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.

What's a tire without a rim? The rim supports, holds the tire. Tires and rims are interdependent--they work together for a designated purpose. Even when a tire is flat, the rim supports it. It doesn't have the ability to inflate the tire, but it supports it nonetheless.

In life, sometimes we're the tire and, unless we are completely selfish and self-centered, sometimes we're the rim. As tires, we try to move our lives in various directions. We may start families, create businesses, get an education, have careers, set goals, live our dreams, etc. But absent the rims in our lives--those who provide support along the way--it's impossible to fully realize our potential; or manage our various responsibilities. Our rims include those who take care of our children, teachers, garbage collectors, cashiers, receptionists, secretaries, maintenance workers, co-workers, managers, employees, parents, siblings, children, godparents, friends, postal workers, delivery workers, stock crews, doctors, lawyers, accountants, mechanics, acquaintances, strangers, etc.

My point is that very little works in isolation.
In order to make our relationships, our jobs, our communities, and our world better, we must depend on each other. We are attached, connected. Sometimes we take each other for granted; or we overlook the importance of those who provide support for us, especially if they are on the periphery of our lives. We sometimes devalue them, underestimate them, or fail to see them. We can all look at our lives and recall situations where but for the help of someone (sometimes a stranger), we wouldn't have our lives, our homes, our jobs, etc. Maybe someone saved our child from getting hit by a car; made an exception for us; provided a word of encouragement; smiled when we needed kindness; made a call on our behalf; paid a bill when we couldn't see our way through; returned something valuable we thought we lost; wiped our tears; held our hands when we were afraid or could not walk alone, etc. Our rims lighten our loads, stand in the gaps, help make connections, and facilitate the business and conduct of our lives. They provide support even when we're deflated.

So it's important to recognize, acknowledge, and appreciate our rims. We're often so busy that we don't truly see or focus on the many people who touch our lives in one way or another. But most of us are still standing because of our rims. I know I am. And because I'm grateful for my rims, I intend to do a better job of letting them know I don't take them for granted. 'Cause after all, what's a tire without a rim, but empty?

***Thank you, my readers, as you, too, are my rims. You may not comment, but I know from my website statistics that there are many of you. Thank you for taking the time to stop by, and I pray you have been encouraged by the blog.

What a moment in time for Diana Nyad. Yesterday, the 64 year old realized her lifelong dream--initiated 35 years ago--of swimming from Cuba to Florida without a protective shark cage. After swimming approximately 110 miles for nearly 53 hours, she did it! It wasn't her first attempt, though. Actually, it was her fifth.* Clearly, she believes in the adage, "[i]f at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Some may take exception to the extreme nature of Ms. Nyad's pursuit, and/or her reason for pressing on, but she was determined to follow her dream. She handled her naysayers by accomplishing her goal.

Ms. Nyad offered three messages once she arrived on shore: 1) never give up; 2) you're never too old to follow your dream(s); and 3) while it may look like a solitary effort, she had a team.

So, if you're wavering, feeling discouraged, or just getting started on following your dream(s), take heart. It's worth the effort, no matter how long it takes. You can go the distance. And, if at first you don't succeed, . . . .

*You can read about her journey here.
Let me tell you about Mr. B. I met him while walking down the street. We made eye contact, said hello, and I asked how he was doing. His response was, "doing just fine, especially because the nice weather makes it easier for me to be on the streets. Even when the weather is bad, much like life, it's all in how you cope." We spent the next @45 minutes laughing and talking about current events, politics, life in general, the plight of our youth, etc.
Mr. B is college educated and homeless. He shared that he ended up on the streets because he's bipolar. And that although his life isn't easy, he's blessed. The entire time we spoke, I was looking for an opportunity to encourage him. But he was so full of light that his conversation encouraged me. As we ended our talk and I turned to leave, Mr. B said, "I'm usually here. If there's anything I can do for you, to help you, please come see me." This man, who ostensibly has so little, offered to help me. My heart was, and remains, so full.

What is the predominant language of your life? Hopefully, it's a language of hope, faith, gratitude, and possibility. For some of us, our predominant language is of lack, limitation, and negativity. For example, we speak in terms of what we don't have; what's wrong in our lives; what we can't do; how good things never or rarely happen to us, etc. And then when something doesn't work out for us, we see it as confirmation of our language/way of thinking. Such language/thinking can discourage us and others with whom we come into contact. We all suffer disappointments and setbacks from time to time, but when we consistently use the language of lack and limitation, we underestimate ourselves and God. When we speak the language of lack and limitation, we risk living a life of lack and limitation. We often draw to ourselves what we think/believe.

It may be time to "learn" a different language so our words reflect our desires. I say "learn" because the more deeply entrenched we are in our words, habits, and patterns of behavior, the more difficult it is to change them. When we find ourselves complaining about what we don't have and what's wrong in our lives, why not express gratitude for what we do have and what's right in our lives. When we feel inclined to talk about what we can't do, why not discuss what we can do. And then do it. When we find ourselves saying that good things never or rarely happen to us, why not look back to where we've been and what we've overcome and own that goodness. A change of language may create opportunities, encourage faith, and inspire ourselves and others. If we say we desire something, our words and actions should reflect that desire. And while changing our language is not a guarantee that things will go exactly as we hope or plan, it can certainly place us on a better path. Who knows, we may just end up accomplishing goals and living our dream(s). Those are possibilities that make it worth examining the language of our lives.
Last week's post discussed lessons I learned in the process of living my dream, as well as those learned in hindsight. All things I would have found instructive had I known them at the beginning of my process. This week's post is about the process of preparing to realize your dream*--what I call the "getting real with yourself" assessment process. Honesty with yourself is crucial at this point to eliminate or limit issues you may face as you progress with your plans. It was during this part of the process that I felt most vulnerable to discouragement but driven to succeed.

It helps to begin by articulating your dream, determining if it's actually your dream or a dream someone else has for you, and then formulating a plan to realize your dream. What is the broad framework of the plan? What are the details? I found significant value in committing my thoughts to writing. Although my initial plan required revision as it began to take form, having it in writing helped me to get organized and visualize where I was headed. Some people like to create vision boards for this purpose.

Writing down your thoughts may also assist in determining what due diligence is necessary. For example, have others done what you want to do? If so, how? What research is necessary to facilitate your plan? What tools or skills are necessary to realize your dream? What is a realistic timeframe, some of the potential challenges, etc? Due diligence is important because it provides perspective on how much work will be required during the planting season--that is, when you begin to actually put your plan into effect. Some people get stuck at this stage due to the magnitude of their goals or dreams. The more they realize what's required they don't know where to begin. If that's the case, I say dream big, start small. While it's inevitable that you'll miss some things along the way, at this point you're just gathering information. Try to avoid taking on too much and becoming overwhelmed.

Finally, it's important to make an honest examination and assessment of your soil (your personal circumstances) to determine its suitability for the planting season. This includes your family situation, your talents and skills, doubts, fears, openness to change, ability and willingness to learn, resilience, influences, finances, commitment to your plan, etc. It's not about perfection. It's about knowing and considering how your circumstances may impact pursuing your dream.

The value of preparing for the planting season is that it gives you clarity on both your plan and your circumstances. It's important to listen and learn during this stage--even from those who may attempt to discourage or influence you. You will have to live with the decision you make, so make the one you are prepared to live with and accept the consequences. This might be a very emotional and time-intensive stage. Find encouragement (learning to encourage yourself is critical), enjoy the journey (don't get so bogged down in the process that you lose your joy and the excitement of your dream), be patient, find or create laughter where you can, and don't underestimate yourself. Be grateful for where you are now, for what you have, the challenges of this process that will help you learn about things, yourself, and others, and know that your journey will likely inspire you and others.

*For purposes of this discussion, when I use the word "dream", I'm including "purpose". For some people, their dream and purpose are the same. For others, they are different.

Ok, here's a little pep talk:
Have you ever been underestimated and/or discouraged by others when pursuing your goals or dreams? Gabby Douglas was certainly underestimated. Listening to the commentators last week, you would have thought she wasn't qualified to be on the Olympic team. There was constant second-guessing, dismissive comments about her difficulty focusing, and expressions of incredulity that she earned a spot in the individual all-around competition over a favored teammate. Clearly, they didn't know what Gabby is made of. They treated her like a "scrub", but she showed them she is, indeed, a champion. According to Gabby's mother, Gabby Skyped her before the individual competition to ask if she thought Gabby could win. After her mother said she knew Gabby could win, Gabby went out and did just that. Despite the naysayers and the incredible pressure, she turned on her magnificent smile, remained poised, and excelled at her craft. Then she took the winners' podium wearing her gold and a smile. In the law we use the term "res ipsa loquitur", meaning the thing speaks for itself. Gabby didn't need to address the naysayers--the gold medals around her neck spoke volumes.

When I was in high school, my guidance counselor underestimated me and tried to discourage me from pursuing my dream to become a lawyer. In his opinion, since no one in my family had attended college, it was best for me to pursue a career as a legal secretary. Although I thought a career as a legal secretary would be interesting, it wasn't my aspiration. Thanks to the encouragement of my family and a different guidance counselor, I went on to college and law school, and have enjoyed great success in my legal career. I never felt the need to return to tell that guidance counselor he was wrong. I just used his underestimation of my capabilities to motivate myself and to encourage others to pursue their dreams.

So for those who need encouragement, I say to you today, don't let others deter your pursuit of your dream(s). Don't give up unless you choose to do so. Others won't always support your dream; learn to encourage yourself. Work hard, be determined, diligent, focused, and poised. Work toward your dream like there's no tomorrow. And once you've achieved it, smile and let your gold (your accomplishment) speak for itself. Give 'em the Gabby.
Are you familiar with the bible story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? It's one of my favorites. You can read it in its entirety in Daniel 3. In summary, it's the story of three men who disobeyed the king's edict to fall down and worship the king's golden statue, and ended up being thrown into a fiery furnace. They stood firmly on their belief that there is only one true God--the only one they would worship. They believed that their God would deliver them from the furnace, but even if He did not, they would not bow down to serve any other god. As a result, the king had the heat in the furnace increased sevenfold, and the men were bound and thrown fully clothed into the fiery furnace. Many people came to watch. However, as the king was looking inside the burning furnace, he noticed there were not 3, but 4, men walking around in the fire, with one looking like a god. He called for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to come out. The fire hadn't touched them at all--they were unscorched, unsinged, untainted even by the smell of smoke.

Have you ever been thrown in life's furnace? I know I have. Many times. And I've often felt like a circus monkey with some folks watching to see if I would be scorched. Now  there were times when I was singed because I was trying to handle things on my own. But in those times when I wore the right clothes (some of you know where I'm going with this), I came out unharmed. I don't mean there weren't some lessons learned. If we're smart, we're always looking for lessons. But when I put on my armor and, instead of trying to handle it myself, looked to God for my help, those are the times I came out of the fire without even a hint of smoke. And I feel joy in my soul about that.
How about you? Have you ever felt like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? How did you handle it?