Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Get Real

Before we can experience true success we have to be honest with ourselves. That may seem like a no-brainer, but many of us waste energy and time chasing a job or an idea instead of chasing our dream. Chasing our dream is hard enough already with fear and doubt trying to clog our minds. We should not complicate matters by being untruthful with ourselves.

Just two years ago I was excited to start graduate school. I’d spoken to someone from admissions, researched the requirements, and started the application process. This may not surprise those of you who know that I graduated recently, but what you may find surprising is that I was preparing to start a master’s program in business, not in English. My undergraduate degree was in business so it seemed logical to pursue an advanced degree in business. The problem with this rationale is that I was making a decision based on a choice I’d made at eighteen-years-old. I failed to consider all that had happened in my life since I received my first degree. I didn’t think about how much I had changed since then. I was ignoring the sense of purpose I’d found in creative writing. I allowed the pursuit of a job to lead my actions instead of allowing the pursuit of self-fulfillment to direct my path.

I would like to encourage you to be your own advocate. Be honest with yourself when it comes to making major life decisions. Ask yourself a few key questions and don’t be afraid to be truthful. Is the direction you’re headed pointing you closer to your ultimate goal? Are you pursuing your purpose? Are you doing all you can to ensure your success or are you simply hoping for the best? Is your behavior indicative of your desire? 

I called a close friend and told her that I was preparing to start my MBA. Instead of being excited for me she asked, “Myla, in ten years, will you still be satisfied knowing that you have an MBA?” Without hesitation I said, “No.” She then asked, “Then why are you getting an MBA?” I was getting an MBA because I thought it was what I should do in order to get a job. She and I had been friends entirely too long for me to give her that weak answer, but that weak answer satisfied me because I wasn’t being honest with myself. I got so caught up in the activity of applying to graduate school that I didn’t bother asking if I was making the right choice. I am relieved and so happy that all of my MBA talk halted that day. Ask the questions. Get real in your answers. You’ll be so glad you did.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Moving Beyond 'No'

It takes courage to pursue a new opportunity. You have to convince yourself that trying is worth the risk of rejection. When you take that risk, get your hopes up, and it doesn’t work out, disappointment invites itself over and becomes a clingy boyfriend/girlfriend. Disappointment is a common experience, but it is one none of us welcomes or enjoys. However, disappointment does have its place in our lives. Our challenge is to take the lesson disappointment comes to teach and not cling to the negativity and fear that often results.

Last year I pursued an opportunity that I considered to be the next logical step in my professional career. I was sure—and I mean sure—that when I decided to go for it, everything would work out. Imagine my surprise when that opportunity was given to someone else. I was shocked, really, but I came home and asked myself, ‘What is the lesson I am supposed to learn?’

After doing some introspection I realized something extremely beneficial. When we are disappointed either two things can happen: we can let the fear of being disappointed again run our lives and lead us to chase complacency or we can accept that we’ve felt disappointment and it wasn’t the worst life occurrence. The sky didn’t come crashing down. Our loved ones didn’t stop loving us. We didn’t stop breathing. We still had tomorrow and when there’s tomorrow, there’s hope. I choose to hope. In fact, being told ‘no’ actually freed me. I realized I had already been rejected. What harm would there be in going for something I really wanted? What would happen if I put myself out there and tried to go for the gusto? Having been told ‘no’ for the safe opportunity made me feel that I could go for the larger-than-life opportunity. I could be told ‘no’ again and be left with what I currently had—a pretty good life. At the same time, there was hope that I could also be told ‘yes.’ What did I really have to lose?

The day I found out I wasn’t going to get the logical, safe, comfortable, and low-risk opportunity I was disappointed. No question. Today, I understand why I needed to be disappointed. That opportunity was not for me and had I been offered it, I would not have had the courage to pursue more. Temporary disappointment can occur when we are limiting ourselves. We often pursue a slight increase when life could be leading us to an enormous one. Don’t be your own speed bump. Don’t allow past disappointment or fear of future disappointment control your actions or limit your vision. Instead, allow yourself to dream larger. You’ve survived disappointment before. If it happens again, you’ll make it. Sometimes we have to be told ‘no’ in order to get the ‘yes’ that is truly meant for us.

On August 21, I am setting sail for a journey around the world! I will be the alumni & development coordinator for Semester At Sea's fall 2011 voyage. I will leave from Montreal and go to Morocco, Ghana, South Africa, Mauritius, India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Cuba. Had I not been told no last year I wouldn't be sailing around the world this year. Sometimes no is best!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Ziplining in Belize
Audacity. Nerve. Courage. No matter what you call it, we all need audacity in order to live well. Unfortunately, some of us think that we don’t have the right to be bold or we don’t possess what it takes to live courageously. The truth is we already have everything within us to live life with bravado. We all have the capacity to be greater than we’ve ever been. Some of us simply need to change our minds.

Everything we want to accomplish begins with a thought. Before we apply for a job we have to believe that we are capable of performing the required tasks. Before we start a new friendship we have to tell ourselves that we are worthy of a new friend. Before we pursue any goal we must persuade ourselves that we have what we need in order to reach it. Sadly, many of us don’t believe we are capable, worthy, or sufficient because we feed ourselves doubt and fear instead of encouragement and gumption.

Our internal dialogue is vital to our level of success, how we feel about ourselves, and our mental stability. When faced with new opportunities, what do you tell yourself? Do you automatically list why you should not apply for that job or rationalize why that friendship will not work or convince yourself that your goals are too haughty? I challenge you to change your mind. Life will not always be unkind or unfavorable to you. Instead of convincing yourself that an opportunity will not work, give yourself room to imagine more. Allow yourself to embrace possibility instead of clutching fear. The same amount of energy and creativity it takes to imagine the worst is what is required to visualize the best. Believe that you have the capacity to be greater than you’ve ever been and then give yourself permission to live your life with some audacity.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Declaration of Independence

As we celebrate America’s independence this week it is equally important to reflect and consider our personal victories and freedoms. Each of us has had to work to evolve into the person that stands today. For some the work consisted of earning an education, securing a job, and taking care of family. Others have had much more colorful journeys sprinkled with pain, loss, illness, abuse, and/or self-destructive behavior. No matter where your story falls, it is often helpful to take a moment to recognize—or maybe even declare for the first time—your independence from being ruled by negativity or a low sense of self-worth.

Most know whether they are an optimist or a pessimist. Some are prone to redirecting every situation toward the positive side of life and can find purpose in anything. Others are determined to use any negative or unfavorable circumstance as proof that the world is cruel and unforgiving. While I have witnessed and experienced situations that reflect more heartbreak and senselessness than most are aware, I maintain a belief that we have the ability to set the course of our lives by developing mental resilience, a hope-filled outlook, and loving ourselves enough to refuse anything less than love, respect, and support from others.

You may not be exactly where you’d like to be, but you are most certainly not where you were ten, five, or even two years ago. Maybe you can only see what you haven’t done or where your life has deficiencies and lack. Maybe you feel like where you are isn’t remotely close to what you pictured. The good news is that as long as there’s tomorrow, there’s hope. As long as there’s tomorrow, you can free yourself from whatever has previously held you back. As long as there’s tomorrow, you have the option to live a life independent of negative thoughts, unfulfilled relationships, and some of the side effects lingering from your past.

Make your own declaration of independence. This time next year, when you sit with family and friends to celebrate another year of America’s independence, you can also celebrate an independence of your own. You may have freed yourself from the presence of negative people, reduced or stopped your own negative self-talk, refused to allow fear to make decisions for you, or simply loved yourself enough to require more than what you previously permitted. When we make a conscious effort to free ourselves from negativity we gain the courage to pursue a life of fullness and satisfaction, and there is nothing more liberating than living life with joyful anticipation.