I’m taking on a new role as an adjunct professor for Dr. John Townsend’s Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling at Concordia University, Irvine CA. Initially I was thrilled about the opportunity to teach for his Master’s and Certificate programs in Counseling, Organizational Leadership and Executive Coaching. I went through the hiring process, check. I navigated setting up my email and access to the online portal, check. Perused the Online Blackboard and froze in my tracks with fear! I unsuccessfully attempted to navigate this completely unknown program. I couldn’t find the information I needed to tell me how to make sense of everything in front of me. I was supposed to create my own practice-course to prepare for using the program but I couldn’t even figure out step one. That was a few weeks ago. I logged off the system and ignored it. I considered resigning before I had even begun.
Recently, a thought entered my mind: I could call one of my friends who has already been teaching and likely knows how to use Blackboard. I could call the man listed as my contact person for help. I relaxed some as I realized all is not lost. I don’t have to jump ship before weighing anchor. Yesterday I logged back on to the system. I accidentally ended up finding the learning modules but quickly got myself lost again and couldn’t find them. Panic ensued. “I’ll never be able to do this. What am I thinking? My brain is getting too old for learning new things.” Defeat began to settle in again. Then a small yet courageous voice starting making itself heard in my mind, “You CAN do this. Your brain is NOT too old. Stay with what you know is true right now. This is hard, yes. It is new, yes. Remember you have a few life lines–the help person and your friends. Oh yes, that’s right. I can at least give this a try.”
Before calling my life lines I searched one more time. Low and behold, I found the Instruction Modules. They call it The Sandbox. I think of a sandbox as a fun place to learn. Up to this point the sandbox hasn’t been any fun. I had to find the sandbox. I did it the hard way, on my own. I could have asked for help. I just wanted to see what I could find on my own first before I asked and heard, “The title you are clicking on is the one you will use when you are ready to create your own practice course. The one you need is just below it.”
I like that I figured it out on my own. It took a bit more time and included more frustration but I did it and that feels good. I like that I was freaked out by this unknown world. I don’t want to stay only with the known. I need to keep my 51 year old brain learning new information or I will get stuck. Fear can do that to us. It can keep us stuck. What do we gain if we stay stuck? Maybe ease in some way at the moment but not down the road. By regularly challenging ourselves and stepping into our fears we keep our brain active by creating new neural pathways, we grow in our confidence and we develop more compassion for others.
It was this new fear that helped me connect more deeply with my clients and those near me who are facing their own fears. I get the fear. I feel it regularly. And I welcome it! I’ve read in several different books to do something everyday that scares me. Something that is bigger than me, something new. Not to torture myself but to stretch and grow my abilities.
Come and join me in the sandbox. You might have to find it first but once you do, it will feel so good to be here.
I frequently talk about Viktor Frankl with my clients. He survived Nazi concentration camps from 1942-1945. His freedom came when his camp was liberated at the end of World War II. A Psychiatrist, he was intrigued by the motivations and actions of himself, fellow prisoners and guards in this unplanned and unwanted research experiment. After the war, he turned his discovery of the power human beings possess to survive horrific experiences into a therapeutic method: Logotherapy.
In the most unlikely of places, Dr. Frankl made a decision to be the best prisoner he could be. He didn’t execute this perfectly as he admits in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning but his intention gave him purpose and the will to survive. He reasoned if he was able to do this in a concentration camp, then anyone can. As human beings, we have the ability to choose our thoughts, words, actions and attitudes.
My circumstances are not even remotely as challenging as Dr. Frankl’s. Still, I recognize I have the same choices. In simple trivial situations like driving behind a slow vehicle I can get upset about it or relax, recognizing I have no power over the driver. I only have power over myself. I know that unhealthy, illegal and unwise decisions will have a negative impact on me and potentially others so I choose to breathe, be calm, and recognize that my impatience is likely my own responsibility for not leaving enough time for the inevitable slow driver, accident or heavy traffic.
The same goes for the more painful situations in my life. It’s important to note, this doesn’t mean I pretend to be fine. Oh, no! We must be real about the emotions we have in all situations whether trivial or intense. Acknowledge your emotions, understand why you feel what you do, validate your emotions then have a conversation with yourself about what to do. I go into this process in greater length here and here.
Remember, you have the power to decide what you think, feel, say and do in all situations. No one decides that for you.
“The challenge is to always do what is right and good and true, even if others don’t appreciate it. Making the world a better place can’t depend on applause. You have to keep striving, no matter what, because if you don’t, many of the things that need to be done in our world will never get done.” ~ Kent M. Keith, author of Anyway – The Paradoxical Commandments
The Paradoxical Commandments by Keith M. Kent:
- People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
- If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
- If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
- The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
- Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
- The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
- People favor underdogs but follow top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
- What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
- People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
- Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
I resonate with Kent Keith’s ideas. Our job is to leave a positive mark on this world through our actions and words. Our ripples may be small or large. The size isn’t the point. The healthiest approach is to detach from the outcome or reach of the good we do and do good anyway! 🙂
If you are like most of us, you have unhealthy relational skills. You learned them when you were little. You learned by observing others and maybe got some instruction from your parents and care givers; however, most of what you learned or figured out isn’t healthy. Think about the time your friend or spouse wouldn’t give you something you wanted. You were hurt by them, you shut down and stopped talking to them. This is the adult version of, “Fine! You can’t come to my Birthday party.” It may look different and sound different, but it’s still a five year old’s response to being disappointed or hurt by a friend.
Some things we learned are ultra damaging to ourselves and others. We may have learned to make everyone around us happy. We may have learned it’s our fault when they aren’t. As an adult you are now in relationships where you believe you can’t stand up for yourself or draw healthy boundaries because those actions will be mean to the other person. This belief is not accurate nor is it conducive to healthy relationships.
Take a look at how you function in relationships. If you’re honest, chances are you will see yourself taking some young and unhealthy actions. Get involved in a relationship skills class, read books on the subject or get help from a counselor. Life is too short to stumble along using immature skills in the most important part of life, relationships!
My favorite authors on healthy relationship skills are Drs John Townsend and Henry Cloud. They have a multitude of books, videos and workshops to help you grow up 🙂
Hello! For those of you who read my blog to see what’s happening in my life, all is well. I have been ultra busy with clients, Marriage Intensives, Outrageous Freedom (a women’s group I am co-leading), visitors, a bit of traveling and working on a project very near and dear to my heart. I will let you know more about this project in the weeks to come but for now I will simply include a piece of the artwork (courtesy of my uber talented sister, Kai) which can be found in the pages of my project. 🙂
Cheering you on in your journey!
I firmly believe we all have beauty, meaning and purpose. I often use the illustration of a tiny high alpine flower in a remote area where no human foot will ever be set. Its beauty shines for God to see. Its purpose is not defined by human applause or approval. Its purpose is defined by its Creator. And that is how it is with all of us. Some will be known by the multitudes and some only by those in their tiny circle but all have beauty and meaning and purpose. Keep this in mind when you feel insignificant or overlooked. Our significance is found in the eyes of our Creator and that is all we need!
I’m realizing more and more the hardships I face are always used to comfort another. Last week my 20 year old my son had an extremely bizarre experience which sent him to the ER. Since he goes to school just 20 minutes from home, his step-mother and I also found ourselves at the ER. One event led to a series of events all filled with questions and concerns. While the even itself is over, the aftermath is not.
As I shared my experience, my fears, my sadness with others I found comfort. The most comforting came from a mother whose son has walked a similar road as mine. As I thanked her for her sweet salve, I realized I felt a conflict about her situation. I was sad for her but thankful she knew what I might be going through. Then it struck me: when we walk hard roads we are equipped to walk with another who is on the same road. If I skip happily down the road of pain because I don’t have pain, I have no business being on that road.
While I don’t really want more pain in my life, I am learning to embrace each experience as a connection to others. I am more effective in my work with clients, I am more compassionate with friends. It’s a fascinating twist to the human experience; the more I experience the challenges, pain, sadness and disappointments of life, the more qualified I am to sit in the muck with others. If my life goes easily and always as planned, I am ill-equipped to say anything to anyone who is actually facing hardship. With that, I tentatively say, “Bring it on!”