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We resist it because the known, however outworn, outdated or ill-fitting it may be, breeds a certain comfort of familiarity.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 While the process of achievement itself can be a labor of love, when we identify with and cling too tightly to an outdated past, we risk losing ourselves in the process.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.

 

Selling Out

Far too often, we sell ourselves short and/or sell ourselves out. We act from a place of fear. We act from a place of pride. Sometimes, we fail to act at all.

I should know.

For too long I allowed fear (and later pride) to hold me back. Pick your flavor, I’ve probably tasted it already. First, there was this overarching fear of what everyone will think; a malady I lived with for far too long in my life, and one that still rears it’s ugly head from time to time. I made relational choices early on that re-enforced this pattern and then chose a career that all but guaranteed that I would remain personally stuck (unless I dared to break through). A career where what others’ think does in fact matter and is an important yardstick for advancement. In certain spheres, it matters so much that I actually have friends who’ve worked hard to have a ‘zero’ social imprint. No LinkedIn, no Facebook, no Twitter, and certainly no blog filled with paintings, prose and personal revelations. And though as a child I aspired to be a diplomat (or in intel) like some of these others I know, these days I’m humming Garth Brook’s ‘Unanswered Prayers’ and am thanking God that it didn’t quite work out — at least not as I once imagined.

Then there’s that pesky thing called perfectionism.

I didn’t think I was one. Honestly, I didn’t. I thought perfectionism looked like my friends’ houses where there’s never a speck of dust or paper in sight. Or my friends whose perfectionist OCD tendencies manifest in their need to relentlessly organize their surroundings. That’s not me. Though I appreciate a tidy home, I don’t care much for housekeeping and prefer to have my ideas and creations visibly accessible, not tucked away in some drawer. So I was shocked to learn at a recent leadership retreat that there was universal consensus among the group that I was indeed a perfectionist, just of a different flavor. And while I’m letting go of my concern with what others think, I’m still left with that I think. And I think they’re on to something.

The truth… my truth… is that all of this perfectionism, people-pleasing and pride is exhausting. Really exhausting… And it has taken me into my 40s to finally begin to understand: if we’re not okay with ourselves, then perhaps it does matter… more than it should… and from that mindset, we’re likely to attract people and situations into our lives that validate these fears and keep us stuck. But however much we might protest to the contrary, ‘stuck-ness’ is really not about others, but about where we are with ourselves.

Want to let go of people-pleasing? Try a little self-love on for size. It’s not about being selfish, but it is about owning our own truth and valuing ourselves, including our imperfections and limitations. It’s about being at least as accountable to ourselves as we hold ourselves to others or others to us. Want to face down your fears? Try a little courage on for size and take on the very thing that you think you can’t do… the one that will help you advance your own dreams. Want to let go of pride? Take risks, fail publicly, acknowledge ‘not knowing’, give yourself a hefty dose of grace, then graciously return to the arena, wearing a little more humility than you once did before. Want to step more fully into your own voice and leadership? Learn to act from your core truths and values and lead with a servant’s heart — not from a place of all knowing, but from a place of quiet confidence in yourself and humble acknowledgement of all that there still is to learn.

Selling ourselves out_square with transparent overlay_swirl (c)

I’m curious to know

Have you ever allowed fear, pride or indifference rob you of your own dreams? Have you ever sold yourself short or sold yourself out? In what ways have perfectionism or people-pleasing kept you stuck in your own life? What steps can you take today to get out of your own way? What one step could you take today to move you closer to your own dreams?

About

The Battle Within

‘They’ say life is less about what happens to us, than how we respond to it, and that our attitude affects outcomes.  I believe in these principles and have often written about the same.

Put a smile on our face, respond with equal parts humility, forgiveness, gratitude and surrender, and all will be fine.

Only sometimes it isn’t.

Sometimes the battles we fight in our life;

Those people, events and circumstances that push us to the brink of our sanity and sense of self-worth;

Those moments that challenge our faith, our courage, and our self-respect, leaving us stripped of our strength and without hope, but for our carefully crafted facade of false smiles and false faith;

Sometimes these moments are about more than what meets the superficial eye.

Sometimes these battles without, are simply reflections or manifestations of a larger battle within.

Struggle with pride, for example, and life will find a way to humiliate you.

Struggle with jealousy and resentment, and you’ll discover little to be grateful for.

Struggle with fear, and life will most assuredly validate your fears, enabling you to stay stuck in the depths of your own shadows.

So how do we grow beyond these struggles?  How do we cultivate an attitude or response that enables us to grow through life’s inevitable challenges, instead of allowing them to defeat us?  How can we create a different outcome — one that enables us to live more fully, allowing love, peace and joy their rightful place in our lives? 

Change Your Perspective_1

We must be willing to fight our battles within if we hope to win the battles without.

We must be willing to slay our own demons before demonizing those who would battle with us.

We must be willing to challenge our own assumptions and question those stories we tell ourselves and others.

We must be willing to meet ourselves where we are and as we are — with grace, love, compassion, and forgiveness — to stand fully naked in our own truth before we can begin to advance forward.

I’m curious…

How have the events of your life reflected inner truths that you’d rather avoid? How has self-awareness enabled you to grow? What blind spots have you discovered within that when confronted and addressed, enabled you to live more fully without? 

 

 

 

 

Saddle Back Up!

If sometimes we need to do a little Texas two-step to keep moving forward, we also need to learn to saddle back up!

A seasoned rider since the time I was small, I recall with great clarity the ease with which I once rode my proverbial horse wild and free, feeling on top of my game! I had grand vision, relentless drive and an enthusiasm that left little room for doubt. I vacillated between a Western style that afforded me more opportunity for hard-charging freedom, and the more structured and controlled nature of the English saddle.  Always prepared, I rode in environments that encouraged me to explore and expand my limits, while challenging me to step around or jump over obstacles in my way.

But even with the best preparation, things don’t always go as planned. Even with strong skills and experience, we can be knocked off our horse (though the choice to get back up is always our own).

Until the first fall, our courage, strength and resiliency remain untested. Until the first fall, we do not fully understand risk, fear or failure.

I remember my first significant fall.

stamp.phpHer name was Polly. A stubborn, yet beautiful pony. Returning home from an English hack, we stepped out of the woods and into an open field that led to the barn. “Be sure to stay together!” our leader told us. “Always maintain control!” we were again advised, for it was this time above all others that posed the most risk to riders. From the ponies’  perspective, it was a race to the finish where the reward (food) could finally be reaped.

Sandwiched in the middle of the group, Polly broke out ahead of the rest. Unable to restrain her, I was violently thrown off, lying perpendicular on the ground to the remaining ponies who proceeded to jump over me along the way. A single kick to the head could have been fatal, so I held tightly on to my hat, closed my eyes, breathed deeply and waited for the stampede to pass.

Shaken, tired, sore and frightened, I stood up and wandered back to the barn in a dazed and haphazard way. As I approached the gate, Polly looked up at me from her oats as if to say, “What took you so long?”  

In that moment, I had a choice: Walk away or saddle back up.

Never one for quitting, I brushed off the dirt, secured my hat, and climbed back on. I walked slowly at first to regain my footing. I reflected back on my missteps and took measures to refine my technique. Polly would smell no fear from me and I would ride again.

And so we did.

Many times.

Sometimes she would stubbornly stop short of a jump, refusing to budge. At other times, we moved seamlessly in sync. When she taunted me, I learned patience. When I struggled to hold on, I learned to dig in. Over time, I learned that fear would always undermine progress, while courage, confidence, trust and respect could take us both far.

I’m curious…

Have you ever had a time when you fell off your horse and struggled to saddle back up? What lessons did you learn and how have you applied those in your life moving forward? What did the circumstances teach you about others in the process? How did your understanding of courage, strength, resiliency, risk, fear and failure deepen as a consequence of your fall?

 

 

 

Changing Our Narrative

How many times do you find yourself describing your present in terms of where you’ve been in the past?  “I’m here because of what happened when I was there.”  “I’m doing this because that happened before.”

There is nothing wrong with providing context for our stories, our choices, and our lives, but too often we limit, diminish and devalue our present by the stories we tell about our past. Perhaps we focus on the challenge, instead of the growth or opportunity that arose from it. Perhaps we dwell on our limitations, instead of creatively carving new paths to follow.

The truth is, we all have stories from our past that have influenced our present.

We all have had moments that perhaps challenged us, frightened us, or angered us.  At a certain point in life, It is likely we have all known the sting of betrayal or pain and suffering from loss, too.

But it is often in the grit of life that we find its beauty. Moments of growth, joy, abundance and love. Moments of hope, sprung from despair; compassion from suffering; or forgiveness from betrayal.

Too often we limit, diminish and devalue our present by the stories we tell about our past.

In each of these moments, the narrative we choose has the power to shift us from victim to empowered; from hopeless to hopeful.  In each of these moments, the narrative we choose has the power to influence our present and shape our future.

The next time you catch yourself wallowing in the past or feeling trapped in the present, set an intention for a different outcome. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Adjust your lens, reframe your story, and change your narrative.

I’m curious…

How many times have YOU found yourself describing your present in terms of where you’ve been in your past? What is the attitude and tone of your narrative? Hopeful or helpless; empowered or dis-empowered? How do you reframe past challenges to create opportunities for new growth?

The Space In Between

In the weeks leading up to the recent launch of a personal initiative I’ve spent years preparing for and months developing, I found myself standing in that awkward space in between.  You know the one. It’s the no man’s land between advancement and retreat; between pushing forward and playing to win, or playing it safe, if only to assuage our fears of losing.  An internal battle between heart and ego; between being liberated and stuck; I seesawed between moments of hope, encouragement and possibility, and moments of fear that most surely would rather see me wither, withdraw and fail.

Photo courtesy of Oklanica via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Oklanica via Flickr

In a moment of honest reflection, I find this battle ironic, relevant and remarkable.  Ironic, because this new initiative, the Global Girls Project, is centrally about women’s empowerment and encouraging others to live and lead their own voice out loud; Relevant, because in order to inspire women to share their story of empowerment and advice they might pass on to others, I’ve had to own my own journey along the way, imperfections, struggles, learnings and all.

As I continue to step closer to my dreams, I also find this moment remarkable.  Remarkable, because quite frankly, when I started this personal blogging adventure called Heart Path almost 4 years ago, I never imagined that my own story and journey would lead and connect me with so many wonderful others whose collective wisdom and insights have helped shaped my own.

And so it goes.

We advance.  We retreat.  We learn.  We stumble.  We fall.  We grow.

And in that space in between; in that space of uncertainty that threatens to become our undoing; we allow faith to replace our fear, a spirit of service to replace our ‘self’, and we begin to pay it forward for others.

Whether you’ve been following from the start or just happened to drop by, thank you for sharing this journey.

Note:  The Global Girls Project, a collaborative multimedia writing initiative, is in the early stages of development.  To catch a first glimpse and learn what the project is all about, I encourage you to visit the website at www.globalgirlsproject.org.