Back In The Saddle Again

Oh my dear, beloved blog! It has been too long! Where has the time gone? Last time I posted, kids were just settling back in school and football season was starting. Now kids are getting ready for break, the football gods have decided who the best four teams in the nation are, and it is almost Christmas! It takes your breath away how quickly times passes!

So let me catch you up on what’s been going on. The Fall was FULL. Full with so many good things, but full nonetheless. I had the opportunity to speak in front of some amazing groups of men and women over the past few months. There is nothing I love more than seeing people eager to live as we were created- with purpose and for a purpose!   I held my first Daring Moms group and another Daring Way™ retreat for women. Both groups were filled with strong, courageous, amazing ladies. It is a true honor to do this work with women who desire change and freedom in their lives. On the personal side, we took my son to his first college football game and enjoyed some great time with family and friends. Yes, FULL indeed!

Although I have been MIA from the blog, I have thought of you often and written about a hundred posts in my mind over the past three months.  They were all really good- Ha! About three weeks ago, things finally settled down with my schedule, and I immediately thought that I wanted set aside some time to write. But an odd thing kept happening- I kept thinking of other things to do. I need to catch up on this. I need to read that. I need to contact so-and-so.

As my procrastination continued, I became more and more curious as to why I still had not put fingers to keyboard. Being the over-analyzer that I am, I did a little soul searching and realized I was dragging my feet because it felt a little vulnerable to post after so long. Vulnerable?   Yeah.

My thought process went a little something like this: It’s been three months since my last post, so this next post needs to be REALLY awesome. Ugh it’s easier not to write then I don’t have to worry about looking foolish. It looks bad that I haven’t posted in three months; that’s not being very dedicated or intentional. I said I was going to a do a read-a-long. Where’s the read-a-long, Mazi???

In short, my self-doubt and self-criticism began to shout a little. As I shared before, having people read my writing feels very exposing for me. I can speak in front of groups of people everyday and twice on Sunday and feel completely at ease. But there is something about having people read, rather than hear, my words that feels more vulnerable to me. It feels more out of my control. When I speak, I can sense if my words are resonating or if I need to re-state something. But when I write, I’m just… putting it out there. Putting it out there for people to read and criticize and judge.

Yeah starting to write again after a three-month break felt very vulnerable. I realized I was out of practice in facing that vulnerability and doing it anyway. My muscles were a little weaker so my self-doubt was chirping a little louder, and as a result, my procrastination skills were a little stronger.

Has this ever happened to you? You want to do something but you keep thinking of fifty other things to do instead. You are really excited about starting something yet you never follow through.  You've taken a break from something you enjoy but you're struggling to find the wherewithal to pick the activity back up.  Why do we put off doing what we say we want to do? Why do we procrastinate??

I think we avoid and procrastinate for a host of reasons. We don’t know where to start. We don’t know what to do. We’re afraid of making the wrong decision/doing it wrong. We feel vulnerable and don’t even realize it. The thing we want to do feels uncertain and exposing. We don’t know the outcome. We sub-consciously know we expect ourselves to be perfect so the thought of having to work that hard/try that hard feels daunting so we stop before we begin. We avoid doing what we want to do, what is good for us for all sorts of reasons.

And then the longer we avoid something, the bigger it seems in our mind to actually do make the decision or call the person or submit the proposal. Avoidance doesn’t make things smaller. It makes them seem bigger and even more insurmountable.   We stop practicing doing the hard and uncomfortable things so we forget we actually can do the hard and uncomfortable things.  It is difficult to get back into the routine of doing the things that are good for us and so we keep practicing avoidance.

Sometimes we have to stop thinking, stop planning, and just start doing.  In my case, I had to stop thinking about what would be the “right” topic for my next/first post, and I had to just start typing.   Action is so much more effective than intention. I’ve learned that in my life if I don’t keep practicing being vulnerable, then my doubts and insecurities are liable to take control of my life.  If I want to keep my insecurities at bay, then I have to regularly practice doing the thing that makes me feel uncomfortable.

So I’m back in the saddle again with blogging.   This blog continues to be an interesting teacher for me- it is something I enjoy and actually wish I could do more of, but it is definitely outside my comfort zone.  It feels good to put fingers to keys after so long.  It feels good to be uncertain and vulnerable.  Breaks are good, but we have to know when it’s time to saddle up and start riding again. Let’s saddle up together and start practicing doing the hard, uncomfortable things!   Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent. Practice action rather than avoidance!

What do you need to stop thinking about and just start doing? What saddle do you need to get back on? What are you avoiding that you actually want to do or that would be good for you?  Are practicing the behaviors in your life that you want to make permanent?

The Truth about Anger (Part 2): Getting to the Root of Our Anger

Has this ever happened to you: you are going about your day and something happens that totally ticks you off. You become completely frustrated and irritated as if from out of nowhere. The dust settles, some time passes, and then you wonder Why in the world did I just get so angry? Why do we get angry?? What is our anger really about?

Last week we started a discussion on anger. We defined anger and discussed that anger does not have to be destructive. Stuffed anger is just has harmful to our spirits and relationships as out of control anger. We keep anger from being destructive when we learn to identify what anger feels like in our bodies and how we act in anger.   It’s normal to feel angry; it’s what you do with and in it that really matters.

We left off last week by saying that anger is a secondary emotion. Of all the things I’ve learned about anger, this little fact has been the most helpful. What does it mean that anger is a secondary emotion? Like an iceberg with it's tip rising above the ocean, there is much more going on than initially meets the eye.  It means that there is always another emotion behind anger, and that emotion goes much deeper than the anger that is exploding above the surface. Yes, you may feel angry… really, truly angry. But there is another emotion that is fueling that anger.

Learning to manage your anger means digging past your anger and identifying that root emotion. It is that root emotion that needs to be recognized and shared. Staying in your anger rather than taking the time to understand the true emotion that is fueling that anger will block anyone, including yourself, from really knowing and understanding you. Your anger then becomes a mask that keeps your authentic, vulnerable self from being seen. If we want to develop closer, more intimate relationships, we must learn to lower that mask.

The three emotions that I find are often at the root of our anger are fear/anxiety, shame (feeling insecure or not good enough), and hurt (specifically disappointment). Let’s take a closer look at how each of these feelings can pave the way to anger.

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FEAR/ANXIETY

Anxiety is a feeling of fear or dread of something unknown that may or may not be real. Anxiety and fear are parts of life. Yet, so often when we are angry, if we dig real deep we may realize we are actually feeling anxious or scared. We can feel anxious over everything from running late to church (confession: I snap at my husband more on the way to church than any other time we’re in the car. Lovely I know) to worrying if our children are going to grow up to be serial killers because they won’t eat to green vegetables to wondering if our job is in jeopardy. When we are feeling anxious or stressed, we are much more likely to respond to someone in anger.

Let’s look at how this might play out… Work has been particularly stressful lately and there has been talk of layoffs. The environment is tense, and you are taking on extra projects trying to prove your worth and value to the company despite the air of uncertainty. You also notice that everyone in your life just happens to be especially irritating lately, and you have been arguing more with your spouse and family members. Simply put, you just feel crabby, irritated, and all around angry.

What is going on here is not that you are now an angry person or that everyone you know is all the sudden irritating, but really you are feeling anxious about the uncertainty of your job. Anxiety and fear leave us feeling weak and exposed. We counter that powerless feeling with an emotion that makes us feel “powerful”. All that adrenaline pumping through our veins certainly does make us feel powerful. In truth, though, it is a false sense of power… a false sense of power that is very seductive. That seduction is why we keep returning to the trough of anger again and again when we feel weak and powerless.

If you can slow yourself down and identify the anxiety, then you will be able to handle your anger in a more productive way. You will be able to communicate that you are feeling nervous about your work situation, and you will connect with your loved ones at a deeper level. Understanding that we are angry but then understanding what is actually behind that anger is what allows us to build emotionally honest and vulnerable relationships. Recognizing this connection between anger and anxiety/fear can be a real a-ha moment and learning to honestly and vulnerably communicate your fears can prevent all sorts of unnecessary conflict.

SHAME/INSECURITY

There is nothing that sends us into anger quicker than feeling insecure, unworthy, or not good enough. Feeling inadequate quickly triggers both our anger and anxiety, and in these situations we are inclined to either withdraw or lash out. Take a second and think of a time when you felt insecure or unsure of yourself? In that moment, how did you react to those around you? Did someone else bear the brunt of your feelings of inadequacy?

When we are feeling insecure or wondering if people are judging us, it is so easy for us in turn to become disgruntled and critical of others. When we are feeling bad about ourselves we are much more likely to use criticism and shame as our weapon of choice. We spew our shame onto someone else as a way of disconnecting from the pain of that shame. Looking at this root of our anger takes a lot of courage because we do not like to admit we feel insecure, and we really do not like to pinpoint the things that make us feel insecure. We feel insecure about our insecurities.

Slowing yourself down and learning to identify that your anger is masking deeper feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy, allows you to begin to address and heal those painful feelings. You can then share what is truly bothering you rather than picking a fight with someone and covering them in your shame-induced-anger.

HURT/DISAPPOINTMENT

Feeling hurt is a raw and tender root of anger, and hurt is often linked to disappointment. Whether we mean to or not, we have expectations. We have expectations for everything from a trip to Target to what our future is going to look like to how a dinner or a conversation or a vacation is going to go. When things do not go as planned or hoped, we feel disappointed and that disappointment may manifest as anger.

This happens all the time, and it is a great example of how we try to bury sharing our true feeling and deflect that disappointment by getting angry. Disappointment-induced-anger can be especially dangerous when we are unaware we had any expectations to begin with. It is in those scenarios when, if we are unaware of our own expectations, we are more likely to react defensively and blame another person. We do this because we are in a fight/flight response and our mind’s automatic response/goal is survival. We try to “survive” this disappointment by shutting down the emotion and turning it into anger. We have to teach our mind’s automatic response that there is another way. In sharing our true emotion, in this case disappointment, we are actually practicing vulnerability and openness, which will create more intimacy in the relationship.

Are you seeing a pattern here? We use anger to shut down and mask the emotions that leave us feeling weak or exposed or uncomfortable. But ultimately, this mask does no one any good. We have to slow ourselves down from reacting impulsively in our anger. Anger that is impulsively fired off injures individuals and relationships. But when we slow ourselves down, peel back the layers, and look at the true emotions behind our anger, we build awareness in ourselves and intimacy in our relationships.

So here’s our challenge. Everyone is going to have a bad day. Everyone is going to have a day where they have a little less patience. Everyone is going to feel frustrated, anxious, insecure, disappointed at times. It is normal. It is okay. The challenge is what are you going to do with those feelings. Are you going to let them turn into anger or are you going to spend some time understanding and sharing them?

Yes, we get angry, but anger is not always our true emotion, so to speak. Often, anger is a mask hiding our genuine heart. If you want to live authentically, if you want to be known and understood, if you want to practice vulnerability, you have to name and share the true emotion behind your anger. That is being emotionally honest. That is letting people really see you. That is how you find your voice.

Think about the last time you got angry. What was the true emotion you were experiencing? What would it be like to share that truth with the person who received your anger?

How would your life change if you made it a practice to ask yourself when you get angry, “Am I feeling anxious/fearful, insecure/not good enough, or disappointed/hurt?” and then shared those feelings with someone you trusted.

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.

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!

Thoughts for Thursday- Are You Brave Enough?

In honor of  my earlier post, What's Your Theme Song, I thought our Thoughts for Thursday post should be a song rather than a quote.   Yesterday a friend of mine, knowing how much I love the song “Brave” right now, sent me a link to this amazing video created by the patients and staff at University of Minnesota’s Amplatz Children’s Hospital. Do me a favor- stop reading and watch the video.  It is truly  a must see.  You won't regret it.  (Click on the picture below for the video.)

 

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Pretty incredible, right?

There are so many things you could say about what makes this video moving, but what stands out to me is how truly BRAVE those children, nurses, and doctors are.  We are never more courageous than when we choose to have hope and joy in the midst of pain and fear.

Joy and happiness are two different things, and I think we often confuse the two.  Happiness is temporary, momentary, fleeting.  It is like hunger- it’s going to come and go.  I can be happy when I buy a new pair of pants, but by the time I get home I can be completely angry about something.  But joy… joy is deeper.  It is more foundational.  Joy has to do with our spirit.  Happiness has to do with our circumstances.  Joy has to do with how we view the world and ourselves.

Joy is an interesting emotion.  Most would say they want to experience joy; they want to feel it.  But in truth, I think letting ourselves really experience joy and hope is actually a very scary prospect.  What if?  What if it doesn’t work out?  What if it is taken away from me?  What if it doesn’t happen? What if she don’t get better?  What if…  Joy leaves us feeling exposed, and whenever we feel exposed, our instinct is to protect.  We “protect” ourselves from the uncertainty of joy by throwing it away with worst case scenarios and cynicism.  We give it away before it can be taken away.  We think we’re protecting ourselves, but really we are depriving ourselves.

But what if you let yourself have hope?  What if you let yourself get excited about that thing on the horizon?  What if you danced in the midst of your fear and anxiety?  We are our bravest when we give ourselves permission to have hope and joy when all signs in our life point in a different direction.  We're not talking about a “smile and never let ’em see you sweat” philosophy.  That is denial.  That is self-protection run amuck.  That is dangerous.  We're talking about acknowledging your fear and your pain- not denying it- and giving yourself permission to feel  joy.  We're talking about letting yourself exhale.

What we see in the video is that in the midst of real fear and pain and uncertainty, those patients gave themselves permission to dance, to laugh, and to be silly.   That is courageous.  And what we can readily assume is that when the camera stopped rolling those same patients gave themselves permission to cry and rage and pound their fists when they needed to.  That is brave.   It's the type of brave that takes your breath away.

Whenever you allow yourself to have hope when you know the possible reality, you are being brave.  Whenever you allow yourself to feel joy when your instinct is to throw it away out of protection, you are being courageous.

Are you brave enough to hope?  Are you courageous enough to feel joy? 

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!

 

Seeing the Big Picture

Several years ago, my husband and I drove to New Orleans to attend my cousin’s wedding.  For whatever reason, we did not have anyone to pet-sit our beloved miniature dachshund, Lucy, so she joined us on our venture south.  While driving to NOLA, we decided to stop by “the loveliest village on the plains.”  My husband is a proud graduate of Auburn, and over the years, I have adopted his alma mater and its spirited traditions with great enthusiasm.   Obviously, I could not resist stopping for some priceless photo ops of Lucy at some of the famous Auburn landmarks.  We parked our car and let Lucy walk around the manicured grounds of Samford Hall while I wildly snapped pictures.

At this point in our story you should know one unique fact about Lucy:  she is terrified of cars.  She is so terrified of cars that she actually refuses to go on walks and hates being anywhere near moving traffic.  Cars and busy streets are Lucy’s kryptonite.

As much as I was enjoying our family outing, poor Lucy was having a mild anxiety attack as cars were whizzing past her on College Street.  Eventually we decided to walk back to the car, and knowing Lucy would have none of crossing the four lanes of traffic, I picked her up and started walking across the street.  Lucy trembled and shook with every step across the street, and I leaned down and said, “Lucy, it is okay.  I am not going to let anything happen to you.”  As I said that, I realized my perspective of what was going on was very different from Lucy’s.

Lucy stands about eight inches off the ground.  This is what the world looks like to Lucy…

 

With her four-inch legs, she feels every vibration and rumble.  Wheels are huge and cars are so big they take up her entire sightline.  Everything seems gigantic and overpowering.  Everything seems intimidating.

By contrast, this is what I saw that day…

I could see much further.  My viewpoint was much different.  I could see farther down the road, if trouble was coming, and when it was going to pass.  My perspective made it very easy for me to trust and believe that we were safe.  Lucy’s perspective, on the other hand, was limited and narrow.

As we crossed the street, I thought how often am I like Lucy.  How often are we all like Lucy?  We only see what is right before our eyes, and it seems intimidating and scary.  We feel totally overwhelmed by what we are facing, and sometimes we are sure it is going to overtake us. We fear being trapped and doomed to permanently reside in this place of uncertainty.

How often do we forget that we are not alone in our journey?  How often do we try to rely on our own shortsighted vision and strength?  It is so easy to be consumed with worry and fear.  It is so easy to forget there is a bigger picture, a larger vision for our life that we cannot fully imagine.   It is so easy to forget we are not alone, and we will not be left in our troubled, fearful state.   Lo, I am with you always…

Your current heartache, although deeply painful, is a portion of your picture, but it is not the entire portrait of your life.  You were not created to reside in the valley of your troubles; you were created to pass through the valley.

 

What would it be like today to trust that there is a bigger picture for your life that you cannot yet see?

How would your life be different if you believed you are not alone on this journey?

How would that type of hope change your life?

I wanna see you be BRAVE!

Whenever I keep hearing about the same thing from several different people, I know that means I need to check it out.  Over the past week I have been hearing about this new song by Sara Bareilles called BRAVE.  People have told me that I will love it and that it is right up my alley, and, boy, were they right!  It. is. awesome.  It fits so well with our theme this week of facing our fears and breaking out of our comfort zone that I just had to share it. There are so many things in our lives that confine us and silence us.  Finding your voice and holding on to it is not work for the faint of heart.  Discovering and embracing the real you takes daily practice.  It is SO much easier to stick with the known.  It is less risk to remain quiet.  It is more comfortable to keep things small.  But what if you stopped doing what you've always done?  What if you spoke up?  What if you tried something different?  What if you stepped out on faith?   What if you were BRAVE?

So here is our anthem for this week.  Listen to it.  Turn the volume all the way up.  Dance.  Sing along.   You won’t regret it!  :)

You can do this.  You can be BRAVE!  Show everyone how BIG your BRAVE  is!

 

In case you missed it, click here for the link.

 

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?