Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What Will You Do?

I didn't write a post last week. It wasn't because I ran out of time. It wasn't because I ran out of words, either. I didn't write a post because the time I normally designated for writing was spent being triumphant instead of writing a triumphant message.

Last week I stood in front of a room full of strangers and told my story—my personal, painful, and complicated story. For someone who has typically been private this was a jump. It was a jump because my way of encouraging others had mostly been to write about it. It was a jump because telling the story removed a barrier that I'd hidden behind—and had taken comfort in hiding. It was a jump because I knew that once I did it, there was no turning or taking it back. Yet it was time for me to make that jump because I needed to stop relying on my words and let my actions be my message.

Far too often we try to make our words larger than life and act as if repetition or loudness is more convincing and honest than behavior. We post messages on social media reflecting what we want others to think about us. We tell people we are sorry and do the same things we've apologized for repeatedly. We say we want to improve and change our lives yet do nothing more brave, difficult, or demanding than we've done in years prior. We post, we tell, and we say and the only person we fool is ourselves.

Does your life reflect what you say? Does what you talk about most reveal the lifestyle you internally desire? Have you started believing that you will have the life you want solely because of your words? There comes a time when you have to make your actions your message. Elevation requires movement, not mere words.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say." What will you do? You have purpose. You have something to give. Your message matters. It's time for you—and me—to let your actions become your message. Again, what will you do?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Your Purpose

The notion of purpose causes many of us distress and anxiety. We try to determine our purpose by collectively evaluating our natural abilities, interests, and those seemingly random events and connections that we classify as chance or fate. No matter how much we worry and will ourselves to come to a clear conclusion, our amateur analysis provides us with more questions than answers and can leave us frustrated and frozen with fear.

The short answer is that your purpose is to advance the life of others. How you do that is what you will have to discover so your question is not what is your purpose, but how you will reach it. You may be an educator, an artist, an inventor, a scientist, or a chef. You may be a community activist, a volunteer, or the first person in your family or neighborhood to graduate from college. You may raise your family in a loving home and be a positive role model to your children or other children in your life. You may provide food to those who are struggling, a home to children without one, or encouragement and support to those who feel broken. There is purpose in all of that.

Your purpose is found in the journey of discovering yourself. As you grow and gain life experiences, you develop the confidence to accept that you have purpose, the clarity to gravitate in the direction of what sustains you, and the strength to work—and it is work—that purpose out. You do not find fulfillment suddenly. Fulfillment of purpose does not announce itself in some magical moment with fireworks and blaring trumpets. You are fulfilled through the process of discovering who you are purposed to become; someone who fully lives and by example, promotes and encourages progression in others.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Change from Pain

Not every change from pain is detrimental
There was a time when I hoarded hurt. Depending on the day, I either convinced myself not to bother anyone with it or that I couldn't trust anyone with it. The truth was that I didn't feel strong enough to deal with it. I didn't feel strong enough to share, open up, trust, be vulnerable, nor approach the healing process. Eventually, the combination of the pain and self-inflicted isolation demanded more of me. I needed to stop hoarding hurt and start healing.

Hurt is a part of life that we all experience. The sources vary, but all hurt leads us to change. Some become hardened and refuse to feel or connect with others. Some become fragile and develop an inability to cope with day-to-day stress. Most of us land somewhere in the middle. We have a tough exterior and a soft center. We ignore how we feel until it becomes undeniable and we distract ourselves in the lives of others.

The hurt that you have experienced has changed you. It may have made you more cautious or intentional about the people you allow in your life. Maybe it has led you to be externally focused in giving to others or by feeding on the negativity of others. Maybe your hurt has led you to be brutally honest with everyone but self. Or maybe you avoid being truthful and free. It's possible that you aren't exactly sure how your hurt has changed you.

When you experienced neglect, disappointment, betrayal, a health challenge, loss, and/or trauma, it impacted your personality. It altered how you handled relationships. It shifted your outlook and perception. You may interpret that to mean a negative change or one that has made you somehow less of who you were prior. That does not have to be true.

Not every change resulting from pain has to be detrimental. Pain can lead you to be more considerate of others. Pain can encourage you to focus less time on superficial interactions so that you can engage in deeper, more meaningful relationships. Pain can lead you to living more honestly and freely. In order to move forward, pain demands more of you. Working through it will show you just how powerful, resilient, and strong you are. You may not always have control of the hurt that enters your life, but you can determine how that hurt will impact your life. The only thing more tragic than the pain that you have already endured would be to give your pain the power that was intended for you.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Grow Anyway

I have never been the type to gush over flowers, but in the last year I've developed a great appreciation for one of nature's most amazing gifts. I'm intrigued that something that began as a small seed can rise up to become so colorful and beautiful and alter an entire landscape. As long as it has proper soil, water, and sunshine, a flower stretches out of the dirt to give the earth seeds and pollen while providing aesthetic and olfactory benefits to all who experience it.

All of us should strive to stretch ourselves, but growth constitutes change and change can be difficult. At times, change is encouraged by those we love, but there are occasions when the changes needed in order to grow cause others confusion, discomfort, and even anger. Yet, it remains our responsibility to determine when the concern of others is valid or when what others want is merely in conflict with what we need.

Flowers don't ask for permission to grow. Flowers don't seek approval before displaying their vivid colors. Flowers don't remain under the surface until the other seeds nearby are ready to sprout up to fulfill their purpose. Flowers grow anyway.

Growth may lead you out of a relationship in which others want you to remain. Grow anyway. Growth may direct you to a new career when your current one is lucrative or is something that you are particularly good performing. Grow anyway. Growth could lead you to a new city or state that is out of the geographic comfort zone of family and friends. Grow anyway. Growth may push you toward a path that no one else has cleared. Grow anyway.

Not everyone will understand where life is directing you. Not everyone will like or approve of your choices. If you are certain that where you are being led is what will bring you the most fulfillment and bring you closer to your best self, you owe it to yourself and everyone who gets the benefit of experiencing you to grow anyway.