The Wisdom of Harold and His Purple Crayon

Ahh the wisdom of children’s books… One of the gifts of motherhood has been rediscovering children’s books. Reading them as an adult, I have discovered a treasure trove of poignant wisdom. My son, like most children, enjoys reading the same story over and over and over and over and… well, you get the picture. The latest book du jour is Harold and the Purple Crayon. Somehow I missed this book growing up but am thoroughly enjoying it as an adult. Oh what a lovely story! If you’ve never read it, you really should go to the bookstore or library and read through it.

As I have been reading this story for several nights now, I’ve had some time to reflect, shall we say, on Harold’s adventure. Harold and the Purple Crayon is about a little boy named Harold who creates an entire world with his purple crayon. Harold goes on a mighty adventure filled with apple trees, dragons, oceans, ships, picnics with pies as far as the eye can see, mountains, and tall buildings until finally he decides it time to find home and go to sleep. I know, I know, it sounds too simple to be profound, but it is such a beautiful commentary on the power that lies within us to bring our dreams to life.

This evening, the beginning of the book really struck me…

One evening, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight. There wasn’t any moon, and Harold needed a moon for a walk in the moonlight. haroldmoonresized_9737

And he needed something to walk on. He made a long straight path so he wouldn’t get lost.

haroldpageAnd he set off on his walk, taking his big purple crayon with him. But he didn’t seem to be getting anywhere on the long straight path. So he left the path…

But he didn’t seem to be getting anywhere on the long straight path. So he left the path…

Sometimes we need the long straight path to guide us so we don’t get lost, to give us security and direction when we are just starting out. The long straight path is indeed helpful. Necessary.

But sometimes we discover that we don’t seem to be getting anywhere on the long straight path. So we leave the path. We have to leave the path for the unknown adventure.

We need the long straight path and we need to leave the long straight path. If we stay on the straight path forever, we lose the opportunity to stretch ourselves and experience the glorious uncertainty of adventure. However, if we are always leaving the straight path for the unknown, then we never establish roots or plant seeds that will one day bear fruit. Our lives need to be a mixture of both… following the straight path when we need security and creating a new one when we realize we are not going anywhere.

What is your heart longing to do? What does your journey look like right now? Do you need the long straight path to keep you from getting lost or do you need to leave the path and set off on a new adventure? Wherever you are on your journey, remember you can choose the path… and don’t forget your purple crayon. ;)

You Have a Seat at the Table

Ten years ago this week I left my job teaching high school history and went back to grad school. One week later, I started a Masters of Professional Counseling program feeling equal parts excited and anxious. It felt like such a leap to leave the security of the classroom for the unknown of a new profession. I wasn’t entirely sure what life would look like upon graduation, but I knew that whatever form my life as a counselor took, I wanted to walk alongside women in their journey from brokenness and to wholeness, from heartache to redemption. I wanted to help women discover, or rediscover, their voice. I felt that desire deep in my bones. Over this past decade, I have been privileged to hear so many beautiful and powerful stories. There is truly no greater privilege than holding someone’s story as they wrestle and search and mourn and surrender. I’ve had the honor to witness women come to life, take giant leaps of faith, give hard no’s and hesitant yes’s.  Often, I sit in awe of the courage and strength I see demonstrated in my office.

But what I have consistently noticed over these years is our continued struggle with question Am I enough? This question can take so many twists and turns, but I feel like for so many of us the question of being enough is closely tied to how we see and feel about ourselves as women. What does it mean to be a woman? What does that really mean??  And… am I enough as a woman??

Our minds have been flooded with messages and images as to what it means to be a woman. A short surf on the internet can tell you how you can and should have a curvy figure like Kim Kardashian, how you can and should have it all, how you can’t and shouldn’t try to have it all, how to get a date, how to keep a man happy, how to be high school skinny, how to climb the professional ladder. We’re given all of these messages, and they create a very black and white view of life and womanhood- you either are or you aren’t. You either are these things that make you a woman- scratch that… make you a “better” woman- or you aren’t.

In wrestling with this question in my own life, I’ve always felt like I was vying for a seat at the table... as if life was nothing more than a giant middle school cafeteria and the table where you sit determines everything about you. If I could just figure out the right steps of what it means to be a woman then I could sit at the table… then I’d be accepted, I’d be okay, I’d be enough.

I have tried on many hats trying to earn my seat at that table.

I have tried to become some sort of distorted version of a Steel Magnolia where I stuffed all my feelings. I have tried letting all my feelings hang out and saying whatever came to my mind.

I have tried being hip and trendy attempting to emulate the pages of fashion magazines thinking that would answer my question. I have wanted to be the granola girl with a free spirit hoping that was the key.

I have lost my voice for the sake of a relationship because I believed the lie that there is nothing worse than not being in a relationship. (Sidenote- there is something worse than not having a boyfriend, partner, spouse; it’s not having a voice.)

I have ridiculed myself for not being sweet enough, thin enough, pretty enough, thoughtful enough, quiet enough, content to let others lead enough, cooking enough, not having enough children.

I have downplayed my intellect, my curiosity, and my ambition because I didn’t think they were feminine.   I have shouted that I’m right, I have railed against stereotype, and I have tried to act like one of the guys thinking that would make me strong and finally heard.

I have tried on many hats in this department of what does it mean to be a woman and I have come to one conclusion- trying to be the woman other people want me to be and I think I should be in order to gain approval and acceptance is exhausting.

Trying to become the woman God created me to be is freeing.

How do I learn to become the woman I was created to be? Maybe a more accurate way to look at that question is how do I learn to give myself permission to be the woman I was created to be?

If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know that my faith plays a giant role in my life. As much as I rely and lean on my faith, if I am honest, what I have heard growing up in the four walls of the church has sometimes only frustrated my efforts to discover these answers. Growing up Southern and Christian, it has sometimes been challenging for me to identify what descriptions and expectations for women are cultural and which ones are scriptural. In the South, it is easy to confuse and combine the two.

When I think about what it means to be a woman, I think of words like strong, multitasker, highly capable, intelligent, caring, leader, loving, hard working, outgoing, creative, and introspective.

But if I am vulnerably honest with you there is a whole other list I think of that often has hung over my head like a guillotine blade. Sweet, quiet, soft, unassuming, pretty, thin, married, mother of multiple children, peaceful, self sacrificing, a great cook, always happy/pleasant, never angry, never sad, not too opinionated, not too ambitious, not taking up too much space, secondary.

Now, is there anything wrong with some of the descriptors on the second list? No. Absolutely not.

Are some of the descriptors on the first list “better” than some of the words on the second list? No.   Absolutely not.

There’s nothing wrong with being sweet, with being attractive, with being a great cook. We cannot stigmatize qualities just because we fear we don’t have them or they intimidate us. That is bullying.

It is not better to be an outgoing leader than to be a quiet mother. One is not better, more worthy, more valuable than the other. The problem is we fall into the trap of thinking one list is better than the other and some of the words on both lists become sources of identity and worth- there is no flexibility, there is only have to be, must be, if you’re not then you’re less than.

But here’s the thing… giving yourself permission to be the woman you were created to be does not involve checking items off a list. It does not require you to perform for your seat at the table or play a part like an actor on a stage.

Your place at the table is not determined by whether you’re a Ms. or a Mrs., whether you have 0 children or 10, whether your resume has thirty years of corporate experience or no college degree, whether you are Betty Crocker or Sheryl Sandberg.

You have a seat at the table. You don’t have to earn it. You don’t have to pay for it. You don’t have to act for it.

You have a seat at the table because you are you and that is enough. You have a seat at the table because you are a daughter of Creation. You were knit together and set apart well before the world could tell you otherwise.

The roles in your life will eventually shift. The job that gives you worth will eventually go away. The relationships that give you identity may change. But WHO YOU ARE- who God created you to be with that grace-infused worth- that is unshakable.

Just because your reality may not fit a certain picture, that does not mean that you are less than. You are a beautiful creation put here to fulfill a unique role and purpose.

So pull your chair up and claim your space. Use the sense of humor God gave you, the intellect He gave you, the sensitive and nurturing spirit, the quick thinking, the opinions, the skills, the talents. Use all the gifts and life experiences and be you.

My friends, that is what it means to believe and live as you are enough- to live as you were created. Created with purpose and for a purpose.  Go ahead… take your seat. It’s been prepared especially for you.

How have you struggled and made peace with the question Am I enough? How have other’s expectations negatively impacted your view of yourself as a woman? What does being a woman mean to you?

To My Voice Teachers...

As I mentioned oh so long ago in my very first post, I used to be a singer. I guess technically I can still sing, but I haven’t sung in public in years so using the past tense really seems most appropriate. One of the things I loved the most about being in the music world was the unique relationship between teacher and student and getting to experience first hand the expertise of truly talented teachers. A really good voice teacher can literally bring tones and techniques out of you that you didn’t know were there. With their words and examples, they can change your vibrato, sweeten your tone, or elongate your phrasing. In the world of singing, a voice teacher literally helps shape your voice as you discover how to use this instrument that is 100% you.

See, that is the difference between the voice and other instruments. You can buy new reeds, you can have your violin restrung, you can play a different piano, and all those changes are going to influence the sound, texture, and feel of your performance. But the voice… well, you are born with only one voice and it is up to you to discover the full capabilities of that voice. It is up to you to discover the varying tones and dynamics and how to communicate sadness, joy, and fear all with that one voice you have been given. It is up to you to discover all of this about your voice, but you do so under the faithful guidance and direction of numerous voice teachers who help you uncover the various aspects of this amazing instrument.

Recently, I was reflecting on this unique relationship between voice teacher and student, and I realized that I have not just had voice teachers in my life as a singer but rather my life has been filled with voice teachers. These voice teachers didn’t necessarily teach me to sing… they taught me to live… and think… and love.   These individuals helped me discover and rediscover parts of my voice that had been buried and lost. The voice teachers of my personal journey poured into and invested and shaped this voice I now use. And I am so grateful. So here’s to my voice teachers… thank you.

 

Mama- You were the first. You were the first teacher and your lessons were held everyday and in every way but most especially each afternoon and evening when we read together. You helped develop my love of reading and learning, my insatiable curiosity, and my unquenchable thirst for information. Our nightly devotionals created the foundation of my faith, which now serve as the sources of comfort, encouragement, and truth everyday in my life. You planted the seeds from which everything else has grown.

Mrs. Dykes, Mrs. Edwards, Mr. Baker, Dr. Harris- You taught me to think. You challenged me. You believed I could do things I did not think I could do. Your lessons and classrooms were safe havens for me. You provided a space for me to learn and question, and you taught me one of the most important lessons I could learn as a woman- playing dumb is neither productive nor helpful. Intelligence, trying, dedicating yourself to an endeavor… these are the things that matter.

Joanna and Kim- You gave my voice color. You taught me it was okay to be loud. You taught me to laugh and, most importantly, to laugh at myself. You gave my voice an edge that I didn’t always know how to correctly use but realize now has allowed me to be bold and brave professionally and personally.

Patty- You gave my voice depth and balance. I couldn’t have found my true voice in a brown paper bag before I met you. You added self-awareness and knowledge, peace and introspection to my voice.

Annie- You lightened my voice. You are the instructor of fun in my life and whenever I am trying to decide to go with the colorful or the basic, I still ask myself, “What would Annie do?”

John, Charles, Louisa, Tony, and Dave- You taught me to teach. You showed me that my voice was not for singing, but for teaching. I came to you at 22 years old very lost and you helped me discover my purpose and passion. You faithfully taught me for the next four and a half years. You taught me to prepare, to lead, to facilitate…. You literally changed my life.

Courtney, Andi, Jess, Matt, Dr. Hardy- You shaped my voice into that of a counselor. The list of things you taught me and the ways you showed me how to use my voice are endless. I sat at your feet and soaked in every ounce of wisdom I could, and there is not a session nor a talk that goes by that does not have some element of your teaching in it. Your voices are heard through mine everyday.

Jay- You have taught this often frantic and out of control voice to rest and be calm. You have slowed my pacing and brought peace where there are often racing thoughts. But most of all, you have daily modeled what true humble servant living looks and sounds like. My voice is more gracious and thoughtful because of your loving teachings.

Jack- You have given me back my giggle. You are by far my youngest teacher but in the end will probably have the most profound impact on my life. You have softened the hardness that started to develop around my voice in my adult life. I am more compassionate and empathic because of you. I have more play and joy in my life because of you. My voice is sweeter because of you.

 

Each of these voice teachers shaped and helped me discover my true voice. Sometimes we spend our days trying to sound like someone else. We adopt a false voice by trying on different traits, careers, or relationships hoping that will create the voice we think we should have. But the reality is we were each given one voice and it is up to us to discover the full power and richness of that voice. We have to discover our true voice so we can live out our true passion and calling. As we said above, thankfully we do not do that alone, but we do it under the guidance and direction of the many voice teachers that come in and out of our lives.

Who are your voice teachers? Who are the individuals that have helped you discover elements of your voice that you did not know were there? Who are the teachers that have helped you rediscover parts of your voice you thought were lost forever?

Take an opportunity to thank your voice teachers today.   I would love to hear the stories of how the teachers in your life shaped your voice and how you are using that voice today.

Five Questions For Discovering Your Purpose

There are certain questions I’ve discovered that make people feeling really uncomfortable: What are your strengths? What do you need? Tell me about yourself.

That last one technically isn’t a question but the question is implied. Who are you? I bet you groaned a little bit just reading it.

I don’t know… I’m a wife, a mother… I’m an accountant... I’m the oldest of four… I’m single… I grew up in Cleveland.

Whenever we have to answer this question it is usually initiated with a sigh and then a listing of the roles and tasks in our lives. And while our roles and the things we do within any given day do make up a large part of who we are, do they really satisfy the deeper meaning of this question?

Who am I? What is my purpose? What do I want my life to be about?

Sometimes this question can be so daunting that we don’t even bother to wrestle with it, and instead we make our roles and our tasks our identities. That works for a while, but eventually all relationships shift and all jobs end. Then you are left back where you started contemplating the ten million dollar question: Who am I?

Whether we are in our 20’s or our 70’s, we all have to tackle this issue of identity and purpose. Here are some questions to guide you in your wrestling.

 

What is your story?

Do you know your story? Do you know the positive and negative turns? Do you understand how those negative turns have been redeemed? Do you know the greater theme of your story? Do you understand the reoccurring patterns that have led to good and those that have led to heartache?

You have been given a story and your story matters. The events of your life have greater significance because it is out of those events that you will find direction and purpose. If you never take the time to learn your story you will miss out on those direction signs.

 

What did you enjoy doing when you were younger?

Think back to your younger self… think back to your playing-on-the-floor-at-the-foot-of-your-bed-self? What did that little girl like to do? What brought her joy? What activity completely captured her time and imagination?

So much of who we really are is represented in that little girl who is somewhere still inside of us. In some ways, our little girl selves are the purest versions of ourselves because they are who we were before our hearts were broken, our self-confidence was dashed, and our thoughts were overridden with doubt.

A couple of years, I was asking myself this very question and I remembered two things about myself that had gotten stuffed way into the back of my mental closet.

One, when I was a little girl I loved playing with my baby dolls. Those dolls were my full time job. I loved feeding them, changing their clothes, pushing them around in their strollers. I loved those dolls.   I had forgotten how much I loved those dolls until I had my son. I think out of self-protection I had stuffed those particular memories deep down because for several years I did not know if motherhood would be part of my story. But then I had my son, and one day while changing his clothes, it struck me that in an odd way this felt so familiar. That little seed of happiness felt almost nostalgic, and I remembered how much joy I had as a little girl taking care of my beloved dolls.

Second, when I was in the second or third grade I wanted to hold a bible study for my friends. I planned the lesson (it was going to be on Zaccheus), I got out my felt board with the accompanying felt figures, and I made refreshments. Now the sad part of this story, that we won’t dwell on here, is that no one came. Yeah that was unfortunate. But when this little memory came back to me some time ago I was fascinated by it because I could remember planning it and getting everything so clearly. And in so many ways that little girl was a mini-me of today.

It is not lost on me that the two things that bring me the greatest sense of joy and spiritual, emotional, and mental connectedness in my adult life are my son and speaking/teaching and both were present to some degree in my childhood.

What did you love to do as a little girl? Before the world got to you, before disappointment clouded your vision, what did you love?

 

What are you good at? What are your strengths?

Yep, this is the question we really hate, but if you want to discover your purpose and true voice you do have to go through the vulnerable exercise of naming and claiming your strengths.

I discussed in an earlier post why we as women struggle to name our strengths. I think so many things keep us from embracing this truth about ourselves. We’re afraid we’re not good at anything. We mistakenly convince ourselves that to be good at something means we need to be the best at it. We don’t want people to think we are arrogant because we believe we are good at something. Or maybe we truly do not believe we are good at anything.

When we ignore or minimize our strengths, we let our roles and jobs define us rather than letting who we were created to be shine for all to see.

 

What is important to you?

What is important to you? What are the values that create the foundation of your life? What are the values that you want your life to be about?

Values serve as flashlights in the dark when we start to feel lost and uncertain in our journey.  They let us know when we’re straying from the path or encourage us when things get difficult. When you are doing something unknown or scary, when you are having a tough conversation, when you are making the hard choice, knowing your values gives you that extra ounce of support and direction to keep moving forward.

The decision may feel uncomfortable and may be unpopular, but if you know you are choosing it because you want the foundation of your life to be rooted in courage or faith, for example, then it will make it more possible to stand by your decision. It won’t be easy, it won’t be fun, but you will be able to do it.

 

What are you passionate about?

What do you always want to read about? What topic(s) stirs you? What do you have a curiosity or thirst of knowledge for? What topic brings tears to your eyes because you are so moved by it?

Years ago when people actually went to bookstores (oh I miss those days… sigh), my husband and I loved to go to Borders. He always looked at magazines and searched through the music department, and I headed directly to the relationships/psychology/religion department. Inevitably, I always left with a stack of books on topics such as abusive relationships, healing your emotional wounds, finding your purpose. My husband frequently had to responses to our bookstore field trips: I bet that check out person things you are a really troubled person and Do you really enjoy reading all that stuff?

Yes, I do. I really do. I love learning about what I do for a living. I could read about relationships and healing our shame and living brave and overcoming disappointment ‘til the cows come home. It excites me, interests me, holds my attention for hours. I feel completely alive when I am learning and then communicating to other women how to heal and discover our true voice and be our best selves.

Most likely the things that way heaviest on our hearts or intrigue our minds the most are somehow connected with who we were created to be and what we were created to do. Usually we care about something because it speaks to us or we identify with it in some way. We can’t discount these facts about ourselves. It isn’t a coincidence. Things excite and move you for a reason. Listen to that voice. Listen to that yearning.

 

Who am I? What is my purpose? What do I want to do with my life? Oh these are such big and important questions. The answer to these questions is found at the intersection of our story, our joy, our ability, our values, and our passions. What does your intersection look like? What direction does it leave you facing? What would you like to explore based on your answers?

Finding Beauty... Fighting Comparison

The more beauty we find I came across this quote by Bob Goff last week and it really has had me thinking. Aren’t those words so true? We hear and read so much these days about comparing ourselves to others and how things like social media only seem to exacerbate that habit. I think we all pretty much agree that comparing ourselves to others is destructive. Comparison is corrosive. It kills joy, courage, and spirit. We know this yet so many of us struggle to stop doing it, and we are at a seeming loss as to how to stop doing it. It seems, though, that Bob Goff has beautifully stated how we can stop comparing ourselves to others.

We look for beauty. We find joy. We celebrate instead of resent and envy.

It makes perfect sense if you think about it. It’s next to impossible to fall into the slimy pit of comparison when we find beauty in someone’s work or when we find joy in a friend’s accomplishment or celebrate a loved one’s good fortune.   We rarely compare ourselves to the friends that we are genuinely happy for. But we tend to compare ourselves to those friends or co-workers that we secretly envy, or even resent. It’s real hard to find beauty when we are pea green with envy regarding someone’s promotion, relationship, or windfall.

Our habit of comparing is not just rooted in envy and jealousy but it is also rooted in fear and scarcity. We compare because we are afraid that we are not enough, that there isn’t enough “room for us”, that somehow we aren’t going to get our piece of the pie. It is amazing how strong the fear is in our lives that there “won’t be enough room”. All these people are getting engaged; there’s going to be no one left for me. All these people are moving up in their careers; there’s not going to be any space left on the ladder for me.   We simultaneously feel compelled to mark our territory and fear that our territory is not big enough/good enough. These mind games are exhausting!

A wise friend shared with me today that rather than fighting for a piece of the pie we should create a new pie. Rather than fearing you aren’t going to get a piece of the pie and comparing your slice to someone else’s, what if you believed in yourself and your calling enough to create your own pie?

Let that sink in.

That right there is freedom, folks. Freedom from comparison. Freedom from envy. Freedom from fear and scarcity. What you have been called and ordained to do, you will do. We have to dig deep into our faith and rest in that truth.

So the big question these days is how do we break free from the comparison quicksand. How do we do it? We find beauty and we find joy. We find beauty and joy in other people’s journeys and gifts and ideas, and we boldly embrace our own journey, gifts, and ideas.

What would it look like for you to find joy and beauty in other’s lives rather than comparing them to your own? How would that change your sense of peace and contentment for your life? Are you ready to take on that challenge? I am.

What Are You Good At?

I have found the quickest way to bring deafening silence to a therapy session is to ask this question: What are you good at?

Let’s be honest, this question brings any conversation to a grinding halt. My guess is that even the thought of having to list your strengths elicits an internal groan. I’ll tell you anything about myself, but don’t make me say out loud for the world to hear what I’m good at!

Why is it so hard for us to verbalize this very basic and important fact about ourselves?   Why is it so hard for us to say, “I’m good at ________ ”?   It’s like we have convinced ourselves that we aren’t supposed to think we are good at anything and somehow that is the marking of humility. We seem to be caught in this trap of either not believing we are good at anything OR fearing that other people are going to think that we think we are good at something. Heaven forbid! (Insert sarcastic tone) As a result, we walk around thinking things like…

I don’t want people to think I’m a know-it all so I’m just going to keep my thoughts to myself during the meeting.

I don’t want people to think that I’m bragging so I’m not going to tell anyone about my promotion.

I am scared to try this new venture because I don’t want people to think that I think I’m all that.

I don’t want people to think that I think I’m good at that so let me add in how I mess all these other things up and how I can’t do this or that.

I think we all fall victims to this twisted logic at some point. I know I certainly have! When I was creating the copy for my website I basically had to rock and hum I felt so uncomfortable writing about myself. It just feels so vulnerable and exposing, doesn’t it?  What will people think? What will people say? So and so is much better at that so I shouldn’t put that I do that.  All those lovely thoughts raced through my head as Adam Sandler’s voice echoed in the background saying, “They’re all going to laugh at you.” Ugh! The ways we mentally torture ourselves!

And yes, sometimes we really don’t think we are good at things, but sometimes we do not let ourselves think we are good at things, or even try new things, because we are worried how it will come across to others. Sometimes we even struggle to say thank you after a compliment because we are afraid that by saying thank you, the person may think we are agreeing with them! Again, heaven forbid!

And we wonder why we don’t feel good about ourselves and why we are swimming in a sea of low self worth?? Are we even giving ourselves a chance? Are we even leaving a crack in the door that we could… wait for it, wait for it… be good at something?!

Where in the world does this come from? Where did we get the idea that by naming and claiming our strengths we are crossing into this horror of horrors zone of egotistical boasting?

I think women, in particular, have a fear of being perceived as arrogant. As much as we fear being not enough, I think we have an equally intense fear of being too much.   We don’t want to be too loud, too opinionated, too needy, too confident. We find ourselves dancing this delicate cha-cha in which we try to assert ourselves while at the same time downplaying every strength and gift. We live shamed into silence by the question who do you think you are-   Who do you think you are to try that? Who do you think you are to offer that opinion?

Additionally, I think we struggle to name our strengths because sometimes we mistakenly associate having a strength with being the best, and if we find someone who does something better, then we automatically discount that characteristic or ability in ourselves. Well, that isn’t necessarily a strength because Sally Sue is much better at it than I am. What a disservice we are doing to ourselves by minimizing, discounting, or even down right rejecting our strengths!

But again, where does this come from?

Like most of our baggage in life, I think this lovely little suitcase originated in middle school.

In Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, Rachel Simmons discusses how bullying and silent treatments function in female adolescent relationships. She says the worst thing a peer can say about an adolescent girl is

She thinks that she’s all that.

The phrase alone sends shivers up my spine because I know Simmons is right. Simmons says that once a girl is given this label she is deemed as arrogant and cocky and is shunned from the group. It is the social deathblow to a woman of any age and has been repeated in school hallways, dorm rooms, conference rooms, and neighborhood streets across the land as a way of demarcating us vs. her. Every woman, if she is honest with herself, knows the power of this statement because she has either used it to negatively describe another woman or she has feared it being said about her.

We are socialized to fear that if we come across as too confident then we will be ostracized, we will lose the very connection we desire. We end up caught in death grip of feeling not enough and fearing we are too much all at the same time. And so… we start to cha-cha. We try to be confident, but not too confident. We name our gifts, but we give nineteen disclaimers. We accept the positive feedback, but we follow it up with a rundown of how the presentation could have been better and what we left out.  How destructive this thinking is to our hearts and minds!

What if we started thinking differently? What if you gave yourself permission to say, “I’m a good _________”? What if you sat down and named your strengths without disclaimers and explanations? And then- this is the biggie- what if you believed them to be true? What if you believed you really had innate, God-given gifts that have been refined and enhanced by your life experiences? How would your life be different? How would that slice of truth change your interactions, the things you try, how you feel about yourself?

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Discovering your voice, clarifying your purpose, and breaking free of the chains that hold you back, starts with allowing yourself to recognize your gifts and talents. For some of us, that is a scary and uncomfortable task because we live our days downplaying and doubting our abilities. But your life does not have to be defined by the fears of not being enough or being too much. Your plans do not have to be shot down by the shaming question of who do you think you are. You can start living and seeing your self differently. Identifying your strengths and talents is not being arrogant; it is showing acceptance and gratitude for your unique abilities and gifts. Buried talents end up being just that- buried. They do not grow. They do not blossom. They just stay buried in darkness.

What do you need to do to start owning the truth that you are good at, not just one thing, but many things? Do you need to give yourself permission to claim that truth? Do you need to let go of some the old messages that planted negative seeds in your soul? Do you need to take time to discover your strengths and talents? Your strengths need light shining down on them. They need you to boldly name and claim them rather than burying them out of fear, insecurity, or misguided attempts at humility. Steward your strengths, cultivate your strengths; don’t bury them.

So… what are you good at? Come on, you can do it.   I know you can. Take a deep breath and let me hear you say it.

Here’s your challenge: List 10 strengths. Write them down and share them with someone. (In fact, share them below- I’d love to read them!)   It will be the most empowering, exhilarating, and scariest thing you do all week! You’re gonna love it!

5 in 365: The Five Lessons I Learned One Year After My Leap of Faith

This month I am celebrating an exciting milestone in my life. A year ago, I took my biggest leap of faith yet and launched my own private practice. In some ways, I cannot believe it has been a year, and in other ways it seems like forever ago that Mazi Robinson, LLC opened its doors. As I shared in a post a year ago, I entered into this venture not knowing what the future held but feeling simultaneously excited and anxious. Now, a year later, I am in literal awe at what has unfolded, the women that I have had the honor to work with, the groups I’ve been privileged to speak to, and the doors that have opened.   This past year has been filled with abundant, over the top Grace, and I am deeply grateful.

Sitting on this side of the past 365 days and looking ahead to the next 365, I have been pondering what I have learned so far on this journey. Here are the five most important lessons I have learned since my leap of faith.

If you’re afraid to do it, you have to do it. If you’re afraid to do it, then you’re probably doing something right.

As I shared a year ago, it was when I voiced my real fears about going out on my own that I knew I had to do it. I was afraid of not being able to make it on my own, of failing, of losing connections, of being judged. Those fears were very real, but what I knew then, and what has become even more of a truth for me since, is that if you give into fear, then fear wins. Fear calls the shots. Fear dictates the path. Fear keeps you small. If you’re afraid, it is a sign that you are pushing the boundaries of your beloved comfort zone. It’s a sign that you’re growing. Growth is often painful and uncertain. Fear is not necessarily a sign that you should not do something. Fear is often a sign that you are on the cusp breaking free from the thoughts that you think are protecting you but are actually imprisoning you. Fear is often a sign that you are doing something right. I now take those butterflies in my stomach and what if thoughts not as indicators to turn back but as green lights to take a deep breath and move forward.

It’s not the critic who counts… it’s the man in the arena who counts.

I’ve shared numerous times what a fan I am of Brené Brown’s research and writing. When I read the Teddy Roosevelt quote she uses as the backdrop for her bestselling book, Daring Greatly, I was immediately taken by this idea that it is better to be marred by dust and sweat then to stay pristine and safe on the outside of the arena. For the past year, whenever I have tried something new or stepped into a new arena I have repeated this mantra over and over in my mind. Success is immaterial. Critics only have power if I give them power. At the end of my life, I think I will care much more that at least I tried- tried to tried to hold Daring Way™ retreats, tried to market myself (email marketing literally makes me hum and shiver with discomfort… more on that gem later), tried to blog, etc.- then if I “successfully” avoided the criticism and judgment of the mysterious “they.” Yes, I’ve decided I would rather be filthy, exhausted, and totally poured out in the center of the arena then standing all put together on the outside.

I am my worst self when I’m on the outside of the arena.

I am my better self when I am facing my fears, standing up to my insecurities, and doing the things that make me feel uncomfortable and uncertain. I am jealous, envious, resentful, critical of others, gossipy, and “territorial” when I am standing on the outside of the arena watching others do the things that I am too afraid to do. I am my worst self when I stand on the outside looking in. Isn’t that interesting how that is the case?   Standing on the outside of the arena brings out all of the unattractive qualities we like least about ourselves. We become the critic when we give fear the power to close the door to the arena we feel called to enter. Want to be free of the jealousy that morphs into insecurity that leads to saying critical things about others? I’ve learned you have to step out of that beautifully decorated prison cell you call home and walk into the arena you keep staring at.

There is never the perfect time, but there is the right time.

When we are contemplating making a change, how often do we say the timing is just not right? How often do we think when I get to… or when I have this amount in savings… or when we get past this hurdle…? This past year has taught me that there is never a perfect time- you can’t wait for the perfect time- but there is the right time. What I didn’t share in my blog announcement last year is that when I decided to start this venture in private practice, my husband was unemployed. In March of last year the company my husband worked for was sold and closed their Atlanta office. As I was putting everything in place for the opening of my practice, my husband was at the beginning of a job search process that had no known end date. On paper, this was not the time to start a new business. We had bills to pay, a little one to take care of, and the uncertainty of unemployment to navigate. This was definitelynot the perfect time. But after much discussion, we felt it was time for this change, and as I quickly discovered it was the right time. It was the right time for me to clarify my purpose and calling. It was the right time for me to be my own boss. It was the right time for a new challenge. The lesson? If you wait for the perfect time, you just might miss out on what is right for you.

I thought I knew what I could lose in my leap of faith, but I never dreamed what I would receive.

I had a long list of things I thought I might lose, fears of what might happen, things I thought I wasn’t capable of doing. (Thinking about things like bookkeeping, web management, and marketing made me want to sit in a corner and rock.) I think anyone has such a list when they are contemplating walking away from the known into the unknown. Over this past year, I have had to let go of some things, and, yes, that was as painful and agonizing as I predicted it would be. But we have to let go so that our hands are open to receive other things. We let go of Egypt so we can enter into our Canaan. We let go of the beautifully decorated prison so we can step into our arena. What have I received?  Opportunities I never dreamed of. Occasions to hear others’ stories that I will treasure in my heart. Knowledge that I am more capable than I realized. But more importantly, I’ve received grace, a bigger and bolder faith, healing, direction, and a new understanding of what it means to live free.   It is for freedom that we have been set free- oh yes, indeed.  I have felt both carried and covered like never before, and I understand on a whole new level that our imaginations and worst-case scenarios aren’t nearly as big as God’s vision for us- Amen to that. This year has been one of the most influential and shaping of my life.    To say I am grateful is an understatement.

Those are the lessons I have learned over this past year, and I'm sure there is more learning to come in the year ahead. I look ahead at the next year and I'm so excited about what I know is to come and what I cannot imagine is around the bend. Happy Anniversary, Mazi Robinson, LLC!

What are the lessons you have learned from your leaps of faith? Are you contemplating a leap right now? What are your worries and concerns? What is the arena you want to enter? I would love to hear about your journey and what you are learning!

It's Easier Not To

Several months ago I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by some work related responsibilities and deadlines.  The to-do list kept growing and growing and my energy reserves kept shrinking and shrinking.  One day I thought, “It would just be easier not to.” Isn’t that so true?

It’s easier not to.

It’s easier not to try.  It’s easier not to change.  It’s easier not to put yourself out there, not to speak up.  It’s easier not to be vulnerable, not to take the risk of uncertainty and exposure.  It’s easier not to unpack the baggage that keeps tripping you up.  It’s easier to quit when it gets hard.  It's easier to believe you can't.  It’s easier to keep doing the things you’ve always done even though you know they are bad for you.  It’s easier not to choose health.

Or is it?

I’ve thought about this phrase a lot since that day.  I’ve thought about how true it feels, yet how dangerous this belief is.  Yes, it is easier… in the short term.

In the short term.

That’s the key.

It’s easier not to in the short term.  But in the long term, that easy path turns into a pothole filled road.  Choosing not to rarely leads us to where we want to be or who we were created to be.  Choosing not to leaves us outside the arena looking in.  And when we are on the outside looking in that is when we are most likely to be judgmental and critical of those who are on the inside.

Isn’t that the kicker?  We choose not to, but then we resent those who choose YES over NO.  When we choose not to, we end up staring through the window and watching as people pursue new adventures and opportunities, as they unload their cumbersome past, as they make healthy changes that bear sweet fruit.  We end up staring through that window as we wrestle with the most uncomfortable of emotions- resentment, regret, fear, and frustration.

No, it’s not easier not to.  It feels like it in the short term.  It feels like it, but although our feelings are valid, they are not always true.

Everybody has those days when it feels easier not to.  That’s normal.  The challenge is how do you keep picking yourself up and dusting yourself off.  How do you keep going?

We keep going by learning when we need to sit and be still and when we need to move.  Sometimes the very thing we need is rest.  Stepping away from the problem and doing something totally unrelated might be the very thing that gives you the perspective you need.  Giving yourself compassion and validation that this is a tough mountain to climb is often just what the doctor ordered.  More often than not, sharing your frustration, concern, and anxiety with a trusted loved one gives you the ounce of energy you need to keep moving forward.  We keep going by refocusing on why is this so important to us anyway.  Why does this matter to us?  What do we feel called to do?  When you push through the temptation to choose not to over I’m going to, you move closer to your unique purpose and farther away from your fears.  Yeah it may feel easier not to.  But when you choose not to, you miss the blessing.

I hope this week you give yourself the rest or compassion or time with loved ones you need to continue in your journey.  Choose long term over short term.  Choose purpose over fear.  Choose the blessing.

Do you ever have those days when you think, “It would just be easier not to”?  How are you learning to choose “I’m going to” over “not to”?  Which path are you choosing today?

Are You Ready to Break Free and Live Brave? (The Daring Way™ is coming to Atlanta!)

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This month I've been talking about looking ahead into this wild, unknown that is the start of 2014.  We are about to wrap our first month of the year and hopefully you have spent some time in over these weeks thinking about what you want this year to look like for you. What are your hopes for this year?  Would you like to stop living under the yoke of perfection?  Would you like to stop second guessing yourself and instead start living brave?  Would you finally like to separate your sense of worth from what you do and what you think others think of you?  If so, I believe 2014 is your year to do it!

As you know, I am a huge fan of Brené Brown, bestselling author and TED sensation.  Her research and writing on shame and vulnerability have been life changing for me personally and professionally.  Last June, I started the process of becoming certified to facilitate her newest workshop, The Daring Way™ and am thrilled to announce I am offering my first  Daring Way™ retreat: Daring Women:  Show Up, Be Seen, Live Brave™!
 
What is The Daring Way™?  It is a highly experiential methodology based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown. The material was developed to help men, women, and adolescents learn how to show up, be seen, and live braver lives. The primary focus is on developing shame resilience skills and developing a courage practice that transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead.  If you are tired of wrestling with feelings of not being good enough, if you would like to let down your guard and let people really know you, if you would like to discover, or maybe rediscover, your true voice that has gotten silenced and covered up, you do not want to miss this opportunity.   
 
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The two-day retreat will be held in Atlanta on Saturday, March 1st- Sunday, March 2nd (9:30AM-4:30PM both days) with plans to add dates in April and/or May.  These upcoming retreats are specifically for women, but I will be holding Daring Way™ retreats in the future for men and women, moms, couples, and individuals in the helping professions (clergy and mental health counselors).  The retreat consists of teaching, discussion, individual reflection time, and small group processing.  Over the course of these two days, we will discuss:
 
- What is the arena in your life you want to show up and be seen
- Vulnerability, vulnerability myths, and the connection between courage and vulnerability 
- How to practice empathy and self compassion
- The armor we use to "protect" ourselves from being vulnerable
- How to identify and change our thoughts of unworthiness and feeling not good enough
- How to create a life of courage as we embrace our story and step into the arena
 
The Daring Way™ is a cost-efficient, personal growth experience.  If you have thought about beginning a personal growth journey or you are feeling stuck in your life, The Daring Way™ consolidates weeks of therapy and can jumpstart and accelerate your personal development.  Having gone through the material myself, I can tell you that the content and exercises help you discover the keys to living the life you were created to live.  This retreat is a great opportunity for individuals or girlfriends or even your small group to set aside time to uncover the things that are holding you back as you look ahead to the future you want and deserve.  
 
Seating is very limited (8-12 participants)and the Super Early Bird Registration rate is $325 and the deadline is this Friday, January 31st.  The Early Bird Registration ($375) deadline is February 14th and Regular Registration rates ($425) apply after that.     Included in the cost of registration is a personalized notebook, a Daring Way™ workbook,  a journal, a copy of one of Brené's books of your choosing, and two catered lunches , snacks, and beverages.
 

For more information about The Daring Way™, go to http://mazirobinson.com/the-daring-way/

For information on the specifics of this upcoming retreat and future retreats (such as dates, times, location, cost), go to http://mazirobinson.com/upcoming-workshops/

For more information on what is included in the cost of the retreat, the retreat format, and other frequently asked questions, go to http://mazirobinson.com/workshop-faqs/

 
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like more information.  I look forward to daring greatly with you!

Thoughts for Thursday- That IS Me!

Steven Covey quote  

In this week’s earlier post about breaking our comparison habit on Facebook and Pinterest, we discussed the power of the statement that is not me.  We walk around in our little worlds, and too often that thought is triggered because we think someone else is more together, more interesting, or more accomplished.  But sometimes saying that is not me allows us to uncover our true priorities, passions, and calling.  It opens the door to discovering what is truly important and what we were created to do with our lives.

It takes courage to look at your life and say these are the things I am good at, passionate about, or I want to try and work on.  If you want to quickly make a conversation uncomfortable just ask someone what she is good at.  We seem so hesitant to boldly claim are innate talents and gifts, and we mistake denial and self-deprecation for humility.  Just as denying your natural abilities  is not humility, choosing your priorities over someone else's is not selfish.   We have to learn to say "no" to some things so we can say "yes" to our gifts and passions.

When we let ourselves do what we are good at and what we love, we are living a priority focused life and we will be much less inclined to feel we need to be or live differently.   When we know what makes us come alive, there will be a bigger “yes” burning inside us like a lighthouse guiding and directing our path.

Is your priority in life trying to be different than you are and always looking to others trying to be like them?  Or is your priority naming and claiming your gifts, talents, and passions so you can live out your unique purpose?

Thoughts for Thursday- Let Your Light Shine

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Your playing small does not serve the world… Wow.  How powerful is that thought?  We play life small in so many ways.   It’s almost as if we are afraid to take up too much space, to have too many needs… to be too human.  But maybe by playing life small, we are actually creating more angst for ourselves.  Maybe it is the trying to be small that is making us feel so suffocated and discontent.  Maybe small isn’t working for us anymore.

Remember the little song you used to sing as a child This Little Light of MineThis little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  I won’t let anyone blow it out, I gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine.  Those words take on a whole new meaning in adulthood when fear, insecurity, loss, and disappointment threaten to cover our light.  You were born with a light and you were born to take that light around the world.  When we try to be small so as to please everyone and bother no one, we cover our light.

It takes courage to let your light shine.   And, thankfully, courage is contagious.  People see someone stepping out of the shadows and it gives them the inspiration to uncover their light.  Light brings forth more light.  It’s the best ripple effect ever.

How are you covering your light right now in your life?  How are you playing life small?  What is one thing you could do in the next week that brings you out of hiding and lets your light shine?

 

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

I'm gonna take this light around the world and I'm gonna let it shine. I'm gonna take this light around the world and I'm gonna let it shine. I'm gonna take this light around the world and I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

I won't let anyone blow it out, I'm gonna let it shine. I won't let anyone blow it out, I'm gonna let it shine. I won't let anyone blow it out, I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Why Are You So Busy??

The days are starting to cool off, I have heard rumors of pumpkin flavored M&Ms, and my Pinterest main page is filled with Autumn décor and soup recipes.  All of this tells me that, indeed, Fall is before us.  Like so many, I love Fall, and as I shared a couple of weeks ago, I see the start of Fall as an opportunity to press the restart button.  After taking a breath over Summer, the Fall marks a chance to shift and change things.  For me personally, Fall is usually a fairly busy season, so inevitably I find myself wrestling with the seemingly always present conundrum of how to create more balance in my life.  And at some point during this season, I will inevitably ask myself… Why am I so busy??

Busy is indeed a treadmill.  In my life, at least, it is a treadmill that seems to gain speed and increase in incline without the touch of even a button.   When we are trying to keep up with the treadmill of Busy, we often feel that our lives our haphazard, unbalanced, and maybe even pointless and directionless.  We know we have a lot to do, but sometimes we can’t even say why we are doing it all.  Busy takes away our sense of center, and after living in constant motion, eventually we grow tired.  We need a break, but we don’t know how to take one.

One of the greatest theives of our sense of peace, joy, and wellness is busyness.  We will never be able to effectively manage our time or our lives if we stay on this neverending treadmill.  There is a difference between having a full schedule and being busy.  A full schedule is just that- full.  It may be full of commitments, responsibilities, and to do items, but all of these things move us forward in a clear direction.  We’re not just spinning in place, but we are moving towards something. They contribute to a greater sense of purpose and direction in our lives.  Our schedules may be full, but we don’t feel like a prisoner to our calendars, and we don’t feel that our worth is measured by the number of checks on our to do lists.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying a lot of activity in your life, but we can get addicted to busy.  We can get where we don’t know how to say no and we don’t know how to slow down without feeling restless, or worse, guilty.  We can get to the point where busyness becomes a badge of honor or a marking of worth so we stay busy simply for the sake of being busy.

You deserve to break free of Busy.  You can break the chains of Busy in a variety of ways, but to do so you have to answer this one important question:

Why are you so busy?? 

I don’t mean this from a scheduling perspective.  I mean, what role is Busy playing in your life that you keep going back to that trough.  We don’t do anything unless we get something out of it, even if that something is twisted and unhealthy.  We engage in repeated behaviors because we think we are going to gain something.  What is it you think you are going to gain through busyness?

Sometime back one of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist,  wrote an incredibly wise blog post on the role Busy plays in our lives.   Below is an excerpt from her post entitled My Drug and My Defense.

“Busy is both my drug and my defense. By that I mean that I use busy-ness to make me feel numb and safe, the way you use a drug, and I use busy-ness as a way of explaining all the things I dropped, didn’t do well, couldn’t pull together, as a defense…

This is what I do: I keep myself busy, for a whole constellation of reasons. I do it because I'm addicted to the feeling of being capable, because I hate to be bored, because I hate having to face the silence, because it might force me to feel things I don’t want to feel… If I stay busy I don’t have to feel those things, don’t have to worry about them, don’t have to let them blossom in to full-fledged questions. I don’t have to sit and think about that thing someone said about me recently when they didn’t know I was there, something I can’t get out of my mind. And so I run away from it, and from everything, faster, faster, faster.

And I use my busy-ness as an excuse for why I might not succeed, or accomplish the things I want to, or have the relationships I want to have. 

‘I mean, I’m juggling a million things here, of course the book’s not perfect. 

Seriously, where am I supposed to find time to work out and become some gorgeous supermodel, when I have like seven thousand things on my plate? 

I probably didn’t get invited because they knew I’d be out of town anyway, right? Right? Right?’

The busy-ness is a drug to keep me numb and a defense to keep me safe.”

 

Hauntingly insightful and truthful, isn’t it?  Busy truly is a drug and defense.  If I’m really busy then you can’t get mad if I make a mistake or have to bail on something.  BUT if I do everything and never say no then I look even more awesome and people are even more impressed by me because I did everything and I was soooo busy!  That type of high most certainly numbs our self doubt and insecurities.

Is busyness your drug and defense?  Is it your badge of worth and importance?  Why are you busy?

How do you break free from Busy?  You break free by choosing a full schedule over a busy one.  You accept that cutting back is not a sign of weakness or failure.  You learn that because you can do something does not mean you should or have to do it.  You don’t say yes to everything and you don’t say no to everything.   Instead, you invest your time and energy into things that are in line with your priorities and what you have deemed as truly important in your life.

Busy is a burden you do not have to bear.  May you find the courage to step off the treadmill this season.   Here’s to a FULL Fall!

What role does Busy play in your life? How are you choosing full over Busy this week? 

 

Take care!

P.S.  If you would like to read Shauna Niequist’s full post entitled My Drug and My Defense, click here

Night Swimming

The 90’s perfectly bookend my youth- I entered middle school at the beginning of the decade and graduated college at the end.  Being a child of the 90’s meant two things:  I owned flannel and I grew up with the gang of Beverly Hills 90210.   Oh the drama of Brandon, Kelly, Dylan, Donna, and the rest!  Recently, the episode where Brandon leaves flashed through my mind.  After nine years of living and working with his group of friends in the cocoon of Beverly Hills, he decides to take a job in Washington DC.  As he wrestles with whether or not to actually move and leave his friends and life behind, Kelly asks him what he is so afraid of.  Towards the end of the episode there is this great scene where Brandon faces his longtime fear of night swimming, and he and Kelly run into the pitch-black ocean.  As they discuss their fears about night swimming and life in general, they remark that it is the unknown, the uncertainty that is so unnerving.  You don’t know, you can’t see what is out there.  It is the fear of the unknown that keeps you beachside. This past week I felt a little like Brandon.  After six years working with wonderful colleagues at a great counseling center, I decided to run towards the unknown.  This past week I opened my own private counseling practice.  It is something that was always in the back of my mind but the timing never felt right, the thought of being on my own seemed more overwhelming than exciting.  But several weeks ago certain things fell into place and it seemed all signs were pointing in this direction.  As I weighed the pros and cons of this decision, I heard that voice… that voice in my head that speaks every once in a while, but when it does, it is loud and clear and is usually speaking from the deepest recesses of my thoughts.  I heard that voice say you’re staying because you are afraid.  The voice was so clear and was so right.  I knew then I had to go.  I could not stay out of fear… fear of failing, of not being able to make it, of losing all that the previous six years had given me.

I always tell my clients staying in something out of fear is the very worst reason to stay.  Staying out of fear is never going to turn out well.  When we stay in something out of fear, we start to feel controlled and resentment is sure to follow.  Sometimes we have to run towards the fear.  We have to embrace the mystery of uncertainty and the unknown because staying beachside and staying in the cocoon means we never get to become the butterfly.  Running towards the fear is what keeps us emotionally and spiritually alive.

This is not the first time I’ve run into the unknown, but somehow this time it feels bigger, riskier.  I have walked through two other major life changes prior to this one. When I set aside my flair for the dramatic and look at those previous changes logically, I recognize they were much bigger dives into the unknown.  I left music, the only thing I had known or invested in to that point in my life, for a giant question mark.  I left a teaching job that I loved at a school that truly felt like family for the uncertainty of a career change into counseling.  Yes, those were major turns in totally new directions and this is more of a veer to the right, but I suppose the fact that I am older, I have a family, and I know that times of testing and stretching often follow decisions like this one, leave me feeling like this dip into the ocean of the unknown is more significant.

As I look ahead into this new chapter, I am truly excited.  I am excited to continue working with women as they face their fears, overcome their pasts, and find their voices.  I am excited to continue speaking and teaching.  I am excited to simply see what happens next.  The benefit to having two previous major life changes under my belt is that I know the ebb and flow of the incoming tide, so to speak.  I know, as Rebekah Lyons says in her new book Freefall to Fly (adding this to my Worth Reading list… lots of great insights that I can’t wait to share), “sometimes we need a freefall to teach us how to fly.”  I know that not everything is going to be smooth sailing.  But I also know that those previous life-altering decisions led me down paths and gave me experiences I never could have dreamed of.   Leaving music led me into the classroom, and I discovered my love for teaching.  Leaving the classroom led me into the therapy field, and I discovered this world of counseling and speaking that I am truly honored and humbled to be a part of.  I enter this new chapter knowing the risks yet understanding the advantages of running towards your fears… you get more opportunities to face more fears.  Your story grows richer. Your life grows bigger.  Your purpose gets clarified.

So it’s official.  I have hung my shingle, and I stand ready with open hands to embrace what lies ahead.  Running towards the fear has never felt so exciting.  :)

 

What is your night swimming?  What is one small step you could take today that would move you closer to your fear?  What have you learned from previous life-altering decisions where you have chosen the unknown over the known?

 

P.S.  I want to say a word of thanks to Kristen Bailey.  Kristen designed this blog and my new website, www.mazirobinson.com.  I cannot thank Kristen enough for using her talents and gifts to help me launch into this new venture.  Thank you for your partnership and friendship, Kristen!

 

Leaving Your Comfort Zone

I love quotes.  I collect them like some people collect coins or shells.  A few months ago I stumbled across a magnet with the following on it:

 Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade wind in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.

Now I know nothing about sailing, and even had to look up what a bowline was (it is a special loop knot, by the way), but I love this image.  I love the idea of casting off and sailing away from the harbor.  Part of me would love to be that person who throws off the bowlines, but that part often does battle with my other self:  the one who loves the safe harbor, who relishes the known, who doesn’t mind the Comfort Zone.  Because, truth be told, the Comfort Zone is… well… comfortable.

We all have a Comfort Zone.  The Comfort Zone is attractive because it is known; it feels within our control.  If I stay here, nothing bad will happen to me.  I won’t fail.  I won’t mess up.  No one will laugh at me.  The Comfort Zone is our protection.  At least, this is what we tell ourselves.

But what happens when we want to break out of our Comfort Zone?  What happens when we are forced out of our Comfort Zone?  What happens when our life path takes us to the farthest reaches of our Comfort Zone?  What happens then?

We run into a wall.

As we move closer to the edge of our Comfort Zone, we realize there is a wall blocking our exit.  There are images and messages scribbled on this wall.  The images depict what we are afraid will happen if we leave our Comfort Zone.  The messages are what we tell ourselves to keep our dreams and plans small.  As we draw closer, we realize this isn’t any ordinary wall.  It is the canvas for our anxiety and self-doubt.  It is our own personal Wall of Fear.

Standing at our Wall of Fear, we are faced with two options.  We can turn around and retreat back into our Comfort Zone.  We can return to the safe harbor and the known and predictable.  We can try to forget what we saw on that Wall and convince ourselves that we are retreating out of choice and desire, not out of distress.  To ensure that we never have to see that Wall again, we make our Comfort Zone smaller and smaller.  If we can control more and predict more, then we won’t have to feel afraid.   At least, this is what we tell ourselves.

OR we can break through our Wall of Fear.

Breaking through our Wall of Fear does not mean those fears suddenly vanish.  Breaking through our Wall of Fear means we take hold of the Courage being extended to us.  Courage is not the absence of fear; it is acting in spite of that fear.  The Courage is there for the taking.  It is there for us to seize.  Like manna in the desert, we trust we will be given the courage we need for the day ahead and we step out.  Breaking through our Wall of Fear means we no longer choose to be defined and contained by the messages scribbled on that Wall.  It means we embrace the possibility of failure and criticism and hardship and, yes, even success (sometimes that is just as scary as failure) rather than running in the other direction.   It means we choose Freedom over Fear.

Once you break through your Wall of Fear, you soon realize that life is a series of Comfort Zones and Walls that need breaking down.  After all, that is how you become the person you were created to be.  You keep throwing off the bowlines.  You keep sailing away from the safe harbor.

 

What is scribbled on your Wall of Fear?

You can retreat or you can move ahead.  The choice is yours.  What are you going to choose today?