Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Release Fear and Embrace Friendship

Fear is a natural emotion tied to uncertainty. When life pushes us into unfamiliar territory we feel anxious and unsettled. Experiencing fear is normal, but being ruled by it is not. There are countless situations that elicit fear, but one we often face comes with the development of a new relationship. We mentally rehearse moments when we were hurt by someone close to us and steer clear of doing anything to replicate those circumstances. Some of us conclude that we were hurt because we were open and vow not to be open again.

There was a time when I was thoroughly convinced that I didn’t need any new friends. I told myself that my circle of friends was so solid and proven that I had everyone I needed. I wasn’t opposed to meeting new people, but I was certain that any new friendships would be surface-level only. I wouldn’t open up. Newcomers weren't allowed into my intimate heart space. I refused to give anyone the potential to hurt me. When I realized what I was up to—an avoidance of hurt—I understood my trepidation had more to do with fear than a strong friendship circle. My reasoning was ridiculous and extremely limiting. I knew that if I didn’t change I would ultimately reduce the amount of love I welcomed into my life.

When I got to the root of my erroneous thinking, I could no longer operate under the same assumptions. I was no longer convinced that no one else was meant to walk into my life and into that personal space that I’d worked so hard to protect. I stopped looking at new friendships through lenses of fear, hesitation, and doubt. Since becoming more open and less fearful, I’ve gladly discovered new relationships that have brought me joy and remind me of my purpose. I’ve also learned that I am a much better friend and person when I free myself from behavior designed to prevent imagined hurt. When we haul fear into new relationships we assign disappointment and hurt to someone who has not earned it and we fail to experience the full benefit of that relationship. We should never hold our fears so tightly that we aren’t able to embrace the power and value of a meaningful friendship.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Give Me An E!

Have you ever met someone who is rarely excited? You ask how life is and the response is the verbal equivalent of a shrug. You are tempted to shake his/her shoulders and check for a pulse. You want to shout, “It’s your life. If you don’t get excited about it then no one else will!” Maybe you haven’t met anyone like that. Maybe that someone is you. If it is, we have work to do.

While I would argue that being alive is reason enough, some of us erroneously believe that if our lives aren’t exciting—which is a relative term—then we have no reason to be excited. That is planning backwards. It is impossible to build an exciting life without first ushering excitement into your life. In other words, you can’t live an exciting life if you aren’t first excited about your life.

Do you look at others and think, ‘Man, if I had a life like that then I’d be excited’? Why wait until then? Prior to your favorite athletes, singers, actors, or whoever reached that lifestyle they had some ho-hum days. It may have taken years of working a job they weren’t crazy about, years of pressing through a performing arts school, or countless auditions and rejections before you knew their names. Yet, they did not quit. You know why? Because they were excited about what was possible. They were excited about their future. They were excited before the call came in to say that their lives would change. They had an internal anticipation of more, bigger, and better, and that anticipation was enough to lead them to take action. They didn’t wait until their lives got exciting; they made their lives exciting. Their exciting external life was first initiated by an exciting internal life—not the other way around.

If you think your life is lacking excitement maybe it’s really an issue with your level of internal energy. Excitement has to start from within. You can’t wait for something to fall in your lap in order for you to get excited and enthusiastic about your own life. An excitement defibrillator will not miraculously descend upon you. Take charge of your future by getting excited about your life!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Breaking Barriers

More years ago than I care to admit, I told my parents that I wanted to spend a semester living on a ship, sailing around the world. I can’t remember their initial reactions, but I imagine they were both proud and extremely curious. No one I knew had ever done anything like it—not even close! Besides fighting in a war, no one in my family had even traveled outside of the country. I’m sure they wondered where I got the nerve to think that I could do something so unusual and so fantastic.

I believe that every one of us has at least one opportunity to do or become something greater than what we’ve been exposed to or have personally witnessed. Your concept of doing greater could be to start your own company, pursue a creative career, research a cure for a debilitating disease, travel the world, or start a non-profit organization. No matter what, you are absolutely equipped and able to live a life outside of the norm and more than your surroundings have offered you. If you dream of becoming the first person in your family or neighborhood, or even the first person of your ethnic background, religion, or gender to accomplish a goal, there’s a reason why you’ve been entrusted with that particular goal. Someone needs to break that barrier and it’s quite possible that that someone is you!

Fortunately, my dream of sailing around the world did come true. Had I focused on the fact that no one I knew had ever done so, I could have allowed my excitement to give way to anxiety and missed out on one of the most influential experiences of my life. You don't need anyone to go before you to clear the way or give you permission to live out your dream. When it comes to breaking down barriers someone always has to be first. Why not you? Release yourself from the limiting idea that because no one in your family, from your side of town, with your last name, of your ethnicity, or of your gender hasn’t accomplished something that it indicates or predicts your level of greatness. You are an individual. You determine how far you can go. Besides, someone has to be first. You might as well be the one.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Get in the Game

We are given countless opportunities to watch others put it all on the line. That's why singing and dancing competitions and sporting events are so popular. We love to witness the emotion that results from the culmination of years of determination play out in front of us. It's compelling, entertaining, thrilling, and gratifying to experience victory. Celebrating the success of others is fantastic, but when was the last time you believed in yourself with the same fervor, intensity, and confidence? When was the last time you actually put it all on the line?

Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I love, love, love the NCAA men's basketball tournament. I cheer, talk trash, make predictions, and anxiously await the outcomes. As much as I love March Madness I would do myself a major injustice being more enthusiastic about a basketball tournament than I am about improving my life. After all the games end and the tournament is over, I am still left with me. I cannot exert more excitement and exuberance over something I enjoy than I exert trying to ensure my own victories.

I'm not at all suggesting that it's wrong to be excited at the success of others, but everything needs proper perspective. Consider your own talents, skills, purpose, and life track. What have you done and are actively doing to put it all on the line to ensure your success? Instead of observing others pour out their heart and soul and cheering them on begin to use some of that same energy to pour your heart and soul and cheer yourself on. Don't reserve all of your fanatical zeal for your favorite singer, dancer, athlete, or team. Live joy and exhilaration on your own behalf. Put it all on the line for your life. Stop being a spectator. It's time for you to get in the game.