Throughout my illness, a number of people have asked me how I can have--or how I've been able to maintain--joy. My answer is always the same--specifically, that it's a choice. But choosing joy didn't happen overnight. It was a process. Until I could own it, I tried it on for size from time to time. That means that when I faced a challenge, instead of defaulting to feeling sorry for myself, I looked for the lesson and/or blessing. Sometimes, there was neither, so I had to make a conscious decision to live beyond the circumstance rather than establish residency in it. I wasn't always successful. It takes time to change life's default settings. But like many things in life, I found that the more I tried, the easier it became. And then one day I felt joy in the midst of a difficult circumstance, and realized I had finally established a new default setting for my life.

Many people struggle with issues of low self esteem, fear of failure, negativity, an absence of joy, etc., and have difficulty changing the trajectory of their lives. As I always say, just take a step in the direction in which you'd like to go. Try it on for size. You can do it. Surround yourself with people who are already on the path you seek; go to counseling; join a support group; find a mentor. There are blessings in that new direction. There can be joy in that new direction. You may have setbacks, you may experience pain. But refuse to allow anything or anyone to discourage you from moving in a new direction. Commit to a new lease on life. Be patient, and be kind to yourself. And remember that it's okay if you have to rent it (keep trying) until you can own it.
 
 
We must sometimes remind ourselves that even if we cross the finish line later than we wish, we still finish.
 
 
Have you struggled to accomplish something and attributed the struggle to an external source(s) or conflict(s)? Is it possible the struggle is, actually, within--for example, you feel inadequate, unworthy, fear failure, fear success, etc.? To determine the exact source of our struggle(s), it's often necessary to take time to assess and be honest with ourselves--to examine our patterns of behavior, our self-talk, whether/why we look for others' acceptance before acting, whether/why we allow others to limit us. And then we must garner the strength and courage to address the issue(s) head-on so we don't end up living our lives imagining what could have been if only we had faced the struggle(s) within.
 
 
Are you living, or moving toward, the life you want to live? Many are not, for myriad reasons. One reason I hear often is risk aversion based primarily on the fear of failure and/or past disappointments. As a result, folks get "stuck" going through the motions,  just hoping things will change. And while they may be uncomfortable in their current status, some take comfort in their discomfort, as counterintuitive as that sounds or may be.

As we know, things don't always work out as planned. But oftentimes they do. And those of us willing to take risk(s) try to take calculated risks. But the nature of life is that some risks, especially the greatest risks, are incalculable--unknown. The key in moving forward--beyond the unknown--is to be willing to accept that there are things beyond our control, and that there are always lessons and opportunities for growth.

There are risks in taking action to live the life you want to live. Likewise, there are risks in not taking action--for example, living lives of regret, complacency, and mediocrity. So why not take a step or two in the direction of pursuing what you want out of life? As the old adage says, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
 
 
A fictional conversation:

Overcomer: I'm pursuing my dream to [fill in the blank].
Fear: You know you've had some issues in the past, my love. Don't you fear failing?!
Overcomer: Everyone has had issues. What I fear is living a life of regret for not trying to fulfill my dream.

Fear: But what if you fail?!
Overcomer: What if I succeed?

Fear: Let's talk about that. Don't you fear what success can bring?
Overcomer: I'll let you know when I get there.

Overcomer: Fear, there's something I need to tell you.
Fear: What is it, dear? You know you can tell me anything. And you can count on me to point out your weaknesses so you don't get beside yourself. I'll always be here for you.
Overcomer: That's the problem. I've been in bondage because I've allowed you to keep me focused on my weaknesses. While I'm mindful of my weaknesses, I've decided to no longer be controlled by them. Instead, I'm focusing on my growth, my faith, my strengths, and the lessons I've learned. To that end, I need to tell you that your lease has been terminated, effective immediately!!! I took the liberty of packing your bags.
Your stuff has been taking up way too much space in my life. Bye, bye.


 

Streams

05/13/2014

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Have you experienced stress over the possibility of losing your job; having sufficient income to meet your financial obligations; establishing an emergency fund, etc.? If so, you're in good company. This is why I think it's important to have what I've heard referred to as "streams of income." Streams of income are simply multiple sources of income that may, for example, help ensure that the loss of one source of income doesn't cause significant financial upheaval. The additional income may also assist in meeting financial goals, etc.

I believe we all have gifts, skills, and/or talents we can utilize to generate streams of income. It's also possible to generate streams from our hobbies. Some may turn their professional expertise into streams. For example, some might provide consulting services to small start-up businesses. Some might consider creating an e-book on a subject within their expertise. Others might generate streams by cleaning their closets and/or basement and selling unneeded/unwanted clothing, household items, etc., on eBay or similar e-commerce websites, for example. Some may rent an extra room in their home; give private or group lessons on something about which they're passionate, such as a foreign language or music. Others might sell photos on a site such as Foap; create a side business on YouTube. Some may sell the crafts/products they make as a hobby on sites like Etsy or Scoutmob. The possibilities are endless.

Whatever your chosen activity, it may not be something you want to/can do on a daily or weekly basis. Moreover, not all streams will
provide a steady flow; some may trickle. Either way, it's another opportunity to invest in yourself and, hopefully, provide some financial breathing room.
 
 
Today I heard a song with the words, "you've been aimin' at nothin', and hittin' it every time." What a message! I can't recall any other words of the song, but what immediately came to mind was someone lazy and/or lacking ambition. Someone who talks a "good game", but takes no action. And then my thoughts moved in another direction.

Most of the people I know are just the opposite. We're ambitious and aiming at everything possible; so much so that we're trying to figure out how to have less "somethings" at which to aim. Juggling family and jobs or businesses; pursuing goals, dreams, and/or higher education; participating in social, community, and professional activities, etc. We want more; and feel we have to do more. Many of us say we do all we do because we want the best for ourselves and our families. It's usually our loved ones who take the hits from the sacrifices and compromises that must be made in the pursuit of our ambitions.
And if we're not careful, the result may be shattered families, lost or damaged friendships, a lack of joy, poor or compromised health, etc. So we must make sure that the striving we do for somethin' doesn't cause us to end up with nothin' because we failed to pay attention to what's most important.
 
 
What does it mean to win? To be victorious or succeed at something in the face of a struggle or difficulty, right? Have you won at anything lately? How about today? Did you hold your tongue rather than wound another with your words? Did you see the positive in something that had negative implications? Avoid showing road rage to someone who cut you off in traffic? Begin an exercise program? How about offering an encouraging word to someone in the midst of your own pain? Volunteer your time/talent for something that didn't involve you or your family? Did you turn away from gossip? Did you show compassion to someone with whom you have issues? Eat a healthy meal? Make a connection with someone you consider difficult? What about taking a first step towards a goal or dream? These are examples of victories if our usual inclination may have been to do otherwise. Victories that may seem small and inconsequential to others who don't know where we've been, our history, our struggles. But because we know our struggles, we might consider these "small" victories significant. They may encourage us to appreciate each step on our journey; to continue on our path. Maybe we won't throw a party--or, maybe we will--but we can at least do a little joyful dance in our heads and hearts in gratitude.

Once we get into the mindset of celebrating the "small" victories, we may find we won't wait for the large victories to validate us. And that matters because it's often the small victories that lead us to, and prepare us for, the large victories. It's important to remember that a small win is still a win.
 
 
Have you ever walked away, or distanced yourself, from a situation you thought was detrimental to your joy only to find that wasn't the entire solution? When I'm in this position, it's usually because there are emotions associated with the situation that I haven't dealt with. So I do my level best to muster the strength and courage to walk out of the situation but step in to any corresponding pain, sadness, anger, etc., and deal with it head-on for however long it takes. Now I know there are plenty of folks who do whatever is possible to avoid dealing with their emotions. If that works for them, fine. But in my life, I've found that trying to avoid my emotions results in carrying baggage. And that baggage gets heavy and begins to weigh me down. Without attention and resolution, the weight of that baggage may then begin to weigh on other aspects of my life. There's certainly no joy in that.

I once had a professor who said to students unprepared for class, "[y]ou can pay me now, or you can pay me later." He made it clear that, as with most other debt, paying later meant paying with interest. For me, this concept likewise applies to emotional debt. Sometimes it's not possible to handle debt (of any kind) on our own. It may require assistance--for example, debt counseling, debt forgiveness, etc. Whatever it takes, I want to pay those debts as soon as possible. The only time I want to carry baggage is on a trip. My goal is: no trip, no baggage.
 
 
Are the lives we lead consistent with what we say we need; we want; is important to us? Do we want to be healthy yet engage in unhealthy behavior(s)? Do we need financial stability yet spend everything we earn and then some? Do we say we are tired of drama yet create drama ourselves or surround ourselves with others who do? Do we say we are tired of clutter yet continue to collect and/or fail to clean, clear out or declutter our homes, offices, etc.? Do we say we want to eliminate the baggage in our lives yet refuse to take steps to unpack it? Do we say we have goals and/or dreams yet fail to take steps to pursue them? Do we say that something within our control must change yet fail to do what's necessary to make the change? Do we say we want/need a different job yet fail to pursue other opportunities? Do we say our lives are unfulfilling yet fail to seek fulfillment? Do we say we're exhausted and over-extended or -committed yet fail to make adjustments? Do we say we need/want to accomplish a task yet procrastinate and, ultimately, leave it undone? Do we say we need more yet fail to count our present  blessings?

Is the life you lead consistent with what you say you need, want, and/or is important to you? I don't know about you, but I have "a little" work to do.