How to Combat 4 Fears of Change Series: Part IV Fear of Leaving Your Comfort Zone

cheese“Being in the uncomfortable zone is much better than staying in the cheese-less situation .”  ~Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese?

The past several weeks we’ve been in the middle of a series called How to Combat 4 Fears of Change. In the fourth and final installation, we fight our last opponent; Fear of Leaving Your Comfort Zone.

We all face this one at some point. We go out, do life, and work very hard to get to a certain place. We set goals, achieve them, and create a comfortable environment. As time passes, we fall into a comfortable routine and we become content with the “status quo.”

I think by far, one of the best illustrations of this common scenario was depicted by author Spencer Johnson in his bestseller titled Who Moved My Cheese.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend you do. It’s a quick parable that compares how two mice and two humans respond to change.

They all live in the same maze, and everyday they travel the same route to get to their cheese. One day however, the cheese is gone. The two mice quickly adapt and go out into the maze to find new cheese, while the two humans struggle. They don’t understand why the cheese is gone, and continue to stay in their same routine; convinced if they keep doing what they know, eventually the cheese will reappear.

As time passes, one of the two humans decides to take a chance and venture into the maze, while the other remains terrified at the thought of something new. Eventually, by learning to adapt and step into the big, scary maze, they all four find even more cheese than they had to begin with.

It’s a great story, and oh so applicable to us all. It’s hard to step outside of our routines and what we’ve come to know as tried and true. There are times in life where despite how difficult it may be, we have no other option but change. When you find yourself in that situation, here are a few things to help you gain confidence as you step outside of your comfort zone:

Just Because You’re Stepping Away from Something You Know Doesn’t Mean You Have to Forget It

I think this is such an important reminder. Sometimes we get so focused on the thought of change, that we begin to look at it with tunnel vision. Sure, life has many twists and turns and detours that take us down unexpected and unfamiliar roads, but that doesn’t mean we lose the value of where we’ve been.

Don’t forget about the experience and knowledge from the familiar and how it can be applied to what may be unfamiliar. Use the tools you’ve worked so hard to acquire to your advantage. Trust me, where we’ve been and what we’ve experienced never goes to waste.

Consider the Desired Outcome and the Options

Often times I’ve found objectivity to be my best friend when it comes to highly emotional times. Change can certainly fall into that category! When you find yourself overwhelmed with all the “what-ifs” and “what-abouts” that float around in your mind, take a deep breath and look at what you know.

Look at where you need to go and all the different ways to get there. Clarity brings comfort. Sure, you may not have a clear understanding of all the variables, but even if you can find one or two things to hang your hat on, it helps.

Remind Yourself of How Far You’ve Come

When you find yourself in the abyss of fear and self doubt, one of the best ways to pull yourself out is a simple reminder of where you’ve been and how far you’ve come. It’s pretty amazing to look back on your life and where you’ve been. The things that were once incredible challenges are now things that come second nature to you.

We’ve all come so far through change in our lives. Because of that, we all know this truth; Without Change There Would Be No Growth. We have so much untapped potential that change brings us closer to. When you look at it in that way, it adds a bit of excitement. What amazing opportunities lie ahead of us once we’re willing to see them…

Life brings us change. Change brings us growth. Growth brings new opportunity. My hope for you after the last several weeks is that change is no longer something you fear, instead it’s something you’ll come to embrace. The Unknown is an opportunity. Failure will happen, and when it does, we’re ready to look at it differently. We understand now life is filled with seasons and we appreciate each one. This appreciation helps us to Let go and move forward.  Lastly, we know that Leaving the Comfort Zone is a part of how we grow into the amazing potential we have.

 

How has stepping outside your comfort zone helped you to grow?

Thanks for reading! Feel free to pass along!

How to Combat 4 Fears of Change Series: Part III Fear of Losing What You Have

In our series on how to combat 4 fears of change, we’ve battled Fear of the Unknown by learning to find the opportunities the unknown holds. Last week we conquered the Fear of Failure by understanding why failure is so scary and how to look at it differently.

For Part III we’re going to face the next big fear when it comes to change; the Fear of Losing What You Have.

Ayla Dylan and Me Fall 2014The thought of losing what you have can be overwhelming. Just last night in fact, I had a moment my kids that reminded me of how easily this particular fear can impact us.

I was at a church small group meeting, and when I got home my five year old daughter Ayla and my three year old son Dylan had just gone to bed. When I went in to kiss them goodnight, Ayla was sitting in bed playing with her dolls. As soon as she saw me she gave me the warmest hug and whispered, “I’m so glad you’re home mommy, I missed you so much! Now can we please say a “player” to God?” I smiled and we prayed together. When we were done I went to see Dylan.

He had his lights turned on and was hiding under the covers because he was scared of the “monsters” outside his window. He saw me and instantly began to cry as he clung to me and said, “Mommy I so scared! Please! I sleep in your bed?” Again with a smile, I agreed and laid him down in our room.

After I finally got ready for bed myself, I laid down and he snuggled up to me, gave me a kiss on the cheek and said “I love you mommy.”

Not two minutes after I turned off the light, did a silhouette of Ayla appear at my bedside and out came a whisper saying “Mommy, can I sleep with you too?”

As I laid with my young children, feeling beyond blessed, I began to think about how precious these moments are. Before we know it, our kids will be all grown up. No more monsters outside the window, no more “players” to God at night, no more laughter and pitter-patter of feet in the hallways.

Moments like these are the ones we want so desperately to hold on to, and at times can fear the thought of letting go of. If we could, we’d opt to live in them forever. In life, there are two specific areas this unease can manifest itself:

Relationships

Whether with our children, family, or even close friends, our relationships are some of the most precious possessions we have. We cherish the joy the people in our lives bring us. Have you ever had to move away from a dear friend? It can be heartbreaking. I’ve had to many times over due to having been in the military and having friends that still are.  The thought of hundreds, maybe even thousands of miles between you is so upsetting.

Change that impacts relationships can be a hard pill to swallow.  We want to protect those bonds we have with others as much as possible. When change puts a strain on those bonds it certainly doesn’t feel good.

Opportunities and Success

Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve had tremendous opportunity and success? Maybe you’ve worked your way up through the ranks of promotion, and have become the most credentialed and qualified individual at your job. It’s an incredible feeling of comfort knowing your hard work’s paid off. Then all of sudden, life happens, change takes place, and you find yourself on the low end of the totem pole all over again.

So, how do we fight through this big fear of losing what we have? The answer:

 Appreciate the Many Seasons of Life

 I first heard the term “seasons of life” spoken by author, mentor, and speaker Michael Hyatt. It’s such an impactful way to look at how we each grow through different phases of our lives. It’s amazing to look back on your life and see the many wonderful things change has brought. Even when it took you away from some moments you wanted to hold on to forever.

My great friend Paula and I had a great conversation one day when my daughter Ayla was just a few weeks old. Her kids are a few years older. We sat on the couch together and watched my brand new baby sleeping so peacefully in my arms. I said, “I never want her to grow up!” and what Paula said next has stayed with me all these years later.

She said, “I know! I say that so much about my kids. I think about how I never want them to get bigger; but then they do! And it’s crazy, because I find that I love that stage of their life even more than the last. Then, I find myself saying again how I never want them to grow out of that phase; but then they do. And again, I find myself loving it even more than the last.”

What a powerful insight, that I couldn’t agree more with when it comes to my own children. Here’s my challenge to you:

Look at your whole life with that same appreciation.

Look at the beautiful seasons change has brought you and how much you’ve grown because of them.  Love and live fully in your “right now” and be comforted in knowing the future brings with it even more meaningful moments.

As much as we want to hold on tightly to the things we have right now, think about all the amazing things the future has in store for us that we’d miss if we never let go? So, when you find yourself  fearing what may happen when change forces you to let go, remember to appreciate the many seasons life holds.

Stay tuned! Next week we’ll finish out our four part series on the fears of change by tackling The Fear of Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone.

 

How to Combat 4 Fears of Change: Part II Fear of Failure

failureLast week in our series How to Combat 4 Fears of Change, we tackled the Fear of the Unknown. We learned how to look at the unknown as an opportunity to rewrite our future.

Now, let’s battle the next monster that lives with change….Fear of Failure. No doubt about it, this is a big one. One of the most memorable times  I struggled with this fear was in 2012 when I stepped into the role of interim practice administrator for our clinic. For those that don’t know, I’m a Physician Assistant by trade. That means I take care of patients. In school and through eight years of experience, I’d learned to do a lot of things when it comes to medicine, but understanding the business side of things was not one of them at that time.

The situation was messy, our current administrator stepped down, and there were a lot of processes that were broken or missing that needed to be addressed. So, I volunteered to step into the role until we could find someone else, and the fear of failure was a constant nemesis in my mind. I was learning about the way things should be the same time I was supposed to fixing them. To say it was “stressful” felt like a huge understatement. But! For the next two years I filled the role until we found the right replacement.

I’m sure the next question you may be asking is “Well, did you fail?” and my answer is absolutely. Several times over in fact. In the situation I was in, it was inevitable in many instances. I learned some great  insights through it all that are invaluable tools to arm yourself with the next time you face fear of failure in periods of change.

First, I think it’s important for us to look at why we fear this thing called failure so much. There are three big sources that feed this fear:

  1. Feeling you’re in over your head

  2. Worry of experiencing or being a disappointment

  3. The potential of embarrassment

None of us want to feel any of these things, and so when the naturally occur when a big change is coming, you begin to fear that change in order to avoid any of these feelings from occurring. So here’s the key to combating the fear of failure:

Change the way you look at failure.

Plain and simple. Don’t let failure consume and paralyze you anymore. Look at it differently. Instead of worrying about these things that feed this fear, know they can and quite possibly will occur. Yep, that’s right. Change the way you look at these things and you win in your battle with the fear failure with change.

Allow me to explain:

Allow Yourself to Feel In Over Your Head

With any change, there will very well be moments when you are indeed “in over your head.” If you really look at it, how could their not be? You are going through a change….that means you’re doing something different. Perhaps something you never imagined you’d do. Through change, we learn. When we start something new, we have an awful lot to learn do we not? Why not go into the situation knowing you’ll have a big learning curve and welcome the insights you’ll learn because of it.

Know Disappointment Will Eventually be Something You’ll Deal With

As humans, we all have a tendency to come up with a play-by-play for experiences we’re about to enter into. We tend to set expectations as we start something new….and sometimes those expectations can be unrealistic. Sometimes what we thought we’d be able to accomplish turns out to be not as easy as we thought. Sometimes we do everything right and it still just doesn’t work out like we thought it should.

Disappointment is a part of life. When it comes to change, don’t let the thought of disappointment stop you from moving forward. Know it will likely occur in one way or another and have an open mind and willingness to regroup and adjust your expectations when it does.

Embrace Embarrassment

A lot easier said than done, trust me I know all too well. None of us like how it feels to be embarrassed in front of our peers and loved ones. I’m not asking you to learn to love it, what I mean by “embracing” it is to learn to give yourself a break.  Remember we’re all human, and we’ve all been on the other side of an embarrassing moment many times.

All we can be is our very best. When we mess up, trip and fall, or make a mistake we all must remember that while in the moment it’s uncomfortable, that moment will end. Handle it with grace and humility.

Failure is something we all avoid as much as possible. But, what I challenge you to do is look at it differently. Fail forward. Learn from those moments in your life and use them to further your change in a positive light.

Has a failure in your life ever helped you change in a positive way?

Stay tuned for our next installment of our series, you won’t want to miss it! We’re going to combat the third fear of change: Fear of Losing What You Have

Don’t forget to pass along to a friend! Have an incredible day.

How to Combat 4 Fears of Change Series: Part I Fear of the Unknown

questionmarkHow many times have we all heard the saying, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you?” Whether or not you believe that to be true, the unknown can be one of the scariest things out there when it comes to change.

Fear of the Unknown is the first of four fears we’re going to tackle in our new series, How to Combat 4 Fears of Change.

The “unknown” tends to become a pretty intimidating opponent in the battle of acceptance when things change in life.

Certainly one of the most significant times I’ve battled with it myself, was when I entered into and separated from the military.

I’ll never forget the conversation I had several months before I joined the US Air Force. I was a wise and all-knowing 19 year old college student, and one of my friends
(who happened to be an Air Force brat) said to me, “Jenn, I think you’d make a great officer in the Air Force.”

“What?! Yeah right!” I laughed, “I’d never join the military! Are you crazy?” A few short months later, I found myself waving goodbye to my mom and grandma as I loaded up on a bus on my way to Basic Military Training in San Antonio, Texas. I was 20 years old, and it was the biggest decision I’d made up until that point.  I’ll never forget how I felt that day as I watched everything I knew slowly disappear from my sight as the bus drove further and further away.

Fast forward almost 11 years: after becoming a medic, going on to school and completing my education and becoming a Physician Assistant, marrying my husband, deploying to Afghanistan, and having our little girl, I came to the end of my time in the service. I’d spent my whole adult life in the Air Force, and it had become a big part of who I was. To take off my combat boots for the last time, and enter into the civilian workforce was even more intimidating than how I felt on that bus so many years before.

Most military veterans and their families share my sentiments when it comes to how overwhelming the transitions into and out of the military are. Your whole way of life is turned upside down. The “unknown” factor is incredibly high.

But….despite how scary it may be, we all survive the change.

The most important thing we can do when we face those moments in our lives, is to be intentional with where we focus our thoughts. If all you do is worry about what “could be” and put all your energy into your fears, you miss the most important parts of change. Through my own experiences with change, I’ve learned to recognize something that has become my security blanket when I begin to feel the fear of the unknown creeping in. With it, the unknown brings incredible opportunity:

The Opportunity to Break Out of Your Mold

Change can put us in situations that give us that extra “push” that allows us to break out of the mold of who we’ve always been, and allow us to really explore who we will become. What we tend to forget when it comes to the big bad “unknown” of change is that we can use it to our advantage.

Look at what’s changing in your life; is it your career, relationships, location? Take the time to look back on the familiarities of your world now. Look at who you are now, and ask yourself what  you want to carry with you into the next chapter, and what bad habits and tendencies do you want to leave behind.

Here’s the thing about the unknown….the sky is the limit! When life brings change, you get to start something. You get to make that unknown whatever you want it to be.

Will you stumble? Absolutely. Will you make mistakes? Count on it.

Take comfort in knowing these things can and will happen eventually in life. When they do, look at them as an opportunity to grow even better than before.

Fear paralyzes us. It stops us in our tracks and prevents us from our greatest potential. None of us know everything about what the future holds. We make plans, but we all know those plans don’t always happen the way we intend. That’s ok. We adapt, overcome, and great new things happen in our lives. Don’t let your fear of the unknown paralyze you. Instead, focus on the opportunity ahead of you.

What opportunities have you had because of change in your life?

Stay tuned! Next time, we’ll tackle the next big fear of change, The Fear of Failure.

If you enjoyed this post please feel free to share!

 

 

New Series: How to Combat 4 Fears of Change

TreeContinuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights. ~Pauline R. Kezer

These are great words to help us embrace change, yet it seems so much easier said than done sometimes. I don’t know about you, but I’m not always ready to grow those new branches!

Change can be a hard thing to accept, yet it’s inevitable. Every day we grow and change. Every day something about your world is not the same as it was the day before.

The only thing that remains constant in our world is change. It’s the one thing we can count on happening. We all know this, but we still innately resist it. Why do you suppose that is?

I think there is one big reason for our resistance.

Change often brings with it many different emotions. Sometimes those feelings can be positive and exciting, but often one big and powerful emotion takes over….Fear.

Fear is like a parasite that seems to feed off of change. It can rear it’s ugly head in many different ways when it comes to change. In our next series titled:

How to Combat 4 Fears of Change

We’re going to focus on four common fears that live with change:

  • Fear of the Unknown

  • Fear of Failure

  • Fear of Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone

  • Fear of Losing What You Have

We have a great couple of weeks ahead of us as we focus on each one of these common fears individually. By learning to move past each one, we can arm ourselves with the tools necessary to move through change with an open heart and mind, and ultimately embrace it.

This is a series I promise you won’t want to miss! So, I have a homework assignment for you before we dive into it. Over the next several days I want you to ponder a question:

What is it about change that scares me the most?

We’ll kick off the series next time with the first fear: Fear of the Unknown.

Do you know someone who can benefit from this series? If you do please feel free to share!

 

 

How to Make the Most of Good Intentions Gone Bad

Griff haircut 2015So…yeah….this is my 15 year old stepson Griffen after he attempted to “trim” his sideburns. He’s in the Marine Corp Junior ROTC (MCJROTC) at his high school and apparently, he felt his sideburns were getting a little too long according to the grooming standards outlined for the students.

So he made the decision to take it upon himself to remedy the discrepancy instead of asking to go get a haircut. I’m not quite sure what thoughts were running through his head as he looked in the mirror and saw the end result of his attempt to be proactive; but I can say that something stopped him from completing the other side. The left side only had a little gouge; and if you weren’t looking carefully, you’d miss it.

In fact…I did. He completed this masterpiece right before school one morning. I was in such a rush to get out of the house I didn’t even notice! When I took him to school, this side of his head was not in my line of sight since he was in the passenger seat.

So there I was, in an important meeting that evening, and I got a text message with this picture and a request from my husband to pick up some hair clippers on the way home. When I saw it, I literally shrieked out loud, leaving my colleagues to assume something horrible happened. As soon as I showed them the picture, they understood my dismay.

Griff high and tight 2015Thankfully, my husband was able to remedy the problem to the best of his abilities, and now Griffen is walking around with a very extreme “high and tight” haircut. When he got to school the next day, his drill instructor took one look at him and said, “Well, you certainly went very traditional with your military style haircut Cadet Clark.”

Haven’t we all been like Griffen at one time or another in our lives? We start out doing something with the very best of intentions, and it turned out horribly wrong.  Sometimes the end result is much worse than a bad haircut. The disappointment you have in yourself in those moments is palpable. How do you move on from that? How do you pick yourself and your bad outcome up off the floor of failure?

How Do You Make the Most Out of Good Intentions Gone Bad?

See the Learning Opportunity Through Your Disappointment

There’s always an opportunity to grow from our mistakes. Sure, no one likes to be wrong or to fail, but when you look at your misgivings as an opportunity to learn, it lightens the load of disappointment. When you come up short, let yourself feel the disappointment because you need to. You need to process the negative emotion in order to move past it. The key is: don’t wallow in it.

Feel the pain, and be done with it. Look at the situation objectively and find the lessons you learned.  Our failures are some of the most valuable learning points we have. The next time you fail, think of it as making a deposit into the bank of life lessons.

Apply what you learned to the decisions you make in the future. If you do, I promise you when the pain isn’t so fresh, you can look back on that time in your life and be thankful for it.

Stop Being Your Own Worst Critic

Honestly, this is where I personally struggle the most. I beat myself up worse than any disappointment ever could. A lot of us are like that, we make situations so much worse than they actually are because we’re so hard on ourselves. What possible good does that bring you? There’s a big difference in owning a mistake and torturing yourself because of one.

Personal accountability, taking responsibility for your actions, is vital to possess, but remember; you’re not only responsible for your own mistakes, but also what you do with them. If you do nothing but beat yourself up over your disappointments, you are feeding the fire of negativity.  You make the situation even worse by doing that. Here’s some advice: Stop it! Take ownership for what went wrong, and let it go.

Serve Others with Your Experience

When we experience adversity, we often don’t realize what a gift we’ve been given. That gift is not necessarily solely for you. Think of all the people that have mentored you in your life. The stories of their mistakes and  growing pains they’ve shared with you have been such a valuable resource at your disposal.

You have an opportunity to do the same for others. By doing so, you can channel your frustration into something positive. Use your experiences to help guide and mentor others and you’ll be amazed at how much purpose those moments in your life will possess.

We all have times of good intentions gone bad. The great ideas in our heads,  just don’t play out that way in real life. That’s okay. Remember when you are in the midst of your disappointment to look for the lesson, avoid being your own worst enemy, and learn to serve others with your experiences. When you do, those misgivings will have such tremendous value and purpose for your life.

What is the most memorable good intention gone bad in your life?

Know someone who needs to read this? Please share!

Do You Know When to Follow and When to Swallow Your Pride?

crossroadsEver find yourself in a place where you’re struggling to continue on with something you started?

My husband Greg and I recently had a conversation about a moment just like this in his life. He’s been training for a 1/2 Ironman in May this year, but he’s begun to lose his desire to go through with the race. He signed up for the same race last year, but the swim was cancelled due to inclement weather. He felt he had to do it again this year to get the swim in.

The amount of time he’s had to dedicate to training has been weighing heavily on him. While he enjoys it, he’s feeling how much it has taken him away from the things in his life that are more important to him; the time he is able to spend with the family in particular.

As we talked, he admitted he’d lost the excitement he once had about the race. Instead he felt more guilt and obligation to complete it.

I think we’ve all been there one time or another, where you’re standing at a crossroad of decision of to complete what you started or let it go. I personally tend to walk down the road of completion, namely due to my pride.  My husband is quite similar in this regard.

I shared with Greg how prideful I can be too when it comes to sticking to my own guns, and a great analogy I came across that helped me realize it’s ok to let go sometimes.  It actually came from one of my idols; Michael Hyatt.

I was listening to one of his podcasts not too long ago, and he was discussing how to get the most out of reading books. In it, he addressed being ok with not always finishing a book. He explained how we tend to feel “obligated” to finish a book,  even when we really aren’t enjoying it anymore. His advice was simple; if you’re not getting anything else from it, then move on! Don’t torture yourself by completing a book you no longer have an interest in.

With all the things we have to do in life,  like work and responsibilities, the things you get to choose to spend your time doing should bring you value.

Perseverance is an excellent and important characteristic to possess, yet sometimes I think we can let our pride and the accomplishment of “completion” overshadow what’s really important. When you find yourself doing something for all the wrong reasons, then it’s time to re-evaluate the situation. There are some things that should be present in what you invest your time and energy in.

The Three Essentials to Help You Decide to Follow or Swallow Your Pride

  • Fulfillment

  • Enjoyment

  • Purpose

The sense of fulfillment, joy, and purpose through your goals, projects, and tasks is valuable fuel to keep you going. When it’s missing, it’s hard to keep moving. All three of these things help you stay connected to the “Why” in what you do.

In looking back at his situation with training, here’s what Greg realized: he loves the activities, but there was no reason to let them consume his world at this stage in his life when other things are more important to him. The solution? Shorter events that allow him the fulfillment, joy, and purpose, and keep him connected with his “Why.”

So, if you find yourself in a place where you’re questioning whether or not to stay the course,  don’t let pride get the best of you. Instead, take a step back, reassess what’s important, and find how to reconnect with fulfillment, joy, and purpose.

 

Are you spending your time wisely?

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed please share!

 

4 Hidden Gifts In Unanswered Prayers

“Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” ~Garth Brooks

Hope in the cloudsWords we’ve all likely heard in one of his most famous songs, but words that are a lot easier said than believed for most of us. I know I’ve personally struggled with accepting them myself in many moment of my life. Here’s the kicker though; they’re so true. I’m  grateful to be able to look back on my life and see how true they really are.

One of the first times I realized this was when I was 20 years old. When I graduated high school, I had a scholarship to a broadcasting program at a university. I remember feeling so comfortable in knowing exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I’d never been so sure of anything, I had it all planned out. I often joked saying I’d be the next Barbara Walters one day.

Sadly, soon into my Freshman year of college, the perfect picture of my future I’d created came crashing down around me. The more I learned of the industry, the less I connected with it. It wasn’t at all what I thought it was. Eventually, I dropped my major. I’d never felt so lost; I’d always had a plan, now I had nothing.

What came of that moment I couldn’t have predicted at all. I ended up leaving college after my sophomore year, joined the United States Air Force, and became a medic. Soon after I arrived at my first duty station, I met the man who would later become my husband.

Over the course of five years in my enlistment I completed three degrees, and in 2007 I was commissioned as 1st Lt. Jennifer Clark, Physician Assistant. After graduating school I went on to deploy and experience one of the most life changing events in my life. Several years after I returned from that deployment, I published my first book, 166 Days My Journey Through the Darkness, a memoir of the deployment and the aftermath.

I served proudly for our country for almost eleven years. So much happened in my life from one unanswered prayer. The 19 year old me never saw it coming; but now, looking back I’m so thankful for things not working out as I’d planned. We’ve all had unanswered prayers in our lives. As painful as they may be, they hold four blessings that leave us better because of them:

Humility

We can all use a dose of humility from time to time. If everything happened the way we plan it in our minds, can you imagine the egos we’d create? When all you do is win, you lose the value of your victory.

Being humble allows us to be gracious and grounded.

New Direction and Opportunity

Sometimes a bump in the road is exactly what we need to see a new direction that we may not have thought possible before. I remember in high school, I took the ASVAB but never thought I’d join the military. “I’m not military material” I’d say. What I thought was never an option for me turned out to be one of the best things I’ve done in my life.

When things don’t work out as well as you thought they would, look for the opportunity. Look for the scenario you didn’t see coming. Perhaps there is something that’s been there the whole time but you never noticed.

Personal Growth

Through our struggles we grow. We learn far more from our missteps and failures than our successes. Look at your disappointments as an opportunity for you to become even stronger. Look at those moments as stepping stones you travel to the best version of yourself.

Character

Character is defined as moral or ethical quality. Character is what we develop through the trials and tribulations in our lives. It’s the fruit of the life lessons we learn through our experiences. How we handle disappointment, failure, heartbreak, all builds character.

Character is one of the most precious things we have as individuals. It paves the path for how we live the rest of our lives. Without challenges, we don’t build it.

Life is filled with some of the greatest celebrations and the deepest heartbreaks. When you find yourself with an unanswered prayer, remember to look for the blessings in it. Appreciate the humility you gained, the new direction and opportunity in front of you, the ways you will grow from it, and the character you’ll build because of it.

How has an unanswered prayer been a blessing in your life?

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3 Critical Areas for Healthy Habits

Delilah and Cone of Shame 2015Meet my pug Delilah. Yes, I do realize she has a very large, ridiculous, blue inflatable device around her neck. Believe me, that thing is pretty unavoidable. We’ve lovingly dubbed it her “cone of shame,” courtesy of the Disney movie “Up.”

The most logical next question bouncing around in your head has got to be; “Why?”

Well, allow me to explain. My sweet little pug Delilah has apparently developed allergies over the last several years, which cause her skin to get irritated and itchy. When she has a flare up she will lick, scratch, and bite her paws until they bleed.

After a course of oral steroids, antibiotics, topical anti-allergy shampoo and lotion, and a hefty vet bill, we can get her skin under control. Here’s the problem; over time, flare up or not, her licking and biting has become a habit. The minute her “cone of shame” comes off, she starts going at it; the right paw being her most frequent target.

As silly as she looks, we know without the cone she would continue to hurt herself. So, there you have it; a pug with a beautiful, and permanent new accessory. Believe me, settling on the blue thing was no easy decision. She literally chew threw and broke about five previous cones. Thankfully, we seem to have found one that works….at least for now.

Delilah, her cone, and her harmful habit got me thinking; perhaps we humans could benefit from such a protective device? Think about all the self-destructive habits we seem to acquire over the years. Could you imagine us all walking around with big blue inflatable “cones” to protect us from ourselves?

Ok….maybe not such a good idea, but it certainly argues a good point. Since a cone is out of the question, perhaps awareness of three areas in our lives we need to be protective of our habits will have to suffice.

3 Critical Areas for Healthy Habits

Your Influences

Influence manifests through many different resources; the material you read, the television you watch, the people you surround yourself with to name a few. Our influences can shape our opinions and thoughts which in turn shape our actions.

Be protective of what you expose yourself to. Remember the importance of being selective with who and what you decide to let influence you. Ensure the people you invest the most of yourself with are those that bring value to your life, and you to theirs. Surround yourself with things that motivate you to be awesome.

How You Spend Your Time

How many times have we all been reminded by our elders just how precious our time is? As we age, we all recognize how true that really is, yet we still tend to forget to heed the advice of those much wiser than us. We can waste the precious hours of the day so easily by spending it doing things that have no value or purpose.

Don’t get me wrong, we all need our “down time,” but the point is to be intentional about it. Don’t waste a day in front of the television or video games when you could be enjoying the beautiful outdoors, or having a great conversation with someone you love. Don’t spend your time feeling sorry for yourself for all the unfortunate things in your life, instead, spend it trying to make positive change.

The one thing we all have an equal amount of is time. Make yours something you’ve spent wisely.

What You Put Into and Do to Your Body

Maintaining healthy habits when it comes to our bodies can be incredibly difficult. We are a society that likes instant gratification, which means we don’t always make good decisions on what we consume. We do things like smoke cigarettes, drink too much alcohol, and eat unhealthy foods. Sometimes, we ingest even worse things.

In addition to the bad things we like to consume, we can easily fall into a rut when it comes to our physical health. We stop taking care of our bodies by not exercising, poor posture, not watching our weight, or not taking the necessary preventative measures to avoid long term health problems.

Here’s the thing; your body is your vessel. The better you take care of it, the more farther it can take you. If you remember to get the oil in your car changed every 3,000 miles, then there are no excuses why you can’t invest in some healthy habits to maintain your physical health.

Habits shape who we’ve been, who we are now, and who we become tomorrow. Make sure you’re developing and nurturing the ones that will help you be the best version of you. Be protective of your influences, how you spend your time, and how you take care of your body.

How are your habits impacting your life?

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Relationships That Thrive Series: 3 Vital Areas That Depend On Teamwork

The most important secret to a successful relationship, is knowing the work that goes into it is never 50-50. One of you will always give a little more or a little less; the key is making sure the weight is constantly shifting between you. ~Gary Clark

Great advice that my father-in-law Gary gave to my husband Greg shortly before our wedding. In the twelve years we’ve spent together, we’ve seen these words ring true time and time again.

In the last two weeks in our series called The Secret Ingredients to Relationships That Thrive, we’ve looked at the importance of how we spend our time together and apart, and how we can grow together and avoid drifting apart. All of that has built up to this final key ingredient to a thriving relationship; approaching relationships as a Team.

tough mudder 2012 team

 

Relationships That Thrive Depend on Teamwork in 3 Key Areas:

The Maintenance

In my opinion, this is the hardest part to be intentional about being a team. It’s so stinkin easy to take advantage of each other in the “everyday”  because we don’t always recognize the little things the other half of our relationship does that make such a big difference.

We all know when you spend enough time with a person, you learn who they are on a much deeper level. When you become close enough, you invest more than just your time with them. You invest your acceptance and appreciation for what they bring to your life.

As time goes on, that appreciation we have for one another can easily become something we take for granted. If we’re not careful, we can begin to expect the other person to carry more of the weight in areas of the relationship where they naturally tend to add value. Here are just a few examples:

-Planning time together

-Taking care of the kids

-Chores

-Handling finances

-Expecting a friend to always listen to your problems, but you never bother to stop talking long enough to listen to theirs.

-Expecting a hard working colleague to always volunteer to do the dirty work at your job

These expectations may stem from what we initially appreciated about each other; but sometimes that appreciation turns into “forgetting” you still need to participate in that part of the relationship as well.

The Highs

We all love to win, we all love to celebrate our own successes. I love nothing more than to see my hard work pay off with a sweet reward. That being said, here’s an important thing to remember; The world doesn’t revolve around you, so neither should your relationship.

There will be times when together, you decide the main objective is to launch you and your goals towards completion and victory. There will also be times when your goals, your agenda, and your priorities may need to take a backseat to your other half.

When it comes to our aspirations and victories, remember the pendulum of success and accolades should swing both ways when you approach them as a team.

This is something Greg and I have embraced very seriously. When I was going to school, he supported me 150%. My first year was absolutely insane. I was taking 100 credit hours, and had no time for anything else but school. He spent the majority of that time overseas in Iraq and Kuwait. He’d come home every 3-4 months for a few short days. He’d spend all day waiting for me to come home, and I’d get there and tell him “I only have two hours to spend with you, then I have to study.” How easily he could have resented me for that, instead….he set his watch.

Several years later, he went back to school full time, and our focus as a couple shifted to ensuring his success.

Relationships that thrive allow each person involved to take priority which helps us to appreciate each other and our accomplishments that much more. It also helps us to stay humble and recognize the effort to get to that finish line was not just yours; the love and support of the people who love you played a vital role as well.

The Lows

With our successes also come our failures and disappointments. Most of the time, failure tends to be a difficult pill to swallow. The pain that comes with it can be quite profound. It’s in our moments of defeat we need each other the most.

Many of you are aware, I struggled desperately for a time with PTSD after my deployment to Afghanistan in 2008. That time was easily one of the most difficult for our marriage. For quite a while, Greg didn’t know how to help me, and I didn’t know how to ask. Eventually, I came through that dark time, and have become so much better because of it. I know without a doubt, his love and support was the driving force in my recovery.

A beautiful thing about relationships is that they allow us to experience defining moments with each other. When times get tough, it’s so much better knowing you’re not alone and that there is a hand of someone who loves you ready to lift you up; you just have to reach for it.

Relationships that thrive embrace the value of teamwork through the everyday, the highs, and the lows brings to each other’s lives.

This concludes our three week series on The Secret Ingredients Relationships That Thrive! We hope you enjoyed it and took something of value from it and love your feedback! Have ideas or suggestion about another series? Please feel free to email your suggestions to: jclark@backtocenterwellness.com

What value do you think teamwork brings to a relationship?