Monday, January 24, 2011

WHAT IS HOLDING YOU BACK?





“People who have attained things worth having in this world have worked while others have idled, have persevered while others gave up in despair, and have practiced early in life the valuable habits of self-denial, industry, and singleness of purpose.” ~ Grenville Kleiser

My friend, Connie, and I try to get together and walk at least three times a week. We usually walk on the dirt road that fronts our houses, but sometimes we choose the paved road at the end of our street.  When following this route we pass a house where a big, red Doberman pinscher lives. And believe me, he takes his job as “head security dog” very seriously. When we approach his house he comes charging at us, barking and making sure we see his white, pointy, teeth. The first time he came at us, I was reaching for my pepper spray! But when he reached the edge of the yard it was as if he had run into a glass wall.

I looked as close as I dared and saw he had a shock collar on and obviously crossing the invisible fence must have been uncomfortable enough for him to decide to stay in his yard no matter how bad he wanted a piece of us. I pocketed my pepper spray walked confidently on. He followed us along his property line protesting our presence and warning us just what he could do if he didn’t have that pesky collar on. Thank goodness he did!

You know, some of us live our lives as if we are wearing “shock collars.” Think about it. How many times have we let a painful experience keep us from trying something? Maybe we tried and failed, so we are just not willing to go there anymore?

But . . .

If we keep trying, one day we will break through. Then when we look back at all the trials, disappointments, and work our entire experience will be condensed into a single sentence—“It was hard but I made it.”

Is there something you want beyond the property line you’ve made for yourself? Then, keep trying. Don’t give up. Don’t let the pain of the past define your future! One day you will “break through” and then there will be no stopping you! 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

OUR WORDS


“There are moments in life, when the heart is so full of emotion that if by chance it be shaken, or into its depths like a pebble drops some careless word, it overflows, and its secret, spilt on the ground like water, can never be gathered together”~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Neal’s grandmother, Eva Campbell, was an astute and delightful woman. One of the endearing things about her was the library of sage sayings that she kept in her mind. Out of the blue she’d level her gaze at one of us and say, “A wise old owl stood on an oak, the more he heard the less he spoke. The less he spoke the more he heard. God make me like that wise old bird.” Then she’d smile and go about her business. Another of her favorite sayings was, “Make your words soft and sweet, you never know which ones you’ll eat.”

Eating words. This is a very unpleasant and unsavory experience. And those with a heart and conscience taste the bitterness of their words and regret their carelessness. Most of us do not mean for our behavior to cause others harm. However, sometimes we are just not aware of how our words and actions affect others. For instance, when I travel to other countries,  I check to find what is and what isn't appropriate to do or say. I was surprised to find that in Asian countries I should never pat a child on the top of the head. Who would have thought this would be offensive? After all, being a southern gal, I do it here all the time as a sign of endearment.

 In much the same way, we need to be careful with our words and actions in our corner of the world.  After the massacre in Tucson, I thought of how our careless words and attitudes can affect the emotionally unstable. We act and speak as if everyone has enough sense to be able to tell we are joking or emphasizing something we care deeply about. But there are those out there who are not able to decipher our messages.

I’m concerned about the climate of political hostility in our country today. It has escalated since I became old enough to vote beyond what I thought possible . So many people with celebrity status thinks nothing of throwing fuel on the fire of political dissatisfaction. And, I might add, both sides are equally guilty.  Now, even before the facts are known, assumptions are made and the fight is on. The massacre in Tucson is a vivid example.  New York Times journalists assumed this happened because of the angry rhetoric of others in the media and erroneously reported things that were simply not true. Therefore, when unity and empathy was needed, their words caused a further divide. The dangerous thing is we don’t know is how our puffed up opinions affect others, especially those who are not sound minded.

Even though I may not be “high-profile” personality, I am just as accountable for my words. I never know who is listening or how what I say is being interpreted. I’ve used this quote by Mahatma Gandhi before, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” 
Do I want to see a more civil and responsible world? Then it must start with me. Tucson is a horrifying reminder of the broken world I live in and how powerful my words can be.

This week, let us all be like that wise old owl. Let's make our words reasonable, kindly spoken, diplomatic, and sensible.





Sunday, January 09, 2011

GOALS INSTEAD OF RESOLUTIONS


“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” ~ Jimmy Dean

Okay, it is official. Resolutions are just wrong. They make us do the opposite of what we really want to do—true story! Last year, as an experiment, I resolved to gain weight—the one resolution I felt I could keep—and I lost 30 pounds!

But, before you resolve to gain weight, let me clarify. It wasn’t the resolution to gain weight that did it. It was a goal I set. Resolutions are wishful thoughts for the next year that lose their freshness in a few months and life takes over choking our good intentions.
Unfortunately, for the remainder of the year, our little gasping resolutions hold on to enough life to make us feel guilty.

Let’s talk about goals:
·      Goals should be purposeful. Think them through, design a step-by-step plan and follow that plan. If we stumble that doesn’t change the goal. We get up, dust ourselves off and start new.
·      Goals should be realistic. Sure, I wanted to lose 50 pounds in three months, but that didn’t happen. It took me a year to lose 30. I’d like to lose 10 more, but I’m also paying attention to what my body is telling me. My part in this endeavor is to eat right, exercise, and be patient with myself. The most important thing I had to change was my mind and realize this wasn’t a temporary practice till I lost my excess weight. It was something I had to do for the rest of my earthly life!
·      Goals should be multidimensional. We need to have “vision” for what these goals will accomplish. Sure, I wanted to look better. But I also wanted to feel better. I’m pushing 56, but my new career as a writer and speaker is just picking up steam. I want to keep a spring in my step! I also wanted the convenience of getting dressed and being done with it instead of emptying my closet trying to disguise this bulge or that flabby part.
·      Goals should dream big! I know I said to be realistic, and when it comes to something that leans heavily on our personal responsibility, we should be reasonable with ourselves. But, I also believe we should “dream” big and see where life takes us.

Another effective thing to do is to write out your goals. Something about writing them down really makes a difference. I usually begin my year with writing a “workable” list of 5 things I’d like to accomplish. This year I want to:

·      Lose those last ten pounds
·      Finish the rewrite of my novel
·      Write a devotional book
·      Attend three writing conferences
·      Get a speaking engagement in the UK

That last one throw you? Don’t let it. Have a big goal in your heart’s pocket. You never know where it will lead you! As C.S. Lewis says, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

What about you? Do you have any goals to start in 2011? Notice I say start. They may not be finished in 2012. That is the beauty of goals. They are there until we cross the finish line, whatever the year. How we run the race—fast and determined, slow and steady, or undisciplined and sporadic— is up to us.

May you have a successful and fruitful 2011!