Monday, August 29, 2016

THE LIFE-CHALLENGE SERIES: DON'T GET YOUR WIRES CROSSED

We're all born with natural abilities and skills that we develop as we grow. Over time, we discover our myriad interests; and along our life's journey, we may hone those interests and pursue them on some higher level, or we may just keep them as hobbies. We are wired for these things. As we change, advance, learn more about ourselves and our lives, and interact with others, we're introduced to an even larger variety of interests. We even begin to learn about some hidden knacks, things we had no idea we could do until unique situations present themselves and we find ourselves being bad-asses at things that totally surprise us.

Then there is all the stuff in this world that we're not wired for. Being wired for something is two-fold: there has to be interest and ability—and the ability can even be minuscule. But in my experience, I'm gonna venture to say that the element of interest is key in wiring, because without it, there'll be a wall up that will impede you from exploring any ability you may have for a thing. With interest, even the smallest amount of ability has potential to be nurtured and subsequently grown, even if you don't end up being a total bad-ass at the thing. Maybe you're just adequate, but at least you can do it well enough to achieve decent results.

I'm not wired for fancy mathematics. By "fancy," I mean anything outside of the basics of adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing—and sometimes I have to do those things on a calculator, depending on how big the equations I'm working with are. I'll tell you in a heartbeat, "I'm not the math girl," and have no problems with that statement. Why? Because I have absolutely no interest in anything outside of the forms of math I just mentioned. None. Zip. I. Do. Not. Care. As long as I can manage my life doing the basics, I'm cool. When algebra, geometry, calculus, trigonometry, or any other higher form of math will help me balance my checkbook or keep track of what's in my wallet, let me know and I might be able to scrounge up an inkling of interest, enough to get help with learning it. I already know I'm looking like Cindy Brady on that game show when it comes to algebra, because it was a painful struggle for me to get anything higher than a D- in it, in high school, even when my teacher tried to help me. Had I been the least bit interested in it, I might've been able to grasp it better. But my wiring was, and still is, faulty when it comes to that kinda math, and I totally embrace that fact. Lord forbid I ever need algebra or any of its fancy-mathematics siblings at the spur of the moment to advance in my life, 'cause I'd surely be screwed. Oh well!

What I know is this: you are not here to excel or even be good at everything. A lot of stuff just isn't naturally for you, whether you're flat-out uninterested, or you're interested but you struggle with it. I invite you to let that be okay and not find fault with yourself because of it, even if people try to make you feel like you should or need to be a this-or-that wizard. If you find that you need to do something you're not good at, then guess what? That's what the countless other people out there who are good at it are for—to help you when you're in a pinch. The beautiful and fascinating thing about life is that people all over the world are not only interested in but also masters at that things you're terrible at, and you can seek them out when necessary.

While I think it's imperative to grow and do and learn as much as you can in this life, I also feel like it's equally important to accept yourself for who you are, what your interests are (and are not), and what inherent skills you have. It's healthy to know and not resist your limitations. Having limitations is not a bad thing and is nothing to berate yourself over. I invite you to learn to perceive and speak about your limitations in a way that doesn't damage your self-esteem. You can know you're not good at something, you need help getting it done, and still feel good about yourself. You have so many other great attributes you're here to showcase and use for your and others' betterment. That's the stuff that's wise to focus on, develop, and continue to add to, through your everyday discoveries about yourself.

Enjoy doing and being great at what you're wired for. Let everyone else be great at the stuff you're not wired for. Just keep their contact info handy for a rainy day; and have yours ready for those who'll eventually need you to help them over a hump in your field of expertise.

Take good care of yourselves, and always remember to honor the spirit.

Monday, August 22, 2016

THE LIFE-CHALLENGE SERIES: HAPPINESS IS INTENTIONAL

It would be great if happiness were just there for us, without our having to make any effort to achieve it. Many times it is; things happen that bring us joy, and we didn't necessarily orchestrate those situations. But there's another level to the happiness game that requires effort, action, risk, and trust. This level involves the unknown and all of its exciting and sometimes scary elements.

No one ever said pursuing happiness would always be easy. Often, happiness is found outside our comfort zone, where we rarely like to trek. In fact, our greatest happiness is found in our most deliberate choices and endeavors. It's found in pushing the envelope of our perceptions and faith. It's found in our willingness to let go of old ways that are holding us back. It's found in entertaining the idea of rearranging our lives so we can have that thing or experience we've been eyeing for years but have been too afraid to reach out and touch. It's found in ignoring our loud, negative ego that tells us we can't, shouldn't, won't be able to, and will fail if we go for it.

Happiness is that thing we have to decide to have, in spite of naysayers, fears, discomfort, lack of confidence, lack of details, and perceived limitations. Happiness is that thing that sometimes requires us to give up what's mediocre (read: safe) in our lives in order to get the best. It's the big prize whose prerequisite usually involves our passing some tests along the way, ones that show us just how committed to our well-being we really are.

The reality is, you can't say you want happiness but be unwilling to try things. Maybe you don't dive into the whole enchilada head-first, though, if it's too scary. Maybe you nibble on it here and there. For example, if you wanna travel to a place that would take 10 hours to get to by plane, but you're afraid of flying, then maybe you plan a short trip to a place you wouldn't mind visiting that's closer, where the flight is, say, 2 hours. Chip away at your fear bit by bit. Work your way up to a 10-hour flight. If you wanna go into a specific career but you're not ready to chase that dream full force, then maybe you look into doing some volunteer work in the field, or an internship that might pay you. Or, if you can't do either of those things, maybe you seek out people in the field and ask if they can show you around their work environment and provide you with details that will help you assess the option better. If you wanna relocate but you don't know where, then start jotting down the conditions and type of environment you prefer living in, do your research on places that match what's on your list, and go visit. If your dream is to get a degree but the thought of immersing yourself in the thick of school terrifies you, then maybe you start off at a community college and build up those transferable units over time. If you wanna do something like move on from an unhealthy situation or person and you're finding it daunting, then maybe you map out your exit plan by first examining your fears about leaving, and making a concerted effort to quell them enough that you can make a move. Make a pros and cons list about the situation. Write down all the ways staying is robbing you of your peace of mind, and all the ways leaving will bring you peace and freedom.

There are countless scenarios I could talk about, but the point is, whatever you wanna do that you feel will be good for your soul and your health, just know that whether the goal is big or small, you may have to step out on faith and take your chances—jump out of the proverbial parachute, so to speak—and trust the outcome. Happiness is not always gonna magically be at your front door with a bouquet of flowers. There will be times when you'll have to go get it, and you may need to move a couple of mountains along the way.

Happiness is always yours for the taking. The question is: how much do you really want it?

Have a great week, and always remember to honor the spirit.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

THE LIFE-CHALLENGE SERIES: THE QUEST IN THE QUIET

I don't know about you, but I LOVE my quiet time. It's mandatory for me. I need lots of it, whether it's for long stretches or in short spurts. I just gotta have it. This wasn't always the case, though. There was a time when quiet time made me super uncomfortable, so I didn't engage in much of it. Instead, I would always have some kind of distraction at hand: phone calls, music, TV, Internet, movies; you name it and if it would keep me from being subjected to the sound of "nothing," then I was using it.

Then, in 2012, when I was struggling with a lot of issues and was feeling like my world was spinning out of control, I decided to get quiet. I just needed to stop, think, and try to figure out what the hell was happening in my life and how to get a grip on things. At that time, for some reason, all the distractions had gotten very loud and annoying, so I cut them off and I spent days in silence. At first it was almost nerve-racking since I had never tried it before. I thought it would be easy when I got started, but I was wrong. It was actually a bit scary and I wanted to quit. But then I realized wanting to quit was exactly why I needed to keep at this little experiment. I realized I was afraid of myself, and that wasn't working for me, especially since I had to take me wherever I went.

Afraid of myself? Huh? Yes. It became crystal clear that I didn't wanna hear everything that was in my head, because a lot of it was unpleasant. There were all kinds of fears, warped perceptions, pressing questions, strange judgments, and negative self-talk piled in there, all yammering at the same time, and I couldn't get away from any of it! Good grief! What had I gotten myself into? I thought I had signed up for relaxing Zen time that would make me feel good, but what I had walked into was a war zone in my mind. I was a mess and it was time to clean myself up.

So I dove in to everything I didn't wanna look at. As I began to examine things, come up with answers to a lot of those difficult questions, pull apart the perceptions and negativity, uncover the reasons for my fears, and assess my desires, goals, and needs, the feeling of wanting to run from myself started to fade. I found myself feeling so much better, lighter, clearer. I felt a real sense of relief. I realized how important silence was, and how much I blocked my growth and advancement because I had been refusing to listen to myself. I realized that putting a muzzle on my mind and then expecting to be able to move forward in my life was the worst form of self-sabotage. I finally understood that in the silence is where all the valuable, crucial, precious information about me and what I need to [do to] feel good about myself and my life, is kept. It occurred to me that all those years I spent looking outside myself for answers was wasted, because I had all of them in my head the whole time. Naturally, I couldn't access them properly because I was too busy drowning them out with noise.

You have the same access to all of the answers about yourself and your life, too. It's in the silence. And if you wanna get clear about who you are, why you do the things you do, what you want, what you need, how you feel, and how to go about making things happen for yourself, then I invite you to embrace quiet time, without any distractions. Pure silence. It'll probably work your nerves at first, if you're not used to being with yourself like that. I suggest having a notebook and pen handy, or your computer, so you can write or type out your discoveries. Something about seeing the clutter in your head, up close with your own two eyes, makes it easier to filter through. Extracting the sentiments and then reading them is empowering. It's like you've finally "got the goods" on yourself, and now you can sort through them and start making changes based on your findings. You can also start crafting a new story about yourself and your life. Write down your goals and intentions. Map out some moves to make toward their achievement. Start planning your upgraded future.

Once you get comfortable with silence and you experience its benefits, I assure you that it'll become one of your most cherished activities. You'll understand that it holds the key to your victory in so many ways. So go ahead. Be quiet. Your soul will thank you.

Take good care of yourselves, and always remember to honor the spirit.

Monday, August 8, 2016

THE LIFE-CHALLENGE SERIES: SMILE AND BE "GOOD"

Did you know that smiling is healthy for you? I know many of you may have heard that it is, but do you know exactly how and why? I just found out recently, in this article. When you have a few minutes, please read it all the way through; it's really fascinating!

Prior to researching the benefits of smiling, I had been taking notice of the fact that when I make a concerted effort to smile at people a lot, I feel good. I can literally feel a shift in my spirit. This shift is especially noticeable when I'm in a negative space mentally, as opposed to when I'm already in a decent space. The energy is a little different. When I'm feeling good, my natural instinct is to smile, as is most people's. Of course, it feels good then, too; but when there's a deliberate effort put into the act, that's when I notice the most benefit. Now that I've read the above article, I understand why. I invite you to challenge yourselves to smile a lot, on purpose, when you're struggling with challenges, whether you smile at people or just find something to smile at when you're alone. Part of honoring your spirit is making sure you do all that you can to feel good, as often as possible. Walking around with a scowling face is almost as unattractive and unhealthy as complaining. No one really feels comfortable around people who don't smile or who frown all the time. You don't always need words to express how you feel. In fact, before the words come out, your face starts telling your story. I know I definitely like to stay away from sourpusses. Their energy is draining and has the ability to adversely affect others in the vicinity.

Another thing I've noticed I do, that also feels healthy, is [smiling and then] saying "I'm good" when asked how I'm doing—even when I know damn well I could be doing a whole lot better. (Sure, if you wanna be super-technical, then it's "I'm [doing] well.") Yeah ... I know, I know ... if you say you're "good" when you're really not feeling good, then you're a dirty little liar, right? Well, maybe to some people, but allow me to share with you a different spin on the concept. In the world of speaking the life you want into existence, it goes without saying that all words matter. (Hey! That's a great quote! Look for an expounded version of that on one of my new T-shirts!) Anyway ... I digress. Attached to the words we speak are our intentions. I don't know about you, but my intention is to feel good as soon and as often as possible. The best way I know to make that happen, in addition to physical actions, is by speaking purposefully about what I want and how I wanna feel, regardless of the crap that's happening in "real life." I'm looking ahead, focusing on my future; and in my future, I wanna be "good." The future starts the second after I speak my chosen words. So, in reality, when I say "I'm good," when I know I'm in the midst of one or more life storms, it's not about being fake or lying; it's about intentionally speaking about myself, and my life in general, the way I want things to be.

Lemme be clear about the fact that I'm not saying you should never tell anyone what's really going on with you. This isn't about skipping around the universe in full-on denial, acting like Mr. or Mrs. Perpetually Happy. That is fake. There will usually be certain people in your life with whom you can speak your truth, which, at times, can also be healthy and is sometimes necessary. But I would strongly suggest limiting that circle of people to those you trust and who have your best interests at heart, as well as monitoring how you tell your stories. Even when telling your truth, I implore you to choose your words wisely. Try not to morph into Negative Ned or Nancy and start spewing your saga using the most dramatic, pessimistic sentiments. Remember: all words matter. This means you still wanna make the effort to speak goodness into your life, even if you're speaking on "the real" of your situation. Try to use the most neutral phrasing you can think of to describe what's going on. Try not to make yourself sound like a victim. Try to throw in some phrases that lend themselves to your eventual victory (e.g., "But it'll all work out"; "I'm gonna be okay"; "I'm gonna get the help I need"; etc.).

This takes practice; I'm not even gonna lie. I don't always succeed, either, especially if I'm overwhelmed and at a breaking point. Hell, sometimes you just need a good breakdown right quick, and that's perfectly okay. You can only hold in extreme upset for so long; a release every now and then is natural. Just try not to make a habit of erupting on a regular basis, especially when you're speaking casually to people who've asked how you're doing. Use those moments for being deliberate in your intention to speak the good you want into your life. And be courteous and always say thank you. No one has to ask how you're doing, ya know.

Overall, consciously speaking about your challenges in the least gloomy way helps move you into a better mental and physical space quicker. It helps attract the scenarios you want in place of the ones you don't. Couple that with all the smiling you'll be doing, and I'd say you're gonna be some appealing, irresistible, abundance-creating mugs!

 Take care, and always remember to honor the spirit.

Monday, August 1, 2016

THE LIFE-CHALLENGE SERIES: BLIND DILIGENCE

So, you decide to pursue that goal. When you start out, you're full of excitement, gusto, ideas, hope, energy, and plans. You're pumped to get in there and fight for your dream. You feel good about the moves you're making. You're all set to tell everyone about your big victory ... you know, because it'll be happening aaaany day now.

And then, any day now turns into eight months. That turns into a year. You look up and it's been a year and a half. You grumble a bit, but you keep pushing, because dammit, you want this and you're committed! Come on, any day now! Where are you?! Next thing you know, two years have passed! What the?? By now, you're super discouraged and confused. You thought for sure that all the efforts you made would've paid off long ago. But somewhere along the way, things took an undesirable turn. You started running into major obstacles. People you were reaching out to for help weren't helping, for whatever reason. Emails weren't answered. Phone calls weren't returned. People started serving up healthy portions of the word no. At this point, you start running out of ideas, steam, patience, and hope. You contemplate giving up, because it appears that this thing isn't meant to be. I mean, it has been two whole years. If "it" was gonna happen, then it shoulda happened by now. There's no logical reason for it to be taking so long ... right? So you should just be out, right?

WRONG. What you need to employ is what I call blind diligence. This is when you stay the course no matter what's happening in the situation, no matter how not in your favor things seem to be. You can't see the big picture, but you keep plugging until it manifests itself. You keep making efforts. You keep anticipating that victory. You keep envisioning your life with that goal achieved. Why? Because you still want it. Because it's still important to you. Because it still drives you every day. Because you can't make it through 12 hours without fantasizing about it. Because it's still in your heart. And as long as it's still in your heart, then you should still be committed. Not for someone else, but for yourself. The commitment is to and for you only. The only time you should give up on a goal or dream is if it's no longer a goal or dream. That happens sometimes. Maybe your life changes or your priorities change, and that goal no longer fits in your world. Maybe you've genuinely lost interest. No problem. Cease pursuit. However, if you cease pursuing something that matters because you're discouraged, lemme tell you what happens: that desire will haunt you. Yep, it surely will. Been there. Experienced that. You think you can run from your heart, but you can't. I promise. I've tried. I failed every time. When I've convinced myself to "forget it," and "move on," I always end up right back in the saddle, because quitting and/or pursuing something in its place never feels authentic; it just feels like a cop-out. You can't successfully hide from and disregard yourself, my friends. Wherever you go, there you are, and so are all the things that matter to you. Front and center. In your face. Looking at you like, "Where the hell did you think you were going without us?"

I have many victory stories, but here's one I hardly ever share. When I was 18, I set out to buy a new car. I had a job at a cafe where I worked maybe 30 hours a week and made well under six bucks an hour. I had no credit. I had no money saved. And to top it off, I intended to get said new car with no cosigner. I went from lot to lot to lot to lot. I got told no, no, no, and no. Some of the people at the dealerships were slightly amused at my boldness. I mean, I was a kid with nothing to put down on a car, no cosigner, and a job that paid me less than $700 a month. To a car dealer, I was a joke—a cute little female joke. Now. The reason having a new car was so important is because when I was 18, I bought a used car from a woman I knew, and it died on me after three weeks. I vowed right then that my next car would be brand new. This goal was huge and it mattered more than I could put into words. The biggest issue the dealerships had with me was that I didn't have any credit. I'm like, in my head, "Duh. I'm 18, you fools. What kinda credit do you expect me to have at this point? Someone has to take a chance and give me credit so I can have some first-time credit." Yet everywhere I went, they threw that issue in my face, along with the fact that I had no money to put down and didn't want a cosigner. They called me unrealistic and told me no one would sell me a new car without these crucial things. But I ignored them and continued my pursuit. Some-damn-body was gonna give me what I wanted, the way I wanted it. Well, it took about 2.5 years of rejection, frustration, and even some tears, but lo and behold, I found my car in a newspaper ad while on my lunch break at work. It was a 1990 Ford Festiva, on sale for $5000. Yes, five grand. A brand-new car. I claimed that car while looking at it in the ad. I got that car. Of course, there's a whole backstory about the how, but the most important thing is, in the end I didn't need credit; my down payment was a $1500 instant rebate on the car; and because I made more than enough to cover the monthly payments of (are you ready for this???) $129.40 (lololol!!!), Novato Ford sold 20-year-old me—brand new—a car (two months shy of my 21st birthday).

Blind diligence. Amid all the rejection, upset, discouragement, and tears. Because I was determined that there was a yes in my future. All I needed was one. That's all you need, too. One good yes from the right person or people will open the door to your perfect victory, and none of the ones that were previously slammed in your face will matter.

Will you continue to pursue your invitation to walk through that door ... even when you can't see the door, no matter how long it takes?

Take care, and always remember to honor the spirit.