Monday, December 27, 2010

Out With The Old...In With The New!

This is the last week of 2010.  How will you spend it?  I plan to spend the time cleaning out my space and my life to make room for the new things that I want to receive in 2011.  My issues with clutter usually have to do with my clothes and my linens.  I buy new things, but I continue to hang on to the old things even if the quality is poor, things don’t fit, I never wear or use them or if I have several of the same thing.  So what’s my attachment to these things?  Why can’t I just let go?

This practice is similar to how we live our lives. We hold on to people and things that may not necessarily serve a purpose. In essence, they are really just taking up space. It forces me to wonder, what other more useful, valuable and meaningful thing could be in that space that is already taken?

Every household should have staple items.  If we narrow it down to just looking at clothing and linens one major thing comes to mind for me in each category.  With the weather getting colder, especially here in Michigan and other places with similar climates, there are a few items that are mandatory at this time of year.  Let’s take a literal look at two items: a comforter and a pair of boots.  After we look at them literally, then we can liken them to the people and things that we choose to have in our lives.

The primary purpose of a comforter is to keep us warm, but it may also be a security blanket for many.  When we personify this, I believe that it is good for us to have one or two people that we can turn to when we feel the need to be comforted.  The problem lies in having several people that are comforters in your life. What does this say about you?  Are they enabling you? Are you dependent upon them?

Just like with real comforters, one or two good ones will do. Having many more than that means that you probably just use them for show, or they are taking up lots of extra space in your closet.  When you have too many people that are comforters, those extra ones are usually ‘yes men’ or ‘yes women’.  If someone is always agreeing with you and telling you what you want to hear, how will you ever grow?  A true friend or comforter will be caring and kind, but will also always be honest with you and have your best interest in mind.

The purpose of a good pair of boots is to protect your feet by keeping them warm and dry.  I have a pair of leather, knee high, kitten heeled boots that I absolutely adore.  They are cute, comfortable and they keep my feet warm and dry.  The problem is that I wear them so much that I’ve worn both of the heels off.  When I walk on hard surfaces it sounds like I have on tap shoes because where there should be heels on my boots, only exposed metal screws remain.

My mother HATES when I wear shoes that have gotten to that point. She’ll say, “How can I say this nicely?” Then she will pause and continue on by saying, “Don’t ever wear those boots again.”  I’m not sure how nice that delivery was, but I can understand where she is coming from.

Since boots cover and protect one of the most important parts of our body, I like to think that they represent integrity.  This analogy leads to two important questions…

“What do you stand for?”  And “What do you walk in?”  Your answers to each are unique to you, but I’ll give you my thoughts and or answers for each question. 

One of my favorite quotes says, “If you don’t’ stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”  There are several things that I stand for and tests of my resolve constantly come my way in those areas.  Therefore it is important that I stand strong in my beliefs no matter what.  My answer to the second question is simple. I walk in faith.  If you are walking in anything else, say fear for instance, then perhaps it’s time to get a new pair of boots.

This final week of the year, I challenge you to think about what old things and people you need to let go of, and what new things and people you want to attract into your life.  Spend this week wisely; it just may set the tone for your new year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Christmas 1984 with my young brother Ron

Spoiler Alert: 
If you still believe in Santa Claus, stop reading this now.

One Christmas long ago I decided to do an experiment.  I wanted to find out if Santa Claus was real.  We usually leave cookies and milk or other delicious treats out for Santa, but this time I had a plan for something different.  Somehow, every year we had a box of chocolate covered cherries.  In our family this was equivalent to the dreaded fruit cake. No one liked the chocolate covered cherries.  I opened the lonely little box of untouched cherries that sat under the tree and put two of them on a small plate for Santa on Christmas Eve.  I reasoned that if my older brother or mother were posing as Santa, they would not eat the chocolate covered cherries and I would finally know the truth.

New Years Eve 2010 with my Younger Brother Ron
The next morning I woke up and the chocolate covered cherries were gone!  Instead of diving into opening gifts as I had really wanted to, I opened the box of chocolate covered cherries first.  The findings of my experiment were conclusive.  No longer were there two empty spaces where I had taken the chocolate covered cherries for Santa. Now it appeared to be that same untouched box with the two candies neatly tucked back in their original places.  It was official, Santa Claus was not real.

Now I believe in a higher power that I know is real. There is no experiment that can prove otherwise. I’ve only had constant signs and confirmations that He does exist.  He is the real reason that we celebrate this season.  That reason is God.   Since we focus a whole lot on gifts this season, I’d like to share a quote with you that I read last night.

“Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.”
–Julia Cameron, Author of The Artist’s Way
So this holiday season I encourage you to use your creativity, just as I did when I was a little girl, and unleash all of the wonderful gifts that God has given us. Use it in the gifts that you give for the holidays, use it in your work, use it in your play, and use it for your purpose.  In the midst of our giving, let’s give back to God.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Proceed With Confidence

It is our natural human tendency to proceed with caution.  This might be necessary when it comes to blatant safety issues such as slippery floors or poorly lit roads, but what is our excuse for proceeding cautiously when it comes to the things that will improve the quality of our lives?

What do you want or need?  Is it a new home? A better car? Employment? A mate? Now think about your approach to that thing that you hope for.  Are you aggressively and assertively preparing for and or pursuing it, or are you tip toeing around it timidly hoping that it might happen,  but secretly sabotaging yourself by not believing that you’ll ever truly get it. Or even worse, settling for less than what you really want.

Let’s combat this by changing our thinking and our language.  Instead of thinking it as simply a want or a need, think of it as something that you believe for. Once you are able to wrap your head around that, begin to visualize yourself in that desired situation.

Now that you’ve got your mind right, it’s time to take a look at how you talk.  It may simply be a matter of switching out the word “if” for the word “when”, for example, “When I get a new car, I’m going to pay for full coverage insurance six months in advance.”  Isn’t that so much more powerful than saying,  “If I get a new car I’m going to try to pay for full coverage insurance, but I might just get no fault insurance at first, because I’m broke.”  In one simple sentence, you’ve already defeated yourself before you began.

I don’t think we realize just how powerful our words are.  What is in our mind comes out of our mouth, and then goes into our ears and right back into our mind. Now if that message is filled with negativity, self-doubt and fear, then look at the sad self-induced cycle that we get caught up in.

Sometimes our hesitance to speak confidently is a result of our worries about how others view us.  Don’t be driven by what other people might think if your vision doesn’t come to pass. It’s not about them, but you never know how hearing your strong faith may encourage or inspire them, so you very well may be doing them an injustice by not believing for what you want to receive and speaking accordingly.

I’ve told my mother the things that I’m going to do for her “WHEN I become a millionaire…” so many times, that when she got her last job she told her co-worker, “I’m only working here until my daughter becomes a millionaire.”  You see, the boldness and the confidence that is infused in your words and your thoughts is contagious.  You are not only setting up your life to receive the things that you believe for, but you are simultaneously motivating other people to have that same unwavering faith. So today I encourage you to mentally and verbally claim what is yours.  Stop proceeding with caution and begin to proceed with confidence.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Trust The Process

I’ve always tried to control my life.  I would subconsciously manipulate situations to work in my favor. I didn’t realize that I was doing it until recently.  What I found was that while I might have gotten my way for a moment, my master plans often back fired or failed. 

For example, when I am a facilitating Youth Work Professional training, I always have one participant that’s eager to get to the point of it all right away.  What they don’t understand is that each workshop agenda has been specifically designed to teach them the new concept or skill in such a way that breaks down and then reveals the pieces in manageable chunks that build upon one another.  It’s a process often referred to as scaffolding.  This method of teaching and learning makes a far more powerful impact than if I had just dumped all of the information on the students at once.

Initially they don’t understand why I do things the way that I do, but in the end, a light bulb goes off and it all makes sense to them.  When I come across a student like this, I have to remind them to ‘trust the process.’  My mother always said, “Everything happens for a reason” and I’ve found that this has always rung true.

Things happen along our journey that are meant to teach us, prepare us, strengthen us and humble us.  Let’s take relationships for instance.  When we meet someone that we are interested in, we try to pour it on thick right up front.   We try to make them notice us, like us or even love us.  If they don’t, we’ll take another approach like trying to play the best friend role in hopes that they will then see how awesome we are and automatically fall in love with us.  (I’m speaking from experience of things that I know I am guilty of.)  Situations like this don’t always end in disaster, but here we are again trying to manipulate a situation instead of just relaxing, having faith and trusting that things will happen the way that they are meant to. Perhaps that person was only placed in our lives for a specific reason.  That reason may have not been a relationship at all.

The same is the case with our careers, our circumstances…or even when bad things happen.  We have to trust the process as opposed to trying to control the situation and manipulate our desired result.  In doing this we often miss a very valuable lesson or even a blessing that was supposed to come out of the situation. Think about how much more fulfilling an experience would be if we allowed it to run its natural course.  We could truly sit back and savor the benefits knowing that they are ours authentically, not because we manufactured or manipulated the outcome.

Today I challenge you to take a deep restorative breath, sit back, relax, let go and enjoy the ride.  Take things one day, one hour, or even one moment at a time. Savor the journey.  Allow your life to lead for a change.  Surrender to faith and trust the process.

Monday, December 6, 2010

There is Success in Sitting Down

We are always on the go. Multi-tasking has gone from a useful skill to use every now and then, to becoming a way of life.  Before we are done with one thing, we are already on to another.    Well, I’m sure that we’ve all encountered a situation that has proven to us that sometimes life has a way of sitting us right on down.

After graduate school I struggled to find full time employment despite my experience and qualifications.  Against my will, it was the first time that I had literary and figuratively been forced to sit down in years.  It was at that time that I wrote my first book.

You may have lost something dear to you such as a job, your health, an opportunity, or even a loved one.  It knocked you right off of your feet and left you asking, “Why me?”  Instead of focusing on what went wrong, clear your head and allow for the space and room in your mind and heart that is necessary to receive the gift that is to come out of the sit down situation.

At the last Essence of Motown Literary Jam and Conference hosted by the Motown Writers Network I had the pleasure of hearing bestselling author, Relentless Aaron, give the key note address.  He shared how he had been sent to prison for seven years. Most people would have looked at that as the end, but he treated it as a new beginning and during his time of ‘sitting down’, he wrote thirty books.  When he was released, he was offered his first of many opportunities…a fourteen book deal for a quarter of a million dollars.

It’s all about how we look at things.  Let me use an activity that we do in one of the trainings that I facilitate to drive my point home.  I’m going to list a phrase below and I want you to say that first thing that comes to mind based on what you see…


What did you see, honestly?  The first thing that many people tend to blurt out is “Opportunity is nowhere.” But if we simply change our perspective ever so slightly we will see, “Opportunity is NOW  HERE.”

In essence, it’s important that we don’t look at setbacks that sit us down as the end. These situations may very well  have happened for the specific reason of catapulting us farther than we have ever been before.  So the next time life sits you down, embrace it and explore the possibilities that you might not otherwise have considered if you were still on the go.   There is success in sitting down.