Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Developing Goals

As my time as an undergraduate student started winding down, I found myself asking what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. More than a decade has passed and I’m still asking myself the same question. Yet instead of being frustrated or fearful, I find myself excited. I am asking the same question more than ten years later because I have grown.

In my early twenties, I planned to start graduate business school. I had intentions of becoming a high-powered marketing researcher. I envisioned myself wearing suits and heels, carrying a briefcase, driving a convertible sports car, and making more money than I knew what to do with. While my visions for my life were ambitious, they were focused on external satisfaction and were quite frankly, selfish. Those plans didn’t fit who I was becoming. I had to change because what I wanted changed. It started to become less important that I appeared successful and more important that I inspired others. It was less important for me to succeed individually and more important for my life to impact the lives of others. As I grew up, my goals grew up.

You are designed for development and progress. That is why your goals alter and expand. Don't beat yourself up or feel that you lack direction because you are no longer fulfilled or driven by the same things. As you grow older, you evolve. Changing goals do not indicate failure, mistaken judgement, or defeat. When your goals change to align with who you are becoming, it is evidence of maturation.

What you desire for your life at twenty should not be the same desires for your life at thirty. What you envision at thirty should grow into more by the time you are forty. As you take on more personal roles (become a spouse, an aunt/uncle, a parent, etc.) and achieve professional successes, you will find yourself desiring more from life than you once sought. Don’t be afraid when your desires lead you down a different path and cause you to want more from life. Don’t misinterpret what those changes indicate. Welcome the growth and boldly take the steps needed to achieve your new goals.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Esteem Yourself

Self-esteem is fairly simple to define, yet complicated to apply. It is essentially the manner that we consider ourselves. It is an assessment of our worth. Sadly, many people relinquish undue leverage to just one aspect of their lives when evaluating their value and allow external entities to adversely influence what should be generated internally.

We typically give one or two glaring aspects of ourselves too much weight when considering how we esteem ourselves. To illustrate, think of how many people attribute a sense of worth based on their outward appearance. Physical characteristics tend to carry heavy precedence over how we think of ourselves. If you believe you are physically inadequate or that you don’t measure up to some arbitrary standard of beauty, you may use that as justification to regard yourself as less. Less what? Less deserving, less desirable, less valuable, less worthy. Whether you are short or tall, full-figured or thin, have long or short hair, it doesn’t deem you to be less anything. You matter. You have worth. Your value is not solely tied to one aspect of who you are. Your physical traits are merely a part of you and they aren’t even the most valuable part.

The way you look doesn’t reveal anything about how kind, loving, or generous you are. It doesn’t reveal whether or not you are a good listener, friend, or caregiver. It says nothing about your sense of humor, tolerance, or compassion. Your physical attributes cannot be the totality of your source of self-esteem just as none of your personality traits can cancel out the others. You are a complete person and how you view yourself should be based on a complete picture. Don’t lessen how much you esteem yourself by dismissing or minimizing all of the amazing qualities that define you.

Equally damaging as it is to consider your worth solely on the way you look—or any other single characteristic—it is detrimental for you to give someone or something else the power to dictate how you value yourself. Maybe someone made comments that confirmed your own insecurities. Maybe your family has jokingly teased you for years about something that has made you caused you to become self-conscious. Maybe you were mistreated or abused. Either of these scenarios can lead you to carry a low sense of self-worth. However, you are capable of a mental alteration. If you find yourself replaying hurtful statements made by others, try replacing those hurtful statements with the truth, not their truth. If painful memories have you convinced that you are worthless, consider the possibility that you survived for a purpose. People with a purpose aren’t worthless, and if you are still living, you have purpose.

The value you place on your life will influence your decision-making and eventually determine the course of your life. It’s entirely too important for you to base your assessment of yourself on one aspect of your life. When considering your worth, consider your life in it’s entirety—not just your physical traits, a major regret, or even a series of bad choices. Your life adds up to more. You are more. Your self-esteem is too pivotal to be left in the hands of others or to be surrendered to your past. Give yourself the consideration you deserve. You are so worth it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Maintaining Balance

I spent the last four months of 2011 traveling the world. As phenomenal and glorious as it was, I also experienced anxiety because I was separated from my normal routines. I could no longer share encouraging text messages, make my evening check-in phone calls, or spend face-to-face time with friends and family. Like most, my relationships serve as stabilizers. When I feel stress or emotional discomfort, routine check-ins and connections help me cope. While I was traveling what I normally did to diffuse or eliminate emotional discomfort was no longer available. I was thousands of miles and several time zones away from the activities and people who kept me grounded.

Not long into the trip I realized that I had two options. I could either slowly slide into an unstable place or I could find alternative ways to achieve balance. Having limited access to my usual stabilizers was not an excuse for me to regress. I refused to give myself permission to falter because who or what I depended on was not available. No matter the circumstance, I am always responsible for maintaining balance in my life.

When we find ourselves in unfamiliar situations it can cause anxiety. What we desire most—familiarity—may not be an option. Even still, we remain responsible for not only finding alternatives, but finding those alternatives within a reasonable amount of time. It is not in our best interest to ignore that we are out of balance just because familiarity and comfort aren’t available. The reasons leading up to the need to create more balance may not be pleasant, but the end result is positive. When we learn new ways to cope with life’s stresses, we build up our internal strength.

As a result of the relationship separation I experienced I learned two valuable lessons. I learned that all the support I need will be there. Always. Even when I’m not near my usual circle of friends and family, someone will step up. I developed friendships with genuine people who share the unique experience of traveling the world with me. These relationships have added significantly to my life even after the travel has ended. Most importantly, though, I learned that the emotional triggers that accompany me through life are not stronger than I am. Whether my normal coping strategies are available or not, I am strong enough to maintain balance and wise enough to know when I need to reach out.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Power to Choose

Having options moves most into trepidation and angst. So many are afraid to make the wrong choice that they would actually prefer not having to choose. However, having options can be the greatest source of liberation you’ll ever experience.

While in high school I only applied to three colleges. Not one of them was my dream school. My dream school was across the country, expensive, and in my teenage mind, too difficult to pursue. I used distance and finances as excuses not to try. I didn’t want to make a difficult choice so I didn’t allow the more expensive, ambitious, and exciting school to even be an option. I allowed my fear to make that decision for me. After reflecting on that experience, I promised myself to make my own decisions.

When you find yourself facing major decisions, don’t give fear a louder voice than your own. Fear isn’t kind or considerate. If you permit it to lead your choices, fear will eventually rule over you. See choices as opportunities, not threats. When facing a range of options, treat it as freedom instead of confinement. When given several courses of action, allow your mind the space it needs to be receptive instead of unresponsive.

Having the freedom to choose grants you with the ability to elevate your life. What’s even more terrifying than having to make a decision? Having no options. What’s even more frightening than having the freedom to create an amazing, exciting life track? Not having the freedom to live life larger and fuller than it is today. Embrace the power associated with having choices. It is your ticket to living the life of your dreams.