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?

Feeling Diminished in Your Integrity? 5 Ways to Help You Hold On

 

 

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“If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Funny how this pussy willow will never be anything other than what it is meant to be. It’s integrity is in tact and therefore we can count on it to be just as it promised. I like that. Where is your integrity?

What happens when someone you thought was a person of integrity turns out to be someone you instantly learn you cannot trust has no ethical values and doesn’t honor truth?

That is what happened to me recently and it left me with an abandoned, hollow feeling in my gut and in my consciousness. Does this mean that I should put up defenses to everyone in my life? No. It just means that this person I trusted I can no longer trust. Should I stop trusting everyone? No. Each of deserves a chance to start with an “A” and it is up to us to lose that rating.

As a life coach I ask myself how I can affect a moral, ethical mindset if I want to keep this friendship, relationship, workmanship. The quick answer is I can’t. The longer and more introspective answer is to live with integrity myself, always, and be the example. In coaching we call this “walking the walk”.

What is integrity?

Integrity: Adherence to moral and ethical principles; honesty; the state of being whole, undiminished; honorable.

Honor: fairness, distinction, respect, esteem from others and for others.

Grit: firmness of character, pluck, spirit.

“Never esteem anything as of advantage to you that will make you break your word or lose your self-respect.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

I love that the word grit lives inside of the word integrity. Grit is hard and specific and energetic and purposeful.  Grit demands hard work and mindfulness. There are no fuzzy lines when grit takes hold of your spirit and actions. If you are by nature a moral, ethical, open-hearted person then integrity and grit are part of your core values. And so is honesty. I don’t think integrity can exist without honesty.

Do you know when you lie or are being dishonest?

Last week there was a story on http://www.today.com/health/woman-journey-quit-lying-1D80070855 about Diane Kaplan, a reporter who challenged herself to tell the truth in every kind of conversation every day. It has now been 2 years and she is still telling the truth.

It wasn’t an intentional decision. I’ve always been a literal person, often to a fault; if I say I’m going to do something, I’ll do it, even if it no longer serves my interests. The reality of doing this (experiment) is that it changes you internally as well. It’s tough to put into words except to say that you feel more pure. You start to like yourself more. You are effectively telling yourself that your actions are motivated by good values.” 

Embellishing and “white” lies are 2 forms of lying and dishonesty and both of those words, when played out mean that you are not living with integrity. I used to embellish when I would re-tell a story simply because by doing so it added “meat” to the story and kept people riveted to what I was saying but I must admit that it didn’t feel very good. I’ve practiced at being more aware of when I feel the need to embellish and for years now I simply tell a story as is, no fancy stuff. Admittedly the story lacks something when told flat out unless something absolutely shocking happened but it’s okay because at least I have lived through something and now have a story to tell.

“Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use your power of your word in the direction of truth and love.” Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

On the website, http://www.theartofmanliness.com, writers Brett and Kate McKay discuss, in their 4 part series, what it takes to live a life of integrity:

“When a great man falls from grace, we often wonder how he could have ever messed up so royally. The truth is that he didn’t wake up one day and decide to commit an egregious blunder. It started with a little fudging here, a tiny bit of lying there; from there he just kept on sliding down the slippery slope of compromise. Don’t compromise on the little things, and you won’t on the bigger ones.”

So, what are some examples of situations where you find you are feeling diminished or a drain on your integrity? Brett and Kate say:

“Every day we are faced with little decisions that reflect on our integrity.What’s okay to call a business expense or put on the company charge card? Is it really so bad to stretch the truth a little on your resume in order to land your dream job? Is it wrong to do a little casual flirting when your girlfriend isn’t around? If you’ve missed a lot of class, can you tell your professor a family member died? Is it bad to call in sick to work (or to the social/family function you’re dreading) when you’re hung over? Is it okay to pirate movies or use ad block when surfing the web?”

While writing this short post I thought about how I don’t live with the integrity I want to live with. I find that I behave with integrity in most of my life but when it comes to standing up and speaking for myself I am lacking. I allow other people to speak for me in some very important situations. Because of this I find that my goals truly are hard to reach. Just as a side note, yes, I have called in sick to work even though I wasn’t sick. I think the mindset that gets us off the hook for that phone call is called “taking a mental health day.” How we justify our lack of personal integrity is also something to be aware of.

In the face of all of this information now weighing heavily on your conscience (sorry, but I had to write this article), what are some things you can do to start to live a life of integrity?

  1. Along the lines of a pro/con list or a moral code of ethics, create an integrity list or integrity code. Things you will absolutely not do and absolutely will do that honors yourself, others and your ethical and moral veracity. Display this list like you would the Ten Commandments, in a place that you will see it every day.
  2. Where do your personal values live? Finding out your values will act as a guide in helping you stay the course of a life of integrity, honesty, and authenticity.
  3. Get down and dirty. If ever you could practice honesty this is the place, right here, right this minute. Be as honest with yourself as you can be and highlight the areas in your life where you are not living with integrity. Everything about your life and your values starts within you so get to your truth and start to become who you want to see yourself to be.
  4. As the old adage goes, “Tell the truth so that you don’t have to remember what you said.”
  5. Wear your integrity badge of honor for all to see. Just like tying a piece of string to your finger to remind you of something you shouldn’t forget, wear something every day that reminds you of your integrity code.

Is there hope for us mere mortals? There is no such thing as perfect. The best we can hope for is perfectly imperfect with a side of trying like hell. So if you are feeling as if integrity is just too hard to handle here is what Brett and Kate advise:

“Obviously, not everyone who makes one bad choice ends up morally depraved and utterly crooked. Many of us are able to make a single mistake, or even several, but then get back on track again. This is because various conditions not only make it more or less likely that we’ll make that first dishonest decision, but also increase or decrease our chances of turning ourselves around once we start down an unethical road.”

My interpretation of this last statement: Practice makes almost perfect.

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Call To Action: Be honest now…..

How do you tend to embellish when you tell a story? Where is the trigger point?

What does it mean to you to have integrity?

Who do you see when you look in the mirror? Who do you want to see?

In what ways are you a 24/7 honest person? Where else can you improve?

How are you someone others can count on without question or hesitation?

What other ways can you live a life filled with integrity? Please feel free to add to my list; oh and do let me know how you are doing. We can all learn from each other’s successes.

 

If you would like to explore more about personal growth, building and strengthening your success characteristics, or discovering what more you have inside of you please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program.  Not ready yet? Please visit my website at www.journeyoncoaching.com. You can reach me by calling 203-560-3061 or send an email to: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com.

7 Silent Steps toward Resilience

 

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“Your habit of avoiding mental and emotional discomfort is your #1 reason for your being stuck where you are in life.” Tony Dovale

Doesn’t it just cut you like a knife when you find words that hold up a mirror to the uncomfortable truth of you? How do you resolve to come to terms with that inner truth and change it if you don’t like what you see?http://journeyoncoaching.com/2014/01/30/aaaaaand-action/

I find comfort and hope in the word resilience. Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; to show mental and physical toughness; the ability to spring back into shape.

Inside that strong, self-righteous word is silence.  For me the quiet silence of personal power sits in the midst of resilience to encourage me to overcome adversity and hardship in any form and be born again on the other side.

Right now I am in transition and at this moment choose to share my silence of personal struggle at becoming resilient. At almost any cost I will try to avoid mental and emotional discomfort and yes I do feel stuck a lot of the time. I want to be so resilient with the adversities that come along in my life that I could wear it like proud armor. The avoidance usually shows itself with people rather than in tasks that need tending to. Situations like cleaning the house or writing a new article or getting through a long day at work because I am looking forward to something better at the end of the day seem to be acceptable and manageable for me. I can face what needs to be done physically by playing mental games with myself but when it comes to people I am just a wet mop.

I don’t spring back into shape fast enough when it comes to verbally standing up for myself. I avoid conflict. I avoid saying what needs to be said when it comes to people I have to confront. I’m a great ally; great at helping other people work out their thoughts when they have to confront someone but just awful at helping myself.

What usually ends up happening is I walk away, never having said what needs to be said even for the sake of saying the one thing that I know might make a difference. I feel unspeakable.

Have you ever felt unspeakable?

The dictionary defines the word unspeakable as being very bad or evil; impossible to describe in words; incapable of being expressed in words; that may not or cannot be spoken.

Hard to believe with how often I write but when it comes to face to face discussions or as I refer to them, confrontations, there comes a moment when I feel unspeakable. I feel evil inside of my body because my initial reaction to anger is to lash out in anger and I hate myself for thinking and feeling so out of control. I have swirling thoughts that don’t connect in a coherent way fast enough for me to respond in a timely fashion or with dignity. Very often, days later I find that I can intelligently form rebuttals and responses that actually make sense. It takes me that long to form what I wish I could have said in the moment. Somehow I have not yet been able to find my voice. I feel such shame whenever this happens.

I imagine the outcome of what I truly want to be similar to two guys calling each other out for a street fight. They need to establish their position in the neighborhood and so they challenge each other to a fight. Someone will win and someone will lose but at the end of the day they will both have a mutual respect for one another as well as having established a place for themselves with the other kids that they will eventually refer to as friends. I want that. I want to be able to establish myself as someone to respect and be called a friend when the face off is over because I stood up for myself in a debate or confrontation of words.

In doing research on how to become resilient I have learned that I need to not be affected by what is being said. In other words I need to not take it personally. I should know this; it’s one of the 4 most powerful agreements http://www.humanpotentialunlimited.com/Summary-content.html. It is so difficult to stay neutral. I am a feeler. I am sensitive and empathic and sympathetic and my heart is in everything I do and say. However, being able to separate myself from the words that brought up an emotion may just help me to think more clearly and parse through options for an intelligent and balanced response.

Usually my physical response is to remove myself from the situation as quietly and quickly as I can even if this means losing employment. It sounds irrational and pathetic I know but once angry words are thrown out and the evidence shows that the anger seems to be the way that other person chooses to deal with his/her emotions then I’m out. I don’t choose to fight that way or resolve anything that way so I leave.

So the question I have to ask myself is how does it ever help me or the other person if I don’t engage? I can’t possibly be a teacher of possibilities if I can’t hold my own ground. I’ll never get the respect I want from that person or from myself if I keep walking away. Is it a form of turning the other cheek? At some point I have to speak and I have to say what needs to be said unemotionally and intelligently in the moment and THEN if I still feel that walking away is the best course of action I can do it with confidence in my decision.

There are subtle ways in which you and I can build resilience. Here are a few thoughts that have helped me so far:

  1. Breathe: I always tell my children that when they face a difficult situation try to take a deep breath and face it head on and remember all that it took to get through that tough moment. The great reward is that the next time you go through something difficult, and I promise you that you will, you will be able to have something to refer back to and build on.

“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” – Thich Nhat Hahn

  1. Create Purpose: Why are you in this difficult situation? How did you get here? How can you successfully and purposefully make this a learning experience that can not only benefit your well-being but help others when they hear your story? Attach a strong meaning to what is driving you through right now and put power to the outcome.

“He who has a ‘why’ to live for can bear any ‘how’.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

  1. Network it out: Where is your tribe? Where are your peeps? Who is part of your army? Is the universe a part of your network? Is G-d? It is so important to have go-to people standing at the ready to help and support and guide and confide. Unload your burden if that is the only thing that will alleviate the initial pain and discomfort. Hearing yourself talk out loud to someone that you trust above all else drains the situation of a lot of power and puts the power to get through back in your hands.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”  –C.S. Lewis

  1. Ready, Set, JUMP: Launch yourself head on into the problem without a game plan. Just the momentum of knowing you have no choice but to solve the problem is momentum enough. Stay open and stay flexible to whatever solutions pop up. Let the road take you where it wants you to go and be determined to get out of this maze.

“Life is a gamble. There are no sureties. If you want something badly, you’d have to trust your heart and your instincts and then take a leap of faith.” –Alyssa Urbano

  • Time Heals all wounds: This discomfort won’t last forever unless you learn and do nothing. If you do nothing or take nothing from what you went through then the tough situation gets tougher and will keep coming up more powerfully than ever before.

 

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” – Pema Chodrin

  • Make a To-Do list: Brainstorm ways to get through this adversity. When you actually sit down and write out your thoughts and plans of attack it secretly empowers you to move forward. Creating a game plan, even if you are asked to abandon the plan along the way, builds confidence inside to help you know that you are capable of problem solving. You are able to make lemonade out of these awful lemons.

 

“The only thing more important than your to-do list is your to-be list. The only thing more important than your to-be list is to be.” – Alan Cohen

  • Choose YOU: The question is, if someone provokes you is it your decision to do nothing and walk away or is it your response to fear of confrontation? t get just as angry as the person you are dealing with. Staying calm and not letting your emotions get the better of you is admirable and mature but is there another way? Who do you want to be? In my case I want to be someone that will politely and succinctly argue, defend or rationalize back to the person looking for confrontation. I want to walk away having said everything that needed to be said on my part. I want to feel proud of myself at the end of the day that I did all I could to stand up for myself.

 

“Seeking excellence means choosing to forge your own sword to cut through the limitations of your life…” – James A. Murphy

Call to Action

Join me won’t you? Let’s hold each other accountable for the steps we take to build resilience in our lives. Our motivations may be different but the end result is the same; to feel proud and stand tall and live a life of honesty, integrity and self-worth. How will you get there?

Images by bing.com/elevateevents.com.au

If you would like to explore more about personal growth, building and strengthening your success characteristics, or discovering what more you have inside of you please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program.  Not ready yet? Please visit my website at www.journeyoncoaching.com. You can reach me by calling 203-560-3061 or send an email to: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com.

 

6 Steps to Developing Success Characteristics

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” –John Wooden

I wasn’t going to do this. I promised myself that I wouldn’t go here again. I told myself that I have already explored this topic to death and there just isn’t anything more to say about it. I have cried and recovered and cried some more. I tried so hard to move on from this but here it is, again, asking me to face a new perspective on an old issue.

That’s what I do you know, as a life coach, I help people find new perspective on old issues. Sometimes I am required to hold up a mirror, sometimes I am required to speak the plain, harsh truth, sometimes I am required to take a meandering walk through thick forests where there is little light to guide the way until, together, we find the beginning of a clearing. The hard part for me is knowing all of this and applying these steps to myself, my life, and my issues; changing MY perspective. I’ve come to learn that it absolutely takes practice and time and it makes no sense at all to fight that process. Patience is absolutely a virtue here.

One of the very first assignments I ask my clients to do is to tell me about their character. What makes them tick according to them, what is it they know for sure about themselves that is a constant truth no matter what is going on in their lives. In defining character it is important to understand that character is a moral or ethical quality of a person or thing. It cannot be contained or stifled or created. We all have character as part of who we are. At any point during our lives we make choices to encourage different parts of our character or to let them sit idle. The core components of our character are those that we use every day no matter what we do or who we are with. There are usually at least 5 core character traits that we use every day but it could be as high as 10 traits. The top 5 traits are the ones that get used simultaneously and interchangeably throughout our day and interactions with life.

Why am I talking about character? Last year at this time I wrote about my oldest son going to test the waters of independence by moving far from home with some friends, to see if he could make it on his own. Life intervened and he came home after one very long month but he learned a lot and had a new perspective on his priorities and outlined a plan toward his success that would include him living back at home.

In less than one year he is moving out again, alone this time and will not be coming home in any foreseeable future. He is determined to make this work in his favor. He just has this indefinable needling inside of him that he has to answer. What is apparent this time that was not so apparent last time? His character. In the coaching world we call it character strengths. In my coaching practice I call it success characteristics. So what do I know for sure about him now that I didn’t know as well a year ago? Well I know about his courage, his determination, his zest, his authenticity, his humility, his kindness, his honesty and his optimism.

These are the success characteristics he brings with him in everything he does. Not all of them play at the top but most of them get engaged and used throughout his day. If I had to pick his top 5 I would say humility, authenticity, optimism, determination, and open-mindedness.

There are 24 critical human character strengths that each of us has inside of ourselves. Knowing what your strengths are is very uplifting and helps better define a life purpose. But know this, just because one strength is listed at number 24 doesn’t mean that strength is in a bad place it just means that it isn’t exercised enough. It can move up in ranks if you work hard at making yourself aware of using it.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller

(Anything worth having is worth working hard for. That’s an oldie but a goodie.)

So he is leaving on Friday and while as his mom I feel devastated to let him go because I will miss him with every fiber of my heart and soul, what I have come to really, genuinely, wholeheartedly realize is that he is not mine and he never was mine. Let me explain…..

I was tasked with the unimaginable pleasure and miracle of being his guide. I was given a gift and I was asked to take care of this gift to the best of my ability with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my might. I was not asked to own him like a trophy won or to control him like a radio active toy. I was asked to help him grow and learn and achieve his own success as he can and is able to do and to give back to the world he lives in. I did that. Was I successful? I don’t know. Part of me wants to say yes because look at him; he is embarking on this scary, adventurous, “I want to make something of myself” journey, alone. He is not hiding at home or letting fear of anything get in his way of becoming the man he envisions for himself.

In the end my son will have to be the one to answer the success question when he can. Did I feel successful? Sometimes. I’m not perfect and I can think of many times where my imperfection reared its ugly head. The success part will come along when I sense forgiveness for my imperfections. Will he choose to come home and visit? Will he make a point to keep in touch in as many ways as are available to him these days? Will he love the ladies with genuine reverence and respect? Will he choose to love any gift of children and be reminded at that time of all the ways in which he was loved as a child and young adult? These are the answers to success as a parent, in my humble opinion.

I’ll share with you my top 5 success characteristics and explain how I use them in dealing with my son leaving.

1-      Appreciation of beauty and excellence

2-      Gratitude

3-      Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness

4-      Honesty, authenticity, and genuineness

5-      Love of learning

What I know for sure about my son, what I have learned from day one is that the way in which he is choosing this path is very authentic to whom he has always been. His nickname, since he was 8 years old has been tank, given to him by his football coaches at that tender age. He plows through what needs to get done whether that be getting through his days at school or at his job, a specific task, football, you name it. He is doing that now by plowing through to the essence of his life and not wanting to wait through anymore schooling or for the “right” age to start a life. His strength of character and his courage of self is what will see him through. Patience is not yet a virtue of his but life will undoubtedlyteach him that lesson.

My appreciation of his beauty and excellence from the inside of him to the outside of him is key in letting him go with encouragement, faith, and a hopeful heart. My gratitude for the privilege of being his mom is solid and unwavering and grows every day. My open-mindedness in understanding his need and his determination and helping him to know how deep my faith runs inside of me for him.

I have done all that I can do face to face. I can fight this move or I can trust in him and encourage his faith in himself and silently, facelessly be the strength he needs when the times will get tough. It is ultimately his own perspective of his life events that will determine his strength of character and which of the 24 traits he will need more of and less of at any given time. Perspective is everything.

“What we call our destiny is truly our character and that character can be altered. The knowledge that we are responsible for our actions and attitudes does not need to be discouraging, because it also means that we are free to change this destiny.” – Aniais Nin

I was reading an article recently about how to create a strong character arc for writers who want to create fictional characters for their stories. What I learned from that article is also something that rings very true to real human beings.  How does someone create personal character?

Find your drive: What motivates you? What drives you to do what you do or drives you to want what you want? My son wants to get on with becoming the man he envisions. That is his drive and motivation to getting up every day.

Get Active: Make a plan and execute the plan. Some days your actions might be in small ways and some days your actions might be huge, remarkable pushes toward your drive. Start taking charge of your life by practicing who you want to be.

Get out of the box: Somewhere along the road of growing up you just knew it was time to bust out of the routine of living at home and embark on the adventure of calling your own shots. Break free of the routine you find yourself in and shake things up. Test your limits as safely and wisely as possible to see just what you are made of. Travel, take a class, learn a new skill, or meet new people. Whatever is not in your normal comfort zone is where you belong now. If you have fear around trying something new then by all means try something new.

Learn all you can: Grow your mind, your brain, and your spirit; grow your character strengths. Find a new interest, a new hobby, and a new way of being happy. Find what creates sparks and learn all you can about it. You never know what doors will open up to you once you set out and explore your possibilities and explore your world.

Release the gremlin: The ego is a dangerous thing. In coaching we tend to call it the gremlin. That little voice inside that always talks smack to you by putting you down, making you doubt yourself, instilling fear where there really isn’t anything to be afraid of. The gremlin is all about making you feel small and it feel supreme. Let it go and stomp on it every time it shows itself.

Tidy up: If you are determined to find your drive and get into action with your desires then make sure that your life around you looks the same. If you tend to be sloppy in appearance and surroundings then clean up your self and your area. The outer you should reflect the inner you even while you are making the changes and strengthening the character traits you want to let define you. Inner growth reflects in outer growth.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote about 9 requisites for a contented life. Here is my interpretation of his requisites in a wish list for the best possible life you can create:

I wish you health enough to make work a pleasure

I wish you wealth enough to support your needs

I wish you strength enough to battle the difficulties and overcome them

I wish you grace enough to forgive yourself as well as others

I wish you patience enough to work hard until some good is accomplished and realized

I wish you charity enough to see some good in the people around you

I wish you love enough to move you to be useful and helpful to others

I wish you faith enough to make real the things you imagine

I wish you hope enough to remove all anxious fears concerning the future. We have no control over what will be so make the most of what is right now.

How fitting that all of the memories of sharing life with my son should come flooding into me while he takes on his life on Memorial weekend? Weird kind of happenstance or karma? You decide….

So while I am desperately hugging and kissing and saying good-bye to my son I want to leave you with this last thought: What we think is what we become. From the vast menu of character strengths to choose from choose authentically (with a side of humor.)

Call to Action

What do you think are your top 5 character strengths?

How do you use them throughout your day?

What character strengths would you like to start using that you are not using right now?

When was the last time you knew you were ready for a mind growth breakthrough?

As I will say to my son, Journey On……

 

If you would like to explore more about personal growth, building and strengthening your success characteristics, or discovering what more you have inside of you please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program. You can reach me by calling 203-560-3061 or send an email to: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com.

 

4 Home Grown Humility Lessons

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” –C.S. Lewis

Humility has been playing a major role in my life this year. Humility is lowly and meek on the outside but courteous and respectful throughout. Humility puts others first.

Maybe I’m more aware of courtesy and respect or the lack thereof than ever before because I’m getting older or maybe it is just a bi-product of the way our society seems to be so self-centered. Whatever the reason I find myself so much more open to learning from others no matter where I am or with whom. Every new learning opportunity and every word I take in I am more and more aware of this feeling of humility and of paying homage and of being grateful.

I recently joined my local Chamber of Commerce and as a result of attending networking events through the Chamber I have been meeting a lot of new people this year. I have found myself feeling humbled by a few people I have met. Their natural way of speaking set the interaction between us on a different level and I was aware of how I have never experienced that before and I found my mind opening up in ways I didn’t know were possible.  I want to hear everything they have to say, I want to ask questions I’ve never asked before, and I want to understand things I have never had a need to understand before. It feels right to feel humble. It feels right to honor the people that make me take notice. It sets them apart from other people I have met. Their uniqueness is so evident that I have to pay attention with awe and humility to all that I do not know. The conversation is richer and has more colors to it.

I’m sure there were humbling moments that have occurred in my life but I don’t think I was aware of the blessing of feeling humbled. I don’t think I ever made that connection until now. For me the blessing of humility is in the ways in which I can bring a smile to someone’s face or help through my coaching. It’s a blessing to be of service to others. The late, great psychologist Christopher Peterson said, “Other people matter.” The end.

If you ever want to feel instant connection to humility watch a child share a toy with another child knowing that no one asked the first child to share that toy. The innocence, the love, the honesty in that moment of sharing could very possibly bring a tear to your eye. Humility is in deeds and silence.

Today I tried to be very aware of my sense of humility. I have been working part time at a local public library for a little over 6 months now and every week I work with young children in a story time program that the library offers. I only see the children the one time per week so it has taken a while for them to feel comfortable and safe with me. Today one of the children told me he loves me as he waved good-bye, “I love you Miss Lisa” and another child said that I was a great reader of stories. Keep in mind that these children are 6 and 3 respectively. I was so thankful and speechless at the same time. Oh yea, a tear fell.

I don’t run story time for accolades. I do it because it is so fun working with the little ones. Every week I am nervous as a butterfly wing hoping I don’t mess up the words I am reading or nervous that the kids will like the craft we are doing that day. Just to let you in on a little secret, I do mess up the words I read sometimes and the kids are just fine about it. That is humbling. I am always so surprised to come to the end of the story time sessions and feel filled to the brim with happiness for the fun they all had. A smile truly is worth a thousand words.

This has been a year of changes for me mostly by way of perspective. My mini-series on change started out wishing you all a happy YOU year  By the way, if you would like to see those posts please visit my website, www.journeyoncoaching.com or email a request to me and I will send the posts to you.

I have, for some reason, been witness to quite a few incidences lately where I have felt humbled by what I have seen. Let me just say right now that I am beyond grateful for not only the experiences but for the blessing to recognize how I’m feeling and how it has affected the way I interact and the way I stay present every day. The humility I feel with each experience has been so powerful that at times it has brought me to my knees. The result of all of these experiences has found me wanting to pay forward my changed perspective. (I encourage you to please read The Noticer by Andy Andrews for a deeper meaning to a changed perspective. It is an incredible book.) I’ve noticed that I am calmer, more even tempered, more forgiving, I listen deeper and I notice more around me. I want to share with you some insights I noticed in reference to humility that have been coming to the surface of my awareness as I let myself truly feel the changes that are coming over me.

*Be Grateful“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Leave no stone unturned in your approach and reverence toward being grateful. Feeling grateful is humbling. Dr. Robert Emmons writes in his book, Thanks! “Grateful thinking fosters the savoring of positive life experiences and situations.” When you are showing gratitude you are being humble in the presence of the experience and honoring your awareness.

*No Contest. We are each unique. We are one of a kind. There is no one on earth like us. Celebrate your unique status. Don’t compare yourself to someone else. Celebrate the fact that we can each learn from one another at any moment in our lives. Our soul’s purpose is to help each other grow and learn and reach and become and achieve.

“Don’t compare yourself to anyone in this world; if you do you are insulting yourself.” –Bill Gates

*Learn for life.  We were not born knowing everything there is to know. True, our experiences solidify certainties that we hold on to with fierce determination but what if what we believed to be true wasn’t really the only truth? Wisdom comes from learning and bending and experimenting with many perspectives. Stay open in your mind and soul to always learn from every experience. Don’t close a door because the lesson was hard the first time around. Take a deep breath and see what you can see.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” –Joseph Campbell

*Kill with Kindness. Do good work and people will notice. Do great work and people will wonder who you are and how to be like you. Do great work always. Let your kind acts speak for themselves. Don’t boast or brag and don’t be kind to be noticed. Be kind because everyone is need of kindness every day. Let go of the self and be the selfless.

“The Paradoxical Commandments

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.”
Kent M. Keith, The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council

*Let Go of the Outcome. More times than not life will interfere with the plans we make. The outcome of any hoped for situation will invariably end not as we expected or wanted. Exchange the word expectation to something much more real and soft and usable like hope, surprise, awe, wonder, magic, or magnificence. Humility lives in these new words. Work hard, follow your heart, do what you need to do but then let go of the outcome. The results will be what they were meant to be because you had a hand in it. We don’t know everything so let the energy of your great work and the energy you put out into the universe help to decide the ending.

“Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.”  Samuel Johnson

Call to Action 

Share with me the answers to these questions. Your stories are everything to me.

Where were you kind today?

What are you grateful for today? Is there something you are grateful for that hasn’t happened yet?

Where did you leave ego and self at home?

Who did you humble yourself to today?

What caught inside of your soul today that made you stop breathing and fall to your knees with humility and honesty?

If you would like to explore more about personal growth, creating awareness of humility, or discovering what more you have inside of you please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program. You can reach me by calling 203-560-3061 or send an email to: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com.

 

4 Steps to Becoming an AWE FULL Person

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” –W.B. Yeats

I was sitting in a pastry shop with a new friend I had met just a few days before. We were talking about our businesses, sharing war stories about how we got started and where we hope to take our passions in the future.

We had been talking for about 30 minutes and because we were both engrossed in the conversation we didn’t pay much attention to what was going on around us. Out of what seemed like nowhere a man approached our table. Neither one of us knew this man. The man looked right at my new friend and said, “I don’t know why I feel this way but for some reason I just know that if I were to tell you my strife you would be a great listener.”

Have you ever been a witness to deep, pure honesty, open vulnerability or felt such powerful awe toward another human being?

I was awe struck and silent. I just kept listening to this man tell his story to my friend and watched my friend listen and try to help this man.

I’ve had moments of awe in my life; when my children were born, when I see a rainbow, when something I was baking came out right on the first try, when I am aware enough to be able to recognize a miracle. Never in my life had I been in the presence of someone that, without trying or purpose, positively affected a total stranger just by existing in the same space.

The dictionary defines awe as an emotion that varies between inspiring dread, veneration and wonder. Synonyms include admiration, amazement, astonishment, wonder, wonderment. I think I felt all of those things in an instant.

After having experienced that awe struck feeling in such a powerful way I wanted to understand how to be that kind of person. What would it feel like to positively affect another human being simply because I existed or simply because my positive energy was flowing out toward others? Watching my new friend interact with the man, I noticed that my friend did not seem fazed by a stranger approaching him in that way. Being an outside observer I had to then wonder was my friend immune or becoming immune or just not in touch with his own light or his own positive energy?

“A miracle is often the willingness to see the common in an uncommon way.” –Noah Beshea, Jacob the Baker: Gentle Wisdom for a Complicated World

No. My friend was not immune or becoming immune and I do believe he knew something of his own light. He was being his divine self and honoring his purpose to help someone in need. THAT is awesome. It was a moment of purity, humility, clarity for me, selflessness and just plain honor.

I started searching inside of myself to better understand awe. Words like reverence, trust, humility, integrity, curiosity, grace and authenticity came up.

I think reverence was the strongest of these words. Reverence is the outward manifestation of awe; a gesture indicating deep respect. Reverence honors, respects, esteems, and adores a person or action. I definitely felt all of this in the moment of witnessing the honesty of this stranger as he spoke out loud to my friend. I reached out my hand to touch my friends’ arm because in that moment I was not in control of what I was doing. I had to touch that energy and connect with the reverence I was feeling in that moment.

How sad it is that moments like these are so few or noticed so infrequently that when we are struck by it we immediately take notice of the strange feeling it invokes in us and how we also feel humbled. How amazing it is that we are given the opportunity every day to recognize the awesomeness of those moments when they happen and let the experience seep into our soul. I would hate to take for granted reverent and awe struck moments.

“I never wake up in the morning and wonder why I am here. I wake up and wonder why I am not making here better.” –Jeffrey Fry

I wonder both thoughts actually. Sometimes when life seems to be crashing down around me and I can’t find a single thing that makes me feel good about my existence that’s when I wonder why I am here. But I have to say that most of the time I question every day not so much why I am not making here better but how I can make here better. I think, for me, inside of that “how” question is the humility and reverence I am looking for.

So how can someone keep awe and reverence as part of their humanness? Some people will go directly to religion and some people will just do good works. I like to reflect back on something my mom had said to me as I was growing up, “Never forget what it was like when you were….”.

This one thought is very powerful for me. I have often interjected endings like “when I was 13 years old, or when I was a first time parent, or when I was a business owner.” It doesn’t matter how the thought manifests itself, the point is to always stay in touch with the feeling because that is where your energy and your unique light will shine for someone else to grab onto.

Children are a blank slate. Just about everything they experience is an awesome moment; a wondrous moment. Their own wonderment is what helps their brains grow and expand and inspires their curiosity. Their awe moments push them forward. Have you ever noticed that when children experience understanding in an awe inspired moment, such as the telling of a joke or the sudden impact of emotion at all, that children will immediately look to a parent, grandparent or respected older person for confirmation of their understanding? I noticed that very thing while my kids were growing up. They were in the throes of understanding something they couldn’t understand before and the impact it had on them. They looked to me to see if I “get it” and that we were sharing the same wonderful experience together. That is awe and reverence.

How about as an adult? Do we experience awe moments anymore? Sure we do. Every morning that we wake up and have a chance at this new, clean slate of a day we are blessed with the awesome possibilities that day could bring. What will you notice today? What will catch inside of you to set today apart from yesterday? Where did an awe moment exist for you today?

There is a way to keep awe and reverence alive inside of you even in the throes of a difficult life.

  • Define your moments of awe. Is it a sunset or is it the way a newborn baby curls its fingers around your finger? Is your moment of awe a walk in nature or might it be the way your garden flourishes or the way the bird sings? Stay conscious of your awe moments as they come along.
  • Create moments of awe. If your child laughing takes your breath away then create moments where you just know you will hear your child laugh. If watching your child pray is an awe moment for you then create moments of prayer wherever possible. Attract to yourself that which will enhance your attention to magical, mystical, awe inspiring life moments. You attract to you that which you put your attention to, energy to and focus to. This could be negative or positive. Choose your attention, energy and focus wisely and thoughtfully.
  • Slow down. Awe moments happen most often when we are not paying attention to them. Notice when you are “caught” in the majesty of an awe moment. You’ll know it right away because your breath will change, your senses will prickle and your mind will instinctively know that this moment you are in, as fleeting as it is, is something special. Honor it as best you can. Let it sink deep into your soul. Pass along the feeling to anyone who would be interested in hearing the story.
  • Consider the health benefits. Studies are now finding that a sense of awe throughout our lives has a positive affect on our health.
  • Time. It will take time to create a habit of recognizing and celebrating awe moments. Allow the time to work its magic. One fine day you will realize that the miracles and awe you become aware of were not something you set out to recognize. It just became a part of your everyday activity and your life will seem quite miraculous. AWESOME!

Call to Action

Try these 4 tips over a 2 month time frame. Tell me how awe and reverence has increased in your life. What have you noticed, what has been magnified in your view of your life? What have other people noticed about you that make them want to share your new perspective, new energy, or new light?

If you would like to explore more about personal growth, creating awe moments, or discovering what more you have inside of you please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program. You can reach me by calling 203-560-3061 or send an email to: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com.

Images by Simplereminders.com