To You, Who Changed My Life

Dear you,

I guess I should thank you for coming into my life. I’ve been learning a lot about myself since Day 1 and not all of it is easy to stomach. Growing is hard, growing up even harder. You’d think that 25 years of life would have forced that second one on me already but everything I’ve gone through since meeting you has shown me I’m still a child in many ways, clinging to my fantasies and refusing to accept that life is seldom fair. I’ve come face to face with my selfishness, my pride, my sense of superiority. I’ve seen that even though I wouldn’t consider myself entitled, I believe I deserve answers and explanations for everything. In a perfect world I’d get them, but something I’ve learned is that I’ll go crazy if I refuse to move on with life until those answers arrive.

I want to make sense of things, because the world is often nonsensical and confusing. It’s loud and scary and overwhelming and knowing how and why bad things happened to me gives me a sense of security. Maybe if I know, I can avoid the same problem next time.

But sometimes the reason isn’t mine to know. I can’t even tell you how much I don’t understand that, but I know it’s true. Sometimes it’s just not up to me and I have to learn that I can survive in a world I don’t control. It’s terrifying and I hate it but it’s true, and I don’t know if I could have seen that without you.

I’ve been frustrated with myself because I’ve seen so much ugliness in the mirror lately, and sometimes I throw a fit and tell myself there’s no point in changing because I’m tired of other people and they can just deal with me as I am (see how easy it is to duck responsibility? I never knew how good I was at that, before). But I haven’t just scraped away my illusions on your unyielding indifference. You also helped me uncover passions I didn’t know I had, strengths I hadn’t dreamed of, and a sense of belonging I’d nearly given up on finding. Knowing it’s even possible to be that happy makes a huge difference in how I see the world. You clarified a lot of things for me, helped lift the fog for awhile so I could glimpse where I fit in the world.

I’m back in darkness now, but my eyesight is forever changed by the view you showed me. I don’t always remember there’s more out there than what I can see of my immediate surroundings, but the knowledge is there and it shapes my expectations, my actions. When I’m not too afraid to take a step forward, the things I’ve learned because of you are the path I set out on. It’s hard to accept the reality of things at times but I can’t go back to ignorance and in the end, that’s something to be grateful for. I don’t think I could really be as happy as possible if I was still trying to pretend I was more than I was. At least now I can fill myself out, become more of myself.

I still can’t decide if I truly want you to be happy, or if I just want you to be happy with me. But I can at least say I wish you well, because you’ve altered the course of my life in a way only a few things ever will. That wasn’t an easy task. But I believe it was worth it.

The Importance of Learning Yourself and the Missing Piece in My Search for a “What”

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do with my life and what purpose I want to serve in this world because I have one answer that will never change, but that’s a goal that doesn’t depend solely on myself and I have to take personal responsibility for my impact on the world now, even if it’s just while I wait for what I truly want.

And I know, anyone who’s actually followed and read this blog is probably thinking “Um, you sure think a lot but don’t really DO anything….” I feel you. I really do. Finding a true source of motivation has been an elusive goal for me and I’ve never been able to reach it. Temporary motivation abounds; every new job I’ve worked excited me for a little while and every attractive idea of writing, knitting, reading tons of self-help books, or maybe even braving the dreaded extra time in college to become a psychologist or linguist or a something-or-other, has gotten me fired up for a week or two but has failed to capture my determination beyond that point.

Before I continue, I want to explain that the best source of information I’ve ever found about myself and the people around me is the MBTI, and a few fantastic spin-offs of that which are based on the same principles and psychology but have developed unique focuses and perspectives. My favorite thus far is found at 16personalities.com–the free content is amazing and they also offer more in-depth ebooks if you are interested enough to purchase one (I was). The quick test is pretty accurate, although I have to offer a disclaimer here: I’ve consistently received the same test result throughout my life both on unofficial MBTI sites and on the real thing, so I clearly function on a very set group of preferences. That makes any test have a higher chance of accurately typing me, so it’s possible that many of these sites, including 16Personalities, aren’t as clear or reliable to individuals with less solid preferences.

Having said all of that, my type is INFP (INFP-T on 16Personalities):

Being a part of the Diplomat (NF) personality group, INFPs are guided by their principles, rather than by logic (Analysts), excitement (Explorers), or practicality (Sentinels). When deciding how to move forward, they will look to honor, beauty, morality and virtue – INFPs are led by the purity of their intent, not rewards and punishments. People who share the INFP personality type are proud of this quality, and rightly so, but not everyone understands the drive behind these feelings, and it can lead to isolation.

 The more I understand of this type, the more it makes sense to me that a lot of my lack of motivation comes simply from my desire to find something that is really important to myself, to others, and to the world at large. I’ve found ideas that meet some of the needs I have here but so far I struggle to find what it is that speaks to me in a way I can’t ignore. So I end up spending a lot of time in my own head, scanning the opportunities of the world and trying to find a match.

I’ve already been exposed to a lot of fantastic leadership and personal development content through Life Leadership, so I’ve gathered most of the puzzle pieces I need to find my motivation in life as an individual. I understand the principles and have sought to apply them whenever I get excited about something for a little while. But I think there are still things I’m missing, and it’s exciting when I stumble across something that’s new to me but fits perfectly with what i already know.

Recently I discovered Steve Olsher, whose mission appears to be helping people find their “what.” I haven’t checked out a lot of what he offers yet, but in listening to an interview he did on one of my favorite podcasts (The Overwhelmed Brain by Paul Colaianni), I found an important piece of information I’ve been missing so far. I’ve known that I should be looking for what my gifts are, what I’m passionate about doing, and where those two intersect with a way to make it a living. What has been eluding me and what I didn’t realize I needed to find, is the audience I feel most compelled to serve. It’s not enough to know that I want to be a writer of some sort, because there are so many kinds of writing I can do. It’s not even enough to know that the kind of writing I do has to directly impact the people who read it in some way. I love fantasy and fiction and I want to write novels at some point but that goal doesn’t meet my specific need to be useful, to help people be happier and feel understood. I certainly can help through that medium but it’s not the vehicle I feel compelled to drive. So, what am I missing? I’m missing the “who” in all of this. Who do I want to write for? What need do they have that I feel called to meet? Whose lives am I gifted and excited to improve? 

I can’t really explain how satisfying it was to see the suddenly-illuminated piece of information I’ve wanted for but hadn’t discovered on my own. Even though I didn’t hear Steve’s words and immediately know what I want to do from now on, I did hear the words and immediately know that my focus hasn’t been where it needs to be in my search for the “what” I want in my life. I already know the gifts part of the equation. I even know the general type of vehicle I will be using. Instead of looking for a different vehicle and reexamining my gifts to see if I’ve missed something, I need to look for who I’m supposed to be driving. Who needs to go to the destination I can take them to? Who do I need to be looking for to pick up in the first place? And I think this might be the hardest part to figure out of the entire equation because there are so many different ways people need help and I don’t know if I’m looking for something general like “everyone who feels lonely, get on this bus!” or if I’m looking for something specific like “everyone who’s ever had a parent who loved them and wasn’t abusive but also was kind of emotionally distant or unavailable, climb in my car because we’re going to a very specific place!” But I think it’s also the most fun to discover because if I know what kind of vehicle to drive an what kind of gifts I have to offer, I can just start Doing. I can start with the bus loads of people and keep an eye out for those who benefit most from the trip. I don’t have to sit here paralyzed and unsure because I can’t find out who I’m supposed to be helping by sitting in my isolated tower looking through a spyglass at the world below.

So, why have I said all of this? Mostly because it’s exciting to me and I love having a clearer direction to travel in. But also because I know I’m far from the only person out there who feels the way I do. Obviously people like Steve Olsher wouldn’t be in business if I was the only person who hasn’t found my “what” yet. I can’t offer the range or quality of information that books and seminars and people gifted to be teachers can provide. But hopefully the way I interact with this material, the way it affects me and the way it changes me, can help someone out there. Maybe I’m meant to be the stubborn person who takes forever to understand things but who shares her experiences and saves other people some time and effort in the long run. I don’t know! All I know is that if you feel rudderless in any way or just unsure of where you want to steer the ship, the best place to start is to look within and start understanding yourself better. If you have no idea why you do the things you do or feel the way you do, start there. No matter what level of self-awareness you have, there’s always more information. Ultimately your direction comes from who you are, even though, as Steve Olsher also said on his interview, it’s not about you at all! It’s not about making your life better so much as finding out how you can make others’ lives better. And I think when we’re really helping other people in a way we’re uniquely qualified to do, that meets a need nothing else in life can reach.

A Personal Update on Moving Forward


The past month or so of my life has been crazy, stressful, and heartbreaking. Honestly, the entire past 6 months have been hard on me with one challenge after another and often many at the same time. But the biggest changes came only recently. I wasn’t expecting them. I didn’t want them. I fought so hard to hold onto what I was losing. I believed then and still believe now that this wasn’t a good thing that happened and I do wish it wouldn’t have.

BUT. Some amazing and wonderful lessons were taught to me and I have found a peace and joy I’ve never felt before. I am stronger now and I can truly be thankful to God for letting me break so I would finally turn myself over to him for healing.

I’m still struggling. I’m still sad. I haven’t finished grieving just yet and I’m not sure when I will. But I’m looking forward, not backward, and I truly believe good things await me even if I don’t know what they are yet.

[Christmas] Traditions

The other day while I was picking up groceries, I found a bunch of marked-down “EZ Build” gingerbread house kits and couldn’t resist grabbing one. “This should be a fun activity to do at home,” I thought, after checking to see if it had everything we’d need (icing, candy decorations, a tray to set it in, and a little gingerbread man and Christmas tree!). I’m all for trying new activities and creating special memories with my family and friends as we share that experience together.

We didn’t get around to building our little chalet right away, but after a couple of days Josh came home and said “I think we should make a gingerbread house tonight!” So, after we ate supper and made space on the table, we cracked our knuckles and set about the daunting task of assembling a picture-perfect cookie home.

It looked like it would be a fun kit for kids and I didn’t think it would take us too long to finish. After all, we’re two adults in our twenties, with much greater dexterity and coordination than your average 8-year-old. It couldn’t be that difficult.

I was, of course, wrong on that front. The directions on the back of the box were clear and “EZ” to understand, but the execution of the last few steps was messy and time-consuming. That was mostly my fault; I cut the tip of the icing tube too much so we couldn’t do anything with finesse or delicacy. Just a big, roaring waterfall of sugary icing that we tried to channel properly.

Josh was actually a lot more excited about the decorations than I was, and he decided to use every last piece of candy from the kit. Some ideas worked well, and some…not so much (see our Christmas tree–there were little baubles on it before a huge spearmint leaf slid all the way down the front and knocked everything off). I wielded the icing throughout the entire project, attempting to outline the doors and windows with little success.

One of my favorite memes on the internet is the “Nailed It” meme, so we kept comparing our quaint cottage with the gorgeous chalet pictured on the box and laughing about how much alike they looked. We had such a great time laughing at ourselves, licking frosting off our fingers and throwing candy around.

 

My favorite part of the experience, however, was the following night when we were eating the last of the house in companionable silence. Josh finished his half first, looked over at me and said “I didn’t think it was gonna be good, but it was actually pretty great. This should be a thing we do from now on.” I joked about running back to the store and buying another dozen of the same kits to store for years to come, but I was really happy to hear him say that.

Christmas is in the past for this holiday season, but this time of year always makes me think about traditions I’ve seen and experienced, and why they’re so powerful. I like this quote from Augusta E. Rundell:

Christmas…that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance…a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.

That’s the heart of why I think traditions are so special to us as families, friends, and individuals: they’re moments in time that span past, present, and future to connect us with loved ones and happy memories. Once something is a tradition, it ceases to be a simple activity done with other people. The activity itself really isn’t important at all. It’s the fact that it’s been done before and will be done again, together.

It strengthens the bonds between us when we share traditions, because we have something to look forward to together and a special, sacred knowledge that we’ll still be in each other’s lives when Christmas rolls around again.

We recently found out that Josh’s grandmother is terminally ill, and family has been gathering around her to share memories with her one last time before she passes. Time marches forward, and people leave us. The moments and memories we share will someday be the most important things we have left of each other. It is a wonderful blessing that we are given as much time with each other as we are, so that we have something good to look back on.

I believe that even as our loved ones pass on, they will be with us in the traditions we shared, the photos we took, and the difference they made in our lives. Remember not to take these things for granted, for they are often the warmest moments we’ll ever know.

How can I impart value to the world?

A big fear of mine is living my entire life without accomplishing anything worthwhile, never doing anything valuable for the people around me. A lot of things I can do feel hollow to me, and I think it’s because they don’t ask anything of me that only I can give. I want to take who I am, and what gifts I have, and use those to create some sort of legacy or positive impact on the world, even if it’s small.

Every time I ask myself questions about what I love doing, what I’m good at, and what I can see myself doing for the rest of my life, I usually come back to some sort of writing. I think that’s what I’m called to do in life, and I’m really happy I know that.

But I’m not sure how exactly to apply that knowledge right now. Yes, I want to write books, but I’m not sure what kind of books I should write. Yes, I enjoy blogging, but I don’t know what kind of blog I can run that is valuable enough for someone to take the time out to read it. What knowledge can I share that someone else hasn’t already said better? Is my life interesting enough to justify asking for someone’s attention, even if only for a few minutes a day?

I really don’t know, and it feels a little overwhelming to think of my small, insignificant self ever making a difference in this world. What can I do that no one else can?

For now, I’m taking the steps that seem best to get me to where I want to go, even if I’m not sure what the particular destination is. Studying English in college and keeping up this blog are two things I know will be beneficial to me as I seek for my mission in life.

I won’t lie, I’ve always felt that being a mother is the most important thing I can ever do with my life and I’ve always known it’s a calling for me. But I don’t know when I’ll be blessed with children and I don’t know how much of my life will be only blessing the family I have, and how much will be using some of my other talents to bless others as well.

I don’t know what my life will actually look like in 10 years, or what my impact in life will be, but I know I can prepare myself to be whoever I need to be in order to make the most of it. I don’t have kids now and I don’t have a popular blog with thousands of followers. I don’t have any books published or even a writing-related career. All I can do, then, is write and develop that skill, and sand off my rough edges while exercising my positive attributes to be a more patient, nurturing, forgiving person for my future children.

I’m grateful I have at least a direction to point myself in. I know so many people my age who have no idea what they want their lives to look like, or what they could do to bless others. They’re just plodding along, not knowing where they’ll end up, hoping the fog will lift and a sign will appear that tells them where to go next. The scary part is, I’m not completely out of the woods yet. I feel that same fog around me quite often, and it’s tempting to give up and simply do whatever seems easiest at any given moment.

But I know each of us has some sort of gift, and a unique ability to make a positive difference. I guess I’ll never be happy as long as I’m ignoring that fact and trying to keep my head down.

Love Your Body

I’m gonna let you in on a secret: if you’re a girl, Karena and Katrina at Tone It Up are simply brilliant. If you’re a guy, I’m sure you can enjoy them too, but they specifically focus on women’s health and fitness using a fun girlfriend-to-girlfriend approach that makes me feel like I have two great workout partners no matter the weather or how little I feel like getting it done.

I’ve known about them for a year or two, but I started really following along with the fitness challenges and workout routines at the beginning of the year. The current challenge is their Love Your Body challenge combined with 100 miles of cardio by V-Day (or 150 if you want to push yourself further). They post weekly workout schedules, complete with “PM Challenges” to treat yourself and enhance your daily life. They also have monthly calendars with tips and thoughts to help you get your mind to start thinking the way the lifestyle demands.

Continue reading “Love Your Body”

ARGH!

That’s how I feel when I realize I’ve fallen into the trap that is a constant temptation for me: not finishing what I start. I know everyone struggles with this to some degree, but I also know that it’s a particular weakness for my personality type (ie, Sanguine/High I personality from Personality Plus/DISC). I get really excited about starting new things, and enjoy the satisfaction of focusing on a project and getting things done up until the novelty wears off. After that, it’s all too easy to get distracted by the next fun thing and to leave a trail of half-finished projects behind me.

Right now, on the last day of January, I’ve taken a look at some of the things I started at the beginning of the month and genuinely thought I’d been doing well with. It’s frustrating to see the last time I messaged so-and-so was on January 6th, not just a week ago like I thought. And I barely completed 2 of the Blogging 101 assignments, and have failed to regularly post to my blog. I have to email pictures to my grandma like I said I would, mail a picture to a friend that I promised a couple of months ago, and I’m just now getting around to cleaning off all the bedding and the mattresses in my/my brother’s room that have been getting cluttered with junk since he got sick on his bed on Christmas Eve.

The temptation for me is to berate myself for “sucking” at life, and give up on trying because I’ll get to it later anyway. Fortunately, I’ve been surrounding myself with leadership-minded individuals and resources for the past couple of years, with a focus on personal development that’s helped me become aware of my weaknesses and has provided me with methods to turn them into strengths.

So, I’m back. I’m getting stuff done. I may falter and fall off the wagon again, but I’ll keep picking up again until I’m better at stopping the distraction cycle before it gets started. Quitting isn’t an option for me anymore.

2015 Goals: Read to Grow

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My second goal this year is to spend AT LEAST 15 minutes a day reading from books on leadership, personal development, and self-help. This is an important success principle. I’ve gotten to where I am as a result of the level of thinking and the kind of information I plugged into. If I want better results, I have to change my thinking!

The best way to do that is to learn how the successful people think, from the renowned leaders of the past to the great thinkers of the present. Their legacies often include a book or five about the lessons they learned and the techniques they applied to accomplish their purpose in life. Take advantage of that! Learn from their mistakes and apply the principles of success in your life to maximize your potential in every part of your life.

Among my reading list for this year are The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz, Resolved: 13 Resolutions for LIFE by Orrin Woodward, and Personality Plus by Florence Littauer.

               

The Magic of Thinking Big is an excellent resource for obtaining and strengthening vision and belief. It’s incredible how scared we become of having dreams, and how conditioned we are to think that risk is inherently bad. So we settle, and shrink our expectations to match whatever reality sees fit to give us. But there is so much power in how we approach life, and if we can teach ourselves to believe in a reality, we’ll be able to move toward that goal with the eyes to see all the doors that are open to us. The book was powerful and life-changing when I read it last year, and it’s time I renew that sense of possibility I gained.

Resolved is a book about developing key character traits and habits to change first your personal life and inner dialogue, and then your public life and influence. It defines what purpose is, and how to apply that knowledge in your life. It’s an influential read to be revisited over and over, as each resolution is conquered and you step up to the next level in your climb to living your purpose.

Personality Plus is an entertaining and informative read that reminds us all that no, he’s not CRAZY, he’s just different. When someone does something that is infuriating and is simply ridiculous, it’s quite possible that it’s only infuriating to you, and it makes perfect sense to others. We all function differently on a fundamental level, and identifying the personalities of others can go a long way toward building stronger relationships and cultivating an attitude of understanding and acceptance. My family is large enough that I get to deal with all the different personalities on a daily basis; I could never figure out why my sister and I hated each other so much but after reading this book and understanding the concept, it drastically improved the relationship. I understand what makes her tick and I know how to pick my battles.

There are so many incredible books to read and study, and if there’s a concept or principle you’d like to study, there’s probably a “manual” for it. Simply reading the words isn’t enough, however; intentional learning and application of the lessons taught will make all the difference.

What’s one characteristic you’d like to develop or strengthen in yourself this year?

2015 Goals: Focus on Friendship

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I’m going to share my goals for this year in a series of posts (I also post them on Instagram). The most important thing to me is becoming a better person and improving myself this year, and specific resolutions are a must to guide my path.

My first goal is to develop more and stronger friendships this year. It’s been so easy for me to let things slide and ignore my friends until I need them (whether for something tangible or simply because I’m in need of a shoulder to lean on), and the people I once considered my closest friends are hardly friends at all anymore.

What I’ve learned is that we’re all happier when we have solid friendships in our lives. They help us create good memories, feel connected in this big world, and lend us strength to weather storms. People are actually so amazing when you get to know them, and they enrich your life to an incredible degree if you let them. So I want to give more meaning to my life and let more people in, to learn what they have to teach me. And I want to learn to serve others, to think of them first, to be an active force for good in their lives.

One book I’ve read on the topic of friendship and people skills (and will be reading over and over again every year) is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s a fantastic book with solid, timeless principles that are pretty commonsense, yet shockingly lacking in the average person’s life.

It was a bit of a tough read for me at first, because I struggle with every single thing the book addresses. In some cases I grumbled about how I didn’t want to stop complaining, or how it was too much work to remember everyone’s name. I then realized I had to work first on the desire to change before I could even get started on the actual principles.

The biggest thing I’ve taken away from only having read it once is that the key to great people skills is to stop thinking so much of myself. It’s not about me, it’s about them. For example, if I spend most of my time thinking of things only I would care about, doesn’t it make perfect sense that everyone else is doing the same? Which means that asking someone to talk about himself is a great way to make him feel like he matters to you, instead of feeling unimportant as you natter on about yourself.

So my focus this year is to force my thoughts away from “me, me, me” as much as possible and center them on what I can do for others instead.

I’m going to ask more questions, listen more, and smile as often as possible. I’m going to say hello to strangers and start conversations with people I see around town but don’t know. By the end of the year, I want to know that more people than not were better off for talking to me. And I want to know a lot more names than I do right now. It’s time to take an active interest in the world and the people around us. Let’s make this year a huge step forward, friends. ♥

Q: What’s your best memory from 2014?