Monday, November 30, 2009


When I am flying on a plane, as I often do for my training and consulting work, I rarely have a flight that doesn't experience some type of turbulence. According to the Microsoft Word dictionary, turbulence is defined as, unrest or a state of confusion characterized by unpredictability and uncontrolled change. How often have you found yourself in a situation that sounds like this?

Having flown so much, I've begun to realize a pattern. I've noticed that turbulence, or a shaking and unsteadiness of the plane, most commonly occurs when we are traveling through a cloud.

So, you start at one point (the ground) and your destination is your goal, but you rarely get to that goal without passing through some clouds.
While in the cloud, the plane shakes, sometimes mildly, other times violently and drops and dips may be felt. I've heard gasps and even screams from other passengers. Ultimately we don't have many choices other than to trust that the pilot will get us to our destination safely because even if by some slim chance we do have the skill or the knowhow, we don't have the power or the authority to take over and fly the plane.

This whole predicament is very much like life. A new beginning or a change in your life is very similar to the plane being on the ground before it takes off. The actual flight is your journey. Along your journey, you will face obstacles, or dark clouds...the turbulence.

Your first thought in flight is, "Is this plane going to crash?"

In life, your first thoughts include, "Why me?", " Are you punishing me God?" Or, "My life is over!"

We are so quick to anticipate the absolute worst.

Because I fly so frequently I've come to know that turbulence is par for the course. It is a natural part of the I sit back, say a prayer, and trust that the pilot will do all that is in his or her power to get us to our destination safely.

Again, the same is true in life. Just as I am a frequent flyer, I am also a frequent faither. As much as I want to, I do not lean on my own understanding, but I I trust that God will take it from here. There will be clouds of pain, hardship and despair. There may be trouble at home or on the job. It may seem that financial hardship is trying to take you under. There will be times of turbulence. A bad break up, or a seemingly irresolvable situation might be chipping away at your spirit. Through it all it is important to acknowledge that these circumstances are not the end of the world, but a natural part of life.

During a radio interview recently, I was asked if I would change anything in my past. My answer was "No" because everything that I have endured, no matter how painful or crazy has shaped who I am today by making me wiser, stronger and a living testimony that with faith, all things are possible. We cannot control it, so we must trust that our pilot will take care of us.

God is our pilot on the journey that is our life. Trust that he will get us to our destinations safely.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Relationship Rescue Series: Installment #3 - Questions

Important Questions for Self Reflection

When we are considering taking the next major step in a relationship, namely marriage, we are often advised to ask our potential partner some very important questions. I’d like to amend that wise council by adding a mandatory pre-requisite. There are some very important questions that we need to ask of ourselves.

What are your standards or boundaries?

If you don’t set clear standards and boundaries for yourself other people will determine them for you. The result is that you will find yourself unhappy and ultimately resentful toward the person that imposed these lowered standards upon you. The worst part of it all is that since you were the one that did not stand up for you in the first place; you will begin to resent yourself. Knowing what you will and will not accept and knowing when you are willing to compromise is key.

Would you marry that person as they are today if they never changed?

There is a common misconception that once a couple is married, their problems will decrease or disappear all together. Somehow we have been falsely led to believe that marriage will make things better. This might be true if you put in the deliberate effort as a team to make the relationship work, but the truth is that if issues and problems are not addressed, marriage may only make matters worse.

The reality is that we cannot change people, and people only change if and when they are good and ready. With all of that said, could you marry the person that you are with today, as they are? Could you stay with that person, with all of their shortcomings for the rest of your life? If the answer is no, then you may want to re-evaluate some things.

Would you marry you?

We spend a lot of time trying to pick apart our mate in order to decide whether or not we can spend the rest of our lives with them, but when was the last time you took a look at yourself? If you were someone from the outside looking in, would you marry yourself? If you have a hard time controlling your emotions and communicating effectively, the answer might just be no. So do some self inventory to see if you would chose yourself if you were someone else.

Getting to know yourself is the most effective way to learn to love and be loved. Show your intended how to love you based on how you love yourself. Self reflection and insight are the best ways to become a strong partner in any relationship.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Relationship Rescue Series** Installment 2- Be The Change You Want to See

I’m not sure where I heard that quote, but it has always stuck with me. In relationships we have a tendency to try to change people into what or who we think they should be or what we want them to be. I’m sure that we’ve all learned by now that we cannot change people. What we do have the power to do is change ourselves.
Think about how you feel when someone tells you what you need to or should be doing. Even when they say it nicely, my first reaction is often to rebel and do the exact opposite of what they are telling me to do. Constructive feedback is one thing, but lecturing someone on how they need to change is totally differently and rarely well received.

As a result I’ve found that the best way to see change is to be the change that you want to see.

What can you do differently to reduce or eliminate the undesirable behavior that your love one exhibits without being manipulative?

Here are a few practical examples…

Let’s say that your loved one has a smoking habit that you do not care for. Physically removing yourself when they smoke will let them know how you feel about it without you telling them that they need to quit. Telling them that they should stop does not encourage them to do so, but perhaps the absence of your presence may help them to give the idea some thought.

I’ve noticed that people only do what you allow them to. The cigarette smokers in my life know that I do not like smoke, but since I don’t set any clear boundaries, I am still subject to this undesired behavior. But I’ve noticed that there are certain people that they do not smoke around. This means that the people that they do not smoke around have set some clear boundaries. Know what you want and be firm in that.

Perhaps your issue is that you and your loved one argue all of the time. You can be the change that you want to see by making an effort to be more positive. If you find yourself being negative or reacting to their negativity, take a step back. Either counter your negativity with positivity, or simply do not respond to their negativity.

I watched the film “Fireproof” the other day and in the movie, the husband was reading the book, “The Love Dare.” The love dare is a forty day process based on biblical principles where individuals are given a different challenge each day. One day the husband was given the challenge of not being negative. Even if his wife was negative he had to be silent and not reciprocate her actions. Give that a try. A person can only fuss, rant and rave all by themselves for so long before they begin to feel foolish.

These are but a few examples, but I encourage you to examine the stressful situations in your relationships and think about how changing yourself can benefit the union.

**This Relationship Rescue Series is not just limited to romantic relationships; these are principles that can apply to any relationship whether it be family, friends, or co-workers. Relationships are what keep us alive so it is important to nurture them and put in the time and effort that it takes to make them work.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Master of Manipulation

It’s a natural tendency to want to manipulate situations in our favor. We don’t trust in God’s plan for our lives so we try to control what will happen on our own. What we don’t realize is that what he has or had in store for us far exceeds what we can do for ourselves. So when we try to control circumstances, actions and outcomes to work in our favor, we may think that we’ve succeeded but we are really missing out on so much more by settling upon what’s within our own power and understanding.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Relationship Rescue Series: Installment #1 - Date Your Mate

When we get into a relationship or a marriage we often fall into a comfort zone. We merely exist within the relationship. As a result we either end up taking our mate for granted, or they take us for granted because we figure, “They’ll be there.”
In this case it is important to make a conscious effort to date one another in order to avoid complacency, lack of growth or having either or both parties stray away from the relationship.

I often hear stories from our elders about how they used to “court” back in their day.

Courting was a practice that happened when men would date a woman who he was interested in being in a relationship with. These days we skip that crucial step of getting to know and trying to pursue one another for a greater purpose. We go straight to being physical, living with, and even having children with one another. Marriage and relationships are often secondary to those things or an afterthought.
Then we wonder why, years down the road, we find ourselves at a dead end. We look up and we are with someone that we’ve grown to love, but fail to like. Or, we find ourselves with someone that we call our boyfriend or girlfriend, but that’s more so just a title because the truth is that neither of us are boys or girls and we are not friends at all.

So, what are we to do to reverse or better yet, avoid these circumstances?
Here is what I recommend…

• Be Planful* and Intentional about scheduling creative and engaging dates with your mate. Even President Obama and First Lady Michelle have a designated date night with a back up night in case something comes up.

• Set a Date and Keep It just as if it is any other important appointment in your planner. Make the commitment.

• Be Present when you are on the date. This means limiting or eliminating all distractions such as talking on the phone, texting, watching television, or reading a book or magazine. Use this uninterrupted time as an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation. It will promote bonding and you may learn new things about your mate.

Dating your mate may not be as easy as it sounds, especially if you have fallen into years of the same old pattern. This is why I have only listed three steps to take toward rejuvenating your relationship. Take it one day at a time, one step at a time, and once you have mastered these three steps we can move on to more complex challenges. In the meantime take time to reevaluate where you are in your relationship and DATE YOUR MATE!

*Planful is not actually a word, but I use it all of the time and I love it. So just consider it a part of the MMJ Vocabulary. Perhaps I’ll create my own dictionary. 

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Personal Development Has a High ROI

As we get ready to embark upon a new season, it makes me think about how seasons are so much more than just times of the year. As a result I’ve decided to personalize this coming season. We don’t have to wait for a new year to set goals and make positive changes. A new month, a birthday, an anniversary, a new week, a new day and a new hour are all perfect opportunities for new beginnings.

I love to use new seasons as my markers for new beginnings because everything and everyone that comes into your life is for a season. Some seasons are longer than others but most leave you with a lesson that allows you to come out better than you were before.

This might be your season of health and wellness, your season of financial literacy, or your season of focus on family. This is my season of personal development. Weather we realize it or not, we invest so much in making other people’s dreams come true, that very little is left over for our own self improvement. Think about it,

How much do you really invest in personal development? Now when I say personal development, I don’t mean getting your hair and nails done. Don’t get me wrong, that is very important too. But that goes under self-care which is another subject and another blog. When I say investing in personal development I mean investing time and money into books, classes, workshops, mentors, conferences and networking opportunities that move you forward in the mission and vision that you have for your life.

We tend to invest in high risk things where we may get little or no return, but self investment is a win- win situation. When you invest in yourself, the return is always high. In the financial world the acronym, ROI stands for Return On Investment. This speaks to the amount that you get back when you invest in something. When you invest in yourself, the return is priceless.

Put It In your Workout

When I was in high school I had an amazing acting teacher that would always say, “Put it in your work!” What she meant was that we needed to take the energy that we spent being angry, upset, sad, or emotional and put it into our work on the stage. I have since moved from the stage to the page as far as my artistic career goes, but that saying has always stuck with me.

I definitely “Put it in my work” when it comes to writing, but lately I’ve decided to do the same thing when it comes to exercise.

I was watching Creflo Dollar one day and he said, “We can’t stop birds from flying around our head, but we can stop them from building a nest in our hair.” He used this saying to illustrate how we don’t have to entertain all of the thoughts that cross our mind. He then went on to tell a story about how he had the strangest thought. He said he was in a store one day standing behind an old lady when he thought, “What if I just pushed her?” I laughed so hard when I heard him say that, but the truth is that in addition to all of the other emotions that we have daily, no matter how nice we are, we often just want to punch or slap someone.

So where can we place these thoughts and feelings in order to avoid carrying them out?

“Put it in your work OUT!”

That is one of the main reasons that I took up kickboxing. It is the best stress reliever. When I am in front of a 100 pound punching bag with my gloves on I picture all of the people and things that frustrate me and I take it out on that bag. It’s a much safer and healthier alternative to putting the smack down on someone. The same is the case with any type of exercise. Take all of that built up resentment, worry, frustration and irritation and “Put it in your work out!”
The benefits are endless. You will lose weight, feel great….and avoid catching a case. So the next time someone or something gets under your skin... “Put it in your work out!”

Walk Away The Weight

“How is it that Monica does all of that kick boxing, and she’s still FAT?” Ouch. Yes, someone actually said that about me just last week. Instead of crawling into a dark corner and crying my eyes out, I took that statement as motivation to recommit to living a healthy lifestyle.

I’ve never stopped working out, but other circumstances in my life have caused increased stress and anxiety which lead to behaviors such as emotional eating. Stress also causes some to hold onto and ultimately gain weight. Another factor that contributes to my lack of weight loss is that when we continue to do the same type of exercise our body reaches a plateau and needs to be shocked by doing something different.

I took all of these things into consideration and used them as a catalyst to launch my Walk Away the Weight program. So often we get fixated on physical weight loss. Maintaining a healthy weight is important to ward off illnesses such as high blood pressure, hypertension and diabetes, but very rarely are the prevention of those diseases our motivation. The bottom line is that we usually want to lose weight to look good.

What we fail to realize is that a huge part of gaining and losing weight is psychological. Hence, my Walk Away the Weight program is twofold. The obvious side of it is that I am walking for physical health and to meet my weight loss goals. The not so apparent side is that I use walking as a way to clear my mind and heart thus lifting the mental and emotional weight that I often carry around with me daily.
When I walk, I take deep restorative breaths. Think about your day. How often to you stop to take a deep breath, honestly? Sadly you probably cannot think of one time and you find yourself taking that first deep breath of the day as you read this.

Based on my research I’ve also learned that exercise and sunlight are two ways to holistically treat depression so it serves that purpose for me as well….because believe it or not, Little Miss Sunshine, as some of you may view me, was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder just one year ago.

I am revealing this because too often we fall prey to the fear of the stigma that surrounds mental health in the African American community. By speaking out, perhaps I can help someone else by letting them know that they are not alone, and that recovery is possible. I also want to encourage those who feel that something just isn’t quite right, to seek help...even if that means taking a free diagnostic test online to see if you are suffering from the symptoms of depression.

I walk for an hour each day at a local track or park. While I am walking I think, pray and meditate which often leads to fresh ideas and a new outlook on my life.
Walking Away the Weight has given me a release and a peace beyond all understanding. I encourage you to develop a program that works for you. Just be sure to consider how you can incorporate all aspects of a healthy lifestyle which include physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and nutrition.