Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How Did I Get Here?

I attended a workshop where participants were asked how they arrived at their place of employment. I listened to my neighbor’s story and then shared my own. Both of us had a similar sentiment—it wasn’t a haphazard or random arrival. All of us arrive where we are because of a series of choices and actions, but we don't often fully understand how our choices and actions guided us to our present life until we look through the lens of reflection.

Being a newbie at my job I am often asked where I was prior. My story is a bit complicated and at a glance, it appears random and disjointed. It may seem that I lack focus and commitment or that I chase life instead of live it. I will admit that there were times when I couldn’t see the thread because I was solely focused on what was directly in front of me. Yet through the lens of reflection, there has always been a thread of commonality that served as my compass.

I’m sure you have had moments where all you could see was what you were directly facing—times when you couldn’t decipher a life track or even a consistent direction. You may have even asked yourself, “How did I get here?” ‘Here’ could be a job, a location, a point in a relationship, a role, or an obligation. 'Here' could also represent a financial status or an emotional state. Whatever your ‘here’ is, there is a common thread. Think about your decisions and how you typically come to make them. Evaluate your spending and saving habits. Examine those you’ve permitted to be in your inner circle. Consider what you surround yourself with, what you let permeate your mood (types of music, television shows, activities, books, etc.) and why. You will find that there are threads connecting all of your choices.

There is always room for improvement so if you need to make adjustments, make adjustments. If you find yourself in need of an overhaul, please know that you must stop beating yourself up. What’s done is done. All you can do now is start today. Pinpoint what has been driving your decisions and evaluate what/who you can use as inspiration—your children, images of a better future, etc.—to redirect the foundation for your decision-making. What you’ll discover over time is that even periods of redirection are merely additional threads in the story of how you get where you are destined to arrive. The story isn’t over yet. Make it an exceptional one.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Love Without Fear

People will test us, especially the ones we love. In relationships imperfections, backgrounds, situations, and botched expectations combine and create misunderstandings, confusion, and hurt. Our first reaction, while often genuine, is usually not the most sensible. Gifting ourselves with a moment to evaluate decreases the chances that we’ll be overly emotional and complicate what is already difficult and uncomfortable. It is far more valuable to have an intentional response instead of a spontaneous retaliation. 

Anger is the most common emotion tied to retaliation, but my experience with this lesson involved fear. I carried the assumption that people would choose to walk out of my life if they got too close. I feared them not loving me enough to stay once they moved beyond my positive demeanor and perpetual smile. My fear took on the form of retaliation when I failed to exercise the patience needed to have an intentional, loving response. Maintaining relationships while clutching that overbearing fear limited the depth of those connections and caused confusion, distress, and anxiety. In order for me to be healthy individually and as a friend, I needed to love without fear. 

Irrational and overly emotional behavior or internal dialogue is rooted in fear. In order to decrease this damaging behavior and internal dialogue we must learn how to love without fear. When we love without fear we can exercise patience and give ourselves and those we love space, time, and sensitivity when needed. When we love without fear we can extend genuine warmth and thoughtfulness when others need it most, even when it's a sacrifice. When we love without fear we demonstrate selflessness. It's only when we love without fear that we are able to fully give and receive love.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Evolution of Dreams

While having a conversation about what I wanted to be when I was a kid, I remembered lining up my stuffed animals (and sometimes my less than amused brother) to impart my seven-year-old wisdom. My childhood fascination with teaching was solely based on the perceptions and limited knowledge of a second grader. I’m pretty sure I wanted to be a teacher just so I could write on a chalkboard and tell people what to do.

Our desires are influenced by experience. As we mature and interpret life through a more collective lens, our direction changes. We react and adjust based on history and cognition. When I learned that becoming a teacher required more than writing on a chalkboard and having a captive audience, I no longer wanted to become a teacher. When I was exposed to more career choices and compared them with my natural abilities and interests, I changed my mind. When I was exposed to international travel and developed a love of creative writing, my desires became more complex. All of this—learning, exposure, comparisons, development, and understanding self—combined to create a new dream.

As we grow our dreams grow. However, doubt and discouragement tag along because we assume a change in direction constitutes a mistake or an err in judgment. Change does not equate to an error. We are not designed to be forever satisfied by the same things. When we grow so does our vision and our ability to accept that we have the right to dream.

In addition to thinking that change comes as a result of a mistake we need to correct, we also have to contend with a lack of deservedness. Somehow we have relinquished our ability to accept that we deserve happiness and fullness. The mere thought of taking our lives from good to great—or even from repetitious and bland to exciting and colorful—turns us into self-defeating, overly critical, negative persuaders. We think we're not young enough, not smart enough, not worthy enough, and ultimately, not deserving enough to exist in a world better than our today. Please know that is absolutely not true. You are enough. You are smart enough. You are worth it. You do deserve it. You deserve to grow, achieve more, and step into greater.

It may be late, but it’s not too late. It may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. It may require a financial or time commitment, but the way you currently live already requires a commitment. Why not commit to exceptional instead of settling for acceptable? Change is good, but it must begin with you changing your mind. You’ve grown, matured, and experienced life; let your dreams do the same.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Artist

Map of the world tattoo
Tattoos have become a much more common expression of creativity. Having them is no longer linked to a negative past or future. Ink has splashed into all occupations, economic backgrounds, and personality types. Millions from various walks of life have sat through the temporary pain—and paid a lot of money—in order to be permanently marked and forever changed.

Consider how many people would have tattoos if they had to be self-administered. If we were required to inject the ink into our own skin, not nearly as many would have body art. We wouldn’t have the mental strength to even consider it and of those containing the courage to begin, most would be more focused on the pain instead of the end result and fail to complete it. Interestingly, it is easier to endure pain when someone else is applying it.

We all have blank or incomplete canvases in certain areas of our lives. We wish we had a better profession, more education, the ability to save more money, a more solid social circle, a healed relationship, or better emotional health. Some of us simply need a serious boost in overall personal satisfaction. Most often, our largest roadblock is our focus on the temporary discomfort instead of the end result. We know what it takes to create a better future—working harder, taking that class, having financial discipline, leaving our social comfort zones, making/accepting that apology, reconciling our past, etc.—but we are so fixated on the temporary uncertainty that we can't create the permanent change we need and desire most. Our own fear prevents us from creating a beautiful and honest depiction of who we are. Instead of canvases of trust, contentment, and love, we are walking expressions of insecurity, worry, and doubt.
Life requires us to do more than simply sit in a chair and pay someone else to do the work. Real change demands that we not only endure pain—we must also be engaged in the process of change. We must be the artists in our own lives.

What way(s) would you like to change your life? How do you want to permanently mark yourself for greatness and increase? You can’t pay an artist to create the masterpiece that is your life. You are the artist! You have the brush, pen, tattoo gun, voice, intellect, and willpower. It is in your hands. It is up to you to create who you are and not what you used to be. It is up to you to create your future and not relive your past. It is up to you as an artist to create a canvas reflective of your strength, character, and love. Create your life to be a reflection of the work of art that it is.