town.

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Checklist for Change

Life is a series of changes. For those of us who are not fond of change, that sounds like bad news. The rest of the story, life is also a series of choices. Big life transitions can catch us off guard, even when we are anticipating them or excited about them.  Here is a check list to keep handy in the middle of your transition.  

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  • Remember that life is a series of changes — this is just life.
  • Know that with every transition, there is both a gain and a loss.  
  • Allow time to grieve the loss.
  • Acknowledge the feelings around both the gain and the loss, even though those two sets of emotions feel like they are incongruent.
  • Write in a journal, honestly express the feelings you are experiencing.
  • Refuse to rush the awkward in between stage — between  what you are leaving and what lies ahead.  It’s an uncomfortable but necessary space.
  • Let go of the part of life that is being left behind, either by saying what needs to be said, taking time to reflect, or releasing your emotions in your journal or some other way.
  • Intentionally keep some constants in your life as things are changing.
  • Anticipate the new season with excitement, even make a list of the good things that are coming.  
  • Purposely reach out to new people in the new circumstances to develop community.

Navigating transition is a process, hold the process loosely and allow yourself to move in and out of the many phases of transition. There is no life without transition. Enjoy the journey.


 

Michele has a brief ebook that explores the phases of transition. You are welcome to download it for free here

 

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Stop Letting Go!

The ebb and flow of the ocean tide is mesmerizing. It comes and goes — swells and wanes.  We sit on the beach and relish in the sound of that constant change. When that kind of ebb and flow, swell and wane, takes place in our day to day life, we grab hold of whatever handle we can find and grasp it as tightly as possible. We refuse to let it wane or swell or whatever is the opposite of what we expected and thought we needed.

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That big account never came through. Believing this was his golden ticket, he’s stuck, bewildered, rehearsing what he could have done differently. His worth lay on the unsigned contract.

He left. She’s on the couch soaked in tears believing she’s nothing. Her worth just walked out the door.  

He’s never before been dismissed. The shock continues to haunt him every day. His worth still sits at the desk.

She can’t get past the unbelievably, disrespectful behavior from three years ago. He continues to repent, reinvent, restore. Her worth is reflected in his mistake.

He lost his leg. His new form is foreign to him. He can’t see a way into his new normal. His worth is pinned to a fully functioning body.

"Let go." It sounds so simple, like letting go of the car door handle on a hot summer day. What if it’s not about letting go at all? Perhaps, we all need to grab hold — grab hold of our worth. Stop assigning it to things that it never belonged to in the first place. Our worth was never meant to ebb and flow. It comes from our very creation, not our achievements, our relationships, our physique, but from a place deep within us.

If you’re having trouble “letting go,” look at what you’ve attached your worth to.

Become Love

I’m reading Bob Goff’s Everybody Always where he’s urging everyone to become love. If you haven’t read it yet, buy your copy today. It will wreck you, encourage you and inspire you on every page. Something he emphasizes that keeps ringing in my head is how we are compelled to voice our opinions. Goff believes we state our opinions as a way to protect ourselves. Rather than protecting ourselves, wisdom would have us get in touch with our heart — the fear, the insecurity, the need to impress. The tendency we all have to surround ourselves with people who agree with us indicates our insecurities. Bob Goff puts it like this, “When people are flat wrong, why do I appoint myself the sheriff to straighten them out? Burning down others’ opinions doesn’t make us right. It makes us arsonists.” Read that quote again! 

In this quest to become love, Goff repeatedly talks about telling people who they are — who they are becoming — rather than what they should want. "You should take that job." "You should ask for that promotion." "You should get married." "You shouldn’t do that." These are words that roll off our tongue, oh so easily. No one relishes being told what to do. Shifting our mindset from telling people what to do to telling them who they are becoming is a game changer. "You are brave." "You are gifted." "You are creative." "You are enough."

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In Chapter 5, Goff illustrates this beautifully with a story from his own life. He’s been picked up by a limo driver.

 After we’d driven a short time, I said, “You know, this is the first time I’ve ever been to Orlando, but if someone asked me what I thought about everyone in the city, You know what I’d tell them? I’d say I think everyone in Orlando is just terrific. Do you know why?     It’s simple— because you’re a nice guy!”

He’s not telling him what to do. He’s telling him who he is — an ambassador for his city who spreads kindness.

Later he learns the driver has driven 25 years and is soon retiring. He convinces the driver to get in the back seat and let Bob drive.  

I carry medals with me all the time. They don’t say anything on them. . . I opened the door and let my limo-driver friend out from the back seat. He stood up and straightened his jacket, and I was still wearing his hat. I pinned a medal on his chest and said, ‘You’re      brave. You’re courageous. You’re foolhardy! Did you see how I took that last turn?’ I spoke words of truth and affirmation to him with a smile. I patted him on the chest, gave him a hug, and walked into the hotel.

His new friend returned to his home that night, not with a list of things he needed to do or undo but with an understanding of who he was.  

Become love.

Free Like a Bird

Saudi Arabia announced this week that it would allow women to drive.  I’ve been following the story with awe and wonder. Saudi women have been asking for the right to drive since 1990. If my sources are correct, they just received the right to vote in 2015.

What I find most fascinating is the explanations that have been given for the female-driving ban. The New York Times reports a handful of the justifications.  My personal favorite is that male drivers would not know how to handle having women in cars next to them. (Welcome to my world! Just a little tongue and check for those of you who know how I drive!) Some argued that allowing women to drive would lead to promiscuity and the collapse of the Saudi family. There was even a claim that driving harmed women’s ovaries. Before you laugh too loud, it might be worth looking at how often we justify keeping things the way they’ve always been.

As I read these justifications for the ban, it struck me that what the Saudis are working through is what all of us need -- a fresh look at an old idea. If we don’t get outside of our own small world, we can easily find statements, opinions, ideas that reinforce what we already believe. Rather than looking for the advantages and opportunities that could come from doing something we’ve never done before, we look for ways to maintain the status quo. Perhaps it’s time for us to search for new information.   

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The current state of things might need to be shaken up a bit.  Consider doing something new, different, outside the norm. Here is what one female Saudi driver said about her first spin around the block:  

My whole body is tingling right now. To get in my car, to hold this steering wheel, after having lived my entire life, since the moment I entered this world, in the back seat... I feel like a butterfly... No, a bird. I feel free like a bird.”

We benefit from new information — the earth is not flat, ovaries are not damaged by driving, Santa Claus is not . . . (well, you know).  Whatever preconceived ideas you come to the table with, colors everything you perceive.  If you think they are out to get you, then you will find evidence that they are.  If you believe they aren’t going to amount to anything, then you will see exactly that. Doing things that have never been done, pushing against the status quo, exploring new information, expecting more from ourselves then what we are currently settling for can be freeing — leaving us feeling like a bird.

Simple Re-Direction, not Catastrophe

What if failure is just a compass, not really failure at all, but redirection?  

When you walk through the parking lot and trip on the way to your car, do you stop and memorialize the spot you tripped over? A week later, would we still find you in the parking lot at that same spot that tripped you up?  No way, you get to your car and go on about your day.  Perhaps you notify maintenance about the hole in the parking lot; or throw away the shoes you were wearing that proved hard to walk in; or you simply decide to stop texting and walking. The only thing that stumble in the parking lot did for you was redirect you. You made some quick decision about how you would re-route in the future. That’s all. My guess is you didn’t even tell anyone you tripped. It was a non-issue, inconsequential.  

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Yet when we get tripped up in other ways, we have this tendency to get hung there. Our children make decisions different than we expected and we camp out there. Our boss doesn’t like how our project turned out and we are still looking at it a week later. Our friend mentions something we might want to re-consider and we can’t get past the fact that they had the nerve to say that to us. Our interview doesn’t land the job we’d hoped. We memorialize these moments of stumbling. We’re the ones who label them as failure and decide to stand around and focus on them, build a monument to them, re-live them.  What would happen if we just went on, used the trip up as a compass that simply re-directed our path?

If you stumble, make it part of the dance.

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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.

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?

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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