How Can Life Get Better Than This

Key West

“At the end of the day, the questions we ask of ourselves determine the type of people that we will become.” Leo Babauta

Many of us are very conditioned to complain or vent our days’ events. Many of us are very conditioned to point out the problems, worries, stressors, heartaches and disappointments of our daily lives. How can it be so easy to say what is so wrong in our days instead of what is right?

I was talking with a friend the other day and she was telling me about all of the many ways she had realized how many of God’s blessings have been playing out in her life lately. What she really was struck by was that although she never thought to let God into her life as much as she has been this year she realized that God has been guiding her and blessing her with opportunities to make choices through events that have been designed to help her grow and become the person she is today. What was blaringly obvious to me was that she had made a perception shift in how she views life and the ways in which life plays out. . I don’t think she heard herself, when at the end of her story she said, “Lisa, how does life get better than this?” She asked the most beautiful question.

Boy oh boy did that stick with me. Indeed, how does life get better than this? This is a question with no answer. This is a question that is so subjective the answers either do not exist at all or are so endless as to travel into infinity. This question is so full of gratitude and hope that I started asking it every morning before my day gets started.

By bringing more hopeful questions out in the open, more hopeful events can have room to grow and develop and manifest. It’s a bit mindless to cast our cares into the ring of despair and complaints. Instead, why not give a great question a try?

“Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers. It happens when you are ready to face the questions you have been avoiding your whole life.” Shannon L. Alder

There is a great book by author and scientist Warren Berger called A More Beautiful Question. It is in the asking and daring of questioning that life begins to grow and expand and become fun; dare I say hopeful. Having the courage to ask a question we are afraid to learn the answer to or own the part of the answer that only each of us can contribute to answering is scary but what else is life supposed to be? Scary isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Scary is challenging, scary is thrilling, scary leads to learning how not to be scared.

The yin and yang of a beautiful question can change perception and can change a heart from feeling scared to find the answer into a heart that is challenged and determined to find an answer. For example:

What if I start my day not knowing what to do? What does an open day look like and mean for me?

What if I fail in every way today? What can I learn if I fail today?

Why should I trust you? What can I trust about you?

How can I contribute to the world today? In what small way can my existence make a difference today?

Why do I have to work? Why do I do the work I do? What do I really want to do for work?

What is another way of looking at this? If I turn this over and over what might come of a new perspective?

What if I took my time through this? When I step back and take a better look, what do I see?

Why do I ask why? What can come from not asking why? What am I afraid to learn the answer to?

Why am I not happy? How can I be happy? What does happiness look like in this moment?

It’s in the way a question is asked that prompts answers to arrive. By turning around a day full of complaints and vents we can find the beauty and mystery and lessons that each day in the life of each of us has in its essence.

Many of us spend exhaustive amounts of time trying to find our purpose to our existence. What if our existence has the only purpose of whatever the day asks of us? For Paul Bennett of the company IDEO, Mr. Berger learned what sparks Mr. Bennett most of all, everyday….

“The question I constantly ask myself is ‘”How do I stay inspired?”’ For many of us, the beautiful question that calls to us is some variation of, ‘”How do we continually find inspiration so that we can inspire others?”’ There is no definitive answer to this question. It is constantly evolving and becoming something else.”

Mr. Berger puts it to the reader like this,

“When you find your beautiful question, stay with it. If it is a question worth pursuing, it will likely also be confounding, frustrating, and exhausting. If you find yourself stuck, follow the advice of Acumen’s Novogratz, “’Just try to get to the next question.’” Break your big question into smaller ones and work on those. Keep cycling through the why’s, what if’s, and how’s including your being stuck and get to the next question.”

For me it has become a survival mentality to break free of the atmosphere that surrounds me in negativity. This mindless complaining has challenged me to purposefully find a way to be as opposite as possible in the positive. I have noticed a great deal of physical changes and mental changes that have taken place within my soul due to asking a more beautiful question. Here is what I’ve learned so far:

Life gets better than this if I:

Love more sincerely

Listen with more presence

Express gratitude for my endless blessings

Eat to savor and not devour

Choose my words when I use my words

Admit I don’t know and then ask for help

Ask, “What is my next small step?”

Forgive with my whole heart

Let go

“Walk by faith, not by sight”

How can life get better than this?

In the Jewish faith there is a song called Dayanu that is sung during the Passover Seder and it starts off naming how grateful the people are for being delivered from slavery in Egypt. Then the song goes on to list how it would have been enough if the blessings ended there but God went on to provide food and water while thousands traveled for 40 years in the desert. Again, it would have been enough if God had stopped there but then HE provided even more miracles.

Songwriter and artist Kenny Chesney sings a song titled, Never wanted Nothing More in which he sings about how great life became when he got his first truck and how he couldn’t imagine ever wanting anything more than that. Then life took another great turn when he met his girlfriend and he couldn’t imagine wanting anything more and then it became great again when he got to spend time with her, etc.

The point being that in our everyday lives there is always something, one plain or ordinary thing that went right or well or happily that we can be thankful for. By asking the question the way my friend did it opened up space for more things to go right. All you have to do is sincerely ask the question. In the asking you become subconsciously disposed to seeking the answers. Your mind will try to see all the possibilities in finding the answer.

“How would your life be different if…You were conscious about the food you ate, the people you surround yourself with, and the media you watch, listen to, or read? Let today be the day…You pay attention to what you feed your mind, your body, and your life. Create a nourishing environment conducive to your growth and well-being today.” Steve Maraboli, The Power of One

My friend has presented me with a question that will never find an answer yet will allow for answers to be found every day. How, indeed, can life get better than this?

Call to Action

I dare you to NOT find one simple thing that goes right today, tomorrow or the next day.

Be grateful for that one right thing and build on it. How can life get better than that? Dare yourself to find something even better the next day.

What beautiful questions grow from seeing what was once too hard or too scary to see? Do not be afraid to count your blessings. Your happiness and gratitude are infectious and THAT is a great life purpose and makes for life being better than one minute ago.

 

The Difference Between a Scar and a Tattoo

 

 

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Out of the pain of growth comes beauty and uniqueness.

“Take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.” –Chris Cleave, Little Bee

How much of life have you survived so far?

Are any of the survival moments scars on your skin or on your heart or do you wear them proudly as a tattoo, a story your body doesn’t hesitate to tell?

One night at dinner my son brought home a friend from school. We had amazing food and amazing conversation and as it is when lots of boys get together we got to talking about injuries and scars. The boy stood up and said, “Oh have I got scars to show you.” For the next 20 minutes he proceeded to show us all of his scars, the ones that were allowable to show, and we were all riveted to hear the stories and see the proof. He smiled proudly through it all and he just as proudly knew that life wasn’t finished with him yet, that there would be a lot more scars to talk about as he got older.

Listening to the boy’s stories I couldn’t help but think what a busy, treacherous, boyish, adventurous life he had lived so far and I thought these weren’t scars he was showing us, these were proud tattoos of a life well lived; he was only 13 years old.

“Tattoos are a right of passage. They’re a marker of bravery, of maturity, of cultural acceptance. The tattoo represents not only a willingness to accept pain – to endure it – but a need to actively embrace it. Because life is painful – beautiful but painful…….” Nicola Barker, The Yips

There are lessons we learn in school and there are lessons we learn in life. I’ve come to believe that when those 2 distinct paths cross, that is when we wear our story. When I become aware and present in my life moments I am, in a way, choosing the tattoos I want to brand who I am and who I want to be.

When something doesn’t go the way I want it to it is in the choices I make as to who I then become. When someone hurts me physically or emotionally I can choose to become and remain a victim of the hurt or I can grow from it and own it and wear it like a tattoo of honor or shame and either way I can then create teachable moments to share along my life’s journey. It’s hard though to step back in an emotional moment and realize that there is always a choice to make.

A Scar that Purposefully Became a Tattoo

My daughter faced this very crossroads when the person she considered her best friend did things that proved the girl wasn’t a good friend at all much less a best friend. It sent my daughter into a tail spin and for quite a few years my daughter tried to manipulate her mind to stop fighting a battle within herself to change the friend but rather to accept what was happening. To make a very long story short, the choice she made in the end was to find a way to accept the girl for who she was and to also accept herself for who she was becoming. Not an easy thing to do at all but with lots of patience and practice and self-love she has truly managed to step over to the other side of the pain and wear her lessons learned like a tattoo on her heart. She feels more empowered, more right minded and stronger within her heart than she has ever felt. I see it in her eyes and I hear it in her voice in the way she speaks. She believes what she is working through and how she is working through it and there is a whole bunch of reasons to respect her process. But the question is, how is she doing it? How is she accepting herself and the person that turned out to be nothing like the friend she thought she had? Here are some steps she took to get to where she is right now:

Seek help. The minute my daughter felt the disillusionment of the friendship she talked with me about it. She also casually talked with her other friends. She enlisted the people she felt most comfortable with and asked their opinion, asked their advice, and asked if they had ever been through something like this. She even confronted her friend in order to get a better understanding of where this friendship had gotten so off the rails.

By being vulnerable to the pain she allowed light to penetrate the cracks that were forming in her heart. The light acted like a laser tattooing her heart with the tools she would need for wisdom and compassion.

“When we feel weak, we drop our heads on the shoulders of others. Don’t get mad when someone does that. Be honored. For that person trusted you enough to, even if subtly, ask you for help.” Lori Goodwin

Listen. No matter what stories were being told to her she had enough respect for herself to just listen to what was being said and not said. She took a mental inventory of all the information and let it sit inside her heart for however long it needed to so she could pick and choose the points of information that fit her best.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Talk it out. There were 3 distinct times where my daughter met with the “best friend” and tried to let her know how she was feeling. It took a lot more than 3 times to get the friend to understand and to this day the understanding is still not completely there but forgiveness has taken root on both sides of the friendship and THAT means a positive change has happened. The part that is most important is in the trying to keep communication open and honest.

“When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.”Shannon L. Alder

Take a step back. Step away from the situation long enough to allow the silence and the physical space to work it’s magic. Clarity has a chance to surface when distance is allowed in. Constantly working on the pain and the situation at hand can cause more pain and less clarity. Step back, breathe, take a time out and let the dust settle a bit.

“In the space between chaos and shape there was another chance.” Jeanette Winterson, The World and Other Places: Stories

Know when to let go. As painful as it has been for my daughter to admit, she had to get to a place in her heart where she realized it was more painful to deny who she is right now in her own growth toward adulthood than to compromise any more of who she has already become in order to save the friendship. She had to let go of what she wanted the relationship to be in order for the relationship to become what it was meant to become all along. Sometimes we can only see what we want to see instead of what is really right in front of us. Releasing control over the pain allows us to let go and let each person be who they are right now.

“Distance sometimes lets you know who is worth keeping, and who is worth letting go.”Lana Del Rey

Find gratitude. What was my daughter most grateful for in having this person as her friend in the first place? When she was able to truly list from her heart all the reasons she liked having this person in her life she was able to settle down the pain. People change; life changes us on the inside and the outside. Her friend’s life story isn’t pretty and unless you have walked in her shoes you cannot know the scars she wears and how deep they cut. Those scars have a chance to become tattoos of pride when her friend is ready to stop being a victim to the pain and the past. When my daughter came to understand her own gratitude toward the friendship the friendship had a chance at a new life and a new breath.

“Once you start recognizing the truth of your story, finish the story. It happened but you’re still here, you’re still capable, powerful, you’re not your circumstance. It happened and you made it through. You’re still fully equipped with every single tool you need to fulfill your purpose.”Steve Maraboli

In the end, the two friends are trying to re-invent their relationship and from my humble perspective it looks to be a beautiful tattoo rather than an ugly scar.

Call to Action

What lessons are you learning, experiencing, creating, in your life moments that will become a permanent part of who you are?

Will those lessons be a tattoo or a scar?

The Relevancy of Being Irrelevant

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Like leaves that thrive, explode with glory and wait patiently for its purpose again so is our relevancy throughout our lives; growing, glowing, transforming year after year.

I have a job; I feel relevant. I don’t have a job; I feel irrelevant. My children are healthy and making good choices; I feel relevant and significant in their lives as a good role model. My children are making poor choices again and again, exercising their free will; I feel irrelevant and insignificant asking myself where did I go wrong…and so it goes. Up and down like a rollercoaster, constantly. I think it’s called LIFE.

The dictionary defines the word irrelevant as unrelated to the matter being discussed or considered; not important; not applicable or pertinent; having no meaning or connection with the subject or issue.

Just reading those words makes me feel frumpy and broken and I don’t want to live in these words but sometimes I just feel impertinent and unimportant and like I’m not connected to anything or anyone.

Let’s turn it around.

What does it mean to be relevant? The dictionary defines the word relevant as the state of being closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand; meaningful or purposeful in current society or culture; a connection to the matter being discussed; having practical value or applicability.

I don’t think anyone who lives past age 2 can escape feeling irrelevant at one time or another. However, there is relevance to feeling irrelevant. In a nutshell irrelevancy has the power to allow space for pondering, changing, adaptability and transformation.

I am a mom. I was relevant to my children until they hit 2 years old and they discovered their autonomy by powerfully exercising their use of the word “no”. Oh what fun times we had as a family when the kids would say no to something. It is said in those lovely guide books about raising children that what you see from them at 2 or 3 or 9 years old will manifest itself again in more dangerous and powerful ways when they turn 12, 13 or 19 years old. I am here to attest to the fact that yup, all true.

I became irrelevant in a more powerful way when the kids became teenagers. They no longer needed or wanted to hear from me about anything. They knew everything and if they didn’t they would figure it out on their own. I went through a time of deep despair and depression when every word out of my mouth was ignored, seemed meaningless, disconnected from their perceived reality, not applicable to their situation because “things were different since I was a teenager”. You get the picture?

It’s a tough reality to wrap my head around when, whether with purposeful intent or random circumstance I find myself having to deal with transformation or change of any kind, in this case my children growing up, and asking the ultimate question, “what now”?

Transformation happens when we graduate from college or get married or become parents or change careers or retire. Sometimes transformations are wanted and happily accepted but most transformations take place by being forced on us or we are coerced into the changes that are taking place. At times transformations just happen. By natural design we are creatures of habit and we do not like when things change. Even if we are unhappy with the things we are doing we at least know how to manage our emotions within the unhappiness and tasks rather than throw it all out the window by choice and embrace the attitude of “Yippee !! Come what may”.

I started trying to turn my own mindset around when I got a job outside of the house and could no longer cater to the children’s needs, emotions and quirks full time. In my job I became relevant to the needs of the company and to the needs of strangers. I started to value my ability to learn, my ability to form relationships and to communicate and my ability to own my piece of the tasks at hand. When I started to apply my work mindset toward parenting, my children started to change too. (Shhh — Without their knowledge or permission).

In pondering the life moments when I feel my own irrelevancy, I take the down time to realize the many ways I strive to feel relevant and this list might help you too….

I stay true to who I am deep inside. I believed for so long that if someone would just teach me what they want me to know in order to do the job or task they need done then I could rise to their need and get it done. After all, I had years and years of experience doing just that as a parent. I stayed authentic to who I believed myself to be. If you are struggling with doubt about your own authenticity call me. Let’s get you coached around that because it is the key that unlocks many doors.

“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”  ― May Sarton

I give. I give my time, my talents, my heart to whatever it is I am doing whether it be volunteering, baking, cooking, gardening, writing, conversing, listening, praying, playing, taking pictures or learning something new. I am “all in” everything I do. I achieve a sense of mastery for each time I practice giving. I become a master at kindness, compassion, empathy, relevance and become more and more authentic in the process.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”  ― Charles Dickens

I am action oriented. I absolutely hate sitting still for too long. I feel most productive and relevant if I am physically moving around getting things done or mentally stimulated when learning something new. Being an action oriented person also means facing fears I keep deep inside. My goal is to practice facing my fears and get to the end of my day with a list in my heart of all the things I gratefully accomplished and to feel exhaustively satisfied enough to sleep well.

“The best thing you can do is just do it, just face the fear and get it over with. How do you get the courage? You create your courage by just taking action…”  ― James A. Murphy, The Waves of Life Quotes and Daily Meditations

I consider my antonyms. It is a natural human defense trait that thoughts will first drift toward negativity before we seek to purposefully rein them in and kick negativity to the curb. Coaching has taught me a tremendous amount about my own inner power of turning things around in my own head. In this case, when I start feeling irrelevant I consider the opposite of my negative thoughts. I think about all the ways in which I am significant, relevant, necessary, valuable, useful, needed and worthwhile. On the chance that I still find irrelevancy within these words I think about and put into action all the ways in which I want to be all of these antonyms and where I can start.

“We each carry with us unique gifts, recognized and unrecognized. We long to harness those gifts in a way that gives life significance and helps us to matter more in the lives of others.”  ― Tom Hayes

I try to keep a child’s mindset or in other words I try to keep a simple sense of curiosity at the forefront of everything I do. Whether I am learning something new to be able to get a task done at work or asking questions to my clients to help open doors on their life’s journey or to my children to help them think about something more deeply, I am always curious on a child’s level as to the how or why that is at the heart of what is happening.

“If we are to use the words ‘childish’ and ‘infantile’ as terms of disapproval, we must make sure that they refer only to those characteristics of childhood which we become better and happier by outgrowing. Who in his sense would not keep, if he could, that tireless curiosity, that intensity of imagination, that facility of suspending disbelief that unspoiled appetite, that readiness to wonder, to pity, and to admire?”  ― C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism

As my children get older I have to face the reality that I too am getting older and I think about what will my relevance be once my children are on their own and no longer living in my home? For one thing I am taking back my own life and constantly seeking to create me. It matters to me that even though I no longer need to be physically relevant to teach my children I can be spiritually relevant as an example of how life goes on for me when they are not around.

No matter what stage of life I am in I am always, in one way or another, in transformation mode. I choose the word transformation over the word change because change can be such an ugly word and puts up red flags in my gut. I prefer transformation because that is a more accurate word to describe the big and small ways in which life re-creates, re-invents and re-generates itself constantly. The objective to winning in transformation is to go with the flow. A great example of this is my grandmother. By God’s grace she will be turning 100 years old this August. The normal thoughts when you hear about someone turning an unbelievable age like 100 is what keeps them going and feeling the pull to live?

We don’t live near each other and so we can’t physically see each other on a regular basis but I know through conversations with her or my mom that she never sits still. She still lives on her own, not in a nursing facility, she still drives a car, she still flies on airplanes to visit family at least 3 times a year, she still cooks and bakes, she still meets with friends on a weekly basis, and she still does her own grocery shopping. Three characteristics that keep her relevant is her optimistic attitude toward life, her faith and her curiosity toward life and transformation. She is about to downsize her living and will be moving to a new area, making new friends and forming new life habits. She is not afraid and knows exactly what she wants and how she wants to live in her new space. She is a shining example of relevance in my humble opinion.

If you are going through life moments where you find yourself questioning your relevance please consider that in each phase of transformation we become a clean page in the story of our own lives and have the incredible opportunity to start a new chapter and choose what goes onto our new pages. I hope these “call to action” questions will help you. Let’s open up a dialog about helping each other feel more relevant in every stage of life.

Call to Action

Where in your life right this moment do you feel irrelevant?

In what ways are you believing you are irrelevant?

What makes you feel relevant?

How can you approach your next transformation with a child’s curiosity?

What can you do with the life skills you have learned so far to help someone else and thereby inject relevance into your life and the life of someone else?

What are some new activities, skills or wisdom you would like to include on the new pages of your next chapter?

5 Steps Toward Cultivating a New Life

 

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“Yellow decided to risk for a butterfly. For courage she hung right beside the other cocoon and began to spin her own. ‘Imagine, I didn’t even know I could do this. That’s some encouragement that i’mon the right track. If I have the stuff inside me to make cocoons—maybe the stuff of butterflies is there too.” Trina Paulus, Hope for the Flowers

On a very rare and random quiet afternoon I was browsing the internet for odd stories. There are plenty of them out there but some just seem too ridiculous to pay any attention to. What did catch my attention was a list that supported my hope for the arrival of spring. I came across a list of flower names and what they mean.  Here is the gist of the list:

Gardenia – Grace

Iris – Faith

Lilac – Youth

Lily – New Life

Poppy – Imagination

Lotus – Purity

Sunflower – Happiness

Violet – Humble

Orchid – Beautiful strength

Rose – Love

I was particularly interested in Lily because Lily of the Valley is the flower for May and my birthday is in May; the day that I was granted access and honor to live out an undetermined amount of life minutes and to leave my soul print on this gracious life of mine.

“And then Jonah heard God’s voice. “Jonah, do you know what the difference is between you and the trees?” He was confident it was God because God usually asked questions but gave no answers. Jonah didn’t need a divine answer to this question, he knew it. “Yes,” he said. “The difference between me and the trees is that the trees let go of their leaves. I keep holding onto mine. The trees make room for new life. I don’t.” David W. Jones, Going Nuts!

I have been on a journey of the personal and spiritual kind and have come to realize that at the same time as I am learning and growing I have not been making room for new leaves to grow; hiding behind a past that I hold tight to like a scared rider on a rollercoaster. I have been holding on to the totality of all that has happened in my life to make me who I have become so far that I was choking the essence of my life away, until now. I have recognized a deep need to make changes and knew that this need I have been feeling was going to lead to me starting a new life. I had to find my big, deep breath and begin; something.

How shocked I felt to learn that Lily means new life. Making up my mind to change has breathed new life into me. When I started this year I was determined to live my life backwards. I was determined to understand all the nuances of living outside of my comfort zone and doing all the things I thought I was afraid of doing. I was determined to live in the unknown and to try to understand the depths of “living in faith, not by sight.” I was determined to walk through every door presented to me that would normally be a door I would never even consider touching the handle of.

“Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure. Life is like that. We don’t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don’t know.” Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

What I like about the unknown of a good or bad situation is that yes it may be bad on the surface but good can come out of it and it may be good on the surface but it can lead to better if we keep riding the wave of goodness. What I have learned so far is that patience and time need to make their stand in these situations and we need to allow for that.

A few posts ago I talked about my journey into volunteering and how my life unfolded to reveal the most uncomfortable opportunity for me up to that point. This opportunity stands as the example so far, of what possibilities exist in a new life; of what happened to me because I didn’t know I could do anything like this; because the encouragement that has come from this backward opportunity has opened the doors of wanting more opportunities. Everything I do now is touched with the vision and heart of knowing that because other people matter I then matter too. The opening quote so eloquently says, “If I have the stuff inside me to make cocoons”, or in my case, to make a difference, “maybe the stuff of butterflies is there too”, or for me the stuff of loving kindness. Who knew?

A couple of months into my volunteering a paying job opportunity came along. It was a very long time coming and it was the most odd, most crazy, most out of my comfort zone job I could have ever imagined for me to do. I took it, no questions asked. It has added to my feeling of a new life in the way I learn this job, in the way I interact with new people, and most of all in the way I see the value of work itself. I feel like a flower blossoming. I feel like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. I feel like all I want to do is pay forward the life lessons that my new life minutes are teaching me. And so I write to you to share some thoughts…..

So how can we each help ourselves create a new life attitude:

Take a deep breath: It takes an incredible amount of courage to make any kind of change but the change can’t happen unless you get started. One big, audacious, enormous, cleansing deep breath and then say to yourself, “It has begun.” Then, go, be, do.

Buy new shoes: For my new job I needed new clothes but I didn’t want to spend the money on new clothes. I just wanted to enjoy the feeling of having money for a little while. Truthfully, I wanted to enjoy the feeling of freedom I was experiencing by having the money. I wanted to honor the promise I made to myself that once I had a job I would put financial support for others at the top of my to do list. It has been so fun having the freedom to choose who and how I support causes and charities that are so meaningful to me. However, new shoes help to make old clothes feel and look new again. When you feel good about the inside of you, you want it to show on the outside and vice versa.

Let time be your friend not a four letter word: What do you want to change, what challenge do you want to meet, what has your life become up until this moment and what do you want it to become from this moment forward? Meeting new people, starting a new job, eating new foods, learning a new language, whatever is “new” for you in helping to create a new life, allow time to work its magic. Just keep working your life minutes to their fullest each day and before you know it a week, a month or even a year will have gone by and you will look back and see just how absorbed you have been in the flow of living in your new life.

Don’t be afraid: Actually, it is perfectly okay to be afraid but don’t let that fear stop you. Feeling the fear is how you know you are on the right track toward a new perspective, a new life. Keep going and believe in your new life and keep showing yourself how your new life or new attitude or new perspective can change the outcome of a once stressful or undesirable situation. With each breakthrough away from a predictable fear and predictable response to the fear you will gain inner strength and empower your heart and soul to keep exploring and living your new life. You just might attract people to your more hopeful, positive new life and gain supporters or a new love or just lots of great friends. You might just realize for the first time that you are a great friend to yourself.

Stay unpredictable: Let life take you for a ride. Don’t try to control every aspect of every day. Life is not something that can be controlled if you are ever going to actually live it to its fullest. Unpredictable things happen in life, good and bad, so stay open and even more unpredictable in the face of what gets handed to you. You just might be pleasantly surprised at how brave and curious you really are.

A New Life Begins Even When One Ends

Last week a dear friend of mine lost her young son to a senseless car accident. My heart broke into pieces for her loss and pain but she was courageous and brave and most of all she was not afraid of this new life that she now had no choice but to face and so I was not afraid. I was not afraid to hug her, I was not afraid to honor her son, I was not afraid to face all the personal feelings that this particular tragedy stirred up inside of me, I was not afraid to think about my own death in the someday and get specific on how I want to be remembered and suddenly my new life outlook took on even more meaning. This horrible tragedy injected my new life with even more determination and purpose and empowerment.

A new life has begun for my friend. She has to go on living and becoming and growing her heart and soul without her son. Her new life could be magical and wonderful while her heart has become a stained glass window of broken pieces capturing the fractured sunlight of her life minutes. Her story will be spectacular and dramatic and a must read, but not yet.

And isn’t that the point; the existence of the “not yet”? It takes patience and tolerance, curiosity and perseverance, hope and faith and gratitude. It takes a whole lot of courage and love to move through who you were to who you want to be or at times need to be. Every little thing you do or don’t do makes a mark on your soul and on the story of your life. Some people make bad choices when challenges are put in front of them and the story ends. Some people get to the next page of their story and face the challenge of continuing on or start a new chapter. If you continue on make it count. Learn from everything that comes on your path. If you start a new chapter then be new in it. I’m all in and it’s been beautiful.

“Sometimes life takes unexpected turns. Sometimes we hide the very core of our existence because we fear the judgment of others. Sometimes the universe shifts and we are provided with a brief moment to begin anew. These moments allow us to become fearless and let our perfectly created souls shine.” Cori Garrison, New Beginnings

With all my heart I say to you, shine on…..

Call to Action

What does a new life or new beginning look like for you?

Where do you want to start your new life? In the current chapter or a new chapter of your story?

What is holding you back from entering your new life?

How can I help you today?

 

In memory of Alex Grasso. A son, a soldier, a brother, a grandson, a nephew, a cousin, a friend. You were a success in every role you played. Rest in peace in your new life……

The Busyness of Boredom

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“Boredom is the inner conflict we suffer when we lose desire, when we lack a lacking.” –Robert McKee

It wasn’t for a lack of desire that I found myself bored at work. I mean who can ever say that they are bored at work with truly no work to do and mean it? I can but I also understand the temptation that some people might fall prey to where they do have actual work to do but they are not motivated to get it done so they feel bored.

In my case I had actually finished the project I was hired to do and there was no other work for me to do even when I asked if I could be of help to anyone in the office. I had no choice but to wait out the next phase of work to begin. I felt quite guilty getting paid to just show up so I told one of my supervisors I wouldn’t be in one day so that they weren’t wasting their money on me not producing an end result. Who does that?

It was quite an interesting scene for me to not only feel bored but to use the resources that were in limited supply around me and fill my time. I finished reading a book, I caught up on correspondence, and I made some phone calls and doctor appointments. This article is a result of the research I did while I was bored at work. The take away for me is that boredom is a choice and when presented with a list of options on how to fill your open space of time in most cases we will usually choose to do as little as possible. I’m no different really but for the most part I think I am strange in that I hate down time unless I’m sleeping and even then I usually wake up the next day feeling very tired because I must have been working hard in my dream state. I can sit still and I can sit for hours at a time but I don’t like it very much so having a host of things to do is always a thrill for me. So as a result of my boredom I created a list of ways on how not to be bored within the down time I suddenly found. See if you can find yourself in just one of the items on the list. Please let me know if you have any options to add to the list. Okay, here we go:

Create avenues of interest: Conversation cues or prompts are one avenue of interest for me. I was on vacation with my daughter one summer and I found a conversation starter kit called a Chatbox. In the box are rectangle cards that ask questions to prompt conversation. I used the box recently when I got hired as a way to try to meet people from all around the office. Where I work is a big facility but most people have to pass my area to get to the kitchen so I set out some candy in a dish and put the cards next to the candy in the hopes that someone would be intrigued to read the questions and make conversation. Not many takers but there were some. Most people are very shy and closed to meeting new people so I’m not surprised but the candy worked out really well in terms of a quick hello or thank you but again not much in the way of conversation and introductions. Just so you know, I keep trying and in case you are curious Peanut M&M’s , Mini Snickers bars and Tootsie Rolls are the popular candy grab among adults indulging in their little kid candy cravings and chocolate fix. It’s the smiles that really do it for me.

“Even the most routine tasks become more rewarding if we approach them with the care it would take to make a work of art.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Stay in touch: Taking an interest in someone else’s day or life moments means a whole lot to that person. Though I was on company time the company had no work for me so I used the technology available to me and got in touch with clients, family members and friends. Getting out of my own head and situation helped to pass the time. I learned things about each person that I may have missed out on if I were too busy to connect with them. I found that I was listening deeper because I wanted to bury myself in their thoughts and words and feelings.

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh!” he whispered. “Yes, Piglet?” “Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.” ~A.A. Milne

Learn Something: In my case, write something. I learn something new every time I write for my clients and the coaching community. Keeping my mind active is very important to me so I write and read a lot. I play word games and I doodle all the time. If you find a moment in your day where you just need to fill a transition spot of time why not learn a quick fact that you can share with someone right away. You never know where that fact will lead you or if it will benefit someone else.

“It is not that I am so smart. I just stay with the questions much longer.” Albert Einstein

Make Plans: Having something to look forward to is a great boredom buster. Add to or create a bucket list. Your list could be a lifelong list or a weekly list or daily list. What would you choose to do or accomplish today when you thought, “Oh, if I only had the time.” This might be a good time to schedule doctor appointments or schedule that much needed massage you’ve been putting off.

“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” Bill Watterson

Problem Solve: Do you want to learn how to make big changes in your life? Take this downtime to get to know yourself better and create solutions to those life challenges that are getting in your way of moving forward in other areas of your life.

“Like most astronauts, I’m pretty sure I can deal with what life throws at me because I’ve thought about what to do if things go wrong, as well as right. That’s the power of negative thinking.” Chris Hadfield

Go Within: Listen to music, meditate, pray. Get deep inside of you and let the person you are too busy to get to know, come out. Ask for spiritual guidance, put hard to answer questions out to the universe and be patient for the answer back. An answer always comes around. What is your truth and how are you honoring it? What makes you happy and how are you choosing it?

“There is a difference between the facts of a person and the truth of him.” Alix Ohlin

Play mental games: While trying to appreciate the slow time I was experiencing I tried to practice and possibly enhance my listening skills. I listened to voice patterns in conversations going on around me and I listened to office noises and tried to identify them. I listened to my own inner thoughts and wondered how best to use them. In some instances I was able to go deeper into the project I was assigned to work on and I was able to expand on the job requirement and learn the software more thoroughly.

“The ancestor of every action is a thought .” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Volunteer: Ask people around you if they need help with a project. Join committees or short term project groups that would benefit from your expertise and willingness to help. Perhaps volunteering outside of what you do all day will enhance what you do in your job.

“Wherever you turn, you can find someone who needs you. Even if it is a little thing, do something for which there is no pay but the privilege of doing it. Remember, you don’t live in a world all of your own.” –Albert Schweitzer

Boredom has roots in the feeling of being too comfortable in life. According to authors Robert Biswas Diener and Todd Kashdan, Ph.D, and their book “The Upside of Your Dark Side”, “We feel bored when the current situation is monotonous, low intensity, and rather meaningless. As we become more comfortable in our lives, researchers observed a drop in our psychological health.” In this case the authors mention the invention of memory foam mattresses. “While people were getting better sleep, enjoying more convenience and expecting greater happiness, they were also adjusting to a life without too many trials or hardships.” I think of it in comparison to Purell. We are so anti germs that we are denying our bodies the chance to build immunities to the germs and so our bodies get weaker making us more susceptible to illnesses. Our psyche is ill prepared to handle many kind of hardship these days that our ancestors had to face that they would probably look at us and say, “Are you kidding me, you are upset about that?”

Our growing discomfort with boredom for instance, among other things like uncertainty, doubt and negative emotions lead us to escape and not face these uncomfortable states of being, by, for example, watching a lot of television. T.V. takes us away from our cares and our daily lives. We are not training ourselves to deal with the adversity of something simple like boredom. The authors agree on this point, “Both change and predictability are necessary for a good life.”

The authors ask this question: “So how can boredom be beneficial?” Their answer? “In Hindu and Buddhist traditions, boredom is described as a precursor to insight and discovery.”

I have to agree with this thought because sometimes being bored allows for my creativity to sky rocket. In some instances when I feel bored it’s because I’m procrastinating about doing something specific or I’m day dreaming about a life I wish I was living however there are a lot of times when feeling bored has led me to try something new or be more spontaneous in my life or get a project done that has been waiting for the availability of time. When there was no work to do at my job I felt torn between trying to be resourceful and find work to do while knowing all the work I could be doing if I were home and running the business of my family. Guilt is very powerful but is it also a great motivator.

Here are the authors:

“…..something special happens during periods of boredom. When the brain is left to wander, at best it’s a springboard to creativity and growth, and at worst it encounters a brief period of discomfort. Boredom can also be a state of low energy, signaling that work is complete and acceptable. That is, nothing is left to do so a person feels aimless, but this lack of direction is association with the satisfactory completion of tasks. Last, boredom can have motivational impact, pushing a person toward novelty, providing the mental gun to the head that helps people shift out of complacency into the uncertain, challenging zone where safety and success are not guaranteed.”

As with most experiences whether it is external such as having fun all the time or internal such as the foods we eat to nourish our bodies, everything in moderation. Too much boredom and too much novelty can cause anxiety.

I remember plenty of times as a child telling my mom how bored I was. Her answer was to go outside. Without doubt I always found something to do. In fact using my boredom and just letting the day unfold outside was where I discovered my love of archaeology. If the day didn’t allow for playing and exploring outside then my friends and I would clean my mom’s basement where all my toys and games were solely for the reward of a trip to the ice cream parlor for a job well done. Sneaky witches.

As a mom I fell into the trap of trying to keep my kids busy as they were growing up. Sure, there were times of boredom but not many. I wanted to feed their interests with matching activities or help them maybe discover interests they didn’t know they had. It wasn’t long at all before I noticed the health benefits of letting them NOT be so scheduled and busy. My daughter didn’t get as sick and the boys truly got pleasure in sitting around and just playing with Legos or their Matchbox cars. I have noticed however that my daughter, now a college student, finds it hard to say no to any new experience or interest feeding event. Even when she knows her body could use the rest she makes plans to go and do and be. Could it be the high activity level of her early growing up years or could it be that this is just who she is? I’m so grateful for the times I was able to not have anything scheduled.

There is something so magical about just hanging out at home with no purpose other than to do “whatever.” For example, when my kids were “bored” and they couldn’t go outside one day during the winter months we dressed in our summer clothes, decorated the house as if it were summer time and pretended we were at the beach and we had a picnic in the living room. When they were not tired yet and couldn’t fall asleep we pretended my bed was a boat and we went sailing around the world. Another time we made one whole day all about movies. It’s okay to be bored from time to time. It is the time that helps create the busyness of boredom.

“A good dose of fantasy is exercise for your sensibilities; it keeps your avatar strong.”Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway: Quotes, Verse, & Grumblings for Every Day of the Year

Call to Action

Whatever down time looks like to you, and whatever novelty you can come up with to beat back the feeling of aimlessness and boredom why not grab hold of those life moments when they show up and just be in it?

What does boredom open up for you?

When does boredom show up?

How do you make the most of boredom?

Jumping to Conclusions: 7 Steps toward Jumping in the Right Direction (part 3)

 

 

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“Inner guidance is heard like soft music in the night by those who have learned to listen.”
Vernon Howard

What is one habit we all have but rarely think of it as a habit?

It is the subject of the third personal agreement spoken about in the book, The 4 Agreements by author Don Miguel Ruiz.

Answer: Making assumptions.

Assumptions, what a funny word. What does it mean to assume other than the fact that it truly does make an ass of you and me when we do it?

Think of a time when you needed to hear back from someone and it took a long time to receive that call or note or email. Don’t lie, you jumped to an assumption or conclusion that the person you needed to hear from was blowing you off or not making your request important or just too busy for you. Were you right? In most cases there really is a good reason for not hearing back from someone you typically trust to be diligent with correspondence but as a species we tend to self-protect and so we assume the worst without evidence. Once we start down the road of thinking the worst of people it becomes a habit we can’t easily break.

Now think about a time when you needed to solve a problem or get through a difficult situation. If you are like me then you ask yourself, “What is the worst that could happen here?” and try to prepare for that awful conclusion or work backwards toward a more pleasant outcome.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you are a negative person although to jump to that question first can make you feel negative. There is actually evidence now that shows that using this question when trying to solve a difficult problem is actually healthy and helpful. In their book, The Upside of Your Dark Side, authors Robert Biswas-Diener and Todd Kashdan, Ph.D. write:

“We believe—and new research supports—the idea that every emotion is useful. Even the ones we think of as negative, including the painful ones. We don’t suggest an extra helping of happiness or a dash of negativity; we suggest both. It is by appropriately flipping back and forth between these two states that you can achieve a balanced, stabilizing sense of wholeness. Simply put, people who are able to use the whole range of their natural psychological gifts—those folks who are comfortable with being both positive and negative, and can therefore draw from the full range of human emotions—are the healthiest and, often, the most successful.”

Even on the subject of happiness itself these authors have a lot to say when it comes to predicting or assuming what will make us happy or leave us feeling happy after an event or purchase:

“To put it succinctly, we humans are horrible at guessing how happy we will feel in the future, and yet we base important life decisions on these flawed predictions (assumptions). We purchase TVs, plan retirement, and say yes to dinner dates all because of an imperfect guess about how happy they will make us.”

In other words even if it can be proven that making assumptions could work in our favor it is fundamentally not to our advantage, yet we are practically raised to make it a part of who we are and how we function in the world.

The dictionary defines the word assume to mean:

  • To think something is true or probably true without knowing that it is true
  • To begin as a job or responsibility
  • To take or begin to have power or control in a job or situation. Someone assuming the role of a leader or care taker, etc.

It is this first definition that we all have as a habit. The question then becomes why do we assume anything without first knowing or understanding the facts? When do we stop fact finding and decide that what we know is enough to believe  we now know is truth?

The simple answer comes from the author himself of this third personal agreement that we all need to make within ourselves.

“Even if we hear something and we don’t understand we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions.” Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

Courage. That really sticks in my gut. I never really paid too much attention to how much courage it takes to ask questions, to be vulnerable with courage in order to get clarity on something. When I think about it specifically now I can relate it to my children and their performance in school throughout the years. There seems to be an aspect of pride involved with asking questions and assuming to know something without facts or truth.

I asked my son, “What stops you from having the courage to ask questions when you don’t understand something?” His answer, “Sometimes it is not that I don’t want to ask a question, I just either might not want to know the answer or don’t want to hear what someone has to say or I might just want to figure it out for myself.” In any of these answers courage and pride seem to be at its heart.

Why is there such a stigma to asking questions?

In his book, A More Beautiful Question, author, journalist and innovation expert Warren Berger finds that “even though children start out asking hundreds of questions a day, questioning falls off a cliff as kids enter formal school. In an education and business culture devised to reward rote answers over challenging inquiry, questioning isn’t encouraged and is in fact sometimes barely tolerated.”

Mr. Berger talks at length about how teachers are discouraged from promoting questions because the curriculum each teacher has to teach does not allow for free questioning and time to explore the minds of the curious child. Teaching to the test is all there is time for. In an environment like that, Mr. Berger says that children learn very quickly that if a “right” question is not asked and a “right” answer not given then it is best to just sit and listen and not get too involved in the education.

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” Isaac Asimov

Author Warren Berger says,

“The Nobel laureate scientist Isidor Isaac Rabi came from a home where at least one parent encouraged the children to ask questions.” ”’ While other mothers asked their kids ‘did you learn anything today?’ my mother would say, ‘Izzy, did you ask a good question today?’”

Scientist Hal Gregersen thinks parents can help their kids be more inquisitive by posing what if questions that help invite children to think deeply about the world around them.” Encourage kids to solve problems in a hands-on way through household tasks and chores. Most students have to do some work to resuscitate their childlike curiosity. The best way to do that is to start asking questions again, lots of them.”

In his book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz writes:

“We have millions of questions that need answers because there are so many things that the reasoning mind cannot explain. It is not important if the answer is correct; just the answer itself makes us feel safe. This is why we make assumptions. These assumptions are made so fast and unconsciously most of the time because we have agreements within ourselves to communicate this way.”

So if questioning falls of a cliff at a time of life when it should be greatly and primarily encouraged as a natural human virtue and right, and if our society has accepted that we are raised to be rote, mechanical bodies that are supposed to just do as we are told, no questions asked then how can we ever break the cycle of a bad habit like assumption?

“Ask a question” says Don Miguel Ruiz. “Make sure your communication is clear. When you don’t understand something, ask a question, don’t assume an answer or a rejection of your question.”

In other words take action and create the habit of asking questions in every situation about everything.

“As far as you can, get into the habit of asking yourself in relation to any action taken by another: “What is his point of reference here?” But begin with yourself: examine yourself first.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

To break this down even further author, speaker Byron Katie asks us:

“Can you absolutely know that what you are believing is true?” For me the answer is no most of the time. Once I get to a no then pride steps aside and I have no choice but to keep questioning and seeking more truth.

Here are some other ideas to help break the habit of assuming:

Increase curiosity: Every situation that comes along in our lives has 2 sides to it. To increase inquisitiveness and curiosity ask the opposite question of the situation you are facing. We automatically go to what our habits have become. If you always think the worst of a situation then train your mind to start thinking the best of a situation and as crazy as it sounds, vice versa. Training your mind to see all sides increases curiosity and expands the brain waves of problem solving.

Stop the gossip: Most people gossip in the negative. They talk trash about other people in order to be the one “in the know” and get the spotlight. It is not a good spotlight to have shine on you if you are building a reputation of being someone that gossips. Talking about other people when the person is not around is just bad form. When a group is gathering for a meeting and there is that free time before everything gets underway don’t fall prey to the gossiping. Try to steer the conversation away from gossip by talking about something neutral like a new song or TV show or asking the opinion of the people gathered around you about a book you read or a trip you are hoping to take.

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes: This is empathy. What would you want someone to do for you if they saw you were in trouble or sad or lost? Our moods can change as quick as a wink. Knowing that, we also know that we are not in the presence of one particular person 24/7 and that alone means that we don’t have all the facts. Don’t assume you know what the issue is. Be available to just listen if that person chooses to share with you or just offer your support whenever that person is able to talk more about the issue.

Get Pro-Active: Don’t continue to dwell on all the reasons why you think someone is in a bad mood or having a hard day. Offer to help by listening, brainstorming ways to solve the problem toward a more positive outcome, or being a trusted friend. If you are the one assuming something about your own situation then journaling about it might help. Getting all the feelings out on paper instead of out at a particular person will lessen the intensity of the initial feelings. Lesser hostility leads to greater resolution. Another idea is to distract yourself away from the assumption by listening to your favorite music, exercising, cooking or reading a favorite book.

Be clear: We very often assume that certain key people in our lives should just know what we mean or what we are saying without us having to go into too much detail. STOP. Most people have the attention span and listening capability of a 4th grader. Be clear, speak at a normal tone of voice and not too fast, be specific about your needs or wants or directions, remember that your thoughts and ideas are not the only thoughts and ideas that are swirling around at that moment, allow room for participation in problem solving and approach the situation the way you would want someone to approach it with you.

Be the tourist: When my son was living in Florida I used to encourage him to be the tourist. Look at your everyday as if you are new to the area or to the situation you are in. What would a tourist do? How would a tourist solve this problem? Tourists have a ton of positive juices flowing through them because they see things through new eyes. Their open-minded point of view allows for so many possibilities to open up.

Don’t jump to conclusions: Conclusions without support of truth is another way of assuming. If someone you work with or a friend has a sour look on his/her face, don’t jump to the conclusion that it is because of something you did or work related. Step back, be kind, use compassion and ask that person what is wrong. Even if you know for sure what the problem could be you don’t know for sure all the aspects of why something is wrong.

“You have to start with the truth. The truth is the only way that we can get anywhere. Because any decision-making that is based upon lies or ignorance can’t lead to a good conclusion.” Julian Assange

Call to Action

Where can you start breaking the habit of assuming?

In what ways can you make an internal agreement with yourself to always seek curiosity?

How can you encourage others around you to embrace and welcome curiosity?

The ABC’s of R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

 

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Here is a little riddle for you compliments of www.lifehack.org:

“You can only have it once you have given it.

One of the most misunderstood concepts out there, respect is asked for yet seldom given. Some even try to take it by force or buy it, but if you are unable to show others respect and treat them as equals you will never be able to truly earn their respect. People respect bravery, intelligence, skill, talent, compassion and physical and mental strength, and these things cannot be faked.”

Lately the question of respect has morphed into, how can someone honestly, truly respect you if you don’t respect yourself? I believe respect should at most start within each of us….

You would think that after raising 3 children I would be the veteran of momhood. You would think that after all I have endured in learning my children at every age and stage of their lives so far I would have nothing left to learn except how to co-exist. You would think that when they hit the magic government age of 18 that says, “Hey, welcome to adulthood, but not really”, that I would be able to transition with them from apron strings and purse strings to I’ll-take-care-of-it-mom strings and no more routine bedtime strings.

Yup. You would think all of these things because after all, I’ve been with them since the moment they were conceived. Alas, not even close. I’m learning, what I think is the biggest lesson of my whole life, other than not to be afraid of death, and that is the word and meaning of respect in all its Technicolor dreaminess.

Okay, so here is this posts vocabulary lesson. The dictionary defines the word respect as meaning

1-      an act of giving particular attention or consideration

2-      high or special regard or esteem

3-      the quality or state of being esteemed.

In the case of our first definition I think I did an admirable job of showing respect to my children and their needs such as food, attention, time, education outside of school and moral support whether asked for or not. Just to name a few.

In definition number 2 when the kids did something that went above and beyond their basic level of earned respect, and by that I mean getting homework done well and on time, helping with chores, not arguing when an extended family visit was in order, I made sure they understood why I was calling attention to my “extra” respect. I’m a huge fan of answering those “why” questions.

In definition number 3 I always tried to find reasons to celebrate them. I never enjoyed keeping to the “traditions only” rules of celebrations. For example I always enjoyed celebrating their ½ birthdays. I would serve them dinner on half a plate, I would buy a silly, non-essential gift and not wrap it or give them the first ½ of a gift and then the rest on their actual birthday, I would give them ½ a glass of a beverage, I would even supply half a cake without anything written on it and sing very badly a half version of the birthday song. They thought it was cool and funny but I really just wanted them to know how aware I was of them and their lives.

Now, a mom would think that after a lifetime of showing them how to be respectful, what respect looks like and sounds like and feels like, that they would automatically have it in them by 18 years old to have respect as part of their DNA.

Yes and no.

What I am learning very painfully is that I did so much respecting of them that I never stopped to fully show them how to respect themselves or me. On some basic level I did teach them self-respect like bathing, teeth brushing, care of clothing, and the importance of a thank you whether in note form or verbal but it wasn’t enough. I did teach them to stand up for themselves but it seems not very well.

We all have demons living inside of us that talk trash to us about how we are not good enough, not pretty enough, not worthy enough, not talented enough. Some of us are able to outgrow those little annoying negative voices and some of us are slaves to those voices.

So, here I am dealing with all that I hid from myself and unknowingly did not deal with when it came to my children about how to first and foremost respect myself from the inside out. The most powerful lesson is that even when your children grow up there will always be ways to parent them. The job changes and evolves but the investment never ends. Words, actions, emotions live on long after our bodies do. I’ve learned an important lesson when it comes to integrity of self and of others.

My youngest is going through a very lost, very confusing time in his life and his inner demons are being played out in glorious fashion. His very low self-respect is causing our whole family to want to hide away from all of his negativity but we can’t and more importantly we won’t, regardless of how we feel. His low self-respect shows up in ways such as guilt, blame, lying, secrets, volatile emotions and stress. His body is not responding well to all of his low self-respect and so it is becoming very dangerous for him to continue on this path and that is not healthy for him or for any of us who care and love him so much.

I am forced to see so much of my own insecurities and lack of self-respect showing up in him and I feel at times helpless to empower him and hypocritical to try. But here’s the thing, and it really matters right this moment, we are going through the same thing at the same time and I just might be able to help him and he help me. What wouldn’t a parent do to save their child?

“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.” –Mark Twain

What does self-respect look like?

If I were to draw a picture of self-respect it would look like flowers blossoming with hope and integrity in the early cool, spring air. It would look like my boys did when they were young and wanted to wear super hero costumes because that is how they saw themselves that day. It would look like girls in high school who wear real clothes when everyone else is wearing pajama pants and slippers to class. It would look like teenagers laughing out loud at something funny their parent said and they didn’t care who saw or heard them laughing.

What does self-respect feel like?

Self-respect feels like warmth. Self-respect feels like having that superhero living inside of me, All. The. Time. Self- respect feels like knowledge, wisdom, confidence and courage all wrapped into one amazing 6th sense. Self-respect feels like being small in stature on the outside but feeling 6’ tall on the inside and letting the inside out. Self-respect feels like being good enough, worthy enough and just enough.

You’ve heard me say it over and over, perspective is everything. What you concentrate on most is what your life will bring to you. If your perspective is negative about yourself then everything you see from your point of view will have undertones of negativity and hopelessness. If you change just one aspect of your point of view from negative to positive then you are creating a crack in the negative to let the happy, positive light in.

I poured all of me into being a mom and took little to no time out for self-development. In that vein I simultaneously showed my children that being an adult meant giving up on all your personal individual rights and being only for someone else. No wonder my son is having a hard time growing into his manhood/adulthood. It sounds like I’m putting an awful lot of responsibility on my shoulders for who they have become so far and not enough responsibility on theirs and maybe I am, however, I feel blessed in the fact that I can see these characteristics so clearly now and hopefully say something and do something and then back up what I say and do in my own life’s example so that he doesn’t continue to believe that he will have to lose himself completely.

So how can I build self-respect and pass on those building lessons to my children?

Understand that self-respect is a close, very close cousin to self-confidence and self-esteem. Each can stand alone if necessary but they all work better together.

Believe every day in my own authenticity. Always stay in touch with my truth and my inner child. The child that day dreams, plans, schemes and loves to show her individuality. My truth showing up in the confidence of the decisions and choices I make, even if my decisions and choices are not in line with someone else’s. Somewhere in our teens we get it our heads that we equally want to be seen for our individual selves while blending in to the social norms so we don’t look “foolish”. We can’t have it both ways. It will always be more fashionable to choose ourselves over being a clone of someone else.

“Don’t go the distance trying to fit in the crowd and be accepted by others. Accept and respect yourself first.” Elizabeth E. Castillo

I think the most important step to create respect for myself is to forgive myself. I will absolutely, without a doubt make mistakes and have things from my past that I am not proud of. Respect grows from understanding what went wrong, learning from those wrong steps and constantly improving who I am and who I want to be. Self-respect grows from acknowledging wrongs to others as well. As a child I had a hard time saying I’m sorry to anyone but being able to be so vulnerable and humble builds self-respect quicker than anything I have ever experienced. I’ve also learned that once I apologize to myself and/or to others, I need to let it go. Move forward and leave the pain and incident behind. If I keep bringing it with me I haven’t learned anything and I might as well wear a sign on me every day that says “unworthy.”

I have learned that the person I have to ask for forgiveness from the most is: myself. You must love yourself. You have to forgive yourself, every day, whenever you remember a shortcoming, a flaw, you have to tell yourself “That’s just fine”. You have to forgive yourself so much, until you don’t even see those things anymore. Because that’s what love is like.” C. JoyBell C

Know my character strengths, know myself. Character strengths are the building blocks to who I want to be and been seen as; what I believe about myself without a doubt. These strengths allow me to develop my own core standards of living and the talents I can use to actually make that life happen. These strengths allow me to handle criticism with a growth mindset instead of persecution mindset, they allow me to see beauty and excellence in all things, and they allow me to work on values that are not so strong yet because I have a growing understanding of all the possibilities that live inside of me.

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” Maya Angelou

Dress to impress……ME. Treat me as I would treat a stranger or anyone I love. If wearing nice clothes helps me feel good about me then I need to make sure I wear nice clothes. How many times did I tell my children, the boys mostly, that when you dress to learn you will learn because you feel good about your appearance. Feeling good makes you stand taller and talk more and interact more and take responsibility more. When you dress to be slouchy and comfortable you will be lazy in all things. Besides that little nugget it’s so fun to wear clothes that look nice. When you look nice you feel nice and then you act nice.

“If I waited for a proper occasion to get dressed up I’d never wear half of these clothes. Put on the clothes and you make things happen to match them. It doesn’t work the other way around.” Erin Kelly

Best foot forward. This goes beyond what I wear. This speaks to my reputation and integrity. Stay true to who I am and who I believe I am. I may falter from time to time, my ideas may not work out the way I planned but I will always try to pick myself up again each time I fall and that is what people will know for sure about me. If I lose respect for me how can anyone keep respect for me?

“Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.” George Eliot, Adam Bede

Give what I want to get. If I want to have friends, I need to be a friend. If I want people to support me then I have to be supportive of others. If I want respect then I need to show respect, always.

“If you don’t give, you don’t get.” Krishna Sagar, Summit Your Everest: Your Coach for Obstacle & Failure Management

Let bad feelings come and then promise to let them go. Don’t let bad feelings about me linger too long. It takes no time at all to fall down and stay down.

“Self-pity, while it should be accorded due respect, is the greatest of all acids to the human soul.” Paul Hoffman, The Last Four Things

Don’t become dependent on the praise from other people. Sure it’s a great feeling to get those “atta girl” accolades but with all my heart try not to depend on the approval from others. Be confident enough within me to know for sure that I did a great job even if no one took notice.

“Hold dear and true friends close to your heart, it matters not where you find them, only that you treat them with love and respect always.” L.M. Fields

I hope this list of lessons will help you on your journey through self-respect. Need some help? Write to me and I’ll be your helper.

Call to Action

“If you had to spend every second, of every day, of every year of your life with someone, would you do whatever it took to love that person? Would you be a best friend, a teacher, coach and mentor? Would you do whatever it takes to treat that person with respect? Well guess what? That someone is you! Who deserves the best more than you do? Think about it and have an outstanding day…!”James A. Murphy, The Waves of Life Quotes and Daily Meditations