Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Connections and Disconnections

In the age of social networking we are constantly connecting and reconnecting with all kinds of people from various stages of our lives. Some connections are beneficial and refreshing. Some are not as helpful and at best remind us why they were designated to the "in the past" file on friendship.

I get quite emotionally tied to people. When I invest in a friendship and open up it is no small feat. Those who know me best can attest to that. As a result, during times that I’ve had to cope with a friendship deteriorating or being repurposed it was emotionally wearisome. I questioned what role I played in the deterioration and whether I did all I could to prevent it. What I've learned—thankfully—is that when we grow (as we all should) not only will some friendships no longer fit, but some people will not be happy about our growth and therefore, will not support it. Those are the relationships and people unable to proceed past our current state. Those are the people, more than likely, that you’ve disconnected with for a valid reason.

If you find someone in your inner circle that you are holding onto simply because s/he has always been there, release yourself from the obligation and guilt. If you find yourself maintaining relationships with those stuck on who you used to be or what you used to do, you run the risk of repeatedly confirming their expectations instead of moving forward. If your friendships are stumbling blocks and not springboards, you should probably re-evaluate your connections. This isn’t selfish or a sign that you are heartless. This is a sign of maturity and personal responsibility. Your friendships should provoke you to be a better friend and more importantly, motivate you to become a better person. Edna Buchanan said, “Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.” Be sure that you choose wisely.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reach Instead of Retreat

There is a gap between our reality and the future we envision. For some that gap is small. Some have taken necessary steps to approach their desired lifestyle and have consistently progressed toward their vision. Others have such a large gap between reality and desire that they are too frightened, overwhelmed, and discouraged to even try. No matter where you fall on the spectrum or how at odds your reality is with your desire it is always in your best interest to reach instead of retreat.

The problem that most people have with reaching is that it requires more. To reach is to stretch and take those extra steps or work those extra hours when everybody else is comfortable, taking a break or resting. Reaching requires strength. To reach is to step out on your own at times, leaving behind comforts and familiarity. Reaching requires better. To reach is to leave behind good and acceptable in order to pursue great and incredible. Simply put, reaching is harder.

Retreating is far less complicated. Retreating leads you on a crowded, boring, and unfulfilling road. To retreat is to surrender, go back, give up, and return to a place, lifestyle, or group of people you once left or removed yourself from. To retreat is to throw up your hands and decide that your life and your dreams aren’t worth the extra effort.

Consider the gap between your reality and your desire. Have you been reaching to close that gap or have you been retreating and making that gap larger? What you’re afraid of is not bigger than the greatness inside of you. Whatever fatigue you may experience while reaching is not nearly as exhausting as realizing that you’ve spent your entire life working on someone else’s vision. Whatever temporary discomfort you may feel as you stretch yourself will permanently develop a much stronger and more purposeful you. When you examine your life and the direction it is headed please keep in mind that easy doesn't equal living a life at ease.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Your Inner Circle

If you take inventory of my close friends you will recognize similarities. They are driven, independent, strong, considerate, and have a sparkling sense of humor. My friends and I push one another to pursue our dreams, love each other through life’s challenges, and laugh relentlessly. Think about your inner circle. Consider those with whom you spend the majority of your time. What similarities exist between your circle of friends and what do these similarities suggest about your personality?

If you find yourself surrounded by people who are always talking about what they are going to do, but rarely act, what does this imply about the steps you take—or don’t take—in your own life? If you and your friends spend happy hour being unhappy and complaining about every single thing imaginable, what does that indicate about your level of gratitude? If you are often in the company of gossips, what does that suggest about the type of information you seek to fill your mind? Your inner circle is a direct reflection of you. 

Sadly, some of us are more selective about material things than our relationships. I know someone who will only drive a Cadillac. I know someone else who only buys Coach purses. As a kid, I knew someone who would only purchase Nike shoes. If we can be that specific and certain about what kind of car we drive, what kind of purse we carry, and what kind of shoes we wear, surely we can stand to be a lot more careful about the company we keep. We are responsible for the influences that we allow in our lives, including the relationships we cultivate. Be mindful and take inventory of your inner circle. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Leaving a Legacy

When people think of leaving a legacy most assume it’s only associated with the elderly or the deceased, but that’s just not true. The legacy you leave is a direct reflection of the life you live. No matter who you are, you leave an imprint on the people and places you encounter. Leaving a legacy simply means you have become purposeful about your impression on others.

We should all live with the intent and belief that our choices, attitude, and outcomes are worth watching and replicating. This doesn’t suggest that you have to be a superhero or a celebrity. You can start where you are. If you have children and/or nieces and nephews, you can leave them with a legacy of love, strength, and excellence. At your workplace you can exemplify positivity and motivation. In your community you can embody kindness and determination. No matter where your life takes you, you leave an impression and what kind of impression—legacy—is completely up to you.

Legacies are built, not instantaneous. Legacies are developed over time, not discovered overnight. Legacies begin when we decide to live a life larger than ourselves, more encompassing than self-gratification, and with the idea that we have a responsibility to make people and places better than they were when we arrived. Find out what legacy you desire to leave and then start living it. You cannot leave a purposeful legacy without living a purposeful, legacy-minded life.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Smile Free

Smile Free
She smiles, but I know better
Bad choices are her drug
Accepting unhealthy connections
On an unquenchable quest for love
My heart fills with gratitude
Knowing that her past and mine are the same
Because my journey turned me toward the light
And she simply can’t walk through her pain
I am thankful to be centered and whole
Following the passage through my truth
Truth that I can recall and not crumble
Truth that gathers around her neck like a noose
I hope for the day when she stops pretending
That her pain hasn’t become her priest
The day when she can look at truth and really smile
Smile big and smile free

The 'she' in this poem refers to no one specific. I wrote it thinking of the many stories I've heard and people I've met who have had a childhood experience similar to my own, but years later can't seem to cope. I've met some where the lack of coping skills are obvious and they live destructive lives. I've met others where the impact is less obvious, but it is still present. This poem is for all of them, no matter where they fall on the spectrum.