Thursday, May 19, 2016
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Thursday, April 14, 2016
Don’t be afraid to walk away from something (or someone) that is not feeding you or, even worse, is stealing your joy.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
I remember how overwhelmed I felt when I first learned to drive. Other cars were driving next to me, toward me, and maneuvering around me. There were pedestrians, cyclists, and garbage trucks to look out for while obeying signs and traffic lights and keeping command over the gearshift, gas pedal, brake, windshield wipers, headlights, seatbelts and radio. Thank God it was 1998 and there was no such thing as a backup camera, iPod connection, cell phone or built-in navigation back then…I’d probably still be in the fetal position without a license. When I was a brand new driver, my parents and driver’s ed teachers encouraged me to limit the number of distractions so I could focus on the main objective: to get where I was going, and to get there safely. Back then, I would shush my passengers (if I even had any), turn off the radio, go the speed limit, stop at yellow lights, and never even consider changing lanes without signaling. Over time, I got more comfortable behind the wheel of my little green Dodge Neon until eventually I was jamming to the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and sipping Fruitopia while zooming through the curviest snow-crusted streets in central Maine to go visit my boyfriend in Buckfield. It was as if I had become so accustomed to the distractions that I actually forgot to consider the enormous detrimental effect they could have on my main objective.
Lately I’ve been likening my life to that little Dodge Neon and giving some serious thought to the number of distractions I’ve entertained while navigating the streets of life. As many other independent women, working moms and feminists have done, I managed to convince myself over the years that I can do it all and that I don’t need anyone’s help. But here’s the thing: we may feel like we can do it all and we may even succeed for a little while, but over time, NO ONE—not even Wonder Woman herself—can, in fact, do it all. If we continue to entertain every task and distraction without boundaries, our car will eventually get totaled.
I totaled mine a few years ago. When I was married, I took pride in the fact that I worked full time, kept a clean house, fed my family well day in and day out, did all the food shopping, clothes-washing, errand-running and the like. I was that woman who you would see proudly schlepping 20 bags of groceries up the stairs because it didn’t even occur to me to call my husband and ask for help. It worked for a while, but then I got horribly burned out. I was grumpy and tired, and all of a sudden, the things I used to do happily caused a burning resentment to grow inside of me. I had allowed life’s everyday tasks to distract me from my main objective: my family. At the same time, I allowed myself to be overworked and underappreciated at a job that didn’t challenge me or fulfill me, but it paid well. Once again, I was way too busy for no good reason. I had traded in my dreams and goals for a distraction that came in the form of a paycheck. I also held on to unhealthy friendships that were based solely on having fun rather than surrounding myself with people who would build me up and encourage me as I pursued my goals. With these folks, I wasted time gossiping and creating drama that we would later spend even more time trying to quell. All of this was a big distraction from creating the kind of life of life I really wanted to live. I was overweight, overtired, underappreciated, unfulfilled, angry and eventually divorced and able to count my friends on one hand. In other words, I had totaled my Dodge Neon.
But don’t worry…my story doesn’t end there! Fortunately, I serve a God of renewal and restoration. Not only did He get my car out of the junkyard, but He upgraded me to a Bentley! In other words, I’m enjoying my life more than ever (editor’s note to self: and making it look good. Yasss you go girl!). I still have to fight the tendency to spread myself too thin, but I’m blessed to have experienced a radical shift in my outlook. I no longer feel the need to focus on a long list of people and commitments or to worry about satisfying as many as I can. Instead I focus on the things that matter most to me: my personal growth and development, my family, and ministry. If someone or something distracts me from investing in these objectives, then I’ve got to pass it by without hesitation. It’s still difficult at times not to get caught up in drama or wallow in disappointment, but it takes discipline and a discerning spirit to recognize and reject these distractions…and these are things anyone can develop in prayer and in practice. I’ll be honest, not everyone is a fan of the “new me.” I’ve lost a handful of friends and upset a bunch of other folks because I’m no longer the “yes woman” I used to be, and that’s hard for them to understand and accept. But one of the greatest benefits of my newfound focus and aversion to distractions is the peace that accompanies each of my decisions. If I have to say no, I say it without guilt or regret, even if it goes over like a fart in church.
Distractions are everywhere. Just like we can’t get rid of the other cars on the road, we can’t completely eliminate distractions from our lives. But what we can do is learn to focus on operating our own vehicle with an awareness of these distractions and the potential danger they could cause if we entertain them.
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
I would eat it secretly so no one else would know and I wouldn’t feel the shame. I increased the frequency and intensity of my workouts to the point of injury, and then being sidelined just made me feel worse and caused the cycle repeat itself. I lost too much weight, then gained it all back (and then some) because I started to binge. Once again, my outward behavior gave the illusion of having supreme control and enviable willpower, but the reality is that I was completely out of control. I felt depressed, ashamed and lonely because I had intentionally pushed people away so they wouldn’t know what was happening. I hated myself and my “weakness” and would stop at nothing to hide it. I considered myself a fraud for encouraging others to be healthy when I was being anything but kind to my own body. I berated myself for having weak faith and said that if I truly trusted God, I wouldn’t even consider going back on my medication. Then one day I got in the car and every time I needed to hit the brake at a stop sign or red light, I wanted to slam my foot on the gas pedal. That’s the day I knew that I needed to get help before it was too late. I decided to confide in a very small group of people who were as reassuring, understanding and positive as I prayed that they would be. They encouraged me to get help and they didn’t judge me. They checked in and offered to keep me accountable. These people helped save my life.
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
In economics, low consumer expectations lead to a decrease in consumer spending. That is, when we feel that the economic future is uncertain, we tend to save more and spend less, leading to a drop in demand. Rule #1 of economics is basically that supply and demand will always find equilibrium, so when demand drops, supply will also decrease until the new steady state is found. When suppliers decrease production, they don’t need as many workers, so the unemployment rate will rise and GDP (the total value of all goods and services produced) will also drop. When consumers hear things like “higher unemployment” and “lower GDP,” it just reinforces their negative expectations, and the cycle continues.
You’re wondering why on earth I just bored you with an economics lesson, aren’t you? Well, I used this very factual and academic lesson to demonstrate this:
Our Expectations Influence Our Outcomes
This statement is applicable in countless areas. If you take medicine with the expectation that it will work, it often will…even if it’s just placebo. If you wake up feeling like today is going to be a terrible day, it probably will be. If you are an atheist, you will live a life based on science and explanation, never daring to take a leap of faith and thus never experiencing God’s miracles or grace. No matter what the situation, our expectations will have an impact on the outcome.
I have lost track of the number of times I’ve heard people say that they lower their expectations in order to avoid being disappointed. In fact, I’ve even done this myself. It seems logical. If we set the bar low, it seems that anyone could meet our expectations, right? Wrong. The problem with this thinking is that our expectations influence our own behavior, which will in turn influence the behavior of others. If you expect the worst from people, you will treat them accordingly, which will never inspire anyone to give you their best. Have you ever been treated like you’ll never be good enough? Maybe your mom always told you that your sister was prettier or that your brother was smarter. Perhaps your boss points out everything you do wrong instead of praising you for the things you do right. How does that make you feel? If you’re competitive like me, maybe your first instinct is to prove them wrong. Perhaps you’ll really step up your game to try to show them your value. While that sounds like a solid plan, there is a problem with it: no matter how good you are and no matter how hard you try, it is very difficult to please someone with negative expectations. Even if you start out strong and are determined to change their mind, eventually their negativity will break you down and you’ll wonder why you even bother. Once in a while this may work and you may get a “wow, I sure was wrong about you!” But if your girlfriend is convinced that all men are cheaters, you can basically be Prince Charming and still stand accused.
How are you letting negative expectations influence your life? Did you fall off the wagon the last time you tried to lose weight and now you’re letting my most hated phrase (“I can’t”) live inside your head? Are you letting your negative expectations sabotage a current relationship because someone broke your heart or let you down in the past? Are you spending frivolously because you operate under the assumption that you’ll never get out of debt and you’ll certainly never be wealthy, so you might as well spend what you’ve got? Are you going to the DMV with a stank face because you assume that no visit to the DMV can ever be anything but unpleasant? Where did I come up with these examples? My own life. I’ve done all of these things, and guess what the outcomes were? CRAPPY. And I have no one to blame but myself.
Expecting the best is much easier said than done. It takes balls, guts, faith. You have to be willing to expose yourself a bit (emotionally, not physically…please don’t do that), and there is always that risk of disappointment. It’s easy to be guarded and play it safe, but if you take the easy approach you will get mediocre results at best. If you want your life to be great and you want to inspire greatness in others, you have to dare to have positive expectations and a positive attitude to go along with them. If you strive to believe the best in every person and every situation, I guarantee that you will not only get better outcomes in your own life, but also inspire better outcomes in the lives of others. Positivity is contagious…go spread some around and watch what happens!