change · goals · renewal · self

10 Signs A Change Is Not For You

I have been thinking a lot about change.

In today’s world, it is impossible to ignore or deny the idea of change. Buildings are demolished only to be replaced by new ones, fashions are redesigned, homes are renovated, jobs are redefined, products are re-branded, processes are improved. We are bombarded daily with messages geared toward becoming someone different, someone better, someone more than the person we are now.

Even this blog is dedicated to approaching life differently – perhaps better – than before.

Change is inevitable in many areas – births, deaths, relationships, and yes, even people. Everything around us is in a constant state of movement and much is out of our control. We cannot escape change. But when it comes to the changes within us, we do have the power to decide what goes and what stays.

Are you unsure of when to change and when to stay the same? Think self-improvement vs. self-love.

Self-improvement is when you choose to alter something about yourself to make you feel better. Changing the way you live is a very personal decision. If you feel compelled to transform your appearance or behavior or path or dream in order to pursue a more satisfying life then by all means do it. This may be a time to change.

Self-love is when you value yourself and your beliefs so much that you are unwilling to bend. Changing who you are to please someone else rarely ends well. If another person makes you feel lacking or inferior or suggests you alter a part of yourself to suit their needs, pause before taking action. This may be a time to stay the same.

Self-improvement is easy to recognize. It is often met with a sense of anticipation, excitement, and motivation. And it is accompanied by fierce determination – on a personal level – to reach a goal or succeed. The need for self-love, however, can be much harder to detect.

When we care deeply about someone, it is common to forgo our own needs to make them happy. And in truth, there is nothing wrong with doing something to please a family member or friend. If the intent and desire are shared, it may be a good thing.

The key is to pay attention. Who wants the change? What benefit comes from the change? Why are you considering the change? How does the change affect you?

If you are questioning a change, watch for these signs:

  1. PROCRASTINATION: you make constant excuses in an effort to avoid action or progress
  2. INSTINCT: something deep within your gut screams ‘this is wrong and not for you’
  3. PRESSURE: someone gives you an ultimatum or makes unfair demands
  4. GUILT: you are manipulated into believing something is dependent on the modification of your behavior
  5. FEAR: you must conform to avoid physical or emotional abuse (if true, please SEEK HELP NOW)
  6. INADEQUACY: you feel less-than because someone bases your worth upon your current actions
  7. SHAME: someone diminishes your self-image by criticizing your current behavior
  8. EMOTION: attempts to change leave you melancholy, angry, unhappy, or depressed
  9. RESENTMENT: your attitude and view of another shifts in a negative direction
  10. ACKNOWLEDGMENT: you feel left out and believe changing yourself will lead to acceptance

Real and effective change can be difficult and challenging, but it should also be pursued with purpose and for the right reasons. Forcing change in your life or within yourself is rarely rewarding. So whenever you consider taking a major step in a different direction, determine if your heart is truly invested in the outcome. If it is something you – and you alone – really want, go for it with all you have and do not give up. But if outside influences are making you question the person you are, it might be best to just stay the same.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

confidence · love · renewal · self

Nurture Your Best Self

A person close to my heart recently shared a video with me. It was about embracing who we are, releasing the hold others have on self-perception, and reclaiming our power. It was a sweet, gentle reminder presented by a passionate and charming young man. And although it was catered to women, it could (and does) apply to everyone.

The core message? Recognize our true worth, realize we are loved, and above all, love ourselves.

If you have ever read my blog, you know I am a strong proponent of self-love. I believe we can show ourselves love by looking deep within, finding what inspires, doing whatever brings joy, and catering to personal needs.

It is okay to be a bit selfish. I do not mean in the arrogant “me me me” way but more in the “take care of myself so I can take care of others” way. Personally, I require a lot of quiet time alone to recharge so I can tackle the challenges life throws at me, and I make sure to find a way to do it. For others, it might be something else.

All that matters is this: dedicate time to being you. Carve out moments to nurture your best self. Show yourself some love.

In today’s chaotic world it is far too easy to move our desires to the bottom of the to-do list or cross them off altogether. Home, family, work, school, hobbies, church, friends, volunteering, etc. are gratifying and can satisfy most needs. But an overlooked problem is that we often become caught up in external demands, crushed by the weight of their importance. And when we do, we try to reach some self-set goal of performing each role effortlessly and with perfection.

How often do you push beyond your personal limits in order to please someone else? Do you ask What Do People Want From Me? and then scramble to meet their assumed or perceived desires? Are your hopes and dreams and wants and needs last on the list?

Living takes enough energy and effort and emotional strength as it is. Let’s stop trying to do so much. Let’s stop worrying about fitting into an unattainable mold. Let’s stop being self-critical whenever we believe we have failed to meet the manufactured expectations of others – and of ourselves. Let’s stop allowing invisible forces to determine our worth.

Rather than What Do People Want From Me? let’s begin to ask What Do I Need?

Spend time on you. Be a bit selfish. Love yourself first. Once you do, you will be able to give more – more of your self, focus, energy, compassion, patience, love – more of your everything to those who need and deserve it.

referenced video link


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

family · goals · parenting · self

The World I Want For My Son

My son starts school today. There is little fanfare when you are “middle school, been-there-done-that.” And yet, we still had an exciting morning of early alarms, first day photos, hurried breakfasts, good-luck hugs, and rushing to the bus stop. There will be old friends and teachers to see, new friends and teachers to meet. Familiar hallways, different classrooms.

It is a time when anything – and everything – seems possible.

In reality, it is the calm before the storm. Within days, we will rush through homework and dinner to attend sports practices. Weekends will be filled with more practices and games. There will be deadlines to meet, schedules to follow, and stress to bear. But within the chaos, all will seem predictable and safe.

At least I hope so.

More and more as a parent, I find myself wishing for an easier time. When I was my son’s age, life seemed simpler. Yes, there were problems. After all, it was the early eighties. The war on drugs was beginning. Jobs were lost. The Cold War was in full swing. People were abused, abducted, and killed in senseless crimes. Families were broken. Yet the troubles then did not seem so great compared to what we face now.

Maybe it is because I was just a kid myself. Maybe it is our globalized worldview or the pervasive 24/7 news cycle. Perhaps the blame can be put on technology and social media.

Maybe, just maybe, it is the same as it ever was.

All I know is this: I worry more. About human trafficking, opioid overdoses, nuclear war, economic instability, cyberbullying, hate groups, terrorist attacks. Everything seems so intense right now. And though I am typically optimistic, I feel stuck in a never-ending state of frustration. Frustrated the fear of what might never happen is taking over the joy of what is actually right in front of me.

I wish my son could experience a world free of heartache or pain. One void of ideological division and without violence or war. But in truth the world has never been like that.

As parents, we are tasked with so much it is easy to become trapped in the sheer overwhelmingness of it all. Advice comes from every side, as does the criticism. We want to be informed, do everything “right” so we might avoid mistakes and judgment. That, of course, is impossible. We will never know everything. We will fail (a lot) and sometimes be judged. That is parenting.

In the end, our sole purpose is to raise compassionate, self-sufficient, productive adults. And while we do that, we are to provide a soft spot to fall.

And so, this school year I will focus on bringing peace to my own little world. I will allow my son to be a kid awhile longer, to linger in the innocence of a life where the only worry is whether his baseball game gets rained out. There will be plenty of time to fear things when he is an adult, a parent.

For now, I will simply continue to …
-provide a haven, a safe place where he can freely discover who he is and who he hopes to be.
-encourage him to open his wings and spread them as wide as they go so he can explore.
-show him there is more good in this world than evil even when others try to convince us otherwise.
-set an example by treating people with patience and respect regardless of what they do or believe.
-remind him to be kind, embrace differences, and lift others up.

I will continue to tell my son … 
-when everything seems wrong, seek what is right.
-if something bad happens, counter it with good.
-when someone else runs from a challenge, walk toward it.
-if others are selfish, give of yourself.
-when seeking direction, be the leader.

Show this world that you will not give up. You will not give up on yourself. You will not give up on others. You will not give up on happiness. You will not give up on peace. You will never give up. Because even though life outside may seem cruel and unfair, the world you create inside – for yourself – can be one of joy.

CREATE YOUR OWN WORLD. One where you feel …

SAFE. Surround yourself with people who care about you.
LOVE. Give your heart to those who cherish you.
CONFIDENCE. Spend time with people who encourage you.
VALUE. Be with those who appreciate you.
PRIDE. Find the people who support you.
WORTH. Determine your own standard.
CONNECTION. Share your time and energy with people who deserve it.
ACCEPTANCE. Befriend those who respect you.

In the quiet moments, when I wonder if I am doing too little or making the wrong choice, I will be sure of one thing. I loved my son more than enough. I loved him without question or condition. I loved him with my whole heart and beyond. I loved him so much that I wanted him to thrive in an imperfect world so he might one day be the change and the light to drive out darkness whenever it came.

The world I want for my son is the one he creates.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

celebration · daily life · gratitude · love

Capture Your Life: Get In The Picture

with my dad, circa 1974

I am a mom. And as the mom, I do many things others might forget. One such thing? Taking pictures. I am the official family photographer.

My husband and son often complain when I whip out the camera and proceed to snap shot after shot after shot after shot (I take a lot). But what they do not realize is this: they will thank me someday. Some day when one of us is gone, we will be grateful for the moments captured.

Today is my father’s birthday. And on his birthday, I look at photos of him. I go back in search of what I cannot remember. It is a difficult couple of days – August 17th his birthday and August 20th the day he died. It is a strange stretch of time where I celebrate and mourn.

There are many regrets that follow a loss so big and wide. I was only eighteen when he died. Still technically a kid – so full of my own worries and focused on my own dreams to realize and understand how fleeting and precious every moment was with him. But one obvious regret? I wish I had more pictures to help me remember him.

The year of his death – 1988 – was in the pre-technology, electronic boom. Yes, we had Walkmans, boomboxes, and Polaroid and disposable cameras. But access to photography was still a haphazard and annoying process. You had to have the camera. You had to remember to bring the camera. You had to take the actual picture. You had to bring it somewhere to have it developed. And finally, you had to go back and pick up the photos.

I feel very fortunate to even have the photos I do. His childhood was on a small-town farm and the few pictures taken during that time are monochromatic, rare, and only covering a couple of years. Later, there are snapshots of his life as a husband and father and farmer but again, there are not many.

When he died, I believed he would always be here – in person – so I could physically hug him, love him, and see him up close. I think about him every day and often wonder what he would look like as a thriving 76-year-old man rather than a timeless 47-year-old. He was still in his prime, and I instinctively imagine him much the same – strong, active, and ever-handsome, with those sparkling, mischievous eyes.

I am left to create my own image of him and carry it as a memory.

This. This is why I take so many photos and selfies.

I want my son to look back and say “I remember this day.” But more importantly, I want him to remember me. And his father. And the rest of his family. And his friends. I want him to see how we were then and every time after. I do not want him to have the fear of forgetting the people he loves.

So to all you out there – the ones who stand behind the camera rather than in front of it – get in the picture. I guarantee even the most horrible selfie will one day be cherished because you were there. Stop worrying about taking the perfect photo. Stop imagining how many likes and comments you will get on social media. Focus on making an image perfect for your memory. No one else needs to see them. In truth, that is how much of life should be. Live the moments for you rather than an online audience.

Capture the people you love, your moments, your life. Say cheese!


END NOTE: In a digital age, it is easy to store photos on a cloud, computer, or phone. I suggest you get those photos into print form. And once you do, put those actual pictures into an honest-to-goodness photo album. (I use THIS ALBUM – it looks like book spines on my shelf!) I also recommend writing dates, names, and places on the back of each picture before filing. I promise you will be happy you did. One of my favorite things to do is look through these physical albums with my son. He loves seeing pictures of milestones and vacations and everyday life. And the moment is made more special snuggling on a couch and touching fingertips to real images rather than swiping left on a screen.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

acceptance · letting go · relationships · self

Learning To Accept Rather Than Expect

I hate when someone hurts my feelings, but I hate it even more when I let them.

Usually, I have a positive attitude toward people. I look for the good. I believe they mean well. I embrace differences and imperfections. And above all, I try not to judge.

But sometimes, I admit that I am overly sensitive.

Recently someone invited a group of friends to a gathering, and I was not included. No big deal, right? Probably a simple oversight. But in my heart, I knew I was intentionally excluded. For reasons I will not go into here, it was obvious this person chose everyone else but me.

At first I thought I was reading into things too much. I tried to ignore it, forget it. But then, I became upset and angry. And the more upset and angry I became, the more frustrated I became that I even cared.

You see, I make an effort to not allow others to influence my emotions and thoughts about myself. Yet, I am human. My interactions with people lead to the creation of deeper connections and bonds. And with those connections and bonds, I form attachments and feelings toward them. I want to like others and be liked in return.

In reality, I was not upset or angry or frustrated … I was hurt. Hurt that someone did not include me. Hurt that I tried to befriend them, and they did not want me in their circle. Hurt that I was not cool enough to be considered friend material.

So why do I even care about this? Because when someone rejects who I am, I begin to believe there is something wrong with me. I wonder why I am not good enough. I question my worth.

The exclusion itself does not bother me … allowing someone else to control my perception of myself does.

And so, I allowed the hurt to happen and then I allowed it to leave.

Others do not validate who I am as a person. Only I can do that. I do not need people in my life who do not value what I have to offer. There are plenty of family and cherished friends who appreciate me. I refuse to surround myself with someone who (intentionally or not) makes me feel like I am less than. I am more than enough.

Everyone does not have to like me. In truth, I do not like everyone I meet. That is why some people are drawn to each other and some are not. I will, however, continue to be kind and friendly toward this person because that is my nature. I will smile and chat and enjoy our time together because I do like them.

But in those moments I will remember: liking myself more is what matters. And I will not surrender that power to anyone.

The takeaway? Too often we expect people to treat us as we would treat them. Expectations in relationships are not necessarily a bad thing. It is good to establish boundaries and set standards. The trouble comes when we invest in a desired result. If an interaction does not meet our idea of what should happen, it is easy to become disillusioned. We turn the failure of a preferred outcome back onto ourselves, as if we are somehow the problem or to blame.

We have no control. There is no surefire way to know how anyone will behave or what will happen. So the best solution may be this: stop trying.

Stop trying to predict what others will say or do.
Stop trying to guess what someone else is thinking.
Stop trying to examine every word spoken or move made.
Stop trying to micro-manage relationships.
Stop trying to do the impossible.

WHEN WE LEARN TO ACCEPT RATHER THAN EXPECT,
WE WILL HAVE FEWER DISAPPOINTMENTS.
~ unknown


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

acceptance · daily life · gratitude

Stop Wishing Your Life Away

I am still on summer hours but the countdown to school has begun. My little family has two weeks left before our strict schedule officially kicks in. That means there are only fourteen more days to ignore bedtime, sleep in late, linger over meals, and enjoy whatever life brings.

My husband is already setting up weeks upon weeks of work travel for this fall, and my son is back to evening baseball practices. We have finalized appointments, shopped for locker supplies, and entirely revamped a middle school wardrobe. And amidst all of the preparation, I feel sad.

The end of summer always saddens me.

In my mind, it signals a loss of freedom. Our family will again be held hostage by to-do lists, alarm clocks, homework, and busy nights. Rather than spend carefree days together, the three of us will become proverbial ships passing in the night as we hurry through meals and rush out the door for games, practices, and other obligations.

Summer is what dreams are made of, a season where everything seems possible and the fun never ends.

It is easy to become caught in this trap: the one where we wish for a special phase in life to last. Often it seems the good times – the really marvelous moments where our hearts are simultaneously filled with joy and peace – are too fleeting.

Much like a summertime memory, we want to catch the best days, collect them as if they were fireflies to be bottled in a jar. We hope to hold them close so we might experience the magic again and again. We want more – to not only capture the moments but relive them. We wish the happiness could last forever.

But we all know nothing is forever.

Just imagine if those happy moments were never-ending. Would we look forward to them? Would we appreciate them? Would we even notice them? Probably not.

The occasions, vacations, milestones, and other unique times in life give us something to work toward. We eagerly anticipate their arrival. When they do occur, we value them. We celebrate their existence. They provide an escape from the reality of daily demands, an opportunity to recharge, a reminder of why the hard days are worth it.

Maybe the answer is simple: we should stop waiting for something special. Every day – no matter how ordinary – is reason enough to celebrate.

Rather than complain or fuss over our hectic schedules this school year, I intend to embrace the crazy. Yes, it will be more stressful. Relaxing and uneventful? Forget about those. There will be fewer quiet moments and more responsibilities. But they are mine. All mine. The reality is that I have an active son who thrives on competition. I have a hardworking and amazing husband. I love them. I love what I do. I love it all.

I will stop wishing my life away. Because in all honesty, my dreams have already come true.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

daily life · letting go · simplicity

What We Really Need

I am smack dab in the middle of a family vacation and while I enjoy the quiet moments and downtime with my family, there is a voice in the back of my head screaming I NEED TO 

… set up two orthodontic appointments, make a list for back to school shopping, clean out my inbox, have the oil changed and car washed, write 3 blog posts, finalize a book outline, get back on a full-time writing schedule, arrange a doctor visit, organize my work files, I NEED TO … I NEED TO … I NEED TO!

sigh

Family. Friends. Work. School. Home. Health. Hobbies. These days our plates are so full – overflowing with tasks and responsibilities – it is easy to become overwhelmed, frustrated, and even distracted.

Personally, I do not mind having things to do and a sense of purpose. But when they infringe on my family time, my fun time, my chance-to-relax time, my VACATION where I am supposed to get-away-from-it-all time … I become seriously annoyed.

These days with my husband, son, and extended family are fleeting. They are irreplaceable moments which might become memories. I refuse to allow everyday demands to taint them. I NEED TO …

… focus on my son’s smile when he tells a silly joke, squeeze my husband’s hand a little tighter when we walk side by side, cheer louder as we watch our favorite major league baseball team, linger longer over a delicious dinner and relaxing glass of wine, savor the memory of our recent family reunions.

WE ALL NEED TO …

seek to experience and explore new things
break away from daily demands whenever possible
put down our phones and other technology
give the people we love our full attention
make time to treat ourselves – often

Life NEEDS to be lived on our terms rather than directed by duty. Believe me, the to-dos will still be there – if and whenever we get back to them. The moments, however, will not.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE