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


-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:

What value do you think teamwork brings to a relationship?

Relationships That Thrive Series: What it Takes to Grow Together Part II

Nej & Gerg-Ashford-8This week in our series called The Secret Ingredients to Relationships That Thrive we’re focusing on what it takes to grow together, and avoid growing apart. In the last post, we looked at how conflict can actually be a catalyst to bring you together when your relationship is built on a foundation of trust, respect, and humility.

Here’s a hard truth when it comes to relationships: sometimes we allow our differences to stand in the way of the most meaningful parts of a relationship. The things that we don’t understand about each other can become a barrier to growing together.

The early years of my relationship with my husband Greg are case and point of this truth. When we first started dating, I had a lot of concerns he wasn’t “The One” for me because of how different we were. It seemed like we had so little in common there was no way we could possibly be right for each other. So, to protect myself from an inevitable broken heart,  I put up a huge wall.  In fact, I even tried to dump him because of it.

When we met, we were both enlisted in the Air Force. I was a young medic, and he was a cop. He was about as “gung-ho” as they come when it came to his job. He loved being a cop, but loved the idea of getting into the Special Forces world even more. That’s where we had  a problem….I’ll never forget the words I said to him the day I dumped him.

“If that’s the life you want, then I’m not the girl for you. I’m not strong enough to be at home wondering not when you’d come home, but if you’ll come home at all. Sorry buddy, that’s just not who I am.”

That difference in opinion actually turned out to be one of the most ironic situations of my life.

Here’s where the irony begins. Greg never ended up getting into the Special Forces world, in fact, in 2005 he separated from the military all together. I, on the other hand, went on to get my commission and became a Physician Assistant. In 2008, I was tasked with my first deployment. Not only was I going to Afghanistan, but I was going to be with a team of US Army Green Berets. I was forward deployed to one of, if not the most, violent firebases in Afghanistan at the time.

By that time, Greg and I were married, and he was the one at home waiting for me. As for me, I went from someone who wanted nothing to do with that part of the military, to being totally emerged in it for six months.

That experience was a big eye opener for us because it forced us to look at a situation from each other’s point of view. Over the years, many more moments helped us learn to grow past our differences. They became opportunities for us to appreciate the layers of each other that we really didn’t understand and even feared in the beginning of our relationship. It’s been those opportunities that allowed our relationship to thrive.

To this day, Greg and I still come from very different perspectives; but here’s the thing…despite our differences, we’ve grown into each other.  Wanna know our secret? We realized something very important:

You Don’t Have to Let Your Differences Divide You. Instead, Use Them To Bring You Together

We’ve learned to not only accept our differences, but actually to celebrate them.  We’ve come to appreciate what they bring to our relationship. The top three ways differences can bring us together:

1. They Open Your Heart and Mind

We all tend to get stuck in our own bubble of viewing the world. When you spend time with someone who looks at the world a little differently, you can learn a lot. Maybe you respectfully agree to disagree, but a least you’ve taken advantage of an opportunity to gain insight from a different point of view.

When we understand our differences, we grow. We grow both as individuals and together. Allowing your differences to be present opens your heart and mind to new ideas and possibilities you may never have thought of otherwise.

2. A Different Perspective Can Shed Much Needed Light On Your World

Anyone who has spent any time with me knows I tend to get overly excited and jump head first into things. If something looks awesome, then I’m all in! And sometimes…that can come back to bite me.  I can get my blinders of excitement on and miss some blatantly obvious caution flags flying right in front of me. Greg lovingly calls it living in “Jenville.” Because he sees things so differently, I can count on him to keep me grounded and rational.

The opposite is true for Greg. Sometimes he can get so caught up in the details of something that he will analyze it to the point of exhaustion. I get to step in and remind him how sometimes when you stay in the world of solid black and white, you can miss the beauty of exploring the grey area.

Our differences give us a new insight that can guide us in the right direction.

3. Differences Can Take You Out of Your Comfortable Status Quo

We tend to like to stay in what’s comfortable. Usually that means sticking with what we know. By doing so, we can miss some incredible new experiences. Greg is not one to try something new very often. I, on the other hand, love doing new things. Over the years, I’ve dragged him out to try something he wouldn’t have done otherwise, and 99.9% of the time he’s grateful he had the experience.

I tend to be pretty disorganized. Greg would say that’s quite the understatement. He is the polar opposite. Everything he lays his hands on is organized and orderly. By living with him, he continues to remind me of the value of getting out of my comfortable chaos and adding structure to my day.

Our differences can challenge us to be better and to grow and experience new things.

Relationships that thrive find ways to look past our differences, and even learn to celebrate them. Our time spent together is so precious, don’t let yourself focus so much on where you differ become a barrier to where you can come together.

Next week is our last week of our series on The Secret Ingredients to Relationships That Thrive, and you won’t want to miss it! We’re going to look at why Being In a Relationship Equals Being in A Team.

What positive things have your differences brought to your relationships?

If you enjoyed this post please share!


Relationships That Thrive Series: What It Takes to Grow Together Part I

conflictAn interesting fact about me is that I don’t have a middle name. When Greg and I were dating he quickly remedied that situation by assigning the word “Pride” to that blank space in my name. To this day, Jennifer Pride Clark can make an appearance when we get into “discussions” that usually involve us seeing things from two totally different perspectives.

Truth be told, that word has not been just my vice in the relationship; but both of ours. We both have an overabundance of the “P” word which has been a challenge for us over the years. However, through our trials and tribulations as a couple, we’ve managed to keep it in check.

Last week, we looked at the importance of how you invest your time in relationships. As we continue into the second week of our series on the Secret Ingredients to Relationships That Thrive, we’re going look at how to grow together in love, and avoid growing apart.

Conflict is one of the driving forces to growth in either direction.

Despite what we may tend to believe, conflict can actually have a healthy impact on relationships, and we’re going to explore how. First, let me give you some insight into my perspective on this sensitive topic….back to where we started today’s post; Greg, me, and….our pride.

Interestingly, we both came into our relationship from two very different backgrounds to marriage.

I came from a divorced family, my parents separated when I was four years old. As I got older, through talking to both of my parents, I learned more about the dynamic of their marriage. As it came close to the end, the relationship was toxic. When they fought, my dad felt he was never in the wrong, therefore he never got to a point where he listened to my mom’s point of view. Over time, my mom stopped trying to stand up for herself.

Greg’s parents, on the other hand, have been married now for over 40 years. Naturally, he wanted the same thing when he settled down.  He got married very early in his 20s, and after two short years found himself divorced and a single dad. He was devastated as you might imagine; having failed at something he wanted so desperately.

We met about a year after his divorce, and I was still damaged from the relationship I mentioned in the last post. In the early months and years of our time together, conflict was a big issue that almost got the best of us. We came from such different places, and both of us so filled with pride, at times it got pretty ugly. Neither one of us wanted to back down from our point of view.

Every time we had a fight, he feared I was going to pack up my bags and leave, and I unfairly kept comparing him to my father. Needless to say, it was pretty rough.

Gradually, over the years the dynamic of our arguments changed. We went through some very trying times together; both as individuals and together as a couple. It was through those times we began to notice that our differences actually fostered our growth as a couple. Here’s what we realized:

Disagreement Is Ok When These Key Things Are Part of the Foundation of Your Relationship:

  • Respect

Mutual Respect is absolutely essential to any relationship. One of the most important times it comes into play is during conflict. If you don’t respect the person you are disagreeing with, you will not listen to what they have to say. If they don’t respect you, count on the same response.

No respect means no listening. Instead of actually hearing what the other person has to say, you wait for them to stop talking so you can say what you need to say. Here’s the problem with that, in case it’s not obvious…that doesn’t work with relationships! Does it sound appealing to spend more time with someone who doesn’t respect who you are and where you’re coming from? Of course not.

If you respect the people who matter the most in your life, then honor who they are and make a conscious effort to listen to where they’re coming from. They may not be right….but then again, they just may be. They may not have the solutions, but they may have something to offer you hadn’t thought of before.

  • Trust

I think it’s pretty fair to say that trust don’t come easy when it comes to relationships. To truly trust someone, means you allow yourself to be vulnerable with them. It means you actually allow yourself to believe what they say. In order to love someone, and allow them to love you, trust has to be in place.

Trust is easily one of the most fragile parts of a relationship. It takes so much to build it, and so little to break it into a million pieces.  Knowing how precious it is, hopefully helps us to realize the power it has when it comes to working through conflict.

Work to build your relationship based on it, and when it comes to times of disagreement, you can trust that the other person is coming from a genuine place. Believe me, Greg and I have had many times in our relationship when one of us has brought to light something not so “amazing” about what the other is doing. Being able to trust that what each other is saying is coming from a place of love allows us to work through it.

  • Humility

“Have the humility to learn from those around you.” ~John C. Maxwell

To be humble in a relationship, especially when you’re in the middle of a disagreement allows you both to move forward. To lay down your sword and shield of pride and be willing to hear the other person allows for the possibility of compromise.  A way to come together to allow both points to be expressed, learned from, and heard.

When we are humble in conflict, not only can we come to a compromise, but we can come to a place of forgiveness. Sometimes we need to forgive each other, and sometimes, we need to forgive ourselves. Having the ability to see past the end of your nose and into the heart of the person you love is how we grow through some of the biggest disagreements.

Conflict is one of those inevitable things in any relationship. It can be the catalyst that helps you grow together when the foundation of what you are together is based on Respect, Trust, and Humility.

Stay tuned for Part II of What it Takes to Grow Together where we’ll discuss how even people with completely different interests can grow together.

What is the biggest challenge you face when it comes to conflict with those you love?

Know someone who needs to read this? Please share!



Relationships That Thrive Series: Investing in Your Time Part II

“Don’t smother each other. No one can grow in the shade.” ~Leo Buscaglia

Wise words when it comes to relationships, especially those that thrive. This week in our series The Secret Ingredients to Relationships that Thrive , we’re focusing on how to invest your time wisely when it comes to the people you care about. In Part I, we discussed the importance of being intentional with the precious time you spend together. In Part II, we’re going to flip the script and focus on the equally important time you spend on your own.

Have you ever been in a relationship where you felt smothered? Or maybe you were the “smotherer” and you found yourself  so wrapped up in the other person that your entire world revolved around them. When you care about someone, it’s so easy to let your affections for that person take over and begin to control your world.

While it may feel great in the moment to be immersed in your affections for that significant person, over time it can become damaging.

In 1999 B.G. (Before Greg), I was that girl. I was a sophomore in college, and I fell hard and fast for a guy. He became my everything; all that I did was for him or with him, and I lost myself. I loved him more than anything, including myself. My academics, motivation, friendships, and relationship with my family all suffered because of it. When I discovered Mr. Wonderful was indeed not so “wonderful” we broke up, and my heart was not the only thing broken…my whole world was. Needless to say, I didn’t date again for two years after that relationship because I had to repair all that was damaged.

I learned a lot from that experience, so when I met Greg I didn’t make the same mistakes.  Here’s the bottom line:

Relationships that Thrive Nurture Individuality

Jenn and Greg FSU

Nurture Your Own Individuality

Love is the most powerful and awesome emotion that exists, and it’s vitally important in our lives. What we can’t forget is the importance of loving ourselves as much as we love one another. I remember growing up, my mom reminded me of this by using the analogy of the infamous flight attendant instructions we’ve all heard before prior to take off. It goes something like this:

“In the event of an accident, your oxygen masks will collapse from above. If you are traveling with small children, please remember to apply your oxygen mask first before assisting them.”

Simple advice that applies to so  much more than a plane ride. In order to be the best person you can be for those that you love, you must not forget to nurture what makes you who you are. When you neglect the things most important to you, that make you special, you’re not only stealing from yourself, but also from your relationship. Not taking care of yourself, kills the unique and special parts of you that contribute to the relationship that make it beautiful.

Nurture Your Significant Other’s Individuality

 What is it about the special people in your life that makes them special? Are you ensuring that part of them has the fuel it needs to sustain them? As much as you want to spend all your time with the person that means the most to you, if you don’t allow them the time to invest in their personal goals and fulfilments, you are chipping away at their Awesome. Over time that builds resentment and emptiness.

A hidden blessing Greg and I discovered early on was how drastically different our personalities are. At first, I found it rather frustrating that he didn’t think all the things that are so clearly amazing to me were all that important….ok…..I still find it a little frustrating! But! Being so different has allowed us to recognize the importance of supporting each other’s individual needs.

While we both enjoy fitness, Greg’s physical goals are one of his top priorities. Mine are different…I will wake up at the crack of dawn to write this very blog, while he gets up at the same time to go for a run or a bike ride. We respect the time we each need to devote to our friendships, careers, and hobbies as well.When either one of us needs extra time to work on our goals, despite how crazy our life may be, we protect it. We know it’s an important part of who we both are.

When we allow each other to nurture our individual Awesome….we are investing in the other half of what makes our relationship together even more Awesome.

When you love someone, you love and appreciate what makes them unique. Don’t smother, and don’t be smothered by your love for each other. Nurture and grow your individuality and watch how your relationship thrives.

What’s your significant other’s favorite thing to do?

You don’t want to miss next week in our series! We’re going to look at ways to Grow Together, Not Apart.

If you know someone who would benefit from reading this, please pass along!


Relationships That Thrive Series: Investing In Your Time Part I

“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” ~Theophratus

In last week’s post, I mentioned over the next 3 weeks we are going to be diving into a series on The Secret Ingredients to Relationships that Thrive. That series will be divided into three key areas:

  • Investing In Your Time Together and Apart
  • Being in a Relationship = Being on a Team
  • How to Grow Towards Each Other and Avoid Growing Apart

With that quick refresher, it’s time to move on to this week’s area of focus: Investing in Your Time. You know, good ‘ole Theophratus has a great point; our time is the most valuable thing we can spend, yet, we often waste it. Where we tend to waste it in the most harmful ways is in our relationships with each other.

We tend to take our time together for granted, and before we know it, that time is gone. One thing my husband Greg and I have learned over the years we’ve spent together, is how precious that time is. We’ve spent significant time away from each other on multiple occasions; he spent a year in Iraq and Kuwait, and I spent six months in Afghanistan. Both of those periods in our relationship, along with the demands of our day to day in our careers and as parents, have given us an appreciation for our moments together we didn’t have before.

We work very hard to make the most of the time we have with each other every day. We both see the value in being intentional with our time now, to help us reach our goals as a couple later. Now…notice the word I used….work. I won’t sugar coat it at all….that’s exactly what it is….hard work!

Case and point…our weekly budget meeting.

Now, for those of you who don’t know Greg and me very well, allow me to shed some light on the subject. We tend to live on the opposite ends of the spectrum in our personality types. I’m very much the “Free Spirit” in our relationship, while Greg is “Mr. Organized.”  I love to fly by the seat of my pants while Greg has to have a structured plan for everything he does….he even created an excel spreadsheet for our shopping list….nope….totally not kidding folks!

Clark budget meetingSo, knowing this about us, one can appreciate how difficult it is for us to sit down every week and discuss the budget.

Looking at another spreadsheet with our “spending trends” is not exactly my idea of a good time, while trying to figure out what exactly I spent on what and why is not a great time for Greg either.

But! We do it every single week. Why? Because as a couple, we’ve set financial goals we want to achieve. It’s an important part of our relationship, therefore we’re both fully invested in the commitment and discipline it takes from both of us.

The budget meeting is just one example of what we spend our time together doing, but there are also a lot of other things we’re equally intentional about:

  • Date Night
  • Dinner time with the family
  • Quality time with the kids
  • Fitness
  • Spiritual growth

And many more…the point is this:

Be Intentional With the Time You Spend With the Ones You Care About

Sounds easy enough right? Yet, it’s actually pretty hard to do. So, how can you be “intentional” with your time when it comes to the relationships in your life?

Define What’s Important to You

Maybe that means you set a goal you want to achieve together. Or maybe you find such enjoyment in doing a certain activity together, that you realize how important it is to your relationship. Whatever it may be that brings you closer together, ensure you define what it is and why it’s important to the relationship. By doing so, you create a sense of motivation to devote the precious time you have together towards it.

Appreciate What’s At Stake, and Don’t Be Afraid to Remind Yourself of It

In other words, don’t be afraid to hold each other accountable for the time you’ve both said you want to spend together. Sometimes it’s easier to fall prey to what you want right now, instead of spending your time on what’s most important. You think….Hmmm, my favorite show is on TV, maybe that budget meeting can wait! I’ve certainly been in that situation, and so has Greg.

In fact, just the other day, I tried to back out of going to a morning church service because I was so comfy on the couch in my PJs and slippers with my cup of coffee. I rationalized that we could just watch it later online, or even catch the afternoon service. All Greg had to do was remind me of why it was important for us to go, and very quickly my priorities were back in check.

Celebrate Together What Being Intentional is Doing For Your Relationship

Reap the rewards in the investment you’ve made in each other! One of my favorite things to do each day is give thanks for the meaningful relationships in my life. In doing so, I look at where we’ve been, and how we’ve grown together through making the most of the time we’ve spent with each other.

Sometimes the rewards come through the struggles. Looking back on our marriage, I’m thankful for the hard times we’ve worked through together and how they’ve helped us grow as a couple.

Creating and sustaining relationships that thrive means you have to water them often enough they can grow. The most valuable thing you spend is your time…so when it comes to spending it with those you care about; invest wisely.

Next up in this week in the Relationships That Thrive Series, we’ll look at Investing In Your Time Part II. You won’t want to miss this one; we’ll focus on why respecting our individual time is just as important to the relationship as the time we spend together.

What is the most important thing you should invest the time you spend in your relationship doing?

Please pass along if you know someone who would benefit from reading this!


New Series: The Secret Ingredients for Relationships That Thrive

handsRelationships are so hard! As difficult as they are, they’re essential to our wellbeing. Imagine if you had the secrets to make them thrive?

If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time, you know I write a lot about my relationship with my husband Greg.  We’re best friends, and truly partners in life. People often ask us what our secret is. While we’re appreciative of the compliment; we are quick to admit that by no means are we perfect…no relationship is. We struggle at times, and we’ve certainly been through some very difficult challenges.  Truthfully, being completely opposite personality types can make for some pretty awesome disagreements, and boy have we had them!

But through all the challenges we’ve faced, and continue to battle, we’re thriving as a couple.

With any relationship, whether romantic or otherwise, it takes work. There are things that Greg and I have implemented into our relationship and we’ve thrived because of them. We want to share them with you.

Over the next three weeks, we are going to explore some key ingredients to a relationship that thrives.

Each week, we’ll focus on a theme:

  • Investing In Your Time Together and Apart
  • Being in a Relationship = Being on a Team
  • How to Grow Towards Each Other and Avoid Growing Apart

I’ll share some of our biggest successes and most daunting challenges in these areas and how we’ve been able to apply what we’ve learned to our friendship and love for each other.

Not in a romantic relationship? Don’t let that stop you from reading this series. This is good stuff that applies to all types of relationships.

Here comes my inevitable disclosure statement: By no means am I a relationship counselor, nor do I pretend to be. This series is just me sharing what has been tried and true in our marriage. By doing so, I hope to offer a new perspective on the “work” that goes into any thriving relationship.

Our interactions with each other help to shape who we are as people. They influence the decisions we make, the actions we take, and the way we live our lives. So, yeah….they’re a pretty big deal! With how much they mean in our lives, why not do everything we can to make them thrive?

Next week we’ll dive into the first theme: Investing In Your Time Together and Apart.

What do you think is the most important part of a healthy relationship?

Know someone who needs to read this series? Please share!


Why You Should Never Miss an Opportunity to Be a Servant Leader

Leadership is not about personality, possessions, or charisma, but all about who you are as a person. I used to believe that leadership was about style but now I know that leadership is about substance, namely character. — James C. Hunter, The Servant

To me, there is only one style of leadership that makes sense, and that’s servant leadership. To be a servant leader” means you practice a timeless philosophy of using leadership to help empower and inspire people; leading them to more fulfilling lives, which in turn leads to a better organization, and a better world overall.

To be a servant leader, means you serve.

This mindset is something I strive to apply to all of the influential roles of my life, especially as a parent. I can’t begin to describe how proud it made me to see my little girl Ayla demonstrate some of the same traits recently.

Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog post titled 3 Areas Your Attitude Can Make or Break You, and in it I told the story of finding out 5 year old Ayla had a cavity that would require a cap and possibly a root canal. Her attitude about the whole thing was inspiring to say the least. Just when I thought I couldn’t be more proud of her, she proved me wrong again.

Part II to the “Princess Tooth Saga”

ayla dental procedureWe arrived at the dentist right on time with me, a bundle of nerves thinking about how she would react to the procedure, and Ayla happy as a clam and filled with excitement about her “princess tooth.” As soon as they brought us back and put the nitrous gas mask on her face, I felt my eyes well up with tears.

Much to my relief, she was amazing through the entire procedure. She didn’t act scared at all, and no tears were shed…at least not by her, her mother was a different story!

Both the dentist and his assistant were amazed at the courage she had that day. As they finished up, the assistant said, “Ayla, you did so great! You were such a good patient, you can have as many tokens as you want!” The tokens are given to the kids after their appointments to get a prize out of a machine in the front of the office. The vending machines are filled with bouncy balls, plastic animals, jewelry, and various other prizes.

Ayla quickly replied, “I want five! Because I’m five years old!”  And before we knew it, we were standing in front of the prizes on our way out the door. As she decided what to pick, I heard her say, “I want to get this one for Dylan because he’s my brother.” Then she put another token in and got a present for her grandma, another for Dylan, and then she came to the one with the jewelry.

“Mommy, I want to get that one for you,” she said, and she put the fourth token in and handed me the prize. She spent only one token, the very last one, on herself; only because there was a purple lizard she couldn’t live without.

When we got the car, I opened the jewelry prize she got me, and saw it was a silver necklace with a cross. Again, my eyes filled with tears. Different tears this time though….tears of pride for my little girl and her huge heart. I’ll be honest, that necklace has rarely left me neck since that day; and just like that, a necklace from a toy machine has quickly become one of my most cherished possessions.

Ayla and cross necklaceI cherish it because of what it represents. Ayla had the courage of a lion that day; she deserved every single one of those tokens for herself, but her first instinct was to give.

How she handled that day will forever be engrained in my heart for her demonstration of servant leadership at such a young age. I found myself humbled by her generosity, and reminded that sometimes the biggest reward for our actions is the impact they have on others.

Never Miss an Opportunity to Be a Servant Leader

Throughout our lives, we’re all placed in positions that allow us to be servant leaders, even if those positions don’t consist of the title leader.

At Work

We all lead through our actions in our careers, no matter how “important” we think our position is. Every word we say, every action we take can influence others around us. Even as the lowest man on the totem pole, you have an opportunity to lead.

Give your best in every task you complete. Be there to lend a helping hand to those that need it. Go above and beyond to serve not only your customers, but also your fellow co-workers and your supervisors. Find ways to positively impact their lives and empower them to be better people.

At Home

The relationship you have with your family is the most important.  Whether it’s with your parents or siblings, spouse, or your children, your influence with your family is incredibly powerful. The impact you have on their lives is much more intimate then any other relationships you have. You know the skeletons in the closet, the imperfections they have, and they know yours…yet you still love each other unconditionally.

Use that influence to serve them by giving of yourself to them. Spending time with a loved one to help nurture their potential is an amazing gift.

In the Community

Demonstrate an act of kindness to a complete stranger. Give your time and lend an ear to a friend in need. Volunteer to be a part of an organization that serves a much bigger purpose than yourself. Use your talents to give back unconditionally to those that may benefit from them.

To be a servant leader means you serve. Don’t be afraid to give of yourself to benefit those around you. Empower and inspire. Your words and your actions can create an impact that can change someone’s life; never miss an opportunity to be a servant leader in the moments you spend with others.

How can you be a servant leader today?

Know someone who needs to read this? Please feel free to share it with them.



How to Turn Your Disappointments into Moments of Greatness

Did you see that game last night? Holy moly! Talk about intense! It was a game that will not only be talked about for years to come, but it also holds a great lesson for us all. For those of you who didn’t watch Super Bowl XLIX, I’ll fill you in…at least to the best of my novice football commentating capabilities.

The New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks were neck and neck for the entire game, and within the last five minutes the Patriots scored a touchdown, which allowed them to take the lead at 28-24. The Seahawks got the ball back with only two minutes left to play.

The quarterback Russell Wilson, threw a pass that looked like it was a miss, but somehow, the receiver managed to come up with the ball within a few yards of the goal line. Then it happened….with just over 20 seconds left in the game, on 2nd and Goal, Russell Wilson made a play that shocked the nation. A play that could quite possibly go down in NFL history as the worst play call in Super Bowl history. He threw the ball, in a situation that seemed like a no-brainer to run it, and sadly it was intercepted in the end zone by Malcom Butler, a Patriots rookie who made the play of his life. That play won the game for the New England Patriots.

Super Bowl 2015

Can you imagine the profound disappointment the entire Seahawks team felt? Especially the offensive coordinator, the head coach, and Russell Wilson. They worked so hard the entire season to get there, and even harder in the last two minutes of the game to set up the play, and just like that…their dreams of a victory were crushed by one bad decision.

We all face disappointment and failure in life, and sometimes our mistakes can feel like we’re carrying the weight of the world. It’s in those moments of despair, when it seems it can’t get any worse, that we have an opportunity. An opportunity not only to overcome, but an opportunity for Greatness.

Turn Your Disappointments Into Moments of Greatness

It’s through adversity that we grow. Let’s be clear, you will grow in one way or the other from disappointment. Either in a positive or negative direction. Therefore, how we choose to handle those moments is crucial. We can do one of two things: let them define us, or we can define them.

If You Let Them Define You

If you decide the buck stops right smack dab in the middle of your disappointment, then you’ve surrendered to it. You’ve chosen to allow it to define who you will be from that moment forward. The circumstances of that situation will continue to haunt you the rest of your life. “Wait…the rest of my life?” you ask. Yep…that’s right.

Contrary to what we may wish for in the depths of disappointment, the world doesn’t stop there. We have to wake up and live our lives the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that. When you let your disappointments define you, that means they stay with you and rare their ugly heads in every decision you make, every word you speak, and every action you take.

If You Define Them

How on Earth do you define your disappointments? Simple. You decide what happens next. In other words, you get to decide where they fit in your life and how they will influence your future. You can look at them as an opportunity. Moments of weakness, failure, and mistakes are all chalked full of the building blocks necessary to develop character.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” ~Helen Keller

Character, the secret ingredient to doing stuff that matters with your life, can be found in abundance in your adversity. Look for it in those moments, and apply it to the rest of your life.

Disappointment is an inevitable reality of the world we live in. Allow yourself to feel the pain of disappointment, by doing so you allow yourself to move on. But do move on. Make that disappointment have a purpose. Make that purpose be the development of character. Let that character serve to lead you to greatness.

What have you learned from your biggest mistakes?

Have a day of greatness! If you know someone who should read this, please share!


A Sure Fire Way to Fight Motivation’s Biggest Nemesis

Time for some straight up honesty. Motivation, or lack thereof, can be one of my biggest struggles. It’s a funny thing, that motivation. When you possess it, it can launch you forward towards your goals at warp speed. When you lose it however, it feels like a black hole of “blah” stands between you and what you really want to achieve.

Greg triI’ve found in my own life it’s a constant ebb and flow when it comes to motivation. Sometimes when I’m feeling little to none, I’ll look to others whom I admire. The person I look to the most often is actually my husband Greg. When it comes to fitness and goals, this guy is one of the most determined and dedicated people I know.

Interestingly though, the other night we went on a date, and over dinner we were talking about this very topic. He was telling me about how he’s having trouble finding the motivation he once had to train for an upcoming triathlon. As I listened to him, I found myself quite surprised to be on the other end of the conversation. I never would have guessed he struggled with motivation when it comes to training.

He explained how when he first started doing the events it was because he got a rush out of proving that he could do it, and it made him feel good. Now, it seems like he’s lost the joy in doing it just for the sake of doing it. In our conversation, we realized Greg has come to the place that so many of us find ourselves. He’d shifted his focus from the pure joy of doing it, to obsessing over his race times and standings. He began to let the question, “How come I’m not as good as that guy?” overshadow why he began doing it in the first place.

That night with Greg made me look back at my own goals and aspirations, past and present, along with the level of motivation that came with them. It was quite telling when I really took a look at my successes and failures. Sure enough, I realized a pattern. That pattern revealed the one true nemesis of motivation…..

When You Lose Connection with “The Why,” You Kill Your Motivation

I was amazed when I realized how true this has been in my life. When I have succeeded, I was connected with the purpose of what I was doing and why it was so important to me. The opposite was true every single time I’ve failed to accomplish a goal. I started out equipped with the tools of momentum and a great plan, but as time went on, I lost my connection to why I started in the first place. When I lost the connection, I lost the motivation.

So, how do you avoid meeting this nemesis of motivation?

Develop an Essential Habit

Make it part of your routine to write down “The Why” before you set out to do anything. Post it on your mirror, carry it in your wallet, set a reminder on your phone, whatever you need to do to keep it on the forefront of your mind as you move towards your goal.

Then, take the time to frequently reassess your connection to “The Why.” If you find you’re losing the connection, remember a couple of things:

Don’t Be Afraid to Adjust Your Expectations

In other words, give yourself a gut check. If you feel you’re in a rut with something you once found yourself on fire for; take a look at what your expectations are. Are they realistic? Are they in line with why you even started doing it? Don’t let them overshadow the reason you’re doing it. Don’t be afraid to adjust them to allow you to refocus on “The Why.”

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” ~Zig Ziglar

Embrace the Enjoyment of the Process

Get out of the habit of focusing on the result. Instead, embrace the process. Run not because you want to be an Olympic runner, but for the pure joy of running. Practice a craft not because you want to make a bunch of money, but because it makes you happy.

“The road leading to a goal does not separate you from the destination; it is essentially a part of it.” ~Charles DeLint

Funny thing, that motivation. As you move forward with your goals, remember the most important thing to keep your motivation alive is staying connected with “The Why.”

What’s the Why in your goals?

Have an amazing day! If you know someone who needs to read this, please share!


4 Questions to Help You Get Unstuck in Life or Avoid Being Stuck All Together

Ruby Throated Hummingbird in a Flower GardenIt is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts. ~K.T. Jong

Hummingbirds happen to be my favorite bird. They are the tiniest birds alive, but they’re also very smart. They can remember every flower they feed from and know exactly how long to wait before returning to it. I also love to watch them because I feel they have grace and beauty unlike any other bird.

One of the saddest experiences I’ve had with a hummingbird is the day we tried and failed to rescue one. Somehow the little guy had found his way into our screened-in backyard. When we found him, he was lying down on one of the chairs near our back door.

He was exhausted from flying around for who knows how long trying to find his freedom. Immediately, my mom got some of our hummingbird food and put it in a flat dish while I cradled the bird in my hands trying to help him eat. Incredibly, he perked up just enough to take a few sips of the nectar. His little body began to regain strength and he could hold his head up on his own.

We smiled in relief as the little bird suddenly regained life.  And then, just like that, I felt his little body stiffen and collapse. He died in my hands. It broke our hearts as we buried him and said a little prayer for his life.

I later read that with the amount of effort it takes for a hummingbird to fly as fast as they do, if they don’t have food within as little as one hour, they can starve to death.

I thought quite a bit about our little friend that day and into the next. How ironic it was that a single wrong turn landed such a resilient and smart little animal in a place where he was unable to survive.

It’s so easy in life to end up in a situation much like this poor animal.

Where you make one bad decision, make one wrong move, and all of a sudden you find yourself in a place that becomes threatening to your very livelihood. Maybe it’s a person you have a relationship with, or a habit you’ve developed, or maybe it’s a state of mind that has taken control over your actions. Whatever it may be, it’s something that is depleting the joy and purpose from your life.

Here’s the beautiful difference between us and that hummingbird; we have the consciousness of mind to be able to prevent ourselves from getting into those situations that starve us of our happiness. And, if we do in fact end up in such a place, we’re still able to see the situation for what it is and make the necessary choices to change it for the better.

You may be asking yourself:

“How can I do that?”

“How can I prevent myself from getting into a trap like that?”

“How can I get myself out of the hole I’m in?”

The answer is simple, and it starts with shutting off all the noise in your life, taking some time to reflect, and asking yourself some important questions.

Get Unstuck By Answering 4 Questions

Is the situation I’m in a reflection of who I really am?

If you are facing circumstances that seem to be draining you of joy, this is the first thing you should be asking yourself. Does it fit with who you are? Does it fit with who you want to be and what you want to do in your life?

If the answer is no, then you know you need to get out of it.  We innately want to live a life that is filled with meaning and purpose. If the situation you’re in is draining your world of these things, instead leaving you feeling empty and lost, then that is a sure-fire sign to move on.

How did I get here?

When answering this question, be careful to avoid pointing the finger of blame on others. We can’t blame our circumstances on others; we are ultimately accountable for our own actions.

Being able to move past the desire to blame others, and look within at what you personally did or did not do to get to where you are is how you find what you’re able to repair. When you identify the problem, you can begin to formulate a plan on how to fix it.

What do I need to change in order to change my circumstances?

Once you find what actions led you to where you are, you can then work towards change to avoid getting there again, and to remove yourself from the situation.

It’s important to remember the difference between what we can and can’t control in our lives. Focus your energy not on what  you can’t change, but what you can. Focus on what you can do to bring yourself out of toxic place into a positive and productive one.

What are my lifelines?

Don’t make the mistake of taking on change without recognizing and utilizing the lifelines you have. Maybe it’s a friend, or family, or a support network. Maybe it’s someone whose been in similar shoes and can offer the insight you need to see things differently.

Lifelines are not only found in other people. Don’t forget to use your own strengths in conjunction with the help you find from others. Remind yourself of what you’ve already overcome in your life and how you did it. Remember the will power you’ve had before and the determination you possess to pull through adversity.

We all face defining moments that will test us in life. Sometimes we make the wrong decision and end up in a place we don’t need to be. When that happens, it’s not what got us there that defines us, it’s what gets us through it.

Today’s Challenge: Take a moment and reflect on your life. Are you stuck or unstuck?

If you know someone who can benefit from this post, please share!