Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Work Through Your Fears

Fight fear instead of running from it.
Every October there is an abundance of movies, activities, and products designed to elicit fear. For nearly a month we are treated with countless opportunities to be scared. We can sit in a theater and test our nerves for 120 minutes. We can nervously walk through haunted houses, laughing at our friends for screaming like children and hoping they don't hear us when we do the same. Fear is a multibillion dollar industry.

Outside of entertainment, fear is most often a deterrent. When we're afraid we run. We create as much distance as possible between ourselves and whatever is causing us to be scared. However, there are times when what we fear most is exactly what we need to embrace.

I spent a significant amount of energy investing in an unrestrained lifestyle. I took pride in having the ability to travel—and at times relocate—whenever I wanted. My understanding of living liberated was limited. Freedom is complex, though. It is not simply the ability to have choices. It is not merely the absence of commitment. While I was able to hop on planes and rack up passport stamps, I was also avoiding, hoarding, and hiding.

What I needed most was what I feared most. I needed to stop avoiding setting healthy boundaries. I needed to stop hoarding my hurt. I needed to stop hiding behind my smiles. Before I could be free I had to experience safety, something I lost long ago. Feeling safe required me to expose all that I had been avoiding, hoarding, and hiding. My freedom was directly tied to my greatest fear. I needed to trust so that I could learn to feel safe because without feeling safe I couldn't be free.

What do you desire most for your life? Happiness? Love? Peace? Freedom? Your greatest desire is connected to your greatest fear. It will stretch your mental strength, test your emotional intelligence, and challenge everything you know. When you work through your fear—and it is work—you will discover a better, stronger, and fuller you. You will find yourself as you were created and intended to be, living the life you desire most.

Read last week's post, Change the Message.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Change the Message

Sort through the message clutter.
We constantly receive messages. We hear them, see them, and experience them. They come from people who know us well and those who don't. They also come from within. We are bombarded with messages and have to choose how to interpret them and live with those interpretations.

My childhood was filled with inconsistent and conflicting messages. I heard encouragement. I experienced joy. I felt included and like part of something much larger than me. However, my voice was silenced, I experienced abuse for years, and I felt isolated and like my life was not my own. I was left to take all of those messages, as extreme and differing as they were, and interpret them. The encouragement was as true as the silence. The joy was as real as the abuse. The inclusion was as authentic as the isolation. None of the messages negated the others. All of them whispered and roared to me for years.

The messages I received from both the love and the heartache did not match. It was up to me to interpret and make choices. What was I going to believe? How would I make sense of the range? The words and actions of others delivered messages, but it was up to me, ultimately, to be the messenger for my life. It was up to me to use the messages to heal what was broken, water what was healthy, and create a message of my own. One that was true. One that I could trust more than the fluctuation of others. One that would usher in growth. One that would direct me to wholeness. While I cannot control other people and some of the experiences that life delivers, I can control the messages I choose to repeat to myself.

Someone may have said that you couldn't be more than who you've always been. Maybe you heard that your life was as good as it would ever be. Perhaps you were told that you were worthless and had little to offer. Change the message.

Maybe you were neglected, abused, cheated on, or passed over. Those experiences may have led you to assume that you deserve neglect, abuse, infidelity, and to be overlooked. Change the message.

You cannot change what has already been said. You cannot change what has already occurred. You can, however, change how you interpret those words and experiences. Someone else's refusal to be encouraging and kind is not an indication of what you deserve. Your past is not the sole determinant of your future. You determine where you go, how far you reach, and how hard you work, but it starts with what you tell yourself. It begins in your mind. For a moment, forget what he said and what she told you. Forget what he did and what she didn't do. For a moment, consider how you feel about yourself, without the external influences. It may simply be time for you to change the message.

Read last week's post, Focus Your Energy.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Focus Your Energy

Do you see the rain or the calm in the distance?
Both are true, but which caught your eye?
I asked two people about a vacation they shared. The first told a story filled with disappointment, mishaps, and borderline misery. The second gave an animated story that centered on her gratitude for being able to take a vacation. Even though they were on the same trip, they gave differing accounts because their experiences were painted by their perceptions.

Life is filled with a variety of experiences. There are things we plan for, occasions we can't plan for, times for a plan b, high highs, low lows, and everything in between. We overcome hardships, create new realities for ourselves, adjust to new normals, love, laugh, lose, and learn to fully live. What differs between us is how we interpret life and live within the framework that it provides.

When I kayaked for the first time I was in Honduras. I expected gorgeous sun rays to warm my face. I expected gentle waves to lap the side of the kayak. I expected peace. What I got was a tropical deluge. What I got was drenched. What I got was a totally unexpected story, one far more enjoyable to tell and remember than what I envisioned. Just as with the kayaking experience, I could focus on the times when I expected sunshine, peace, and ease yet received cloudiness, downpours, and hard work. Instead, I prefer to focus my energy on being grateful, strengthened, and learning to use wisdom.

Listen to your conversation. Reflect on your thoughts. Do you focus your attention on the mishaps, delays, downpours, and disappointments? Or do you share and remember the beauty, the time spent with those you love, the outcomes that were better than you expected, and appreciate that you are able to influence the quality of your life?

You already use energy, whether purposefully or not, to interpret your life and what happens in it. Why not use that energy to your benefit? Why not use that energy to live better? This does not equate to being delusional or irresponsible with your reality. Life does deliver difficulty. However, the way that you cope with hardship and express gratitude for fortune is greatly impacted by how you focus your energy. Invest in yourself and the quality of your life by taking the time to be more purposeful in focusing your thoughts.

Read last week's post, Give Back the Burden.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Give Back the Burden

I chuckle as I hear the children in my life saying the same things I once said. An adult would tell me to pick up a toy or dirty dish and my response would be, "But that's not mine." I believed that whoever left their toy or dirty dish should be the one to pick it up. There are occasions when I wish I had kept that simple, childlike logic.

As we become adults we develop an unhealthy tendency to take other people's stuff—stuff that doesn't belong to us—as our own. Someone hurts us and we pick up that hurt—and the assumptions of why we were chosen for it—and lug all of that around like our favorite accessory. We take other people's negativity, sadness, guilt, shame, and dysfunction. We not only take it, we own it. We carry the baggage for so long that it becomes a part of us. We don't even recognize that the tension we clutch can be released as soon as we set it free—as soon as we decide to set ourselves free.

Someone's choice to mistreat you says nothing about your worth and everything about his/her inability to value it. Someone's abusive actions may be shameful, but that shame is not yours. That negativity, put it down. That sadness, relinquish it. That guilt, let it go. That shame, give it back. You were never required to pick up and lug the heaviness of others as your own. Let go of the weight that was never intended for you to carry. Give back the burden. Give it all back. It's not yours. It never was.

Read last week's post, Clarity.