Gratitude: Honoring the Good Stuff

Each day is an opportunity to face life in a renewed way. Our waking thoughts can set the tone for everything that follows. Think about your first thoughts on the days you overslept or didn’t sleep well…what is your mood like?

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  • Cranky? 
  • Irritable?
  • Quiet?
  • Anxious?
  • Unmotivated?

 

 

If you are anything like I was, these days could have disastrous consequences for everyone.  I didn’t want to be a person with a whole range of less than stellar emotions, which directly impacted others. This daily grind wore on me and I knew there had to be a better way.

As a lifelong student of self-improvement, the journey of personal growth has been a path I’ve walked much of my life.  The rollercoaster of emotions felt like an opportunity for improvement, to become more aligned. This new awareness became a research project.  I dug in and devoured the work of many great thought leaders, vowing to start of each day in a renewed way. Quickly, I discovered that most practices weren’t sustainable for me because they took more time and energy than I was willing to commit.

On the day’s I took the time to plug into myself, things went more smoothly.  I got positive feedback from others and knew I was onto something.  I kept looking for a practice I could commit to. Then, almost all at once it clicked and a light came on.

CONNECTION

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A connection was the key link of these practices. As humans, we are wired to connect to ourselves and others. My old morning routine was anything but.  This new awareness was eye-opening. I searched for ways to become more connected and discovered a common thread in the work of many others was gratitude.

Gratitude changed EVERYTHING!  

So, now what?

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To be completely upfront, this new awareness had a complicated beginning. I set an intention to replace dread with gratitude, which was easier said than done!

From the start, I began with an expectation to practice gratitude perfectly…perfect words, perfect requests, expecting some perfect outcome. It was steeped in mantras and prayers from a groggy or rushed state. It was just too much and quickly became the easiest thing to push off my plate.  I was quickly defeated and retreated to my old unpleasant morning routine.

NOTHING IS PERFECT…there had to be an easier way.

I took some time to regroup and slowly began to adapt to a simple plan that worked for me.  What evolved has become a recipe for success that has only changed everything.

Here are my three simple steps to living a grateful life:

  1. Start by thanking God, or whatever your individual Divine source is. First, be grateful to your source.
  2. Next, think of at least 5 things you are grateful for.  Even in dark times, I can find something worthy to honor. Personally, I prefer to write them down to empower them, but it can be a practice in your head.  This step sets the tone for what follows
  3. Make an “I am” list.  I will admit this step usually happens in the shower after I am more awake.   Simply, it goes something like this… 
  • I am happy
  • I am radiantly healthy
  • I am love/loved
  • I am kind
  • I am Divinely guided
  • I am authentic
  • I am free
  • I am… you fill in the rest

I use these simple “I am” statements to set an intention.  Even if I don’t feel completely nurtured in the ways I am claiming, it becomes a practice that

THAT’S IT! For me, it really is that simple.

In the beginning, this wasn’t a practice I was wholeheartedly committed to and my follow through was lackluster at best.  I would go days without remembering to complete the simple steps listed above. As I began to see positive results (quickly), I became more diligent in my journey of gratitude. It actually was working, other people even began to comment on my improved mood state.  That was a bonus!

Looking through the lens of gratitude has changed everything.  Now, I notice things I never used to see before.  I see beauty in so many things in a more profound and beautiful way.  It could be the sky or flowers on my evening walk, maybe it’s the moon in its fullness. Sometimes it’s just breathing in beautiful air. There is so much beauty to see when we become open to it.

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Are you willing to commit a week to practicing three simple steps?  

It just might change everything for you too…

 

 

 

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Discovering Authenticity in Struggle

Authentic is a buzzword that seems to be used frequently these days.

What does it really mean though?

I hear others reference an “authentic life” and often fail to see its true application in their daily lives.  I don’t mean to discount anyone’s journey, but do believe it’s a word that has real weight and power. For me, it is a cornerstone for a strong personal foundation.  Recently, I shared a post on a kind and honest life, listing “authentic” as a step toward that goal.

Personally, I believe an authentic life is the unique intersection where self-love meets our highest alignment.

My path to an authenticity hasn’t come easily or quickly. In fact, there have been many painful twists and turns. To accurately paint the picture of my path, let me share some historical context first.

microphone-2574511_960_720Some years back, life was an exercise of dancing as fast as I could. Each day I was on the stage of my creation in an exhaustive and futile attempt to live a life I believed everyone else expected from me. My internal need for perfection only perpetuated the dancing…faster, harder and more complex.

This amplified dance demanded more of me, so I continued to work faster and harder to perfect my routine.  For many years, that recipe blessed me beyond belief. I achieved success that surpassed my circle of influence and became a living testament to the American Dream. I am beyond grateful for the experiences that shaped that life, but gratitude couldn’t absolve my internal hollowness. It left me feeling trapped and wanting to escape.

The dance had become dangerous.

Daily, I searched for distraction by seeking escape with sleep, food, shopping, or any other anesthetic that helped me unplug for a while. Temporarily, this behavior helped me to avoid painful parts of life, but like I often say, “wherever you go, there you are.”

I was overwhelmed, depleted, panicked, and depressed, constantly looking for a way out.   

Finally, through a series of disastrous reversals I couldn’t no longer run from myself. The music had stopped and I was completely alone and out of moves.  I fell from the mountain top I had built from mostly inauthentic means.

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By trying to manage and control every outcome, I often found myself feeling like a fraud, even in those moments where I was completely in my element. The duplicity of this self-created life left me hanging between a life of the “expected” and one where there was no roadmap.

At rock bottom, I knew I had two choices, to end it all or begin again. 

light-2068404_960_720I spent considerable time contemplating both choices. I am grateful for the path I chose, which allows me to share from my own authentic place, honoring the struggle and pain that shaped this journey.

As I began again, there were days, weeks and months in the dark. Slowly, through a divine series of events, the light began to shine again.

One enlightened moment, was hearing Alanis Morissette share about her own turning point on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. Her life changing words were, “getting to the bottom where there was no lie left.” 

For me, those words changed everything.  Suddenly, a light came on and illuminated the reality that building an authentic life requires one to stand in their own truth. The Good, bad, and ugly all matters. Each and every step was a building block.

So, now what?

Bit by bit, I have become more aligned with a life that I had always longed for. I began uncertain of the end game, but set forth by showing up and saying yes to experiences that I’d always avoided.  Doing so, forced me from my self-created box and opened me up in new and unexpected ways. Each new experience served as an opportunity to face my fears and become more aligned with my passion and purpose.

I’ve discovered the things that scare me the most are usually the greatest teachers. By honoring my feelings, I can view each new opportunity with discernment, deciding on its expansiveness by choosing yes or no. That power of choice leaves me feeling;

Peaceful. Relaxed. Aligned. Intentional. Purposeful. Powerful.

Each emotions is richly rewarding, filling my cup to overflowing. Ahhh…Authentic!

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Painful experience taught me that none of us is wired to live a life that isn’t meant for us. Of course, we can show up and meet our obligations, often for quite some time, but as time goes on, there is an erosive and damaging effect.

A fully authentic life is one that honors our history and allows us to become more fully who we are here to be. Through integrating our stories, we can serve all that has come and gone while learning the appropriate lessons each offered.  Standing in the face of what once trapped us allows us to challenge and discredit the painful stories that keep us from fully being who we are meant to be. I now lovingly refer to this process as “learning to love what is.”

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For me, embracing my beautiful history in a kind and honest way has been the only clear path to an authentic life.  I now use everyday as an opportunity to show up and face what life seeks to teach me.  That has made all the difference and  I no longer dance as fast as I can, but instead enjoy the gift of living in the flow.

Does something keep you from living a wholly authentic life?

If so, are you willing to explore yourself in a more focused way to find its rich reward?

I encourage you to join me on this journey of self-love and alignment…

 

 

 

Showing Up: Taking action to cure fear

Recently, I posted The Journey of Being Kind and Honest where I shared a life changing  discussion from many years back about being kind and honest. That single conversation had a profound impact on me and seemed worth sharing with you all.

In that post, I offered 3 key steps that I believe are fundamental to pursing a kind and honest path.

  1. Showing Up
  2. Being Authentic
  3. Telling Your Truth

The first step of showing up is the most important because it sets the tone and intention for the journey. I view is as our willingness to say YES to pursuits that feed our soul.

But what does SHOWING UP actually mean?

Of course, it requires your physical presence in a given situation, but the real work is a little more involved. Simply put, I believe it is doing more of what scares you and taking action that pushes you beyond your comfort zone.

Can you think of one area in your life that you aren’t showing up for?

box-550405_960_720Perhaps it’s something like finding courage to:

  • Have a difficult conversation
  • Face the truth in a relationship with yourself or a loved one
  • Put yourself up for a professional pursuit that feels beyond your reach
  • Confront a personal issue that has become unmanageable

 

 

So, what is REALLY holding you back from taking the first step?

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What often stops us short of action is FEAR. Fear of the unknown or a desire to avoid possible judgment, shame or ridicule. Perhaps, there is a truth we aren’t ready to reveal.

Does the thought of taking the next step leave you feeling anxious or depressed? Regardless, any self-limiting thoughts and fears can literally paralyze us from showing up for something that could be expansive and life changing.

The first step can take tremendous courage, like most anything in life that is new and different. It requires a willingness to face what holds us back, which builds momentum for the next steps. Any new result/outcome requires committed action that begins by showing up.

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ACTION

CURES 

FEAR

 

Now…imagine taking the first step toward what you’ve been avoiding.  Connect with how that might make you feel.

  • Relieved
  • Happy and joyful
  • Accomplished
  • Calm and peaceful
  • Stronger
  • Connected

Don’t we all want more of that?

When we commit to show up and take action, not only do we face our fears, but we become more aligned with living the life our heart desires.  By connecting with the feelings associated with taking action we can begin to move forward toward more of what we want.

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Are you ready

to say YES

and take the 

first step?

 

 

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The Journey of Kind and Honest

Sometimes, to move forward we must look back and honor the lessons that shaped us.

As a lifelong student of personal growth and development, I have committed considerable time and energy to self-improvement. Along the way, there have been some profound experiences, but one was life-changing. I’d like to share what I learned with you here.

It was a Texas Summer day and I found myself in the middle of some new existential crisis, seeking answers about the mysteries of life. Staying stuck has always propelled my natural curiosity to unearth deeper truths and for me this work had always seemed clearer when guided by a therapist. child-1099770_960_720.jpg

The basis of this particular journey was tied to a history of being who I thought everyone expected me to be. Meanwhile, I was quietly yearning for a completely different life. By meeting everyone’s needs first, my own rarely came into focus or took priority.  This duplicitous approach left me feeling chronically stuck, misaligned, unfulfilled and confused. Until that day…

I recall my therapist’s Southern drawl vividly and she painted a new reality, saying “Jason, our only role in life is to be kind and honest.” 

My initial reaction was that couldn’t be true. Our role in life was not meant to be summarized into one simple statement.  Yet, something about those words felt magical and true. In perfect timing, new language had arrived just as I struggled with being caught in two worlds. I was at a crossroad, trying to craft a new future while reconciling a complicated and often painful past.

 

Kind and Honest felt like a life preserver.

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Initially, I was not really clear on the work ahead, but something told me to dig in. The words hung in the room. I started by honoring what had been said and feverishly attempting to wrap my head around their application. What I initially loved about this concept was the feeling that I might already doing it. Being a “polite” Texan had prepared me perfectly for this role, or so I thought.

Careful examination and a few thought provoking questions clarified many things. I would like to share what I uncovered.

What does being kind and honest actually mean?

The answer wasn’t immediately clear, but has revealed itself over time. The real work begins through the relationship you have with yourself.  To fully grasp this concept, one must approach the topic with kindness and honesty.  It is impossible to give something to others that you cannot yet give to yourself.   I quickly understood that I had been kind and honest to others, but not myself.

 Now that I knew better, so what?

 This new awareness was like a light coming on. lighting-2267227_960_720.jpg

It revealed a deeper understanding of my role in the process. By asking the question, I wholeheartedly knew I had really never been completely kind or honest with myself.  At first, I couldn’t grasp what kind and honest would look like, so I decided to start with what I thought it was not:

  • People pleasing…saying or doing what you think others need
  • Not setting healthy boundaries…saying NO, when appropriate
  • Compromising your integrity/beliefs to make others more comfortable

My understanding revealed that I often took the easy path to make others happy or keep the peace, which had literally kept me from connecting with my own self.  Most importantly though, it inspired me to get beneath the surface of my constant misalignment.

There is a quote I love: 006f4391aa36d8dfd40424559e70303a (1).jpg

 Doesn’t the same apply to the relationship we have with ourselves?

 Along the path, we can only meet ourselves and others from the place of our own experience. To that end, here is what I have learned about kindness and honesty.  For me, it boils down to three essential steps. 

  1. Showing up
  2. Being authentic
  3. Telling YOUR truth

 I realize none of these are particularly easy, in fact, often daunting. Each requires action that will likely catapult us from our comfort zone, potentially leaving us vulnerable and exposed.

Showing up is our willingness to say YES to pursuits that feed our soul.  You know those things that many scare you but can make you smile, regardless.

Being authentic is the alignment of our real truth.  The place where who we are meets who we are meant to be.

Telling YOUR truth, is sharing yourself with others from your own perspective, which is made from individual beliefs, experience and history.

I believe that the journey to kind and honest starts with a willingness to connect with ourselves in a deeper way. We will never be able to share with another from a truth that isn’t our own.  Trying to do so, is merely story-telling, which likely is not fully and authentically aligned with your own belief system. This work expands our own knowing and ultimately allows for a broader personal truth.

In the years since this awakening, being kind and honest has served me well.  In the times where I struggle to respond in a way that someone needs, I can call on my kind and honest.

I have chosen to let this approach become my true north.  What I have learned is that being kind and honest isn’t always the easiest path.  In fact, sometimes, it angers people. Which always reminds me of the old cliché, “the truth hurts.”

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Today, I laugh when my own kindness and honesty causes a reaction.  It makes me feel more alive and aligned with myself.  My sincere hope is that it creates a new light inside the dark places of others.

Are you ready to be kind and honest?

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Stigma: An Inside Job

 

We are constantly bombarded by messages that help shape our view on a variety of topics. Many elicit a response, which might be positive or negative. As the world has become more connected, our opportunity to learn has expanded and increased exponentially.  Today, we can easily connect with people across the globe, learn about world affairs and educate ourselves on unending subjects.

Photo: PixabayMedia channels have an impact on building awareness, even creating a movement. Think about the posts you react to on social media…cute cat videos, laughing babies, life events of people you know, national/world events.  Each has the ability to shape our own internal dialogue. This constant barrage of information comes from so many directions and can often have an effect on our own mood state. There are unlimited posts and rants on any number of topics, which can create joy and elation, but also anxiety, fear and depression about the future, regardless of your personal beliefs.  This can flood our senses, leaving us confused, irritated and questioning.

  • Do you remember that post or message that struck a cord or caused a noticeable reaction?
  •  You know the one that affected you negatively.  Maybe it left you angry, afraid or ashamed. 

Today’s media environment breeds fear through its messages, which can keep us on edge like a pot constantly about to boil over.

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Stigma is today’s buzzword, used to describe the marginalization of people who struggle from a variety of conditions and/or differences. It is a powerful word, defined as a mark of shame or discredit. (Miriam-Webster) At the core, it characterizes someone as less than because they don’t meet or conform to accepted societal norms, usually in the form of damaging language and action by others.

Take your pick of stigmatized subjects…race, religion, gender identity, human rights, physical and mental health challenges, etc.  Frequently, each is portrayed in a negative light in the media and peer groups alike. Our culture fosters this judgment, bias and limiting perspective, but that only represents part of the equation. The real work of stigma is an inside job…

Yes, stigma starts within.

It is self-created from our own feelings and thoughts about certain topics, which become a framework made of individual experiences and beliefs. Of course, it can be directly impacted by the views of others, but the originating source requires some personal responsibility.

Let’s use one relevant example…MENTAL HEALTH

You know that taboo subject no one wants to discuss, until it hits their home. Statistics state 1 in 5 are or will be affected throughout the course of a lifetime.  Unfortunately, many are still misguided to believe mental health primarily looks like the tragic examples portrayed in the media, which is simply untrue. I do not mean to discount traumatizing events, but they grossly underestimate the broader context of people who quietly struggle with mental health conditions. Stigma perpetuates a silent majority who navigate their ups and downs privately.

For example, conditions like anxiety and/or depression affect a vast part of our population. Either can significantly impact daily life, making simple functions far more difficult. The biggest barrier between treatment and recovery is often steeped in our own beliefs about the struggle. The way we feel about it matters and can keep us from seeking the help we need.

The real truth is, directly or indirectly, we are all impacted by mental health.

 All of us. 

In fact, 100% of us have mental health.

Passing the buck has created the perfect storm; a struggling society that is more depressed, anxious and addicted than any other time in history.

Mental health is just one example but personal responsibility should be applied to any marginalized/stigmatized group. This reality surpasses personal and societal labels, placing each of us squarely in the face of our own relationship with stigma. We all have the power of choice when viewing differences in ourselves and others.

Blaming the media and others as the originating source of stigma is an easy path, but doing so excludes our side of the street and keeps us stuck in the story. If we really seek to address stigma straight on, we must first look within and acknowledge our own beliefs about certain topics.  Doing so honors our individual limitations and allows us to realign ourselves to a more inclusive focus.

That said, before dismissing another’s viewpoint as less than or making value based judgments about someone’s journey, remember that EVERYONE STRUGGLES WITH SOMETHING.

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I, myself, have been guilty of doing this very thing and realize the negative effect of such behavior. I spent years buying into damaging propaganda about my own struggle. It was devastating and robbed me of many opportunities to connect with myself and others. Stigma can only live in the dark.  Through limiting beliefs and blaming others, we effectively are dimming our own light.

Each of us is a collection of stories that shape how we show up in the world. Our differences make us unique and should be something to celebrate, not hide or diminish.  If you can stand tall and proud in your own beliefs, then you will find your unshakable truth.  The rest of the worlds view just becomes background noise. By taking this approach, we gain self confidence, esteem and love for our own journey.  In doing so, we can embrace struggle and finally honor what makes us uniquely individual.

What is one step you can take now to face your own stigma?

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Isn’t it time to be kind to ourselves and one another?