Shedding Skin

Sometimes we have to shed our old skin.

Because it is outworn.

Because it no longer fits.

Because we need to keep growing.

Only we resist it…

We resist it because for a while, the process of shedding the old will require us to feel naked and vulnerable (and none of us like to feel that way for long).

We resist it because the known, however outworn, outdated or ill-fitting it may be, breeds a certain comfort of familiarity.

We resist it because shedding our old skin requires immense Faith in that which is still unseen and unknown.

Growth and change, by anybody’s standards, are hard.

Testing.

Trying.

Painful.

Scary.

Hard.

But necessary…

Necessary, when we find our inner lives out of alignment with our outer actions.

Necessary, when though we may not fully be able to define it, we intuitively know our true gifts and talents can better serve others elsewhere.

Necessary, if we are to make room for the new in order to reach the places we are trying to go.

Not someplace ‘out there’.

But the place within….

Our heart place.

Our heart space.

I’m curious… 

Have you ever found yourself needing to shed your old ‘skin’ to make room for something new?  Did you fight the process, or surrender to the unknown?  Have you ever stayed too long in an old ‘skin’ because it was safe and familiar, even if painful?  What risks have you taken to live from your heart space?

Resting on Laurels

It Matters Less What We've Achieved in the PastIn a world that measures ‘success’ by milestones of achievement, it is tempting to lean into our past accomplishments as a measure of our self-worth and ability, focusing on what we’ve done (for ourselves), rather than what we can do (for others), especially during times of struggle or transition. While the process of achievement itself can be a labor of love, when we identify with and cling too tightly to an outdated past, we risk losing ourselves in the process.

Consider the 1988 motion picture, Everybody’s All American, directed by Taylor Hackford and based on the 1981 novel by longtime Sports Illustrated contributor, Frank Deford. In the movie, Dennis Quaid plays the leading role as Gavin Grey, a 1950s star athlete known by the moniker “The Grey Ghost,” who plays football at Louisiana State University, later joining the Washington Redskins, though no longer as the beloved and worshipped college star idol he once was back home. Over time, age and injuries ultimately result in Gavin being traded, benched, and finally forced into retirement, where he spends his withdrawal from professional sports depressed and dejected, reminiscing about his famed athletic youth. Stuck in past, his sense of self-worth tied to his earlier acclaim, it is a sad, yet all too familiar tale, though one that is not relegated to past sports figures alone.

I’m curious…

Have you ever found yourself stuck in your ego and/or stuck in your past? Have you every found yourself clinging to an out-dated self or script that no longer serves you in the present? Do you have enough faith to move forward when the door closes behind you?

Whatever your future dreams or endeavors; regardless of where you’ve been in the past or what you’ve accomplished, the key to getting un-stuck, out of your ego, and into your heart, is to start from where you are in the present; to open yourself to learning, act from a spirit of service, create, take risks, disrupt and discover. Ultimately, it requires having enough Faith in life itself to let the door to your past close to create space for new dreams and possibilities.

 

On Forgiveness and Thanksgiving

If gratitude is the wellspring of peace, love and joy, it begins with forgiveness and the willingness to let go of what’s past, to create new space for growth.

So often we hold on to the past, allowing our grievances and grudges to color our world and those people in it. If we’re not careful, we allow fear, bitterness and resentment to sneak into our lives, robbing us not only of our capacity for joy, but our ability to cultivate a spirit of gratitude and thankfulness for the many blessings in our lives.

The truth is that we all fail and fall short from time to time. And even when we feel above the fall of others, our very judgment of them makes us no better, and in fact, often worse.

As we move into this season of Thanksgiving, I think I shall adopt a new practice: Instead of simply counting my blessings, I will counter each one with a heady dose of forgiveness, too — weeding out and releasing those things I’ve been holding on to for far too long, and making peace with the gifts of my own imperfection.*

I’m curious…

What might you be holding on that is robbing you of your capacity to feel gratitude for the blessings in your life? In your experience, what is the relationship between forgiveness and gratitude? How has holding onto a grudge or grievance kept you stuck in your own life? What is the relationship between gratitude and our capacity for peace, love and joy?

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*Note: The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown, is an outstanding read on the power of courage, compassion and connection to enable us to find acceptance within and live fuller lives without.

 

 

The Power of Thought

Too often we say to ourselves or others, “how could this happen to me/to us/to our company?”  We believe we are powerless over forces and circumstances that seem to swirl about us as if in some conspiratorial way.  In this powerlessness, we cast ourselves as victims in our own drama, the villain always being someone or something else.  As people, we fall into these patterns because it is easier to project our pain, mistakes and short comings, than to own them ourselves.  We project onto others what we would rather not look at within ourselves.  We move frenetically through our lives without slowing down long enough to reflect, process, and discern, not only what is going on around us, but in our own thought patterns as well.  We thoughtlessly react, instead of thoughtfully acting.

When life throws us for a loop…or two…or three; when unforeseen events come crashing into our lives, disrupting our sense of equilibrium or illusions of control, it is natural and human to want to personalize the event(s).  Perhaps we were violated in some way or a trust was broken; perhaps illness or death invaded, casting a dark shadow over our life or those others we love; perhaps we lost our job – the result of economic and political forces beyond our control.

Still, anticipated or not, how we choose to interpret and respond to life’s losses and challenges is within our control, and our thoughts, for better or worse, profoundly shape how we move forward beyond these circumstances into the future.  Put a positive spin on events, and your more likely to create a psychological opening for moving forward; respond with a heart of gratitude or compassion, and your more likely to develop a deeper appreciation for the beauty in each person and learnings in each situation; respond with integrity and transparency, and you’re more likely to build trust with others; respond with humility, and others are more likely to work with and/or support you in your endeavors.

I’m curious…

How do you respond to the invariable struggles of life?  Do you seek to find meaning, answers, and openings for moving forward, or do you find yourself stuck in a cycle of blame – whether of self or another?  When life’s challenges comes crashing into your world; when challenges result in personal grief or hardship, how do you choose to move through them?   Do you seek opportunities for growth and learning, do you tend to bury or mask your pain, or do you choose the path of martyrdom?  What role does forgiveness, humility, and gratitude play in moving forward?

Our Own Best Advice

Why is it that we so often have wisdom for others, but ignore our own advice when it comes to ourselves?  We offer a sympathetic ear, weigh the person’s dilemma with a heady dose of objectivity – our friend’s best interests always at heart, and present morsels of insights…bits of wisdom or advice that might help another through their pain or struggle.

The problem is that we rarely do the same for ourselves – whether the mundane or the serious.

“You need carve out time to take care of yourself” (even if I don’t do the same for myself);

“Don’t eat that cookie” (but I’m going to sneak one when you’re not looking);

“You need to do what’s right for you and your family” (even if I’m forgetting to put those things first);

“You need to take care of your schoolwork and chores first, and then you can play” (even though my own chores and bills are stacked up);

“Don’t let the situation get the better of you – you have the power to choose a different course of action” (even though it’s easier for me to slip into feeling victimized by my own struggles).

The last few months of my life have felt like being in a fun house, chock-a-block full of mirrors hidden behind smoke screens, all of which seem to reflect a distorted version of what I know to be true, housed in a maze that has left me feeling lost, confused, and disoriented.   It is also fair to say that sandwiched between moments of hope, enthusiasm, and the promise of what could be, I have felt angry, disappointed, and at times victimized by a series of unfortunate circumstances that I could not have foreseen.  The memory of the good, and at times even amazing, has been overshadowed by the weight of my own emotional response to the rest, the capacity to remain rationally objective compromised.

I could see it, but I couldn’t step out of it.  I kept fighting what is, yet going nowhere.

And then it happened…

Someone hit a button.  Flipped a switched.  Gave me pause to reflect instead of react.

In that space of reflection, I was reminded of all that I already know and write about…that we needn’t be a victim in life and can always choose an attitude of ‘what ifs’ and ‘only ifs’ over ‘if only’; that ego is always rooted in fear, which we should never allow to stand in the way of the light of love; that it is the struggle itself that contain’s life’s lessons and enables deep growth; that an attitude of gratitude can carry us through even the most challenging times and often opens the door to new paths and possibilities; that the hallmark of real leadership resides in the true spirit of service above self, though sacrifice towards no meaningful end is simply another form of vanity; that deep inside of us, we all have the courage to handle whatever comes our way, and the integrity to do what is right; that we must honor the gifts we have to offer the world as a reflection of our most authentic selves.

In a moment of grace, I remembered to let go.  To surrender to what is.  To live and love fully in the moment.  To embrace the uncertainty of all that is yet to be.

I’m curious…

Have you ever found yourself ignoring your own best advice?  Have you ever found yourself needing to step out of the muck for a while, so that you step back in, a wiser leader and learner in the process?  What is the best piece of advice you offer others but routinely ignore yourself?

Smiling From the Inside Out

Today I am smiling from the inside out.

It is the end of a week in which I announced my intentions to close yet another chapter of my life, in order that I might move closer towards those passions and dreams that define the essence of who I am; In order that I might serve others in a way that draws on my life experience and lessons, too.

To align my dreams with my strengths and my values.

To move away from those ‘safe’ external definitions of success and worth, to someplace infinitely more meaningful…

My heart space.

In doing so,

Courage has been met with respect, once-silenced dreams have resurged in others, while tenacious resolve continues to open the door of opportunity.

Through all of it,

I have learned.

I have stretched.

I have GROWN.

I have navigated difficult and trying waters and I have made it through this storm.

For this journey taken within,

I am now stronger, wiser, and more compassionate than ever.

I am a more thankful than ever before, too.

For the lessons…

For the gifts of Faith and courage and strength;

But most importantly,

For the blessing of those with whom I journey.

Each of you.

All of you.

Shedding Old Skin

Sometimes we have to shed our old skin.

Because it is outworn.

Because it no longer fits.

Because we need to keep growing.

Only we resist it…

We resist it because for a while, the process of shedding the old will require us to feel naked and vulnerable (and none of us like to feel that way for long).

We resist it because the known, however outworn, outdated or ill-fitting it may be, breeds a certain comfort of familiarity.

We resist it because shedding our old skin requires immense Faith in that which is still unseen and unknown.

Growth and change, by anybody’s standards, are hard.

Testing.

Trying.

Painful.

Scary.

Hard.

But necessary…

Necessary, when we find our inner lives out of alignment with our outer actions.

Necessary, when though we may not fully be able to define it, we intutively know our true gifts and talents can better serve others elsewhere.

Necessary, if we are to make room for the new in order to reach the places we are trying to go.

Not someplace ‘out there’.

But the place within….

Our heart place.

Our heart space.

I’m curious… 

Have you ever found yourself needing to shed your old ‘skin’ to make room for something new?  Did you fight the process, or surrender to the unknown?  Have you ever stayed too long in an old ‘skin’ because it was safe and familiar, even if painful?  What risks have you taken to live from your heart space?