Tuesday, January 28, 2014


One of the most gratifying moments in the life of a parent—or proud aunt—is hearing a child read for the first time. Learning to read will remain with that child for life and open a world previously inaccessible. There are other lessons we learn that impact the way we view the world and ourselves. Like reading, these lessons can shape the way we experience life. While they can be as influential as learning to read, not all lessons are positive or true. For that reason, some of the most important lessons are the ones we unlearn.

I spent a significant part of my adolescence in church. There were morning services, afternoon services, Bible studies, rehearsals, special events, and social gatherings. I credit my church upbringing with giving me a sense of community, teaching me to trust and have faith, and introducing me to values. However, according to those same teachings, what I heard every Sunday was the only truth, judgment was justified when it was collective, and pursuing an afterlife was more important than living this one. As I traveled the world and heard the teachings of global spiritual leaders, my mind shifted. I realized that I wanted a life more than a lifestyle. It led me on a journey that expanded my idea of community and taught me that my values weren’t attached to words on a page. I recognized that the teachings I heard did not hold the only truths in this world. I rejected the notion that I could judge others, or stand by and condone judgment by my presence. I grew the moment I unlearned what was detrimental to me becoming authentic, free, and whole.

You may have been taught that diversity should be feared or regarded as less. Unlearn it. You may have learned that asking questions is a sign of distrust or disrespect. Unlearn it. Maybe you were told that you weren’t enough. Unlearn it. Perhaps you were taught that no one with your last name, skin tone, or from your neighborhood could do what you dream. Unlearn it. It’s possible that experiences taught you that you weren’t powerful, had no worth, or that you deserved every negative encounter that entered your life. Unlearn it. You are indeed powerful. You do have worth. You deserve peace, joy, and love. Whatever you’ve been taught that has been weighing you down, holding you back, and stifling your life, set it free.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Last week someone asked me if I’d ever been married. When I responded that I hadn’t he asked, “What’s wrong with you?” A few replies went through my mind, most not appropriate to share. Instead of whipping out a sharp retort, I laughed. While I found it an insensitive question, snapping at him would have confirmed what he thought—that something was wrong with me—and may have revealed that I believed it. I decided not to take his interpretation of my life as my own. He chose to view my being single as an indication of a deficiency or error, I did not.

We have all used the words and actions of others as an excuse to confirm what we believe about ourselves. It was easy for me not to latch onto the negativity associated with my relationship status because I genuinely do not believe anything is wrong with me being single. I have not met anyone I want to spend the rest of my life with. Not a fault, just a fact. However, it’s not so simple with other areas of my life.

Living through the lens of an adult survivor of child abuse, there are days when I interpret how someone else treats me as confirmation of what I deserve. As a child, instead of considering that I was abused because others had a problem, I internalized the negative treatment. Over the years, I've used it to confirm an extremely destructive thought—I deserve it. When someone said or did something harmful or hurtful, I would tap right back into that “logic” and use it as proof that I deserve to be mistreated.

Your reactions to the words and behaviors of others are a reflection of what you think of yourself. When someone does or says something that you deem to be negative, intentionally consider what you will do with that information before you digest it. Without making a conscious decision to reject it, you will more than likely accept it as truth. Do not take ownership of someone else’s behavior. While you are responsible for who you allow into your life and what significance they hold, you cannot control their actions. S/he didn’t cheat on you because you deserve infidelity. You weren’t neglected because you deserve neglect. You weren’t talked down to because you're worthless. Do not use other people’s choices to confirm and strengthen negative self-talk. When you know the truth—that you deserve respect, care, attention, and love—you can interpret your place in the world honestly and with clarity.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Process

We are obsessed with outcomes. We look for muscle tone immediately following workout one. We weigh ourselves after eating our first healthy meal. We expect to feel better after an initial physical therapy or counseling session. Focusing all of our attention on outcomes causes us to miss what develops along the way and what we gain in the process is often more beneficial than the outcome we desire.

I recently had to initiate a difficult conversation. Its difficulty was multifaceted. It was over a sensitive, emotionally charged matter with someone I love. It was one of those conversations that had the potential to forever change the relationship. I dreaded making this call. Dreaded! The trepidation was attached to the sensitivity of the discussion, but mostly to the outcome. What if made this difficult call and it didn't end with the action—outcome—that I felt was fair?

Prior to making the call, I thought out my points. I tried to anticipate reactions and build arguments based on those anticipated reactions. After imagining every possible scenario I realized that no matter how intellectual, emotional, or persuasive I could be, the possibility existed that nothing would change. My words, well thought out, clever, and emotionally charged, might not change a single thing. That acknowledgment changed my focus. I shifted from a place of persuasion to a place of reconciling from within. I was no longer trying to deliver a pitch. I was trying to release what I felt so that I could be at peace. During the process I learned to release myself from the outcome.

I have no reason to believe that the conversation will change the circumstance. In fact, I have every reason to believe that all will be just as it was prior to our talk. Still, in the process of preparing for it, I relinquished my need to convince for a need to be at peace. The moment I freed myself from the outcome I grew and growth should always be the ultimate goal.

Maybe you recently started working out. Not seeing a hint of muscle tone or definition should not deter you from continuing to workout. Similarly, if you have engaged in better eating habits, a lack of shed pounds is not reason to give up. In your quest for physical or emotional healing you may not recover as quickly as you prefer, but during your therapy sessions you will become stronger. It is during the pursuit of an outcome—muscle tone, weight loss, healing—that you develop a new lifestyle. In your pursuit is where you experience movement, develop strength, build character, establish emotional intelligence, and make progress. In the process is where you become whole.

Read last week's post, Life Storms.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Life Storms

The majority of the country has been put it in its place due to Mother Nature flexing her muscle. Snowfall and dangerously frigid temperatures sent cities to their knees as schools, businesses, and interstates shut down for two days. 2014 is a force and it's only week one.

Intentions are at an all-time high every January. Resolution fever takes over so everyone is eating better, working out, reading more, living in the moment, etc. Resolutions aren't a bad idea. Whatever inspires positive change is beneficial. The problem is that resolutions are hard to sustain if they aren't motivated by more than the flip of the calendar. The reason for the change has to be larger than habitual thought and behavior. Even when motivation is high, circumstances impact the success of a lifestyle change. As 2014 has already proven, circumstances can change drastically and quickly. How will you handle your plans when life doesn't seem to cooperate?

When you decide to make progress, life will not necessarily roll out the red carpet. You may have to push, pull, drag, and kick your way to improvement. This isn't because life is conspiring against you or because you made a wrong choice. At times, we are living out consequences of our past. At times, there are more lessons. At times, life simply happens. Whatever the case, taking your life from good to great is a lifestyle and will require a lifestyle change. It will require commitment, again and again. What is not beneficial is wasting energy convincing yourself that life is being cruel. No matter what is thrown your way, focus your attention on what is in your control. Focus on your decisions, your actions, and the messages you repeat to yourself. When storms come—and they will—adjust, make preparations, stand your ground, and remain committed to your success.

Read last week's post, Stay the Course.