Receiving the Gift of Growing Pains

The “stretch of life” is hard, uncomfortable, sometimes unbearable, but necessary. These seasons are the cornerstones of our testimonies.

anton-van-der-weijst-603824-unsplashBeing in an uncomfortable spot in life is like wearing a dress that is too snug. You’d almost rather stand up and be awkwardly stable than to risk sitting down and busting that sucker wide open! Life is like that sometimes. One day, your shoes fit and the next day, they don’t. You can become accustomed to the hustle and bustle until you’ve had enough and would rather make the trade for peace and quiet. We may love our jobs until the day we become aware of what we’ve sacrificed to maintain it.

Growing pains are necessary. Think of it as the “stretch of life.” It’s those periods of discomfort, uncertainty, fatigue and anxiety that drive us toward change. If it weren’t so, we would stay in our small boxes way longer than meant to be. The hermit crab eventually becomes dissatisfied with its cramped quarters and seeks out a new place to inhabit.

It hurts like heck though. Pretending it feels good to be thrusted out of your comfort zone is just plain silly. There will likely be tears, frustrations, possible fits of anger and wavering faith along the way. But the process is a gift and the outcome is its own reward. Allow the stretch. Bend with the wind so you don’t break and try not to swim against the current.

The beauty of self-awareness is being able to recognize whatever season you find yourself in. Wisdom comes with accepting that no season lasts forever. Be uncomfortable enough to become open to change, willing to try and bold enough to risk failure. Cultivate your strengths and make concessions for your weaknesses. Own the transition while moving forward at the same time.

Don’t get stuck. Don’t throw in the towel when things get tough.

Your ultimate breakthrough is right on the other side of difficult.

 

(Photo courtesy Anton Van Der Weijst on Unsplash)

Unclaimed Baggage Won’t Let You Be Great!

We would rather just watch it revolve around the carousel, pretending it doesn’t belong to us.

Every human has work to do – to be better, smarter, kinder, more compassionate, patient, more genuine, etc. From the time you are conscious of being until the day you die, that work is ongoing.

I’ve been mentoring and training women in a professional capacity for over a decade. It doesn’t matter if I’m counseling a new graduate who is unsure of the next steps to take or a career executive who is trying to find purpose in her work. The challenge is always the same. There seem to be designated areas of focus women want to tend to and spend time on, while other areas are virtually ignored.

It’s not always intentional…just the cost of living in a busy world with so much to accomplish in a day. We all have blind spots. However, at some point in life, we turn our heads and become painfully aware of what has been hiding just beyond our peripheral. Now, what comes next determines our stretch and growth. We either resume our activities and keep moving forward as if we didn’t just see it, or we stop the car, pull out the ugly eyesore and get to the task of unpacking!

Why put extra emphasis on having the latest clothing, shoes, jewelry and flawless makeup when your personal relationships are hanging by a thread? Why ignore the jungle in the backyard, while planting neat rows of flowers in the front yard? Why pretend?

The corner office is a beautiful place to be, until you’ve spend so much time there that you haven’t seen your children awake in three days. Dedicating your life to serving others is noble until the devotion to the outside world causes friction within your marriage. Counseling others while failing to establish balance in your own life, is a breeding ground for burn out. Being the life of the party while returning to a home filled with dysfunction night after night, slowly starves the soul.

Claim

If we are honest with ourselves, we all have it…that lone piece of baggage (maybe several pieces), that we would rather not carry in public. If it were our choice when time comes to claim it, we would just watch it revolve around the carousel, pretending it doesn’t belong to us. But this piece of ourselves is just as essential as the rest. Ignoring it doesn’t mean it goes away. It’ll just show up later…delivered to our doorstep!

As you work on all of the wonderful parts of you that shimmer, don’t forget to take a look at the parts that seem dull and difficult. Be kind to yourself by acknowledging that there is still work to be done. Don’t be a fool and try to climb up on a crumbling foundation in your stiletto heels. It doesn’t end well!

 

Am I a Woman? Yes. Am I Black? Yes! Am I Angry? No, Not Usually.

Nice plays nice with nice and fails to make progress. Nice never birthed change.

20170903_161803If it’s ever been said directly, whispered or inferred that you are a B**TCH in the workplace, please don’t waste energy being offended and don’t lose sleep over it. You’ve likely ruffled a few chicken feathers by standing your ground and upholding high standards. They WILL survive!

Let’s get down to the REAL meaning of the label, “Angry/Mad Black Woman”:

Are you being called a “mad black woman” because you’re angry, bitter, treat people unfairly, have unrealistic expectations and an axe to grind with anyone who crosses your path? Are you on a daily rampage to make others feel inferior in some way? Do you want them to fear you? NOPE!

Have you reached the end of your capacity to tolerate utter foolishness? Yes.

Are you at a place in life where you have a vision and expectations for excellence? Yes.

Do you get mad? Occasionally, but not any more than anyone else under pressure.

Are you tired of hearing excuses? Absolutely!

Annoyed by adults who behave like children? Amen!

See, you have stuff to do and likely you’ve studied, prepared, critiqued and worked harder than many of your counterparts to get where you are. You don’t have time for games. You aren’t opposed to making a few friends, but the goal isn’t to be well-liked and invited to the weekend barbeque either. You are about your business and often your skin color means that your drive and focus will be interpreted as anger. It unfortunately comes with the territory.

According to the Franklin Covey Habits of Highly Effective People, we are to seek first to understand and then be understood. So understand their judgement is rooted in ignorance of your history, your struggle and your vision. Understand that they are bringing biases to their experience of you that you can in no realistic way influence. Understand that the labels you are given fly away into the wind, unless you grab hold of them and claim them.

You will be understood by those with similar experiences as long as you consistently lead with respect and fairness. Others, will be determined to find fault in you just because they are intimidated by what you represent and the ease at which you command authority. You will be understood by those who genuinely care to get to know you and that is what matters.

You may not have the luxury of being “nice” in most cases and that is nothing worthy of an apology. Nice means letting your guard down, potentially becoming complacent and lowering the bar. Nice may mean going along with what you feel in your heart isn’t right. Nice plays nice with nice and fails to make progress. Nice never birthed change. Grit, pain, focus and sacrifice, motivation, planning, and skillful execution are what will bring you into a place of purpose.

People will label incorrectly that which they cannot comprehend and that is not your issue to tackle.

Three Reasons Why You’re Not Done Growing

Let me tell you the honest truth about people who have nothing but negative things to say about your dreams and aspirations…

Growth- -You have to teach a child that dreams don't come true.20170723_183016

It doesn’t matter if you are 25 or 65, who says you’re done with life? If someone has already opened their big mouth to form the words and allowed them to pass their lips, they lied to you!

Let me tell you the honest truth about people who have nothing but negative things to say about your dreams and aspirations – THEY ARE SCARED!!

You are about to do something that would keep them up at night and give them the sweats. You have a dream and vision outside of their small corner of the world and they feel as if you are leaving them for the wilderness and will soon be eaten by wolves. They are so consumed by their perception of the worst-case-scenario for you that they can’t even pretend to be happy for you. They don’t know how.

But that isn’t your problem. The first rule of airline safety is that you need to apply your own oxygen mask before you help anyone else. Live and breathe your purpose because it’s in you and needs to be fulfilled. You can bring all of the naysayers and “see it to believe it” types up to speed later, if you choose.

You’re not done growing:

  • You’ve Got Fertile Soil: Because you have a dream that’s bigger than where you are now. For some of you it may literally be a dream that reoccurs when you sleep and reminds you that there is more for you to do.
  • Just Add Water: You have muscles that need to be worked! There are gifts and talents inside of you that you haven’t begun to fully explore. You know they’re there, but you need to spend time on them and nurture them to bring them to the forefront. Drink plenty (get some good books to read, take a class, attend a conference, local fellowship or workshop).
  • Open The Window and Let the Sunlight In: Surround yourself with healthy relationships that will stretch you. Connect with people who model your vision of balance and success. Glean from them and give them the space to tell you the truth in love, which will allow you to flourish.

 

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How to Deal With Chronic Complainers (3 min read)

When someone would come to me repeatedly to vent, I would let them talk at first and then I would ask one of three questions…

In your work environment, there is likely one person you hate to see coming. Why? … Because they love to complain about any and everything! They don’t like their boss or supervisor, they have issues with the new policies, procedures or organizational chart. They think Mary Sue in accounting is mean to them for no reason and so and so forth.

These complaining types make it hard to focus on the work and they can suck the joy out of the atmosphere. I’ve never been one of them, but I’ve had to work alongside and supervise several. I refused to spend my days listening to negative comment after negative comment. I found the exercise to be a waste of their time and mine. So I crafted a few responses I kept on hand, ready to use.

When someone would come to me repeatedly to vent, I would let them talk at first and then I would ask one of three questions:

  • “How can we fix it?” – (5 words)
  • “What do you recommend?” – (4 words)
  • “Got an idea?” – (3 words)

… And it worked.

Some would simply get tired of me asking the same questions, so they would stop including me in the conversations. These people were generally miserable and liked to have company. As long as someone was listening and agreeing with their grievance, they experienced a feeling of validation and continued to complain.

Others would continue to come with their complaints, but they would also be ready to discuss possible solutions. These people are what I called “the turnarounds.” Instead of wallowing in what was wrong, they began to focus on ways to make improvements. Those are the ones who would go on to become supervisors, managers or leaders in some capacity.

Asking these questions helps thin the heard. However, I also had one quick response for the ones who continued to complain no matter what questions I asked and didn’t seem to get it. This question was designed to shut them down indefinitely:

  • “So what?” – (2 words)

… Conversations would generally go something like this:

“I don’t think Mary Sue in accounting likes me. I haven’t done anything to her, but she never says Hi to me.”

My response, “So what?”

“Well….I, I just…”

“We’re not here to make friends. We have work to do.”

-Shut down complete-

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See how that works? I would make it clear that what they were complaining about wasn’t dire by making a statement and then turning their attention back to the work at hand. It may sound harsh, but understand that at this point I had already coached the individual on their negative attitude and lack of accountability, encouraged them several times to come with solutions and in some cases I even assisted them in outlining recommendations for change.

Working with difficult people doesn’t have to be stressful! If you are consistent and firm in your expectations and hold them accountable, people will either adjust and play along or they will get out of the way!

 

Your Purpose Doesn’t Require a Co-Signer (1 min read)

PurposeDoesn't need a Co-signer

Wouldn’t it be great if every time we had an awesome idea or felt led to do something amazing, all of our family and friends lined up to support us and cheer us on?

Unfortunately that isn’t real life for most of us…not even close!

But hey…so what???

Some of the most dynamic people to ever walk the Earth were told over and over again that they couldn’t achieve what they wanted to accomplish. If success was easy, more people would have it. If the road was well-travelled, the destination wouldn’t be so sacred. It’s work. It takes determination, a go-getter attitude and a bit of what most people would view as insanity (having the faith to take risks).

They’ve told you you’re too young… or too old, too this, too that, too ____. We’ll there’s got to be “the youngest/oldest, etc. person to ever _____________________ .” Why can’t that person be you?

I like to say it this way: “It’s not over until you sit down.” Even if you get knocked down on your journey to making the vision a reality, it’s not TKO unless you stay down.

There will be disappointments and annoying people that get in the way. But you know that already, so act accordingly when they reveal themselves to you.

You are your own best cheerleader. Your inner voice of confidence and resilience has to be louder than the others.

Now that we’ve had this pep talk, go and do great things with those gifts of yours!

Blessings!

 

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Your purpose is tied to who you ARE, not who you want to be at some point in the future. Life is short…start somewhere, but start!

Purpose Is Tied To Who You Are, Not Who You Wish To Become

If all you have is an old second-hand chair, paper plates, red plastic cups and warm leftovers, so be it! Purpose doesn’t mind. It won’t turn up its nose at your offerings and demand fine china and a five course meal.

-Purpose wants to make use of your scars, blemishes and imperfections.- - Stephanie Godwin-Chu

If I had a dollar for every moment of fear and doubt, I would be a wealthy woman!

I can’t even begin to recount all the times I’ve gone through the list: too short, too quiet, too smart, too serious, too busy, too young, too old, not pretty enough, too pregnant, too small, too fat, not knowledgeable enough, not outgoing enough, not popular enough … to go, to say, to ask, to believe, to share, to be (fill in the blank).

If you can name it…I’ve doubted it. If you can imagine it, I’ve feared it.

I’m in my early thirties and just now realizing that the vision I have for my life, for business and for my family is not tied to the person I think I should be … eventually – one day when I get it all right and have lots to show for it. No! My purpose is here, right now, patiently waiting in the corner for me to make up my mind and take another step forward. Purpose has chosen me and I have to also choose Purpose every day for progress to take place. It leads and I follow.

Your purpose is woven into the fabric of you. It’s always been there, waiting for the right time to show itself. If you look back at all of your pains, secrets, disappointments, goals, achievements and life plans, you will likely see it. Purpose leaves footprints all over our being. It reveals itself in our dreams, heartaches, how we solve problems and what drives us to get out of bed and try again day after day. Purpose looks back at you in the mirror and whispers, “there must be more than this.”

It’s time to celebrate and invite Purpose to the table of your life. Pull up a chair and allow Purpose to partake of what you have to offer. If all you have is an old second-hand chair, paper plates, red plastic cups and warm leftovers, so be it! Purpose doesn’t mind. It won’t turn up its nose at your offerings and demand fine china and a five course meal. Purpose will be patient with your flaws and meet you where you are. Purpose cheers you on at every milestone. Purpose will grow with you if you allow it.

Purpose is brokenness turned into perfection. Your purpose isn’t meant to make sense to everyone else. Purpose knows your name, address and phone number and loves who are right now and that’s all that matters.

 

Be Like the Tree!

The hardest thing you have been through to this point is the thing you felt would break you until you bent and stretched and made it through.

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Whether a sapling planted a year ago or monster of one hundred years old; a successful tree requires a few key things. It needs firm, spreading, anchoring roots that tie it down. The tree has to be able to absorb and store water and nutrients for later and bend when needed to prevent breaking.

Remember that thing you thought you wouldn’t make it through? Remember how you pleading and begged for it to be over because it was just “too much?” You look back at it now and see the miracle in your own survival, ability to adjust and adapt. You can see the required pain it took to foster the growth you now enjoy. You are like a tree. We all are.

The hardest thing you have been through to this point is the thing you felt would break you until you bent and stretched and made it through. There will be other storms. Some you will see as equals, some lesser and some far more fierce in magnitude, but you will have the opportunity to once again conquer.

Spring always reminds me of nature and what the Earth has to offer. Hopefully, it reminds you of what you have been through in the past year and what you have to look forward to (renewal). Purpose to be like a tree – flexible, grounded and flourishing. Don’t allow the rot of self-doubt, apprehension or toxic relationships destroy you. You may lose some leaves, a branch or two, but you will come out victorious in the end as long as you hold fast to your foundations or truth, love, humility and faith.

Change is inevitable. How you respond to it is your strength.

Your Vision Isn’t Yet Your Present…Now What?

The truth is, if you’re waiting to have it all together to contribute to society, you may never do it. We all think that once we have the right kind of job, making the right amount of money, driving the best car and living in our dream home that we will give back in some way.

When I counsel people who are about to jump into a career or “the real world” experience for the first time, no matter the circumstances, one concern always comes up…they want to know what to do with their time in between filling out job applications and lining up interviews. If the process of securing employment takes more than a few weeks, restlessness and doubt quickly set in.

The advice I give is always the same. Some people are more receptive to it than others, but I akin it to the principles of reaping and sowing. Hey, you want someone to invest in you and give you a chance to prove yourself? You want a secure job situation with a living wage and benefits? You want to do something that you would be proud to talk about amongst family and friends?

It’s natural to want to be of use and wake up with a purpose every single day. But, where do you start? Simple: sow your most valuable asset while you are in transition: YOURSELF. You probably have an eyebrow raised right now, but believe me, your giving will be your gain. Besides, who said that going out and getting a paycheck is the only way to be of value?

I get it. You have bills to pay. We all do. So if you have to work part-time at your local coffee house to pay the rent or fold sweaters at the mall department store, there is no shame in that. The shame would be rushing through those experiences begrudgingly, while missing the opportunity to add substance to your life. So back to my solid advice…while you are working that necessary, but meaningless job – SOW YOURSELF!

What does that mean? It means that you should purpose to give of yourself in a way that is genuine and allows you to be a part of something bigger than your problem of the moment. Put your skills to work with the sole focus on helping others and see what happens!

The possibilities are endless:

  • Tutor kids at a local school, community center or after school program
  • Ask your church office if they need help cleaning, organizing, filing or need assistance with any special projects (ministries usually have so much to do and not enough man power or money to do it)
  • Cook/serve dinner at a local shelter or soup kitchen
  • Organize and package food for your local food pantry
  • Organize a group of friends/family to clean up and/or fix up a local park or playground
  • Volunteer as a sitter for a family member/friend who needs a break
  • Donate your time at the local children’s hospital, pediatric cancer center or Ronald McDonald House
  • If you can sing or play an instrument, perform at a nursing home or children’s hospital
  • Create and send inspiration cards or notes to a local nursing home or shelter
  • Become a mentor
  • Lend your time to an elderly family member or friend who may need help around the house or running errands

 

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When we step outside of ourselves to serve others, a few things happen: 1.) The mountain of problems we have, miraculously shrinks and seems more manageable or less critical in comparison. 2.) We learn more about the inner part of our spirit – what motivates us, where our strength comes from and how we relate to others. 3.) We grow in love and patience for humanity. 4.) The experience impacts our dreams for the future; family goals, career direction, financial goals, wants and priorities.

The truth is, if you’re waiting to have it all together to contribute to society, you may never do it. We all think that once we have the right kind of job, making the right amount of money, driving the best car and living in our dream home that we will give back in some way. Many people do – they write a check, put it in an envelope and send it off to work on their behalf. But there is no service in that. It doesn’t require your faith or sacrifice. Go sow of yourself while you are uncertain, feel stagnant and not sure where to go next. Do it while you don’t have it all figured out and need direction. Take your broken, depressed and tired self somewhere and offer it up to the people who will be glad to have it and put it to use.

If you can get up and go somewhere with a smile on your face and work hard with no financial benefit, imagine how much more faithful and effective you will be when your time to shine comes!

He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much (Luke 16:10)

 

 

 

 

Teleology: Your Life, Your Choice, Your Purpose

If I believed everything that I read, I would believe that everyone has a deep hatred for people different than themselves. If I believed that every snide comment and hateful word vocalized the secret feelings of the strangers I come into contact with on a daily basis, I would be ruled by fear.

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There is so much happening in the atmosphere. The year has just begun and I already feel like there is unprecedented potential for renewal and growth, if we allow it. However, I also see that people are hurting, disappointed and stuck reliving past hang ups. In this political and social climate, I have made the choice to believe that people inherently desire to be and do good, even when they fail at it. I feel it’s more important now than ever.

I have a problem.

I read the news online and I inevitably find myself reluctantly reading the commentary, even though I have made repeated promises to myself not to. I know…I definitely shouldn’t. It’s not healthy and most of the time, it’s not productive. In the comments is where the ugly underbelly of humanity is exposed. It’s laid out for all of the world to see, unapologetic and crude. It’s where people have the gall to say things about and to others that they would never say to their face. It’s sad, frustrating and often depressing.

If I believed everything that I read, I would believe that everyone has a deep hatred for people different than themselves. If I believed that every snide comment and hateful word vocalized the secret feelings of the strangers I come into contact with on a daily basis, I would be ruled by fear. If I believed even a fraction of what I see in those despicable comments was prevalent thinking, then I would believe that the world is doomed and I might as well give up.

I have a solution.

I have chosen to believe that I can make a positive impact intentionally by being authentically who I am. I know that I can do it, if I do so with purpose. I will continue to bless strangers in secret when I feel led to do so. I will speak kind words to encourage and uplift those who seem to be struggling with life. I will pray for those who seem to be disconnected, mean and hurting. I will smile at strangers and say “Hello!” even when they don’t smile back. I will hug people with permission and compliment them honestly. I will leave my house determined to make someone’s day better, however I can.

The week before Christmas, I stood in line at a busy deli counter in the grocery store, patiently waiting my turn. The young black gentleman behind the counter was visibly flustered. He had commands coming at him from all angles: his co-workers were asking him questions about what was in the back and customers were asking for deli meat, cheese, a little bit of potato salad (No, that’s not enough!), and so on. It was on my heart to say something kind to him. I was last in line. He took my order and packed my grilled chicken in a deli back, weighed it and handed it to me.

“Thank you.” I said with a smile. “You’re doing a good job.”

He looked at me with disbelief. He shook his head in disagreement as if what I said wasn’t true. He ducked back behind the counter to straighten up the display and close the sliding glass door. Then he turned his back to me to go on to the next task awaiting him. I walked away.

I purpose to acknowledge those I meet and let them know that they matter because I will never know how much they need to hear it.

I won’t argue with foolishness. I won’t let anger and suspicion rule my thoughts. I will stop reading the commentary since it ads not one ounce of light to my life. I will instead, put out positive, encouraging and uplifting words. I choose to be accountable for what I put out into this world, even when others do not.

I am also determined to make my own way, figure it out as I go and take risks even though I may be hurt in the process. I won’t let anyone’s opinion of me, my talents, my abilities or experiences dictate my potential. There will always be someone who feels like I am inferior because I’m a full-time mom, because I am black, because I am a woman…because, because, because. I won’t let them win. You shouldn’t either!

It’s your life. How you live it is your choice, but do it with purpose.