The Little Things: What was Your Life Made of This Year?

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“I’m not sure why, but when a person expects something to last forever, they don’t notice the little things. It’s only when the clock is ticking all those little things add up and become bigger.” Shannon Wiersbitzky, What Flowers Remember

As the year winds down I am so acutely aware of each minute that ticks by. I take stock of what the aging year has produced and what hope the New Year holds. I think about what I’ve learned, hoping that I have learned a lot of things. I think about how much better off I am now than one year ago and I don’t mean in terms of money. What I truly mean is in terms of personal growth and life experiences, which to me is so much more than money. It’s the little moments of my life this year that I hope made the biggest impact on my soul and then I think if I can remember all of those little moments maybe they were the big things after all.

“Life is not made up of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years, but of moments. You must experience each one before you can appreciate it.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

In the spirit of honoring the year as it takes its final bow out of time I would like to leave you with a few of the moments/memories that have left an imprint on my soul. A trusted colleague calls this his annual review. It’s made up of the very personal good and bad moments that made this year stand tall.

Perhaps you have had similar experiences but never thought to really pay them much heed or perhaps you will take these shared moments and watch for them in the new year or perhaps we are all on the same journey through time sharing similar experiences in our own unique perspective. Whichever way you honor the good and the bad of your life moments I hope you are better for them.

The most recent life moment I absolutely honor with grace and awe is the time spent celebrating my daughter’s birthday. It wasn’t a milestone birthday but it was a celebration of her birth nonetheless and that in itself deserves to make the list of little things.

“So much of life is in the smallness of moments…but they are harder to mark. So we need the grander celebrations and occasions. People like to feel significant.” Ally Condie, Atlantia

Glancing over at the large picture window in my office and stopping everything to go sit in the sunshine streaming through.

“As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. Just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.” Laura Ingalls Wilder, Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder – Volume One: On Wisdom and Virtues

Meeting new people and realizing that their impact on my life, be it good or bad, changed me for the better.

“That’s the ideal meeting…once upon a time, only once, unexpectedly, then never again.” Helen Oyeyemi

Seeing a hummingbird for the first time in my life.

“Some of my old memories feel trapped in amber in my brain, lucid and burning, while others are like the wing beat of a hummingbird, an intangible, ephemeral blur.” Mira Bartok, The Memory Palace

Silently celebrating the day after the first day of winter because for the next 182 days we add one minute of daylight and hope blooms eternal.

“I find it inspiring to actively choose which traditions to celebrate and also come up with new ideas for traditions of my own.” Sara Sheridan

Sitting at my favorite coffee shop enjoying the smell while sipping my green tea and writing. I am not a coffee drinker at all but I love a good, old-fashioned, wrap me in warmth coffee shop.

“A smoke, a book, a cup of coffee. These are the little things that get us through this sometimes weary world and all the rainy days.” R.M. Engelhardt, The Resurrection Waltz Poems R.M. Engelhardt

Window shopping in the winter and seeing all the beautiful colors of the flowers in the flower shop on the most gray, snowy day of the season.

“Somehow, those cold, lifeless winter months had prepared the land for something breathtaking. Something beautiful. Something brimming with life.” Katie Ganshert, Wildflowers from Winter

Laughing so hard when I’m supposed to be as quiet as a mouse. Whether it be at my job at the library as an adult or a teenager sitting in my English class I find that those quiet moments are the ones that really spark my uncontrollable laughter.

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” Victor Borge

Hearing the perfect song at a time of day when I needed it most.

“Songs remain. They last. The right song can turn an emperor into a laughing-stock, can bring down dynasties. A song can last long after the events and the people in it are dust and dreams are gone. That’s the power of songs.” Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

Raising my level of gratitude so much higher than I ever imagined it could go but battling still with moments of unhappiness.

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” Maya Angelou, Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer

Understanding the lessons in why it’s important to make quality decisions but not yet feeling able to make important decisions in my own life.

“The problem, simply put, is that we cannot choose everything simultaneously. So we live in danger of becoming paralyzed by indecision, terrified that every choice might be the wrong choice.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

Continuing to worry about the same problems year after year and finding it so hard to let it go or finding a solution.

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:25-34 ― Anonymous, Holy Bible: King James Version

Thank you for your indulgence with my annual review of the little things. I hope it sparked something inside of you to help you take stock of your life this year and highlight what you want to work on and grow in the New Year.

Call to Action

How possible is it to mine each new day of the new year for little life moments, for the little things that flavor life with its sweetness? That is the call to action for you. Find the little things in each new day of the New Year and see how it changes you for the better.

What went well this year?

What did not go well this year?

Where does growth reside for you in the New Year?

What little things became the big thing after all?

7 Silent Steps toward Resilience

 

Resilient

“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.

 

A Mother’s Prayer

 

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“You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings.” –Elizabeth Gilbert

I know Ms. Gilbert said that as a personal incentive to create the life she wanted for herself but when I read it with a mother’s perspective it takes on a whole new meaning. As mom’s we must participate relentlessly in the manifestation of our own blessings, our blessings being our children. We will get it wrong a lot but we must continue to be relentless because our children need us to be so. However in our relentless pursuit of caring for our children we forget the one most important lesson, the one thing that sounds the most backward…

“But kids don’t stay with you if you do it right. Motherhood is the one job where, the better you are, the more surely you won’t be needed in the long run.” – Barbara Kingsolver, Pigs In Heaven

I need to remind myself of this nearly every day because my heart wants them to need me but in reality it’s a different kind of need that I truly want. It’s not a dependency need it’s a memory lane kind of need.

So how do we muster the strength to be relentless? In a word, love.

“Evil itself may be relentless. I will grant you that, but love is relentless too. Friendship is a relentless force. Family is a relentless force. Faith is a relentless force. The human spirit is relentless, and the human heart outlasts – and can defeat – even the most relentless force of all, which is time.” Dean Koontz, Relentless

I am relentlessly in pursuit of life meaning and life purpose and understanding free will and just what it means to be grateful and feel blessed. I was led to get in touch with my daughter’s co-worker today because she and I seemed to have similar life struggles that called to both of us for support. It was the best thing I did today. During our conversation she spoke of her struggles with her son and in the middle of her story I heard this, “…….a mother’s prayer……”. I knew what I wanted to do right then.

“The greatest heroes in life are those that never give up on someone. They stick it out and make it work. They sacrifice things in their life, in order to help others grow. They give up what they want because someone needs it more. They work hard and overcome adversity. They fail for a moment, but get back up on their feet to show others they don’t have to stay down. They show their loved ones that love is not “proved” by conformity. They teach others that having a voice is a sign of courage, and they will not stay silent to make people feel comfortable. They are fearless and will do whatever it takes to bring about the greatness in the ones they love because doing so brings them peace. Their name is—MOM.” Shannon L. Alder

Relentlessly I pray for my children. For their safety, for their good health in mind and body and spirit, for their good thoughts both for themselves and toward others but I know that their journey is individual and just as it has taken me all these years to learn and grow and discover and uncover layers of who I am and who I am yet to be so I must allow time to work its magic on them. My prayer then becomes one of asking that they be led to a path of self-discovery, self-sacrifice and self-awareness for their immeasurable blessings.

What does your prayer sound like?

Call to Action

There are no rules to this thing. Just let your heart speak. There is no special day or time of day, there are no special words to use because all prayers are heard and answered in the right space and time. Right where you are in the middle of the chaos and relentless pursuit of raising your good, free-thinking, loving family is the best and most right place to speak your prayer.

Share your mother’s prayer with me and it just may wind up in my new book.

I came across this beautiful poem/prayer that I have to share with you because it could be every mother’s prayer for her child/children any time of their lives:

“For Equilibrium, a Blessing:

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore, May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.

As the wind loves to call things to dance, May your gravity be lightened by grace.

Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth, May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.

As water takes whatever shape it is in, So free may you be about who you become.

As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said, May your sense of irony bring perspective.

As time remains free of all that it frames, May your mind stay clear of all it names.

May your prayer of listening deepen enough to hear in the depths the laughter of god.” John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

If you would like to explore more about personal growth in any direction, 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.

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.

 

Personal Thoughts to Help Bring Grace Into Your Life

“Grace has to be the loveliest word in the English language. It embodies almost every attractive quality we hope to find in others. Grace is a gift of the humble to the humiliated. Grace acknowledges the ugliness of wrongdoing by choosing to see beyond it. Grace accepts a person as someone worthy of kindness despite whatever grime or hard-shell casing keeps him/her separated from the rest of the world. Grace is a gift of tender mercy when it makes the least sense.” –Charles R. Swindoll

I remember the start of any school year and a teacher telling our class, “Today you all have an “A”. It is up to you to lose it.”

You didn’t earn the “A”, you may not even feel like you deserve the “A” but you have it and it is precious.

We are born. We didn’t deserve birth, we didn’t earn the right to be born, it wasn’t “our turn” but somehow we are here and we have an unknown amount of time to use what we have been given, life, to the best of our abilities. The grace of life is like the universe saying: “Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t be the same without you.” –Frederick Buechner

We were given DNA passed down to us from eons of generations and yet there is one thing we are all given at birth that no one can take away; Grace.

 “Life is grace. Sleep is forgiveness. The night absolves. Darkness wipes the slate clean, not spotless to be sure, but clean enough for another day’s chalking.” –Frederick Buechner, The Alphabet of Grace

I sometimes look forward to sleeping simply because I have a need to put this day to an end and to give myself time to restore hope for tomorrow. Every day I am given is like the universe saying, “Here is another day to make the most of you, for yourself as well as for others.” Every morning is like a rebirth into a life I was not deserving of. The awe of that thought is humbling.

To be sure, there will always be a need for grace and therefore also for gratitude. Gratitude and grace go hand in hand. Grace whispers breath into my soul and gratitude takes that breath and turns it into words and expressions and gifts to be given. “Grace is a very strong, mighty and active thing. It does not lie asleep in the soul. Grace hears, leads, draws, changes, works all in man, and lets itself be distinctly felt and experienced. It is hidden, but its works are evident.” –Martin Luther

In his book, Grateful for Everything, author Skip Johnson writes, “When we diligently study, learn, and apply skills of being grateful for everything, our day-to-day experience shifts from trying to stay one step ahead of problems to consistently trusting and appreciating life and all the lessons that are presented to us.” We were given life by grace and we maintain a graceful life through gratitude.

One of the hardest life experiences is to lose a loved one. That experience tests grace, gratitude humility, reverence and a host of other values. When my father passed away at the young age of 63 I was inundated with all of these feelings. He had been very, very sick with complications from diabetes among which took his essence from his family long before the disease took his body away and I remember the feeling of relief that washed over me and through me when my brother called to tell me he died. I remember the feeling of gratitude and grace that came over me in that moment. No more suffering. No more hardship in dealing with this disease. No more anger. No more fighting. No more tears. It cleared the way for me to remember him as my dad, the tall, sensitive, hardworking man that loved me like no one else could. Keeping his grace and gentleness inside of me, feeling grateful for having had him in my life at all, helps to insure his legacy will be strong and eternal.

It’s a given that we will stumble, fall, fail, make a mistake, err, slander and do wrong. We are human and we are at the mercy of our own evolutionary level of emotional intelligence. No two people are the same and no two souls grow and learn and evolve the same. What I may have learned at 15 may be something you are learning at 50. No worries in that because in our own time and at our own pace the lessons we need to learn will come and with it will be the emotional attachment that helps the lessons stick for good. That is grace.

I can remember many people who I have felt did me wrong in my life. I can also remember people who have shown me kindness and mercy and consideration simply because those character strengths were a part of who they wanted to be. At some point in our lives we all feel undeserving of kindness but the reality is we are all deserving of kindness especially at those low moments. That is grace.

When someone joyfully notices something about my character that I myself am in denial about that is grace; when a stranger can systematically list all the qualities about me that instantly attracted him/her to me that is grace; when a spouse can love you no matter what mood you are in, that is grace.  It is a persons’ unique, inherent ability to see goodness that makes grace unattainable through deeds. We are all born with grace and it is how we hold onto it and use it and grow with it that makes grace something to behold in spirit.

Grace is unconditional love, unconditional forgiveness and unconditional rebirth. You do nothing to earn it and it yet renewal is its life force.

How can we honor the undeserving gift of Grace:

  • Exist in a constant state of consideration and thoughtfulness. “You listen first with ears, then you wait and listen for what your heart feels, then you consider what they’ve said, then, you reply….” – John Geddes, A Familiar Rain

 

  • Express decency and mercy whenever possible, to yourself as well as to others. “When you are lying in bed at night and regrets from the day come to steal your sleep….’I should have’, ‘If only I’, ‘I wish I,’….grab one of them and turn it into ‘I will’ and sleep peacefully knowing tomorrow will be a better day.” –L.R. Knost

 

 

  • Act with grace in kindness, courtesy, gratitude and clemency. “Growing into your future with health and grace and beauty doesn’t have to take all your time. It rather requires a dedication to caring for yourself as if you were rare and precious, which you are, and regarding all life around you as equally so, which it is.” –Victoria Moran, Younger by the Day

 

  • Offer reprieve to those in need. Be helpful. “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” –Charles Dickens

 

 

  • Take grace on like a second skin. Let the evolution, spirit, charm and pleasantness of grace become part of your everyday character strengths.

“Poem by Howard A. Walter”

I would be true, for there are those who trust me;

I would be pure, for there are those who care;

I would be strong, for there are those who suffer;

I would be brave, for there is much to dare.

I would be friend of all, the foe, and the friendless;

I would be giving, and forget the gift;

I would be humble, for I know my weakness;

I would look up, and laugh, and love and lift.”

Call to Action

Where does grace live in you? Is it in your heart, your head, or maybe in your soul?

How can you express your unique grace to others today?

What does grace feel like for you?

Please share your stories. Your story could make all the difference in someone’s life.

 

If you would like to explore more about personal growth, building character strengths, 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

Have a Little Faith

 

“None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have faith.” –Paulo Coelho, Brida

We tend to free associate faith as being synonymous with God or religion but what about faith as an entity or power within ourselves?

What is faith, really? Faith is soul talk. Faith is the voice deep inside of your soul that tells you the truth and it is up to you to listen carefully and honestly to the soul talk; to trust that voice. Some might call it intuition.

What does it feel like to truly have faith?  For me, to truly have faith means to have freedom. To truly have faith means to know that what I am doing is born of a good heart with good intentions and whatever the outcome is, it was supposed to be that way. Faith means to have courage.

“Faith is the courage to live your life as if everything that happens does so for your highest good and learning. Like it or not.” –Dan Millman

How does a person go about living a faithful life? That’s a hard one but from what I’ve experienced to live a faithful life means to relinquish control of the outcome and to let go of doubt.

When I start to feel like I have to hold on tighter than normal to make sure things turn out the way I want the outcome to be, well, this is not necessarily the outcome that should be and it screams of my doubt that things will go well at all. That is when I know I should stop and breathe deeply and let go of my narrow perspective, my righteousness. I don’t have all the answers. I only know what I think would make me happy. My perception of happiness is not for certain. I can’t see the bigger picture because I am the one inside the picture. Let the universe, the hope my energy creates, make more clear what happiness looks like and to then shoulder my doubts. Since I can’t account for every nuance of true happiness I have to believe that those things I can’t account for are just what faith will reveal. Here is a short story to shed light on this idea:

My youngest son is almost finished with high school. He is 17 and has been ready to launch and take control of his life for quite some time. This past week as a matter of fact, he and I had a heated conversation about his ability to take control of his life. I am not seeing any evidence of him making good decisions and the result of his poor decision making has been resulting in unhappy consequences for him. I hold on tighter to try to control his environment and take a strong hand in taking away his opportunities to make bad decisions. It’s not a good thing for me to do but I have been doing it for 17 years so it’s hard to stop just like that.

He on the other hand sees the consequences, good or bad, of his actions as part of a larger learning experience and so he said to me, “Mom, I know you are there for me and I know you worry about me but I want to make my own decisions and learn from my own mistakes.” Well that shut me up really quick. How can I not hear that?

My faith in him as a human being has to be greater than my doubt in his abilities to meet the challenges he is choosing to face. My faith in him as a person coming out of my home and my teachings has to be the overall measuring stick. Of course he is going to make mistakes and bad judgment calls, of course he is going to fall and have to find the inner strength to stand back up again but my FAITH in him OVERALL is what will hopefully give him the courage to meet those challenges; knowing that someone that loves him desperately is not doubting him when it really counts. I have to let go of the outcome, I have to let go of his hand, I have to let go of seeing him as my baby boy and trust, without doubt, and be courageous within myself to let him go. My perception of his happiness is not his perception of his happiness. I don’t know for sure what his future looks like. I can only believe in his ability to stand up to adversity because for all these years I have been kind of shielding him and warning him away from the really bad adversities. That’s not good for him or me. He needs to know that no matter what happens, I am here for him; I am his home when he needs one to regroup in. Yeah, faith is a huge inner sanctum that starts in the soul and spreads outward.

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” –Joseph Campbell

The dictionary defines faith as a belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something such as a force or the universe or God, especially without logical proof. It could also be defined as

-Unquestioning belief or

-A non-physical dimension of life; the evidence of things not seen; a strong conviction, deep trust or reliance upon or loyalty to something or some feeling.

Faith is magic. When life is at its lowest point and all seems predictably lost faith says, “But maybe all is not lost. Maybe all you need to do is believe.” Remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz when Glinda the good witch told Dorothy that she had the power to go home all along. All she had to do was believe and concentrate hard on what she really wanted. I think of faith just like that.

My purpose of this post is to explore, briefly, faith without religiousness attached to it. It’s not an easy thing to do so I ask you to please interject your personal awareness of faith where and when appropriate if it is something that comes from a religious point of view for you in order to maintain a continuity of the overall concept of faith.

“To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.” –Alan Wilson Watts

Lately I feel as if I have existed in despair. I have been driven to my knees in humbleness and awe of people and circumstance. It felt like a natural response to the absence of faith. I have been humbled in despair and I have summoned the force within myself to stand back up and take one step forward while at the same time feeling a deep and soulful need to ask the universe or my inner energy for help. It was faith in that one step, faith that that one step was within me to take, that I was able to stand back up and move forward. The soul connection (http://journeyoncoaching.com/2014/03/02/4-powerful-ways-to-make-a-soul-connection/) I made recently along with all of life’s obstacles that seem to have inundated me all at one time, left me with this whirlwind of despair and also this unshakeable knowing that this too shall pass.

I love that cliché, “This too shall pass”. It is the ultimate snapshot of faith. Sure, I want this despair to pass yesterday and if I really had my way I would want to never feel this despair at all but here’s the amazing thing, I am more alive in this moment of despair than at any other time. I am super, hyper sensitive to EVERYTHING that is going on around me right now. I listen deeper, I see more curiously, I feel more sensitively and I speak more purposefully. I ask questions more directly to gain more meaning, perspective and understanding.

Questions constantly fill my brain like, why did I have to go through this experience at all? Why are so many situations in my life crashing down around me all at one time? What are the lessons I am supposed to be learning and when will I learn them?

“Faith is daring the soul to go beyond what the eyes can see.” –William Newton Clark

And that’s just it; there is a lesson to be learned and I want desperately to learn it. I want to see beyond what is in front of me. I want to feel beyond my own self interpretation. By having faith in the knowledge that everything happens for a reason I am lulled into a calmer, purposeful plodding.

Sometimes, when I am really quiet, I just know without a doubt that the lesson may not necessarily be only for me but for the person involved in the situation that may have started my despair or for clients I have yet to meet. THAT is fantastic and hopeful! Sure, it’s an ugly feeling to be going through, this despair thing, but my heart needs to understand it and where my heart goes so goes my empathy, my awareness, and my spirit.

“Even when things don’t work out, they do.” –Anonymous

Faith asks you to let go. Faith says, “Do what you need to do so that you know you gave this all you have but then let go of the outcome.” Why is there a need to control everything in our lives? Having faith in myself means that the only real control I have, ever, is my attitude and ability to choose open-mindedness; in other words my ability to expand my perspective.

For sure there are some ways in which putting our faith toward something might be harmful. Recently a family friend told me a story of how a neighbor he had known for over 20 years had asked him to consider investing in a new start up business. Now, this neighbor had proven to be a reliable, friendly,  community minded person and so it was no real stretch for my friend to have had faith in this neighbor and his request because after all, my friend new this man for a very long time. My friend didn’t think twice about investing the money with his friend but within a couple of weeks of investing the money my friend found out that the neighbor took off with the money, not just what was given to him from my friend but from everyone that had invested, never to be heard from again.

So how do you trust your own faith?

My take away from that story is that my friend showed faith in his own judgment and in the neighbor he knew to be this kind, genuine person and that is where it stops. A good decision was made based on solid evidence. But faith means trusting without solid evidence.

The neighbor did not have faith that his financial struggle would get better. The neighbor showed no faith in himself or in knowing that his situation would pass through the difficult time and move fluidly toward a better time. You can only trust yourself and your judgment. Let the rest go. Faith asks you to believe more so on evidence not seen or proven so when our faith is shaken based on evidence seen and proven we want to run for the hills. That is when faith should be at its strongest. Live according to YOUR values and the goodness that exists within you. Bad things are going to happen no matter what so plant your feet in those values that you choose to help define who you are and what you stand for.

Everyone is going through something they feel is horrible. Faith can help make that bumpy, horrible time less overwhelming. Faith at times of despair is like reaching out a hand to a friend.

The story my friend told me has the possibility of not being a done deal. If this neighbor is alive and functioning the hope is that the neighbor is learning and just might someday apologize for his actions. It is our job to have faith that he will learn and grow and not hurt anyone else and we should stand ready to forgive because life is a risk we take every time we get out of bed in the morning. If we ask for forgiveness we should also be available to forgive, to have faith in another persons’ sincerity and integrity.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “We live by faith or we do not live at all. Either we venture or we vegetate. If we venture, we do so by faith simply because we cannot know the end of anything at its beginning. We risk marriage or we stay single. We prepare for a profession by faith or we give up before we start. By faith we move mountains of opposition or we are stopped by mole hills.”

I just finished reading an incredible, thought provoking book called “The Noticer”, by Andy Andrews. Please read this book. It is a quick read because it is so captivating, so simple, and so impactful. The gist of the book is about perspective and how simply changing the angle from which we see and take things in can have a profound impact on our lives starting with taking back hope. (http://journeyoncoaching.com/2013/05/22/is-there-a-difference-between-a-hope-and-a-wish/)

Faith asks us to have hope.

“Hope meets you halfway on a bridge called faith.” –Bryant McGill

My perspective regarding faith has absolutely changed from a religious based thought to a personal life encompassing value. When I practice being present with faith I can feel myself open up like a flower in the morning sunrise. It takes lots of practice but the peace of mind and spirit I have discovered is worth making time for.

Call to Action

Share your story with me and my readers about how faith has proven to be a positive force in your life. We all need to hear positive, uplifting, out of the norm stories to help us cling to hope, possibilities and faith.

If you would like to explore more about personal growth or would like to learn how to activate your intentions toward more meaning and purpose for your life 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 bing.com