Turning Crisis into Triumph

The last few weeks, ok…more like the last few months, I have been struggling with a problem that I haven’t had to deal with ever before. If I was being truthful to myself, I would even call it a crisis, a financial crisis. It has pushed me and pulled me in ways that I could have never envisioned I would experience at this point in my life.

Now I have struggled financially off and on over the years, but never to this extent. Due to some life circumstances and some mental roadblocks, I find myself in new territory.

You may not be experiencing a financial crisis, but you may have some other challenges that are testing you, whether it’s a relationship, an academic or work situation. Unfortunately, as part of being human, we all are tested now and again.

Rather than focusing on problem and feeling disempowered, what we can do is reclaim our power and find a route to overcome the challenge. While I haven’t fully resolved my financial crisis, I have found some steps to begin to turn the challenge in the direction of triumph.

1. Tell the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but…

Telling the truth in this area can be very challenging for me because I want to appear successful both to others as well as myself. However, ignoring the problem only made it worse. However, my work is about being authentic, so I thought I better walk the talk. So I sucked it up and began to tell the truth to myself and the people who loved me. When I did, the sense of relief was palpable. I found out I wasn’t alone and it didn’t diminish their image of me and my success. In telling the truth, I was able to finally take real action to shift the crisis into triumph.

2. Look for the Lesson

This is the crux of turning any challenge into triumph. While isn’t always easy or fun to look for the lesson or gold while in the middle of a crisis, this has been the quickest way for me to turn the tides. Sometimes I resist the lesson because I secretly like the drama of being in crisis. I am definitely good at the drama too. :) Yet, I know the struggle and suffering leaves me feeling powerless, so I look for the lesson or gift to reclaim my power in the situation.

As I look for the lessons in this financial crisis, two come to mind immediately. The first is my stepping up in financial responsibility – essentially putting my big girl panties on. I am now intimately connected to my bills and bank accounts in ways that will set me up financially for the rest of my life. The second gift is willingness to accept help. Being fiercely independent, I always hesitated to really depend on people because I didn’t want to be a burden. However, in this situation I have to make many requests for assistance, depending on people on a deeper level than ever before. This leads to the final step to turn challenge into triumph.

3. Seek out Support

The support from others was essential in helping me find solutions to turnaround the financial crisis. Whether it was simply a consoling conversation, advice on pinching pennies or job referrals, I was grateful for all the support I received to know that I wasn’t alone. Most people, especially our loved ones, are eager to help out in some way. The more specific we can be in our requests, the easier it can be to for supporters to step up. With our support team by our side, we can step up and out of our crisis and into triumph.

Whenever I am in trouble or even in the midst of a crisis, I am reminded of Christian D. Larson’s wise words. “Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.” Whether it’s a health crisis, a financial crisis or a relationship crisis – we can all find ways to not just survive the crisis, but more importantly you can find a way to thrive from it.

Honoring the Heroes of 9/11 with Love

As I sit and listen to the names of all those who lost their lives on 9/11, I am overwhelmed with the amount of loss and grief that still exists for the families and country  eleven years later. I am also equally present to the incredible  love that lives on in their memories.  The reading of the names is such a beautiful tribute to honor each individual, especially as they are read by the family members of those who were lost.  With each name, there is a hero who is remembered.

I am especially moved by the young children speaking of their fathers and mothers who they lost at such a young age.  The love they have for their parents is so profound and evident when they speak of their heroic parents.

While wiping my tears, I wonder what I can do in honor of these heroes.  What can I do to make the world they leave behind a better one for their children and generations to come?  The only word that comes to mind is LOVE.

Love the ones we lost and love those who are still here.  Love those who risked their lives to save others.  Love those who are sick as a result of 9/11. Love for the country who united together for one another.  Love for those deployed and their families who serve with honor.  Love and embrace my loved ones.  Love to continue to bring people together and create community.  Love to counteract the fear, ignorance and hate that still exists in the world.    Love for all of our heroes!

What will you do today to honor our heroes?  Where can you show love in your life and community?

Befriending Fear to Create True Happiness

Befriending fear is the first and crucial step to creating the happiness you want. While it may seem counter-intuitive to finding happiness,  looking at the ugly stuff creates a clearer vision for true happiness.

Believe me, I am good at avoiding this ugly stuff myself. However, what I have found is that if I do step over this step and try to jump straight into finding what makes me happy, it often crumbles like a house with a bad foundation. The foundation of truth is crucial.

Telling the truth about what makes you nervous about your future. Is it the fear of failure, fear of not knowing, fear of hard work, fear of swallowing your pride, fear of success, fear of asking for help? All of these, if continually avoided, can stop us from creating a life of happiness and fulfillment.

The reality is that these fears are completely normal. Expect to have these fears and concerns. Make friends with them because they aren’t going away. They will be with you throughout your life at different points.

While I have experienced all of these, my frequent visitors are fear of asking for help, not knowing, and success. These will often paralyze me and keep me trapped into what is familiar and comfortable. I even had these fears visit as I am creating my upcoming webinar – I Got the Degree – Now What?

Oprah defines “COURAGE as not the absence of fear, but having fear and acting anyways.” To be powerful is not in getting rid of the fear, but befriending it so you have power over it.

What does it mean to be Friends with Fear? I know that seems a bit crazy, but it is incredibly useful. First, you have to shift your thinking that it is your enemy or shouldn’t be there. Fear is a normal and healthy emotion and filled with helpful information and gifts. Just like your friends brings something of value to the relationship, so does fear. It is just a matter of finding out what that value may be.

The value could simply be a reminder that you are stepping out of your comfort zone or to pay close attention. Or it could it serve a deeper purpose like a red flag to self-reflect and see if there is something you may need to consider.

In the last few weeks, I have experienced a lot of fear – the kind that feels like a knot in your stomach. I have even had a few sleepless nights. It wasn’t until I stopped avoiding it and befriended it, that is has finally allowed me to breathe deeply and fully. This fear was here to have me look at what I have been doing – playing it safe rather than going after what I really want.

Recognizing that it’s time to go after my dreams, the fear doesn’t magically go away, but it isn’t controlling me anymore. It now sits in the passenger seat rather than the driver seat. With courage, I can take the steering wheel and drive toward my dreams. And fear can ride along to remind me that this unfamiliar road is the path to my purpose on this planet.

What is fear telling you?  What can you learn from your fear if you stop avoiding it?

If you would like to know more or register for my upcoming webinar -
I Got the Degree – Now What?
Click here.

A Lesson of Sandusky Trial – Speak Your Truth

This week has been filled with reminders for me to Speak My Truth.  On Monday, when Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of nearly all of his charges of sexual abuse, I was incredibly proud of the immense courage it took for the young men to stand up and speak their truth, especially in such a public setting.  They were heard and believed.  As a survivor of sexual abuse myself, I am proud to see that they stood strong against the defense’s questions and were believed by a jury of their peers.  What an amazing reflection of the power of Speaking Your Truth.

On the other side of this case, you are met with more and more suspicion of Penn State administrators not speaking their truth.  While we don’t know exactly what they knew or didn’t know, it seems to be that they knew more than they had said.  They chose to keep themselves safe and comfortable, rather than speak their truth and keep the young men safe.  It is not easy to speak your truth, especially if it may not be believed or may cause upset or conflict.  But if it’s the right thing to do in your heart, then it needs to be done. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

It takes an incredible amount of courage, because often we are trying to avoid the conflict or drama that may ensue with speaking our truth.  Well…that is what I am usually avoiding.  Even though I know that speaking my truth and saying what is there for me is the best thing I can do to truly relieve my suffering, I still find myself swallowing my words and suffering in silence.

This last month, I have found myself in many moments where I have wanted to speak my truth at work, in my relationship or in life in general, but have said nothing, sat in silence.  Many nights and weekend it look like me laying on the couch doing absolutely NOTHING, struggling between calling on a friend to seek support and Speak My Truth  and wanting to avoid the feelings just under the surface.   I didn’t want to look at them and I know I didn’t have the time to do it.  But the feelings still lingered.  I could numb them out for a while, but they always remained just under the surface waiting for the next trigger to re-open the wound.

So finally in the last few days I have been willing to do some exploratory surgery on this wound hiding under the surface.  Yes, there were tears and ugly feelings that surfaced.  However, what was revealed, as usual, that my fears and judgments about the situation and Speaking My Truth is what was creating most of my suffering and paralysis.  If I can show some compassion for myself, for my silence and the situation, I have more freedom and courage to explore and address the pain.

While it often takes something to deal with the aftermath of Speaking Your Truth, because the wound is now exposed and needing attention, it is the only way to truly begin to heal.  The band-aid of avoidance just isn’t doing it anymore.

I want to thank the young men of the Sandusky trial for their courage to Stand Up and Speak their Truth.  I hope that it inspires more people, as it did for me, to stand up and speak out in whatever ways they have been silenced.  We all deserve to live a life filled with more power than pain.

Make Yourself Happy – Stop “Shoulding” on Yourself!

Do you find yourself saying “Should” often?  I should be doing better in school.  I should be finding a job for the summer.   I should be thinner.  I should be happier.  I should be a better friend.  I should be a better…fill in the blank.

If we put “should” in front of something we want to change, then it removes any opportunity for choice and inserts a lot of guilt and shame that we aren’t already there. We are “shoulding” all over ourselves and our lives, making a big mess. Once we can clear the “should” out, we can begin to find our own path instead of following the path others want for us.

Once the “should” is out of the way, we can see what we really want, what will make us happy. Our own path may contradict the norm, in fact I can almost guarantee it.  It takes extra courage and strength to follow your own path, to buck the system.  It may not make the family thrilled, it will likely be questioned by those around you, but you are the one who is living your life, not anyone else.  It is up to you to follow your own true path, and make you truly happy.

The best way to find that path is to listen to your inner wisdom, that quiet voice inside that knows your deepest desires and knows what’s best for you.  You may call that voice your gut, your intuition, your soul, Spirit, God, Goddess, or the divine within.  Whatever you may call it, it is important to listen to that voice.  For the purposes of this article, I will refer to it as intuition.  Our intuition is speaking to us all the time, but we may not always be listening.

So how do begin to listen?  Well, first we need to learn why we don’t.  In this society, we are taught to ignore our intuition because it’s just a feeling.  It’s not reliable to make decisions.  We are told to rely only on our logic and the physical evidence.  However, intuition is more than a feeling.  It takes in additional information beyond what our logical minds absorb.  It reads the energy and mood of a situation.  It taps into something bigger than ourselves to guide us in the direction we need to go.  Even if it is counter to our logic, we need to practice trusting our intuition and moving forward from that space.

There are many strategies to listen to the inner wisdom.   Listening to your intuition requires a sense of silence, a few moments where the committee (the chatter in your mind) is quieted enough for the intuition to be heard.  You may already have a few you use: journaling, meditating, prayer, or yoga.

Here is a suggestion that I use all the time. In order to quiet the committee, I take at least 3 long deep breaths. Sometime more if the committee is extra chatty. In that quiet moment, I ask my intuition one of two questions, “What is in my best interest?” if I need to make a choice or  “What do I need to know right now?” when I am experiencing a lot of drama or confusion in my life.  Sometimes it helps to write down the question and then write whatever answer arises.  Whatever strategy you use to listen and follow your true path, do it and do it often.

Once I began to trust my intuition and listen to it more closely, I have found myself to be happier and more fulfilled in life.  It requires courage and strength to go out on your own, but the satisfaction from making your own decisions and following your heart is priceless.

Taking Leadership Beyond the Obvious

We often associate leadership with an impressive title. If we’re not President or Captain, we might not consider ourselves to be leaders. But leadership doesn’t require a title.

Leadership is an attitude–a way of being–any person can express in any moment. Yes, of course we can lead in an official leadership role, like Class President; but we can make just as much of an impact from the middle or even the bottom of the pack. Who says you can’t be a leader as a center midfielder on the soccer team; or even as…a freshman!

By following these simple principles, we can be a leader in any area of our lives:

Follow Your Gut – This isn’t probably taught in most MBA programs, but it is a powerful tool in your leadership toolbox. Your gut, your wise inner voice, is incredibly useful if you pay attention and listen to it. The inner voice is often ignored if there is no hard evidence to back it up. But the inner voice is incredibly wise and is speaking up for a reason. Listen to it – it can bring you success and take you down the right path. Trust yourself and the inner voice to carry you down the road of success.

Own Your Successes and Failures – We need to look at both our successes and failures with a keen eye to recognize where we stand. Honoring the successes, no matter how big or small, gives us an opportunity to see our brilliance, as well as shows us how we can stretch even further next time. Owning our failures gives us an opportunity to acknowledge the risks we’ve taken, and what we can learn for our next adventure. The more objective we can be in this assessment of successes and failures, the easier it will be to further develop ourselves as leaders.

Ask for Support – While often leaders try to be the “Lone Ranger” by trying to get it done all on our own, we limit what can be accomplished with just one person. As a recovering “Lone Ranger,” I have found that true leaders look beyond themselves to focus on the larger goal and seek support to accomplish that goal. The more support we have, the larger the goal we can tackle. Remember to view your support team as leaders too, so they too can step up in big ways.

In any moment, whether at school, home or hanging out with your friends, you may be called to step up and lead. If you remember to trust your gut, own your successes and failures with a keen eye, and seek support with the larger goal in mind, you will have the tools to lead successfully in any situation.

Valentine’s Day – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

heart-in-hands200x150Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that is often loaded with mixed feelings and thoughts. Between the countless ads on TV, store aisles filled with candy and cards, this day has become overshadowed by capitalism than it’s original intention – Love.

I too find myself forgetting about the true purpose and getting sucked into the things rather than the love. So why not look a little deeper at this holiday named after St. Valentine. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and even the ugly:

The Good Stuff – The cool part about Valentine’s Day is that it’s a day about all types of love, not just romantic love. In a society where we can get caught up in our busy lives, we can forget to stop and celebrate all the love in our lives. Love is an essential part of our lives and for the world to keep us happy and healthy. So the more we remember and celebrate the love that we have around us, the better.

Suggestion: Tell the important people in your life that you love them: message on Facebook, send a text, or go old school and call them.

The Bad Stuff – Expectations…unfortunately this holiday is loaded with them. With advertising everywhere you look, it’s easy to get caught up in the expectations around romance, flowers, cards and candy. The problem is not that we have expectations, but that we aren’t talking about them with our loved ones. When we think our loved ones should just know what we want, we set them up for failure and ourselves for disappointment. Even more problematic, when we believe our expectations aren’t met, it’s can become evidence that we aren’t truly loved by that person. The best way to alleviate some of the disappointment and stress is to talk about it, get it all out on the table.

Suggestion: Chat with your significant other around expectations for the day to make sure the both of you are on the same page. And try not to make it mean anything if your expectations aren’t met.

The Ugly Stuff: Singles can often be left out of the Valentine’s Day festivities. Even though the holiday is about love in general, the commercial side makes it about romantic love. But the day isn’t just for the couples – celebrate being single and love yourself and the friends around you!

Suggestion: Grab your friends, your family and other loved ones and have a V-Day Party! Celebrate with the great loves in your life! You could even exchange cards and candy.

Whether you are single or in a relationship, celebrate this Valentine’s Day by appreciating the ones you love!

New Year’s Resolutions: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

With the beginning of the year, people often make New Year's resolutions, or at least consider it. If you did make some resolutions and you are anything like me, you've probably already broken your resolutions. That is not only common, it's expected. We stick to our new year's resolutions for a couple of days, maybe a couple of weeks, but by February, we can't even remember what the resolution was.

What if you could actually have your resolutions stick? It requires taking a different look at resolutions. It takes looking at the good, the bad and even the ugly :)

The Good Stuff – Resolutions by themselves aren’t bad. They actually come from a good place, a place inside us that likes to start fresh, to start newly. That feeling shouldn’t be dismissed, but celebrated that it reminds us that we want to grow and change.

The opportunity to start fresh is important to recognize and take advantage of. When we do look at how we want to grow and change, it’s important to pay attention to see if it’s something we truly want, or what we think we “should” have. We can often get caught up wanting to change to be like someone else, instead of being our true selves. Be sure that whatever resolutions you make, it’s something that YOU really want and you stay true to yourself.

The Bad Stuff – We often make resolutions that we know we can’t keep, setting ourselves up for failure. One way that we set ourselves up for failure is by focusing on the doing, rather than on how we want to feel, successful, healthy, powerful, happy, loved, etc. We think that if we do this particular action, we will feel a particular way. For example, I have made lots of resolutions where I won’t eat chocolate so I can lose weight and feel healthy. It’s ridiculous because I know I can’t give up chocolate completely. I usually last about a week before I have a piece of chocolate in my mouth.

However, what if we flip the resolution on its head and make a resolution not about the action, but about the feeling, what we truly want. If I focus on being healthy, I have more flexibility in the actions I can take. I can eat more vegetables, drink more water, exercise or not eat chocolate. You can take little steps or big steps. You get to choose. More choice means more power. More power means more success.

The Ugly Stuff – What can make resolutions most dangerous is how we treat ourselves after we break the resolution. We can judge ourselves harshly; maybe even call or label ourselves unreliable, weak or even worse. When we make promises, like resolutions, and don’t keep them, it can be difficult not to judge ourselves. However, it is crucial to have compassion and patience when we don’t live up to our promises. Remember we are human. As humans, we make mistakes, lots of them.

When we are trying to change a habit, it’s especially challenging because the old behavior is so automatic. Even as I am writing this, I am scarfing down a chocolate, chocolate cookie, after making a resolution to be healthy. I have to forgive myself for eating the cookie and start again. If we practice patience and compassion, our resolutions will be much easier to maintain in the long run. The resolutions will stick around and become more automatic.

If you have made resolutions or goals for this year, or still considering, remember you will be more successful and much happier if you stay true to yourself, focus on your true desires and practice patience and compassion. Good Luck in 2012!

Reflecting back on 2011- Preparing for 2012

As the year comes to an end, people often reflect on what has transpired over the past year. How is my life different from 2010? It is an important question to ask and ponder. Are you getting closer to your goals and dreams? Perhaps even achieving them? Can you measure growth? . If you haven’t done this before, or you haven’t done it so thoroughly, I highly recommend starting the tradition.

When I reflect on the year, I look at the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s important to look at ALL that has transpired. If you only look at the good, then often the bad and the ugly hangs on like dead weight and baggage in the new year. It’s important to let go of any baggage accumulated from this past year – starting fresh in 2012. It’s also important to consider, if we only look at the ugly, then we miss the growth that has occurred. The good stuff is just as important as the ugly stuff.

When you reflect on the questions below, I recommend taking the time to write it down. You can be more thorough and visually see your year on paper.

The Good Stuff – What have you accomplished this year – professionally, personally, financially? What were the pleasant surprises of the year? Did you learn any lessons about yourself? About life? Celebrate this good stuff and share it with loved ones!

The Bad Stuff – What disappointments or regrets did you experience this year? What were some of the not so pleasant surprises? What mistakes did you make that you learned from? Try to bring some compassion and forgiveness to these moments, so you can let go and move on. If there are some lessons to learn from these experiences, be sure to take those with you into 2012.

The Ugly Stuff – What were the moments of 2011 that you would rather forget about altogether? The important part is that you have survived the ugly stuff. Although challenging, I invite you to bring up the memories, the feelings, and judgments, so you can let them go and move on. What’s also important in letting the ugly stuff go is finding the lesson, the gift, in these experiences. While this too can be a struggle, it helps in moving on so that they don’t linger or hold you back in the future.

Reflecting on the good, the bad, and the ugly of 2011 will give you the opportunity to celebrate all your successes, learn the important lessons, and let go of any excess baggage to make 2012 the best year ever!

Gratitude Lists – Top 10 Reasons to be Grateful

Having yesterday off to give thanks, I felt compelled to sit down and make a Gratitude List to remember that I have an amazing life, even when things don’t appear so amazing.

Stopping to recognize what’s good in your life can shift your mood, your attitude immediately. If you are being grateful, it is impossible to be disappointed or complaining simultaneously. If you are ever wanting to shift your mood or attitude, then pause and be grateful.

You to can make a gratitude list. You can wake up each morning and write a list of 5 or 10 things. This can start your day in a positive way. Or you could write your list just before bed and be grateful for the day you had. It’s a powerful tool to use and choose how you want to show up in your life.

Enough about why it’s important or helpful – here is my list.

My Gratitude List – Top 10

1. My mom’s health – Just last year at this time she was in a coma – now she is fully recovered and healthy. What a miracle she is!

2. My family’s love and support – I have made big life changes over the last few years, including quitting grad school, and they have supported my decisions all the way.

3. My sister’s sense of adventure – My sister is currently living in Thailand, teaching English and traveling throughout the Southeast. What an inspiration!

4. My boyfriend’s love – It shows up even in the small stuff. I was feeling ill yesterday after dinner and he sweetly took care of me.

5. My breath – With each deep sigh, I am reminded that I am still here on this planet, able to take action, achieve my dreams and fulfill my purpose.

6. My job at the Eleanor Roosevelt Center – The opportunity to run their Girls’ Leadership Program is just a perfect melding of my passions and talents. I love the program and the people I work with.

7. Opportunity to Write – I love the opportunity to have my words make a difference for people. What a blessing to inspire and motivate with the written word.

8. My past traumas and pain – Now this one may seem odd to include, but I have learned so much about myself and the power of healing that I use on a daily basis. They have truly been gifts, just wrapped in ugly paper.

9. My friends – Too many to name here – I am continuously amazed and inspired by my friends who support me, encourage me, kick my butt when needed, but most importantly love me unconditionally.

10. My relationship with the Divine – I haven’t always had a close relationship to the Divine or God. I have spent many years developing this relationship, deepening and strengthening this bond that now seems unshakeable. I know that this investment has allowed me to surrender and fully thrive in this world, and live this amazing life.

REFLECTION
What are you grateful for? What would be on your gratitude list?