Who Told you That?

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“Understand: people will constantly attack you in life. One of their main weapons will be to instill in you doubts about yourself – your worth, your abilities, your potential. They will often disguise this as their objective opinion, but invariably it has a political purpose – they want to keep you down.”

― Robert Greene, The 50th Law

When I was little my dad used to play at rough-housing with me and my siblings. There was a game he called “King of the Mountain” and the object of the game was to knock off whoever tried to get to the top of the pillow mountain first. We loved this game because first we got to play with dad, always a great time, then we got to make a huge mess of all the pillows we could find in the house and then make a humungous mountain as tall as we could possibly reach. I have to say that to 3, 4, and 5-year-old eyes this was the tallest structure ever created. We then would clear away all manner of hurtful hard objects and proceed to strategize as to just how to climb this monumental structure without getting caught and tackled to the ground. There was a hysterical amount of tickling involved in this game designed specifically to weaken our little bodies enough that we couldn’t find the strength to climb anything at all, all while trying to prevent dad from reaching the top of the mountain and declare himself King.

One could argue that this was a life lesson in how to overcome impossible obstacles that life will inevitably throw at us; how to overcome those demons that are designed and determined to keep us down physically and mentally, philosophically and psychologically whether in words or deeds and life lessons in how to get creative in problem solving all while laughing out loud. Blah, blah, blah; we just thought it was so fun to spend undivided time with dad. But wait, now I’m curious…..

What keeps you feeling down? What mountains are in front of you that need to be climbed? What motivates you to climb those mountains?

There are many important questions that come along in our lifetime. Questions that create angst, change, upheaval, awareness, peace, etc. Of all the questions that I have come across as a life coach, the one question that seems to have the most impact is the one question that attacks the essence of who my client is at any given moment. This question seems to evolve and keeps evolving as we learn and grow and become. This question has the potential of becoming habit forming; a reminder to always check my sources and resources in order to keep fear at bay and inner strength at the ready.

The questions I ask myself on a daily basis are, for the most part, always in helpful surrender to aid in making me the best possible version of who I strive to become. Who I am today is in no way who I will be later in life and although who I was yesterday may carry over into who I am right this moment, my “yesterday” self always has the ability to be better tomorrow. What is this incredible question?

Who told you that?

This question falls under the auspices of false beliefs or limiting beliefs and carries a tremendous amount of weight inside our heads and hearts. Most of us allow that the things we choose to believe, whether we realize it as our choice or not, are the things that hold us back from a fulfilling, productive, purposeful life. For a lot of people, believing the limiting beliefs we cling to holds a lot of fear in preventing us from exploring all kinds of fearless possibilities.

This question has been a constant companion for me for many years. It takes on many faces such as, who told you that you are not worthy of a better life, a better job, or a better outcome? Who told you that you have to compromise on what means the most to you? Who told you that if you experience happiness of any kind you are only allowed that one-time experience and then doomed to misery thereafter? Who told you that the love you have in your life is all you are allotted in one lifetime? Who told you that brown and pink don’t go well together? Who told you that if your children are not successful in their own right that means that you are not a successful parent?

More importantly when did you start believing all of this?

For as long as we live there will be life moments that test our inner strength; that make life feel as if this one time experience is the most impossible mountain to climb. Questions like this one help to keep us grounded and present and focused on being and becoming our best selves. The fear factor here might be, “what if I can’t answer this question or what if I stay stuck in my limiting beliefs?” I suggest taking time to unpack the question step by slow moving step until you come to understand how you got here.

Family therapist, author, marathon runner and professor Cami Ostman teaches an incredible workshop on how to successfully put the “Who told you that” question to the test and how to successfully answer it and use the question and answer to your advantage. When we feel stuck in our fear of not being enough and believing that we are truly not enough Ms. Ostman says that “we are not aligning with our true nature; we are not aligning with our core selves.” She goes on to say, “Our true nature, our core selves, are calm, joyful and centered. Most of our limiting beliefs start in childhood based on what we perceived as a need to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable or hurt or shameful or weak. Our true nature thrives on genuine support from others and uses 4 qualities to help us thrive.” Those 4 qualities are:

*Clarity of purpose: Who does it benefit to take the road less traveled? Who does it benefit to follow the leader?

“People who lack the clarity, courage, or determination to follow their own dreams will often find ways to discourage yours. Live your truth and don’t EVER stop!” Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

*Faith: Enjoy each step along the way and know that whatever choice you make; all will be okay.

“Realize that if a door closed, it’s because what was behind it wasn’t meant for you.” Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

*Commitment to ourselves and our purposes: What is one tiny step you can take each morning to bring you closer to where you want to be?

“If you had started doing anything two weeks ago, by today you would have been two weeks better at it.” John Mayer

*Sovereignty: The unshakable knowledge that we are the supreme rulers of our own minds and choices and decisions. Who has given you permission to question your own self- worth, in other words, who told you that and why are you believing it? When we truly believe that we are sovereign over our hearts, minds and bodies then we are free to come and go, to explore and choose wisely and be impactful in all we do.

“Peggy is a sovereign nation. She governs herself and those around her by her own laws.” Katlyn Charlesworth, The Patriot’s Daughter

According to Ms. Ostman, bringing forth your true nature is a practice of letting go of fear; letting go of limiting beliefs, letting go of those things that were told to you whether to protect you or to scare you to stand still. Ms. Ostman suggests respectfully thanking all the parts of us that tried to protect us from the fears that are holding us back, wishing those parts well and firmly telling those parts that it is now time to take the reins and face the fears and the adventure that awaits.

As If….

A great way to begin your journey of shedding those limiting beliefs, of shedding fear is to take these 4 qualities and start with the end in mind. Let’s play….

Kari always wanted to be an artist. Her talents have been recognized by the obvious people in her life, her art teachers, her friends, her classmates, etc. but for some reason Kari has not taken all of those accolades and turned it into the art studio/gallery that she has always imagined. Kari doesn’t believe within herself that her art work is good enough to sell or that strangers would want to buy what she is creating. She is beginning to feel like doing art of any kind is a waste of time and that she needs to start getting serious about her life and start to make a living. “It feels like there is just too much wasted time in art and I need to pay my bills and just get on with my life at this point.” Who told Kari that art is too much of wasted time? Who told Kari that being an artist isn’t a serious pursuit of making a life? Who told Kari that she isn’t good enough to make art her career? When did those limiting beliefs start to take deep roots in her heart and mind?

There are a few choices Kari can make: She can give up her art completely and get a “real” job, she can only do her artwork for her own pleasure and joy, she can give her artwork away to friends and colleagues as gifts so that at least her art will be “out there” even if it hangs in someone else’s house or office or she can imagine one last time what it would be like to have the art studio/gallery she always dreamed about.

Kari chooses to imagine one last time about her art studio. Kari chose the “as if” option and she lets her imagination run wild with the end in mind, “as if” she made her dream come true and opened her art studio and became the successful artist she always dreamed of becoming. Out loud Kari imagines it is opening night at her art studio and the walls are full of her artwork in every medium. There are lots of people at the opening tonight including people that came as guests of those that received an invitation and the biggest surprise of all is that the media are here tonight to interview Kari and get her story. Kari imagines the gorgeous outfit she is wearing and imagines that her parents are there and feel so proud of her for sticking with her dream and making it come true. Kari imagines the food and drinks being passed around, she imagines the pockets of conversation going on around her studio, she imagines the music playing in the background and how great everyone looks tonight because they came to this special event. At the end of the night Kari imagines her most sacred piece of art being sold to an art collector and Kari being commissioned to do work for businesses in and around her art studio.

The greatest take away for Kari in playing the “as if” game is that she just thought about even more ideas on how to make her studio/gallery a great success. By opening herself up to the possibilities and by letting herself feel the happiness in her core-self, by freeing her mind and heart from limiting beliefs, Kari has experienced more joy in these few minutes than in the past year of struggling to be “practical” about her future.

Call to Action

Find a friend, mentor, coach, or use your own reflection in the mirror and play the “as if” game with your dreams. No limiting beliefs allowed. Dress the part, play the music, set the scene and have at it. Notice everything, the way you look, the way you feel, the way your thoughts expand. Who told you that you can’t make this vision your reality?

One of Ms. Ostman’s most successful practices is to interview fear and listen to what comes up in that discussion. If you are interested in trying this interview with fear, please give me a call. You will be changed from this experience.

On a piece of paper make a list down one side of the paper of all the things that you believe today. On the other side of the paper make a list of how you came to have each belief; in other words, who told you that? On a new piece of paper make a list of all the new things you are now going to believe that will help move you toward the person you want to be. Keep in mind on this new list, that YOU are giving yourself permission to believe these new things, act on these new things, dream these new things and become these new things.

Write a good-bye letter to your old self letting go of the fearful things that you have told to yourself or have been told to you that you are currently believing; letting go of the limiting beliefs that are holding you back from becoming your true self. Before you end the good-bye to old self letter start to write about all the new things your new, free self will be experiencing from now on. What successful, happy, expansive experiences will you be adding to your new life? How much can you honestly feel inside of your core-self that you believe you honestly, courageously, and wholeheartedly will experience in all the amazing life moments that are destined to come to you?

You Are Becoming

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“We all wind up drawn to what we’re afraid of, drawn to try to find a way to make ourselves safe from a thing by crawling inside of it, by loving it, by becoming it.” Holly Black, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Ever since beginning my journey to become a great life coach there has been one word that keeps swirling around me. I had not ever heard this word and my name spoken in the same sentence before my journey but I hear this word quite often since embarking on my journey. One word that I never in all my life would associate with describing who I am; one word that sounds so empowering and makes everything so possible and yet it has been a word I have been afraid of my whole life. I heard it yet again a day ago in relationship to me and I had to just sit very still and really think about all the times where this word has shown itself in my life and wonder why I just haven’t made the connection. Why does this word strike such fear inside of me?

Before I reveal the word let me ask you this question:

In your lifetime in what circumstance have you ever wished you could see yourself the way other people see you?

This could be in a good light or a not so good light. This could be on your “best foot forward” day or your “I wish I stayed in bed today” day. This could be in a spiritual way meaning wanting to see yourself as God sees you but not being able to do so.

Many times I have wished I could see in me what other people see in me. I absolutely believe that if I had the “knowing” of what other people believe I can be or what they think I already am then I could conquer the world. I believe this because of the one thing I know about myself most of all and that is that I hate to let people down.

It’s not really a people pleasing knowing that I have about who I am it’s more of a challenge I adopt within my heart that pushes me to do and become simply because someone I trust and admire has a knowing about me, an insight about me that I never allowed or truly saw in my own self. There is a becoming about me that other people see whether it is in the form of who I am becoming or that I am becoming in appearance or in a spiritual sense.

“Sight is one of the most easily deceived senses. I could make a coin disappear and your eyes would believe it gone, even if it were merely up my sleeve.” Megan Chance, The Spiritualist

I find this quote so universal and so important. What does someone see in each of us that we hide from our own selves? What disappears from within us that we believe is gone or never existed yet another person can see as if it were part of our face or skin or clothing? Something someone else sees but knows that we don’t so it appears to have disappeared but is not truly gone. It’s kind of a version of faith; to walk in the trust of what is unseen.

What holds each of us back from becoming who we are meant to be or who we want to be?

The dictionary defines the word becoming as:

  • Flattering a person’s appearance
  • The process of coming to be something or of passing into a state or any change from the lower level of potentiality to the higher level of actuality

We are all in such a rush to “get there” wherever there is that we forget or choose not to stop and listen and see that in order to become we must slow down and be the word that has been swirling around me….courageous. Using the word courage is how people have been describing me for the past 3-1/2 years and it comes up so often that I can’t ignore it anymore. I still don’t see it when looking through my own eyes but I absolutely must see what other people see if I am to become what they believe me to be; what their faith in me speaks to them.

Where does courage show up for me? Courage shows up when I am vulnerable, when I admit I don’t know something and can open my heart to receiving help and guidance, when I am asked to face a fear and work through it in the truth of not wanting to face the person inside of me who is saying, “Walk away from this. You don’t have to face this.” Courage shows up when life gets really, raw-ly emotional for me and I have to stand and face that painful dragon and slay it. Courage shows up when someone hears a piece of my story and their take away is the courage they heard in my voice and in my words when I never felt courageous at all while going through it.

What has happened inside of my heart is that by hearing the word courageous associated with me the person and me the spirit I have created a trail behind me that I want to always remain and lead me home. I am starting to believe in this crazy word. I may not yet fully associate courage with who I am but I like what other people are seeing in my becoming and I don’t want to let them or myself down. I want to keep exploring this empowering feeling and word and see what I can see as I go along creating my truth and building self-trust.

In her book Daring Greatly, author and scientist Dr. Brene` Brown said this when describing herself through vulnerability, courage and allowing herself to see what other people see in her:

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.” I had no idea that in each life moment where I stood up and plowed through a fear I was courageous and vulnerable and revealing a truth about who I am deep inside, yet other people could see it in me all along.

Dr. Brown goes on to say:

“All the love and support I received allowed me to slowly begin to take more risks, to show up at work and at home in new ways. I took more chances and tried new things.” Because of each conquest I had made that lay behind me I was unknowingly building strength and empowerment toward the next big thing. And each time I was in a situation to tell my story there came that word again, courage.

What I’ve ultimately learned is that by sharing my stories where I unknowingly showed courage I have been able to allow those listeners to imagine themselves facing the same fears and making it through on their own way toward becoming their best selves.

Here is what I’ve learned so far about the incredible walk I’ve been taking toward my own becoming….

Trust: Trust your heart, trust your gut, and trust your sincerity and integrity. Trust that although the process might take a lifetime, each step is for and toward a purpose. There is no rush toward becoming whatever you want to become or whoever you want to become because each level you reach is a level you needed to obtain in order to keep going forward. It may not be for you in the end, it may be for someone else entirely, keep going.

“Do not lose hope — what you seek will be found. Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have helped to help you in their turn. Trust dreams. Trust your heart, and trust your story. (from ‘Instructions’)” Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders

Believe in your value: For me the word courage is truly a value in action. I’ve shared with you before about how our values show up in our lives whether intentionally or magically. Knowing what your values are is a very strong and empowering step in your becoming. When I first took the test to determine my top 5 values out of the 24 values we all carry within us, courage was somewhere in the middle. Recently I was asked to take the test again and surprisingly courage appeared in my top five. I just shake my head. I had no idea how strongly courage has played a role in my life until I decided to dedicate myself to finding my life.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” Mahatma Gandhi

Sight: This is a tough one. It is far easier to hide from the truth of what we see in our own soul than to admit the vulnerability and the blessing in bringing it to light. I can recall many times in my life when I hid from my own self in order to not face my own truth. What I’ve learned is that life does not exist in the places we choose not to see. Life can only exist in bringing forward all the messy, mixed up, odd, weirdness’s that make up who we are. I have taken action steps with the utmost of integrity and seen first-hand the power those steps have created. Take what you see from within your own soul, the person you see that you want to be and take that first step with integrity toward that unique and wondrous person. The people in your world will thank you for it and your heart will grow and your eyes will see what can’t be seen because your heart will grow.

“The wise do not buy into other people’s perceptions of who they are and what they are capable of. Instead, they bypass a person’s public persona and see who they are in their highest expression. When you see actions taken with integrity, instead of words only, you will then know a soul’s worth.” Shannon L. Alder

Courage: I can’t think of a better word than this. To have courage means to exercise your will to accomplish goals you set for yourself in the face of opposition, whether it is an external opposition or internal opposition. Another way to look at this is in the word bravery. According to professors and authors, the late Christopher Peterson and current University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman, their book Character Strengths and Virtues talks about bravery as the “ability to do what needs to be done despite fear. Beyond the domain of battle on a battlefield, bravery allows for this character strength to be applied by not only saying or doing the unpopular but correct thing but in also facing terminal illness with equanimity and to resisting peer pressure regarding a morally questionable shortcut.” To this I would add that it also takes meaning in any act large or small where we are running through our own internal fears of whatever we have chosen to face head on.

For example: When I was tasked at my temp job to create an excel chart and maintenance form I panicked. I don’t do excel well at all. The challenge before me was to get the task done and done very well. I enlisted the help of a colleague to teach me some basic things and then I took it from there. I refused to leave for the day until the bulk of the work was done. That was my internal opposition. It took all kinds of crazy courage to meet the challenge of fear that excel symbolizes for me but I did it. Did I feel courageous? No. Did I feel successful in the end? Yes. Would I choose to take on another excel project? Oh hell No. Did I prove I could do it and so I could do it again? Yes. Ultimately what stayed inside of me, what I see now, is that when courage is needed I enlist, without thought. When my kids would get hurt and cry in pain I surprised myself every time by not panicking. I stayed even tempered, quiet, calm and loving for them and later when they were back to their playful, happy, bouncy selves I let out a deep breath and cried a little.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” E.E. Cummings

Take some time to really, deeply think about your own character strengths and values; listen to how often a particular value comes up in your life; allow yourself to see where you are being an example day after day of this character strength and value. Believe what can’t be seen by you alone. That is faith, and that is having a knowing that you are indeed becoming as you walk through your purposes in life.

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

 ‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Call to Action

What are some of your core values often hidden but revealed in patterns of your behavior?

What would it take to acknowledge, out loud, in every way of your everyday those hidden core values?

When do you find yourself becoming your most “real” self?

In what ways have you been seen by others as real, as honest, as courageous, as vulnerable but did not allow yourself to see those truths within you?

Activity Challenge

In an effort to practice seeing those things we choose not to see or just can’t see, ask yourself just one of these questions every day and really dive into your day and all its glory. Then in whatever fashion helps you to express your answer use it. It could be journaling, praying, talking to a friend, coach or partner. The questions are:

What went right today?

What left you filled with awe today?

Where did your heart lead you today?

Where or in whom did I find inspiration today?

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 Ideas To Help Power Your Fears Away

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Do you believe in signs? Do you believe that the universe tries to talk to us all the time but we can only hear the messages when we are ready? I do.

So my theme this year seems to be revolving around the multitude of times God has said “Don’t be afraid”. Ever since realizing that theme I have been so aware of my life moments when I know for sure I would have been too afraid to do something or say something but I purposefully now choose the path of bravery . This year it feels like the words “Don’t be afraid” have been like a shield of armor around me keeping fear at bay.

My attempts at living a life of “don’t be afraid” first played out in my wanting to volunteer. It was as if I had a calling from deep inside my soul to just do it; just put myself in the thick of where someone else had a need.

A year ago I was made aware that people only volunteer where they feel most comfortable; that it is rare that people will volunteer in places and activities they no nothing about or feel is too much away from people and a life they are accustomed to. So I thought about that and realized that I didn’t want to be that kind of person so I signed up to be a volunteer in the cancer center of a hospital. Too many scary, uncomfortable scenes played out in my head and that is how I knew it was the right thing to do. Choosing this particular quest met all of my criteria:

The idea was way outside of my comfort zone.

The idea was challenging both in time and location.

The idea was making me feel nervous and scared.

When you volunteer at a hospital you have to be tested for TB. That is a process in itself but for someone like me who hates pain of any kind and especially needles of any kind this was quite an undertaking; constantly forcing me to ask myself if volunteering at a hospital was really worth it, I mean after all I was also at this point volunteering to put myself through this pain and discomfort. A lot of deep breaths of courage later I made it through and couldn’t be happier to be doing what I’m doing.

I wanted most of all to be helpful and useful and purposeful to someone else; to get out of my own self. I got that.

I wanted to learn new skills and be challenged mentally and emotionally. I got that.

I wanted to see and feel how it would be to reach out to other people in a way that had no obligation back to me. I got that.

I wanted to see if I could get along with strangers purely because I wanted to be there and not be forced into a relationship because I “worked” there. I got that.

I wanted to learn what it would feel like to give of myself wholeheartedly, end of sentence. I got that.

What I got beyond what I was needing to explore and discover was priceless. If I were to get paid to do what I volunteer to do then what I do would become a job and it would lose it’s shine and power and magic. I don’t want that to happen.

Not long after I started volunteering I was called to interview with a temp agency; a job placement company that would help me build more of my skill sets and help me pull my financial weight for my family. I have been out of work part time or full time for too long of a time and getting the call for this interview seemed heaven sent. I accomplished the initial interview and 2 weeks later they found something for me. I quickly realized that I would have to stop volunteering. No way. I took the temp job and worked it out so that one day a week I could still volunteer and make up the work day I was missing on a Saturday. It meant going from no work days to working 6 days a week but I didn’t care. What I like about temping is that the temp job will end but the volunteering will last for however long I can last.

The one thing I noticed right away as a difference between a job and a volunteer position is how people respond to me. I am welcome with smiles and open arms as a volunteer and anything I do as a volunteer is appreciated with a multitude of “thank yous” but as a temp employee I am looked at as an interference in the work flow relationship and with a stand offish attitude. Not one thank you is ever uttered. The universe first warned me and then reminded me this past week to not take things personally and to not make assumptions about anything or anyone. The warning came just before the new work week started:

“Many people are really just sad people. They hurt others because they are hurting. Every person is born beautiful, and much of the ugliness in others was put inside of them by other hurting people.” Bryant McGill

I had to wonder if my personal silent thoughts really can be heard by God or was this just a freaky coincidence…..

And then came the reminder 2 days into the new work week:

“When someone is vicious toward you they are giving you a glimpse of the pain they carry in themselves. Viciousness is suffering.” Bryant McGill

Was my attention to these words more heightened because of my new circumstance? Maybe. The thing is, now that I have so much attention directed at “don’t be afraid” I see the things that naturally frighten me as a call to action through bravery and my new found shield of armor.

I sit in a cubicle (so not me) at this temp job and in the cubicle next to me is a guy who is just not friendly. He barely looks me in the eye or says hello when I say good morning, he rarely smiles and he makes every effort to be too busy to allow me to ask him any questions knowing full well that if I have a question he is the one I should go to. So, I avoid him at all costs except when I have absolutely no choice. My fear lies in the fact that I hate confrontation on every level. My palms sweat, my body shakes, and my mind goes blank. This week I had one moment where I had absolutely no choice and had to ask him a question. In my attempt at not being afraid I used as much humor as possible in communicating with him while remembering the quotes that were purposefully placed in my mind. You know, I actually made him laugh out loud for a tiny fraction of a second. It was monumental to me and it can’t be taken back. It happened and then it was gone.

“Remember this: Sometimes meeting someone has nothing to do with what you can provide for him or her and everything to do with what God needs you to recognize in that person. If you didn’t understand the message, God will keep sending the same person or situation into your life.” Shannon L. Alder

What I have learned is that possibly this is all in support of my “don’t be afraid” theme; all in support of helping me be a better me and helping me understand others better as well. I am trying everyday to understand the messages that are being sent to me and what it means to not be afraid. What I learned about myself was that I don’t really care what he thinks of me or my skill set. This job is temporary, he is temporary in my life because I saw a part of me handle his negativity with humor and a sense of whole being from my heart and I am changed. I am here to do a specific job and do it well and then move on. He’s stuck, I’m not. “Don’t be afraid” truly is my sword and shield. I truly believe that by my concentrating on what I want this year to mean for me the universe is supporting my endeavors.

Here are a few ideas that could help you get started on not being afraid:

Imagine your superhero self: Do you ever fantasize about what you would look like, sounds like and behave like if you weren’t afraid? Take out the fantasy from your mind and spirit and put it out there in reality. It will feel funny and uncomfortable at first but the more you try to see yourself as unafraid the more unafraid you will become.

Make fear your friend: Every time I give in to a fear that holds me back from experiencing a more meaningful life I hate myself for it. I find that I retreat deeper into a self protective shell and I never prove my bravery by letting fear hold me back. I decided that if I believe in teaching my children not be afraid of what life hands to them then I had better start being an example of overcoming the fears that I face in my life. The energy generated around facing a fear can be used to empower the actions necessary to jump into the fearful situation and make a success out of the experience.

Don’t procrastinate: If you find yourself in a confrontational situation and know for sure that you are afraid to deal with situations like that then that is all the more reason to deal with it right then and there. Sure you might not say or behave exactly fearless or supreme but the fact that you faced the fear and got through it is the beginning of more and more confidence to handle this and other fearful situations the next time it comes along. Don’t put off the life moments that are calling you to be in it. Face it, deal with it, move on from it. Procrastination breeds  fear. Bravery and courage breed confidence.

Choose your weapon: How do you want to arm yourself when confronted with fear? Do you want bible verses, do you want physical strength, do you want moral support, do you want an awesome wardrobe, do you want small experiences to help you build on toward the more challenging experiences? You get to decide how you arm yourself when facing fearful situations. Remember to practice with these weapons of choice and believe that all of your efforts are for a peaceful and purposeful outcome. Life is not meant to be run away from. We won’t learn anything if we run away. Meet life where it stands and arm yourself to be the best of yourself.

Stay in the light: Darkness of any kind whether it be darkness (lack) of education or darkness of faith or true darkness as the absence of light can be scary and make us feel unsure and fearful. Learn all you can about the fears you are wanting to deal with. Keep a light on in some form if true darkness zaps your moral courage. Know that you can always do something to help aid in your quest to not be afraid.

“Don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to scare you. They’re there to let you know that something is worth it.” C. JoyBell C.

Call to Action

What are the signs you are not ready to read?

How can you pay more attention to intention?

Where do you want to change something in your life but are too afraid to do so?

When is the right time to face your fears and challenge your courage?

5 Ways to Find your Piece of Peace

 

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“World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not just mere absence of violence. Peace is, I think, the manifestation of human compassion.” Dalai Lama XIV

The dictionary defines the word peace first by 3 definitions relating to war:

  • A state in which there is no war or fighting
  • An agreement to end a war
  • A period of time when there is no war or fighting

The rest of the definitions are:

  • A state of tranquility or quiet
  • Freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
  • Harmony in personal relations

No matter how we each define peace at any particular time of our lives it seems that harmony and tranquility are the overarching states of mind, body and soul that we all look to achieve.

When you hear the word peace what images come to mind for you? If I were to create a vision board of peace these are the images I would include:

Blue sky, meditation, smiles everywhere, calm, soft music with a saxophone, walking on the beach, hot chocolate and a great book, candlelight dinners, hugs, hearts and flowers, and helpfulness. I’m absolutely sure I can come up with more to add to this list of peaceful visions but then this would get ridiculous.

For me, a piece of peace comes from cherished family moments and time spent with my children. I’m made more and more aware of this sense of peace now that the kids are living their own lives between working and going to college and being with their friends. They just are not home as much as they used to be.

Everything I knew about peace while the kids were home all the time included sports games, practice schedules, carpooling, community participation, time marked by seasons and school breaks; in essence the very much anticipated “routine” of raising a family. My personal piece of peace was in the doing and the busyness of a blessed life.

It was organized chaos and I thrived on the craziness of it. Now life has become unreliable and un-routine and un-peaceful for me because I find it hard to define my role as a parent. My routine and boundaries have been narrowed considerably now that the children are taking over their own lives. I can’t get lost in the management of the family anymore. However, there is a new piece of peace I have found and I found it in a very unlikely place; within me.

While being the very active, very attentive parent I was and while burying myself in my children and the running of the business of our family, I always put my needs and wants dead last and did not spend any time getting to know me as I was getting older alongside my children getting older. I paid way more attention to their changes and who they were becoming but not to my own changes. Time has been a friend and an enemy all along but I’m finding that it is for the children’s benefit now for me to become active and attentive and in search of my own needs and wants. I have a piece of peace within my own soul that I never expected to find simply by changing my mindset along with the changing of their lives. These personal peaceful steps that I take for my own well-being will help them become more empowered adults by watching me be empowered outside of my role as their mom 24/7. I want that for them. I want to be a good role model, still.

So now I get a piece of peace when the house is quiet and I can coach a client as if the entire house is my office. I get a piece of peace when my day transitions from work to home responsibilities like cooking dinner while I play my favorite music and dance around the kitchen. I get a piece of peace when everyone is home but doing their own thing to catch up on their life’s responsibilities and we come together at odd intervals  in passing in the hallway or at dinner time. I get a piece of peace having an adult conversation with these people who, just a few short years ago, were nowhere near adulthood. I can peacefully enjoy their growing up process from a new perspective.

I often hear how my clients wish they could know a peaceful existence 24/7 but truly, what fun would that be? We need the bad to remind us of the sweetness of good, we need the downs to make the ups so much brighter and we need the chaos to help us really understand peace.

Where do you find your piece of peace during your day or week or month?

Turns out there are so many things a person can do to create their own piece(s) of peace:

As best you can stop worrying. Worry zaps necessary energy from peaceful thinking and peaceful actions. Worry makes drama and negatives more important than smiling and solutions. When you find yourself worrying about anything, stop right in that moment and ask yourself, “How will my worry change the way this situation is going?” “When has my worrying ever created a positive outcome?” Then take a deep breath and let it go. Let go of the worry, trust that the universe is always spinning and changing and that what you think you know for sure at this most worrisome moment will not be like it is in another 15 minutes or 2 hours or one day.

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” Corrie ten Boom

Grab onto a piece of peace. What does your vision of peace look like, sound like, feel like, and taste like? Is it fear of the unknown that creates a feeling of having no peace? You can affect a more realistic outcome of peace if you first allow yourself to feel all of the emotions that come with living a life away from peace but then, when the storm of emotions calms down, come from a peaceful place within your heart and mind. Grab onto those resources within you that help you start to create a peaceful atmosphere. Get peaceful in just one area of your life right in the thick of things and you will be amazed at how regenerative and empowering it can be to let the fear come and then go.

“There is peace even in the storm” Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

Give up control. As human beings we want to always have the answers, we want to always be the go-to person, and we want to call the shots. Well, I hate to break it to you but in most cases the only control we ever truly have is the control we summon over our perspective and attitude. By giving up control around worrisome situations we are acknowledging that we don’t know everything and this allows for curiosity to be born. How can this drama be looked at differently? What do you know for sure right now? What suggestions might be helpful, especially ones that you haven’t thought of on your own?

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” Viktor E. Frankl

Get going. Action is the most empowering of ways to combat the feeling of being out of control and being so far detached from peace. Take a walk to clear your head and to get those happy endorphins flowing. Meditate by doing deep breathing exercises or talking to God. Write in a journal to get the helpless feelings out or write a letter to the person or situation that is causing so much grief but don’t mail it. Clean the house or the garage or the car or the attic or the bathroom. This is my favorite “get going” exercise because tackling a room in the house that needs cleaning is an instant gratification boost; what was messy is not orderly and clean all in the same day plus it physically gets my body moving. Call a friend or clergy, a coach or your mom. Vent and release your worry to someone who can and wants to take the burden from you if only for a little while. My second favorite way to distance myself from worry and drama is to give to someone in need. I volunteer because I am always in the right place at the right time giving what I have to someone who will be most thankful for my existence. What is better than that to help create a sense of inner peace?

“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. ”William James

Be kind to yourself. For every awful, demeaning, self-loathing thought you have about your part in a worrisome situation, instantly think of its opposite. For example I thought I was a horrible mom for not equipping my boys to handle their life’s drama with more courage and a better sense of self. For every ugly thought I had about myself I would think of all the ways in which my boys still loved me, still relied on me, still listened to what I had to offer, and still get up each day to face the next thing. It took me a long time to realize that I am not responsible for the habits they each create. God created us to have free will and in that we make decisions that will have consequences, good and bad. I can only say and do the best I can. It is up to each person to act according to the information they receive and are exposed to.

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” Lao Tzu

Call to Action

What is one thing you can do right this minute to create a piece of peace for yourself?

Make a pact with yourself and decide:

If I feel myself start to worry then I will _____________________. Think of something that is calming and pleasant for you to experience. Having a game plan to immediately implement in times of high stress and worry helps your body be able to handle the chaotic moments with more resolve.

When do you notice yourself feeling stress, worry or not being at peace?

 

 

Is it Just Business or is it Personal (Part 2)

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Is it Just Business or is it Personal?

“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.” Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

When I was little my dad told me about a trip he had taken with his family. The details of the trip are really fuzzy but the point was very clear. He was traveling through an area where there were a lot of people all around doing all sorts of activities, “I suddenly wondered, if I was not here would these people be here doing what they are doing?”

Realization of self on a more grand scale is shocking to a kid. Where once a child thought that he was the only person that mattered he now realizes that he is not alone and so special. As children we are so used to the “knowing” that all of life revolves around us only. As we come to realize that life goes on even when we don’t see it we lose a bit of ourselves to the grandeur. It happens slowly and quietly and sadly can become a pit of depressing questions and thoughts that we just keep falling into. Questions like, “Do I really matter at all”, “How can I get noticed in such a big world”, “What makes me so special”.

The moment we have the revelation that the ME in us is somehow smaller our world view expands to limitlessness but in such ways at first perhaps as competition, fight for survival, overwhelm, or uncertainty. It can become so overwhelming at times that we find ways to pull back into ourselves and make each day all about us again. We become sensitive to criticism as well as compliments although the criticisms are decidedly more impactful and we judge ourselves so harshly. We lose a piece of self as we strive to learn how to gain more self each time we take something personally and allow the judgments and summaries of what other people think of us.

In his book The Four Agreements, author Don Miguel Ruiz writes that we internalize and take into our hearts the negatives, the insults from other people because,

“We agree with whatever was said about our character; we have already made an agreement in our hearts to accept the negatives that people supposedly believe about us. As soon as you agree, the poison goes through you. This trapped feeling is what is called personal importance or taking things personally, the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about “me”.

“If people make fun of you, it probably means you’re doing something right.” –Amy Lee

People have a hard time understanding other people who are different from themselves; lives lived outside of what we each personally believe to be truth. When people don’t understand something they try to fight it by poisoning it with humility and shame and insult. If you are getting that much negative attention toward something you said or did then you hit a nerve with the insulter and that means you did something right, something that person wishes he/she did instead of you.  Once you show your outward agreement to the insult you give permission for anyone to do it again and again. By building internal immunity toward the negatives people will throw at you, about you, becomes a gift you not only give yourself but also to those that admire you and respect you.

How then do we build immunity? The answer to that question is very personal. For me, my internal immunity comes from knowing that God loves me. There are times when I have to repeat that to myself especially during really weak life moments but when I can start my every day believing and knowing his love of me then I have put on my armor and can move about my life with immunity toward the negatives. What are some ways that you choose to help build immunity toward preventing taking things personally?

Each of our daily successes and failures are so temperamental. We are subject to the whims of being the goat or the hero on any given day. Learning not to take things personally, whether in good or in bad perspectives is a way to build immunity against negative personal thoughts and to know that the goat or the hero outlook comes from how others are seeing us based on the agreements we made inside of ourselves. It really has nothing to do with us at all. The people that put themselves in a position to judge our actions and thoughts are just trying to build themselves up by putting us down. Why would any individual ever agree to that?

Don Miguel Ruiz says,

“Don’t take it personally. I may touch a nerve inside of you with what I say but that means that you have wounds inside of you that I have touched on with words that I have spoken. You see the world with different eyes than mine. Your personal truth has nothing to do with me.”

As a little boy my son would lie. In his mind if he didn’t tell the truth about what happened then he wouldn’t get in trouble. The “trouble” he feared was a lie he told himself and then believed to be true. If I allowed myself to take it personally that my son is learning to lie because I am a bad mother then I wouldn’t be able to see that he is in the middle of learning a life lesson for himself. If I allow myself to take it personally then I would equally believe that I am a bad mother to my other children as well, all the time, in all circumstances even if their life lessons are different. The downward spiral of despair within me would take its toll on everyone in my life. Thankfully I stepped back, way back from that kind of negative agreement of being a bad mother and realized that my son’s life lessons are his to learn and mine to guide, not take responsibility for. If I am to judge my mothering so harshly then I should equally judge any goodness the children display with harshness too.

“You are who you are when nobody’s watching.” Stephen Fry

Is there ever a time when you are alone that you are content and happy with who you are? If so, then why can’t you bring that person to every situation outside of home?

Here is Don Miguel Ruiz:

“As you make a habit of not taking anything personally, you won’t need to place your trust in what others do or say. You will only need to trust yourself to make responsible choices. You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you. If you keep this agreement, you can travel around the world with your heart completely open and no one can hurt you.”

So what are some steps we all can take to get in the mindset of not taking things so personally?

Assume the best in others: When you meet someone for the first time you are on your best behavior. There hasn’t been a reason or enough time to form judgments or attitudes about the person you are meeting or vice versa. Continue to assume the best in the people you meet for the first time as well as those you know for a while. When you raise others to a better level of existence through how you choose to see them then they will reflect that “better” inner person right back.

Stay in the moment: When you get that initial prickly sense in your gut that says “this sounds personal” stay in the moment and see it through before your attention changes from who you are with to only you and your feelings. Notice things going on around you. Are you the only person being targeted? How well do you know this person? Is this normal behavior from him/her to be so insulting? Have you had problems in the past with this person when he/she starts to feel insecure? Concentrate your attention on that person and try to see what he/she sees. See that person as you would like to be seen. Compassion and kindness are contagious and can only win the moment when we switch to empathy.

Mentally review your own agreement: Do you tend to always take things personally? Do you self-reject before anyone else has a chance to reject you? Do you always make other people’s actions and comments only about you?

Are you always the victim?

Remember that the person doing the insulting might have had a bad day and doesn’t want to draw attention to their own insecurities and sense of failure so that person will target anyone else in order to draw attention away from them. If you know yourself well enough and like what you know then your own mental agreement will not be able to accept any insult from other people.

Don’t let hurt feelings live on forever: What does the relationship mean to you? Pull that person aside and verify that the insult he/she made was truly about you. Let that person know that it wasn’t cool at all to pull you into that moment like that. Making other people accountable for their behavior will not only boost your respect level up in your eyes but also in the eyes of others. Teach people how to treat you by taking back the power you give away when you let the negative inner agreement come through.

It’s a good habit to form within your mind to ask yourself, “What else could be at play here?”

It’s not only the bad things that count: Compliments can be as dangerous to your self-worth as insults. Make an internal agreement with yourself right now that people who say nice things to you or about you have no effect on who are or how you behave. You know who you are, you know who you want the world to see and your self-worth is not solely based on the good word from others.

Be kind to yourself and others, always: It is soooo normal to get upset when we feel like we have been verbally attacked or that the universe is “out to get us today.” Forgive yourself immediately when you realize you are behaving as the victim. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Apologize to yourself for getting so self-absorbed and practice patience and tolerance of yourself.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Call to Action

How often do you find yourself having a good or bad day based on the approval or disapproval of other people?

What would happen throughout the course of your day if you started every single day saying something positive to yourself?

How well do you know you? The more you know for sure about you the less likely you will be to take things personally.

Where is one place in your life you can start to build your truth and your immunity?

Image by bing.com

The Year of Self-Agreements Part 1

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“So I forced myself to step out of my comfort zone and go out and connect with people. I realized that no one knew me here. I could become whoever I wanted to be for these people, and that became my courage.” Charlotte Eriksson, Empty Roads & Broken Bottles; in search for The Great Perhaps

I started this New Year thinking about all the millions of resolutions people will make and break before the first month is over. The very word sits in my stomach like a heavy stone. For me resolving to do something is very much like choosing the lesser of two evils. I much prefer to use happier words like aspire, agreement, choice, decide, declaration, and tenacity.

So I set out this month to find books, writings, and/or motivational words to inspire me to make purposeful changes in my everyday life. As I have been made wonderfully aware, my inspirations are like seeds of growth I want to plant into my existence.

The word agreement sits very well with me right now so I started doing research into ideas that swirl around the word agreement. I found a book I had always wanted to read called The Four Agreements by author Don Miguel Ruiz and a slow January seemed the perfect time to tackle not only the book but to start to set my agreements for the year. An agreement, it turns out, is an arrangement agreed upon between 2 people but in this case the agreement I am seeking is an arrangement between me and my soul.

After reading about the first agreement I knew I had found a great starting point for my personal growth aspirations. So I decided to share with you what I’m learning by parsing through each agreement and how I hope to apply it to my own life’s perspective.

Just like the golden rules exist as guidelines to follow for a peaceful, productive, honest society of human beings to help each of us co-exist and honor the life we were given, the 4 agreements of humanity that are explained in this book, in my opinion, are crucial for each of us to be the leader of our own personal existence by adapting these agreements as further declarations of being.

These agreements are personal because how we interpret them is the essence of how these agreements work. All of these agreements have to start within each of our hearts first before they can blossom out toward the world we live in.

The first personal agreement begins with “Be Impeccable with your Word.”

“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.” Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Author Don Miguel Ruiz writes,

“The human mind is like a fertile ground where seeds are continually being planted. The seeds are opinions, ideas, and concepts. You plant a seed, a thought, and it grows. The word is like a seed, and the human mind is so fertile. The only problem is that too often it is fertile for the seeds of fear. Every human mind is fertile, but only for those kinds of seeds it is prepared for.”

Just like a small child is not yet ready to understand the ways of an adult so too are adults not always ready to understand the ways of other adults.

Thinking about the concept of words being seeds and knowing how powerful words can be when spoken in just the right tone of voice I started to wonder what would happen if each of us woke up each morning and paid deliberate attention to how we say “good morning”. What would the tiny purposeful act of saying the words “good morning” do to set the tone for my day and for someone else’s day?

I thought about this particular question because on the second day of a job I am volunteering for I was early enough to watch and listen to people coming in to their job first thing in the morning. Everything is new to me; the people, the language used in this new environment, the sounds of machines and phones and construction so I am quite sensitive to ALL that goes on around me. Upon seeing someone first thing that morning a gentleman greeted a co-worker with a very happy, enthusiastic “good morning” and it stopped the incoming co-worker in her tracks. So much so that before she said her reciprocal “good morning” back she commented on how chipper and happy this greeting was toward her. She was compelled to ask if something wonderful had happened to this person who greeted her because a greeting with such enthusiasm was so unusual. How sad is that? For the rest of the day I didn’t hear negative tones or words from either of those 2 co-workers or anyone around them.

Sometimes my son wakes up in the morning and he has a hard time greeting the day with a smile or enthusiasm. His “good morning” greeting is so down and dumpy it just makes the rest of the family feel so deflated and less energetic. We often want to ask if something is wrong but we have learned that this is the way he greets each day and not to take it personally but I know it would make a great positive impact on us all if he would be a lot more happy and chipper in the morning.

What does it mean to be impeccable with your Word? According to the Toltec Spirit website, to be impeccable with your Word simply means to use your Word in the direction of love and truth.

“Your WORD has to do with the power you have to create through every kind of expression you make. You create through multiple types of expressions including emotions, actions, what you refrain from, and what you express your faith in. Being impeccable with your WORD means paying attention to all the ways in which you speak and interpret and help create images of what you say and of yourself.”

“I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart’s affections and the truth of the Imagination.” John Keats

Impeccable means not capable of sinning; free from fault or blame; flawless. Other than God himself I don’t know anyone who is impeccable in all aspects of their life all the time. Sometimes we can be impeccable in the way we dress or in how we do a particular job but certainly not every day in every way. To begin to truly understand how impeccable with your Word can translate to happiness and be contagious it would seem to me that I would have to practice all the time and allow myself to re-interpret the ways in which I not only see the world but more importantly my own self.

Mr. Ruiz writes,

“Being impeccable with your Word is the correct use of your energy; it means to use your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself. If I love myself I will express that love in my interactions with you; if I love you, then you will love me. If I insult you, then you will insult me. If I have gratitude for you, you will have gratitude for me. Whenever we hear an opinion and believe what we hear, we make an internal agreement, and the agreement becomes part of our belief system. Most of the time the power of our Word is completely misused in such ways as blame, guilt, insults, gossip, and revenge. In reality the poison of these beliefs we spread is about how we feel about our own self.”

“The words with which a child’s heart is poisoned, whether through malice or through ignorance, remain branded in his memory, and sooner or later they burn his soul.”Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

How easy does it become to be impeccable with your Word when you realize you have been conditioned by the world you live in to self-protect and blend? When was the first time you can remember believing something bad about yourself? When did you make that first negative belief agreement about you?

Most people use negative words to hold others in fear. If I believe that I am no good as a person or in doing a particular job and it’s noticeable by how I talk about myself or carry myself then that person could use their word to keep me in fear because of the agreement I made within myself of being no good.

For example, this year I decided to live outside my comfort zone as often as possible. Volunteering at a hospital was one of the ways I decided to start. I have never ever had an interest or desire to work in a hospital setting. I am extremely grateful to all the people that help make us well when we are sick but I did not want to be any part of that world. By allowing myself to step so far out of the agreement I had always had with myself of not being capable of doing a job I THINK I will not like I am able to grow my heart and my soul. I realized that as a volunteer I am always in the right place at the right time. Living outside my comfort zone in this way stomps fear to the ground. Who knows what else I am capable of doing and being now that I have started to embrace courage rather than fear; now that I have decided to change the internal agreement I have made; now that I decided not to listen to words that keep me in fear of trying new things. The love and truth I find within myself for each new experience I learn from helps me become more impeccable with my Word.

But sometimes……

“Silence is a source of Great Strength.” Lao Tzu

In the example I gave about the “good morning” greeting, I realized that being the new kid meant that silence and listening were very strong tools I could use right away. Being silent can be part of how I create. Immediately it tells people that I mind my own business therefore I do not gossip, I listen carefully when instructions are told to me and the result of that listening is a job well done, I don’t interrupt or interfere with someone else’s conversation, and I can be counted on to be real.

How else does being impeccable with my Word help me and those around me?

Discard fear: F.E.A.R. is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. If I let fear always dictate my every thought and action then I am not able to be effective as a human being in any circumstance. What am I truly afraid of, for instance, in being the first person to say “good morning” to someone? A simple fear like that can set the tone for so many other fears to take root.

Heighten my empathy: Being impeccable with my Word means that I am purposefully being aware of how I speak along with the words I use. I am putting myself in someone else’s shoes. How would I want to be spoken to and what words will be most soothing and friendly in particular situations. This is by no means easy. It’s asking me to stop almost every time I want to converse with someone and take a deep breath before I answer a comment or question

Practice what I believe or want to believe: When I want to change a habit I know it is going to take conscious effort every day to go from one habit to the next. If I believe that being a beacon of love and truth is important toward my success as a human being then I must be diligent in my daily practice of love and truth. It is very much like practicing to learn an instrument, like say, the guitar. In order for me to get so good at playing the guitar it sounds like I was born to play, I first must make it a habit of practicing and then challenging my practice to keep getting better. This could take a lifetime but that’s okay with me because I have all the time in the world to master something I believe in.

Do my best every day: I know that I won’t always like what I have created on a particular day in my attempt at practicing being impeccable with my Word but I can’t let failure in that moment define all of me. Mistakes and pitfalls will happen but being impeccable means to get right back up and try again. There will be more successes than failures. Learning to forgive my mistakes and try again means I’ve turned the mistakes into a success.

I know that these ideas can be easily applied to many other areas of my life but I find it easier to be specific as I go.

The best part about being impeccable with my Word is that the more I practice and tend to the seeds of love and truth the deeper the roots of my new agreement with myself can grow. What I then believe about myself can go out to the hearts of others and the stronger I feel against the poison of fear of what negative words might come at me. I can continue to cultivate fertile ground for more and more impeccable words and better self-agreements.

Call to Action

What is one thing you can do today to start thinking the best of yourself?

When, in the course of your days, can you be impeccable with your Word?

How do you think it will feel in your heart to stop thinking badly of yourself and start thinking that you can DO anything you set your mind to?