Must Read Advice On How to Cope When Your Loved Ones Make Bad Decisions

Sometimes God can speak very loudly to us about certain lessons in life. The key is how we choose to listen, and what we do with those lessons.

A Helping HandThis last week has been a parade of disappointments as multiple people in my life have made bad decisions despite the help and advice offered by others. It’s heartbreaking to watch someone you love go down a path you know is the wrong one. There’s a sense of helplessness as you try desperately to reach them, but to no avail.

Unfortunately, this feeling is not unfamiliar to me at all. I’ve watched people I love dearly, my father in particularly, continue to make self-destructive choices. I’ve struggled with the pain of watching him from the very early years of my youth. It used to break my heart into a million pieces each time I spoke to him, knowing the help I was offering was not being received.

I feel it important to share a piece of his story that I don’t often. For the past six years, my father has been homeless. The worst part of his situation is that it’s 100% by choice. He still has a job. He makes enough money to support himself, but  doesn’t. This has been one of our family’s biggest challenges, and continues to test us all.

I’ve learned some valuable lessons from my father, and the pain I’ve experienced from his situation. What’s interesting, is seeing the same lessons resurface in multiple ways, with multiple people throughout my life. This last week in particular. I’ve seen a lot of people hurting, and I’ve shared a lot of that pain. So, today, I want to share some of the insights I’ve used my whole life when it comes to the pain in other people’s decisions.

This particular pain and how it can rear it’s ugly head in both the people we influence as well as those that influence us.

In Those We Influence

We all have influence on others. Sometimes, it’s in a formal role in our careers as a leader or supervisor, within the family as a parent or elder, or even as a friend. Our actions and words impact others. I often speak about the importance of using that influence in the right way, knowing how powerful it is. But sometimes, it falls on deaf ears.  No matter how much you love someone, they may not be ready to hear what you say.

How do you deal with that helplessness? It’s not easy, it still hurts, but I’ve found comfort in the following ways:

1. Live Your Own Advice

We’ve all learned how much louder our actions speak than our words.  The people we influence are watching us much more than they listen to us. By living what we advise, we reach people through both.

2. Love Them Genuinely and Fully

Sometimes this is all we can do. To love another is often the most powerful way to help them. Even when our advice and offers for help aren’t accepted,  never stop loving. Love more. I’ve learned the best way to build our own spiritual strength is to love.

That doesn’t mean you give and give and give until you have nothing left to give. It means you offer your support and advice when you can, and when you can’t, you find other ways to love them.

 In Those That Influence Us

The people that influence us such as our own parents, supervisors, and friends can make bad decisions that may impact us significantly. The pain from their poor decisions is difficult because we hurt from someone else’s mistakes. It often catches us off guard, leaving us feeling betrayed and confused.

How do you move past this?

1. Seek the Lesson

There always is one. Sometimes it’s easy to see, and others it takes a while to surface. If we embrace that it’s there, it helps us to understand. I’ve learned so much from others’ mistakes. While it hurt me; I learned things to avoid, decisions not to make, and how it feels to be on the receiving end of a bad decision.

Become very intentional in taking those lessons learned and applying them to your own life. Learn to make it count.  Condition your mind to think: If I had to go through this, I better take something from it.

2. Focus on Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not easy by any means. It took me many of my adult years to come to a place where I could forgive my father. When I did, I felt a huge weight lifted from my heart.

We must learn to forgive and free that space in our hearts that our anger, sadness, and pain lived and replace it with what brings us value.

We all have trials and tribulations we must face. We will take many different roles in the lives of others as they face their own. As we all come through those difficult times, we must remember the power of love and forgiveness.

Where do you draw your strength from?

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Learn to Appreciate the Journey as Much as Where It Takes You

“Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint you can on it.”~Danny Kaye

Ever find you’re way too focused on the end result that you forget to appreciate how you got there?

The Story

Our First Picture as a couple in 2003. Taken a week after the 1st Date

Our First Picture as a couple in 2003. Taken a week after the 1st Date

I was 22 years old, and it was the night of my first date with my husband Greg. We met when we both lived in Las Vegas.  I planned the date, thinking it was a great opportunity to impress him with a night of good food and fun. I decided we couldn’t possibly go wrong with P.F. Chang’s for dinner, and so I quickly decided that’s where we would share our first meal.

Anyone who knows me at all, knows that my sense of direction is certainly not one of my attributes. Many, including Mr. Greg Clark, would argue it’s the extreme opposite. The problem is, I seem to elude a strong sense of confidence in where we’re going, even if I really have no idea where we are.

Greg learned this very early in the relationship, the night of our first date actually. I just knew without a doubt the restaurant was on Charleston Blvd.,  so that’s where I directed him to go. We drove up and down that road at least five or six times searching for P.F. Chang’s hoping it would perhaps “magically” appear. After about an hour of driving, we decided to try another location we were both sure of. So, we drove clear across town, only to find the wait for a table on a Friday night was at least an hour.

So, we got back in the car, and drove back towards Charleston, both starving. We didn’t care where we ate at that point, just anywhere that had food. Eventually, we stumbled upon a wonderful little Italian restaurant, and after a two hour drive around Las Vegas, we finally had dinner. Later, we found out the street the place was on was Flamingo…not Charleston. “Oops!” I said with a smile.

It could have been so easy to get frustrated; especially since we were both starving, but we didn’t. I probably should’ve been  embarrassed that I led my future husband on a “wild goose chase” on our first date, but I wasn’t. We could’ve left that evening and never spoke again because it didn’t go as planned…but we all know that didn’t happen.

Why? In that two hours of driving around, we had the best conversation. We learned so much about each other, we laughed and joked, and got so caught up in enjoying each other’s company, that where we were driving to was the last thing on our minds.

Now, almost twelve years later, Greg knows better than to trust me when I say I know where we’re going, and I’m very thankful for having a GPS.

The Lesson:

As silly as that story is, it carries an important message. Sometimes we need a reminder to embrace and appreciate the ride just as much as where we’re going. Don’t get so focused on “getting there” in your world, that you miss some pretty incredible things that happen along the way.

When you find yourself frustrated because things aren’t happening as you thought they should, take a deep breath, and reflect on the journey you’ve traveled to get where you are. What have you learned? How have you grown? What have you gained from the experience?

Remember our lives are filled with moments. Moments that come to define who we are and what happens next. Don’t miss those moments. Cherish them instead.

Today, and everyday, be aware of those moments, and be grateful for them.

 How have you grown from unexpected detours in your life?

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It’s Never too Late to Let Go of the Baggage that Weighs You Down

Why do you suppose we hang on to things in our life that do nothing but bring us down? We’ve even gone so far as to give it a name….we call it “Baggage.” I’d like to share a story that gave me a whole new perspective on the importance of letting go of the unnecessary things in our lives.

It was early 2006, Greg and I were engaged and living in Las Vegas. We had a brand new Harley Davidson motorcycle and decided one fall weekend to take it on a trip to the Grand Canyon. I’d always wanted to go, and what better way to go than on the bike?

Jenn and Greg Grand Canyon 2006Once we arrived, we woke up early and made our way to the park. As soon as we got to the edge, I was speechless as I took in the beauty in front of me.  No picture I’d ever seen could do it justice. It was majestic. As we took it all in, we sat and daydreamed of what the future had in store for us, knowing in just a few short months we’d be married.

After that moment together, we decided to see more of the park. It was when we got up that we met a lady I’ll never forget. As I was walking by her, I could see her looking out into the canyon with a certain kind of determination in her eyes.

She kept rubbing something in her hand.  She saw me and asked, “Excuse me ma’am, can you please help me?”

I looked closer and saw she had tears in her eyes. “Of course!” I said, “What do you need?”

“Can you please take my picture?” I nodded with a smile as I reached for her camera.

“It’s not just any picture,” she continued, “I need you to time it just right, to capture me throwing this into the canyon,” she said as she opened her hand to show me what she’d been holding. I looked at it with disbelief. It was her wedding ring!

All I could say was “Are you sure?

She smiled and said, “This is the one thing I’ve never been more sure about in my life honey! I’ve traveled from clear across the country to do this.” I could see the painful determination in her eyes, and knew her words were genuine.

We got in position, counted to three, and then she threw it. I couldn’t believe the relief that came over her face as soon as she did it. She looked almost gitty as she gave me a huge hug of thanks, and took a deep sigh of relief as she looked out into the canyon.

She took her baggage, and not only got rid of it; but threw it into the Grand Canyon! If that’s not closure, I don’t know what is! I’ve remembered her in the many years since that day due to her courage in being able to let go.

We all have unfortunate things happen that hurt and disappoint us. We tend to hang on to those things and let them bring us down. Imagine the freedom, the relief we could get if we learned to let them go?

Let’s take inventory of some of the most common things we carry and how we can benefit from letting them go:

  • People:

People can be the heaviest burden we bare. We can let other people’s opinions, judgments, words, and actions creep in and fill our hearts with pain. We have to learn to recognize who really belongs in our worlds, and who we need to let go. I call it the  “Forgive and Release.”

It’s not easy to forgive, but when you can, you are truly able to release that person from your heart. If you don’t, they will continue to occupy space that could be filled with someone who truly loves and appreciates you for you. The people in your life should bring you value, and you to them. Look at the space in your heart as precious real estate, reserved only for the perfect tenants.

  • Bad Habits:

Man! These things are hard to let go of! It takes so little to learn them, and so much to get rid of them. But, we have to continue to be aware of what we do and how it affects us and those we care about. Remind yourself of what those habits are doing to your health, your mindset, motivation, and attitude. If it’s negative, what can you replace it with instead?

We’ve all been taught our actions are much louder than our words. The more we can replace our bad habits with things that make us better, the more fulfilling our lives become.

  • Failures, Mistakes, and Short-Comings

If we had a way to measure how much time we celebrate our successes vs. how much time we dwell on our failures, I can guarantee the vast majority of us would be spending way too much time in the later. We give so much more energy to what goes wrong instead of what goes right.

Don’t get me wrong, we need to give it some energy, but we can’t dwell on it. Instead, look at your misfortunes as an opportunity to grow. They all have a lesson, they all give us humility and the tools we need to move forward better than what we were before. Once you find what you needed from it, let it go.

The world is filled with so much that can weigh us down. Find the courage to let go of the baggage that becomes dead weight. Fill your life with people, habits, and experiences that improve, energize, and bring your balance.

Why do you think we carry so much baggage in our lives?  

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What a Child Can Teach Us About Giving

For it is in giving that we receive. ~Francis of Assisi

There are some moments as a parent when my heart fills with pride as I witness my children developing into such amazing little people.  This week, my little girl gave me one of those moments. She’s in preschool this year, and it’s so fun to watch her mind blossoming with all that she’s learned already. She comes home telling me about her day and what they learned, who she played with, and can’t wait to show me what she created.

Lately, she’s been so excited to give me her art saying, “Mommy, you can take this to work and show all your friends how much I love you.” As you can imagine, I just eat it up. The other night, she took it even one step further.

We were sitting down to dinner, and out of nowhere she said, “Mom, I really need to make a picture for my teacher, I think it should be her birthday tomorrow.”

“Oh! Ok sure!” I said, “Is it actually her birthday tomorrow sweetie?”

She simply replied, “It is now!”

After we finished eating, she eagerly ran to her room, grabbed a coloring book and markers and began to work meticulously on the picture. She was so careful to stay in the lines and was very selective on which colors she used. The whole time she kept saying how excited she was about giving it to Ms. Jolyn.

It took her almost 30 minutes to finish, and I kept telling her it was bath time, but she had “just one more color” to add. At last, she was done, and placed her masterpiece in her folder with pride as she anticipated Ms. Jolyn’s reaction when she saw it the next day.

Ayla and her picture for her teacherThe next morning she couldn’t wait to give it to her, and she was so happy to see her teacher’s reaction.

The part of this whole thing that I felt was worth sharing is how much joy she took in the simple act of giving. She gave genuinely; with no hidden agendas. She did it just to make her teacher happy.

Her little heart is such an important reminder for all of us. Giving; for the sole purpose of wanting to bring joy to another, is such a powerful thing. I would even argue that it does just as much, if not more, for the giver as the recipient.

Sometimes, in our busy, chaotic, lives, we forget the value of the connections we have with each other. We forget how good it feels to serve one another. We forget to be generous with our hearts. We forget how good it feels when we make someone smile.

So today, I challenge you to give to another for no other reason than to just give. Whether it be something tangible, your time, your ear to a friend who needs someone to listen, your expertise, or just a helping hand… just give. I guarantee you’ll leave that situation with some of the best tasting, most nutritious, and most satisfying soul food around!

 When was the last time you gave to another? What did you give?

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Learn How to Stay Connected with the “Why” When it Comes to Goals

Jenn 1st tri 09.13.14Well! After three months of training, filled with successes and struggles, my first triathlon is now complete! What a ride it was!

As I anticipated, I struggled the most with the swim. The water was murky, I got kicked and bumped into, but I still did much better with my nerves than I had in my training. I didn’t panic; which was an accomplishment in and of itself.

The bike was amazing, by far my favorite part. The run was hot and felt like it would never end; but it eventually did.

Needless to say, when it was all over, I took much more from the experience than just the physical accomplishment. One of my favorite things about doing a triathlon is how individual it is.

As I’ve written before, my husband and good friend Tonya both did the event, but when that whistle blew, we were all on our own. I said going into the race, “I’m racing no one but myself,” and that’s exactly what I did.

As others passed me, or I them, it remained a very personal experience.  I knew I wasn’t the fastest; but I also knew I had it in me to finish, and that’s where I focused my energy.

Doing this race made me reflect on our individual journeys in life.  It can be really hard to stay committed to what we say we’re going to do. When things don’t necessarily go our way, it’ so easy to stop, give up, and go back to doing what we feel the most comfortable doing. Even if that means we resume doing what may not be in our best interest.

When it comes to walking the road less traveled, how do we stay engaged and motivated to stay the course? I believe it is largely due to being connected with the “Why” behind it.  When we can tap into, and hold onto, the “Why,” it brings us strength and the will to keep going. There are two things that can help us connect with it:

  1. Knowing our motivation comes from within
  2. Embracing it’s your individual journey

Let’s look at how it works throughout the process of achieving a goal:

When it Begins

When you set out to do something, whether it be physical, a healthy lifestyle change, a new endeavor,  or career path, it should begin with a certain desire to make it so. When we commit to something, it has to be because we really want to. When we do things solely for the reason that someone else wants us to, it’s really hard to take the plunge and start.

If you do it because you want it, you have an abundant resource of motivation within. If you embrace you’re doing it for you, and realize it’s your journey, it becomes a much more important goal to achieve. My decision to do the tri is a great example. I did it because I really wanted to. I knew going into it I was doing it for no other reason than to challenge and better myself. No one pushed me to do it.

Along the Way

This is the hardest place to remain committed. Especially when things don’t go your way. You can begin to crush your spirit with self doubt and then that urge to quit creeps in and it becomes difficult to keep going.

This is when you have to hold on to that “Why” the most. You have to dig deep, remind yourself of what motivated you within when you started. The challenging part is to embrace that it’s your personal journey. We tend to compare ourselves to others, and expect our outcomes to mimic theirs.

When I first started training, I was so intimidated by my husband Greg and how fit he was compared to me. It got even more challenging when I realized just how weak I was in the swim when my friend Tonya didn’t have the same struggles I did in the open water. It seemed that every person I encountered along the way seemed to do everything much faster and more efficiently than me. I had to take a step back, realize I wasn’t running their race, I was running my own. I had to remember Why I wanted to do it, what my goals were, and get back into my zone.

Reaching the End

When you complete something you’ve worked hard for, it should feel great. However, we can tend to beat ourselves up if we don’t finish in the way we’d hoped. We can get too focused on what went wrong, and short change ourselves for what we did right. We’re our own worst critics.

When I finished and looked at my times, sure, I saw areas that needed improvements. Of course the big one was my swim. I was also slow  during the transitions.  My run wasn’t as fast as it could’ve been. But you know what? Who cares!! I did it! I refused to let my shortcomings overshadow the accomplishment I worked so hard for.

If you find yourself doing that, stop it! Remember the Why! Remember what motivated you to even start. Remember it’s your journey, and yours alone. Don’t let comparing to someone else and the could’ve, would’ve , should’ve thoughts in your head minimize what you’ve accomplished.

The moral of the story is this…we can do incredible things when we put our mind to it. When we can really connect with that Why and use it as a motivation to start, endure, and finally accomplish what we set out to do.

What is your biggest “Why” with the goals you’re working towards now?

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How Telling Your Story and Learning to Listen are Essential in Healing

Hope in the cloudsHello everyone! It’s so great to be back with you! While I needed my little hiatus to focus on A Veteran’s Gateway to Hope, I have to say how much I missed you guys. I’m so happy to back and happy to report what a success the event was. It took a much deeper look at the invisible wounds our veterans face. In 2013 NBC News reported that twenty two veterans commit suicide a day. Twenty two……

There were moments of teaching, moments of learning, and moments of just listening.

One of the most powerful parts of the event was when a panel of five veterans shared their stories with the audience. After each person was done, we had a minute of silence to reflect on what we’d just heard. I was one of the veterans who shared my story. As many of you are aware, I struggled desperately with PTSD after my deployment to Afghanistan in 2008.

Sharing again and being with other veterans who experienced the horrible realities of war was incredibly moving. It was so interesting how five complete strangers connected in those moments on stage.

Throughout the conference, we explored the traditional therapies of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as healing even deeper on much more spiritual level. In my opinion, the spiritual brokenness that a person whose experienced something like war endures, is the part that we haven’t done a good job addressing. It’s the part that needs our attention the most.

I reflected on my own experience as I listened and learned, and realize while I benefited significantly from the traditional cognitive behavioral therapy, I know the repair that I did to my soul is what really helped me get through such a dark time of my life.

I thought the event was so beautiful in the way that many of the attendees, speakers like myself, and even the organizers, took different roles as teachers, students, and listeners. So! I have two big takeaways to share that will benefit everyone, regardless if you’re a veteran, or someone whose suffered from a traumatic event:

  1. The value of telling your story
  2. The importance of listening

Here’s why we can all benefit from these two things:

The Value of Telling Your Story

Telling your story has a two-fold benefit:

  •  It helps you to heal:

I can say this from very personal experience. I started sharing what I went through in the very early stages of my struggles. I’m talking about getting on stage and talking to a room full of strangers sharing! Granted, not everyone can do that, but the more I talked about it, the more it helped me to process the emotions I needed to feel. As much as I wanted to tuck those memories away and never face them again, talking about it was therapeutic.

  • It helps others to heal:

Using your experiences to serve others is one of the most substantial gifts you could give to your fellow man. I knew I needed to share what I went through, and so I finally gained enough courage to publish 166 Days My Journey Through the Darkness, hoping desperately that it would help someone else experiencing a similar pain.

What I didn’t realize is how much serving others with my own pain, shortcomings, failures, has helped me to heal as well. Now, this is something I actually speak about on a regular basis. Using your experiences to serve others….brings incredible purpose to what you’ve endured.

What’s your story? How can you benefit from sharing it to others? How can you help others with your experiences?

The Importance of Listening

Listening is such an important action, yet most of us aren’t very good at it. Why is that? Often it’s because we get so focused on what we want to say, that we don’t take the time to allow others to reach us. Have you ever been a patient in an exam room, and the provider comes in, tells you what’s wrong with you, shakes your hand and walks out before you even get a word in edgewise? As a medical provider myself, and also someone who’s gone through that exact scenario, I know how awful that feels.  The sad thing is, we do it to each other all the time. To our friends, families, loved ones, and even people we just meet. We don’t listen to each other. Listening is so important for a couple of reasons:

  • When you listen, you comfort and heal

Sometimes, that’s all a person needs is someone to listen. They don’t need you to solve their problems, or give advice. They just need your time, your attention, and your ear. By listening, you create a trust and comfort with the person sharing with you. Imagine the courage it must take to go to another person and share vulnerability. Sometimes we have to make a conscious effort to really listen. Sometimes, our best words are the ones unspoken.

  • When you listen, you learn

When you take the time to truly listen, it’s amazing what you can learn from someone else. What they can share with you can offer provide you with insights into your own life.  We have so much to offer each other. When we recognize the value in listening to each other, we gain such strength.

How well do you listen? Can you think of a time listening to someone has helped you?

We all face adversity, we all have times when we are hungry for hope. After being a part of such an important conference, I feel my soul rejuvenated, and my hope is high that we will continue to find ways to heal the invisible wounds many of us carry. Remember the value of telling your story and the importance of listening; both such important parts of healing.

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Taking A Pause for an Incredible Cause

To my wonderful blog followers,

I am going to be on a short hiatus from new posts until September 11th, 2014. I’m preparing for an amazing conference the 9-10th of September in Montgomery, Alabama called Gateway to Hope Breaking the Stigma of Moral Injury.

Gateway to Hope

Here’s what it’s all about:

Gateway To Hope seeks to educate all who care about our nation’s veterans about the consequences of the spiritual wounds of war and our responsibility to support their recovery.  Participants will learn about moral injury and its relationship to PTSD and sexual trauma, and about creating safe communities of support for veterans to tell their stories and reflect morally on them. They will also explore ways to reintegrate veterans into the civilian world, without leaving them to suffer invisibly and in silence.

I am so honored to be a part of this important conference. As many of  my readers know, I have a very personal experience with Post Traumatic Stress and Moral Injury, which I describe in detail in my book 166 Days My Journey Through the Darkness.

I need to focus my efforts in my preparation over the next twelve days! But not to worry! I’ll be back with some incredible insights to share!

For more information on Gateway to Hope Breaking the Stigma of Moral Injury, go to:

What Jumping Out of a Plane Taught Me About Courage

Be Courageous“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ~Nelson Mandela

I’m quite sure that what I did yesterday was easily the craziest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I jumped out of an airplane flying 10,000 feet in the air. It was tandem jump with a freefall that lasted about 45 seconds before we pulled the parachute.

The feeling was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Every second of the descent was invigorating, I honestly didn’t want it to end.  It was such an adrenaline rush, it took me at least 20 minutes to come down from it after we landed.

My husband Greg and I jumped together; it was something we both had on our “Bucket List” for several years.

As we watched the training video, suited up, and finally got on the plane, we looked at each other knowing how nervous the other one was. The ride up to the drop zone seemed like it was never going to end. I watched Greg’s goggles fog up and his hands get clammy as we got closer and closer to “Go Time.”  Before we knew it, the door opened and there was no turning back.  Greg was first out of the plane, and as I watched him jump, I felt my heart beating out of my chest.

Before I knew it, it was my turn. I put my left foot out on the tiny platform outside the door, followed by my right, my pilot counted to three, and we jumped! The rest is history! It was an incredible experience I would do over and over again. I absolutely loved it. I wouldn’t have been able to do it however, if I didn’t find the courage to make the jump.

The experience I had with skydiving is a great example of the importance of having courage in life. Skydiving was something I really wanted to do, but I had to overcome my fears and muster up the courage to just do it.  Often, we can let fear paralyze us from doing what we’re truly meant to do in life. We get caught up in what others might think, the idea of failure, and the fear of the unknown. Looking within and finding the courage to do what matters is vital to living a fulfilling life.

How to Find Courage When You Need it the Most

  • Face Your Fears Head On

We all have fears. Sometimes, those fears can be a good thing, they can actually serve as a motivator, or keep us away from doing something that could be harmful. What we have to be careful of, is letting them overwhelm us and prevent us from doing what matters.

One of the best ways to move past our fears is to face them head on. Don’t hide from them, learn what they are, where they come from, and why you have them. Once you understand them you can learn to overcome them.

  • Embrace Failure

Huh? Did you read that right? Yep, you did. We will all fail. It’s part of how we grow. Courage comes from learning from those failures. Embrace the mistakes you’ve made, and learn how to avoid making them again.

If you can come to embrace failure is a part of growth, you learn to handle life’s hiccups as they come. Sure, none of us set out to fail, but when we do, we have to be able to pick ourselves back up again. That’s where true courage really begins.

  • Begin With the End in Mind

Such a powerful thought by Stephen Covey. I lean to this time and time again in my own life. When I feel fear creeping in and starting to take over, I pause, think for a minute on what I’m working to accomplish, and I find I’m able to keep going. Keep the end result in the forefront of your mind, know you will have some trials and tribulations along the way…but keep going and eventually you’ll get there.

I look at life as an incredible adventure. Not just because I do crazy things like skydiving, but because I see how each moment we live helps us grow and develop into what we are meant to be. We have to make those moments count and get the most out of each of them. Be courageous in your life; don’t miss the adventure.

What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

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How to Get Back on the Wagon of Wellness

There’s no shame in falling off the wagon. The shame is in not having the courage to get back on it. ~Adam Hance


800px-Covered_Wagon_In_Scotts_Bluff_National_Monument,_NebraskaWise words spoken by my friend Adam who understands them well. He went running with us last night, which was his first time running in over 8 months. He told us he’d really fallen back into his old habits of not taking care of himself and it was time to make a change.

We invited him to run with us last week, and I was happily surprised to find out yesterday that he was coming.  Unfortunately, we had a longer day than expected at work, forcing him to wait over an hour on us. He could’ve easily given up out of frustration, but he didn’t. In fact, he was the first one out there when we finally made it to the park.

The run was for 40 minutes, and it was hot.  It was painful for him. Heck, it was painful for me too! By the end of it his legs and knees were on fire and he was physically spent. He could’ve easily gotten in his truck and said “See ya! Never doing that again!” but he didn’t. Instead his words were “See ya next week guys!”

When I got home I got a text from him saying:  “There’s no shame in falling off the wagon. The shame is in not having the courage to get back on it. Here it is in a text so you can call me out when I need it…Day 1 Transformation.”

His words really resonated with me. We all struggle with staying motivated. Whether it’s with fitness, health, or goals in general. That temptation to take the easy way instead of the road less traveled can get the best of us. It’s easier to fall back into a bad habit than to make a positive change.

So, how do you get back on that wagon once you fall off it?

  • Surround Yourself with What Motivates You

As simple as it sounds, it’s incredibly effective. One of my biggest motivators is hearing other people’s stories. When I see people with unthinkable challenges and adversity who’ve done what I’m trying to do, I’m able to dig deep and find the strength to push through. Put me in front of the Ironman documentary, which outlines the stories of the participants in the Kona Ironman, you better have a box of Kleenex waiting for me! I get so emotional watching the amazing character these people have. Their stories are some of the most inspirational I’ve heard.

I also look to my husband. He’s such an example of a healthy lifestyle. When I feel myself slipping, I think of him and how dedicated he is. The point is, get rid of the stuff that brings you down. Replace it with what motivates you to dig deep and surround yourself with it.

  • Eliminate the Potential Temptations

If it’s a weakness, remove it from the equation. I, for one, have a problem with sweets. I absolutely love them! I could eat a whole family size bag of M&Ms if I had a chance. So, I don’t buy them. I don’t even give myself the chance to go M&M crazy.

If sitting on the couch watching TV is a weakness, don’t turn it on. If bad habits like smoking, drinking too much, or overeating are the problem, cut those things from your world. Avoid situations that tempt you to do them. Don’t stop at the drive-thru on the way home. If driving past it is a temptation, find another route.  Instead, take the money you spend on your bad habits and start saving it for something you’ve always wanted to do.

  • Remind Yourself of the Why

What are you trying to accomplish? Where do you want to go? What is it about your life right now that you want to change in a positive way? Why?

When you can answer the why, it gives you more buy-in. When someone tells you to do something, your likely first inclination is to ask why. We innately to ask this question. When we understand the reason, we then agree or disagree to do something.

The same goes with keeping yourself motivated. Understand and lean on the Why.

That wagon can be extremely difficult to stay on. Especially when it starts traveling down the bumpy roads and it gets harder and harder to hold on. When that happens, remember to fill your life with what motivates you, eliminate the temptations that bring you down, and always remember the Why.

What helps keep you motivated when times get tough?

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How to Be More than What They Think

Be More than What They ThinkIf you had to guess, who in this picture would you think has completed multiple triathlons; to include a 1/2 Ironman? In case you aren’t familiar, the 1/2 Ironman consists of a 1.1 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, and 13.1 mile run. This same person also became a hero to me on this day. Her name was Grace, and I couldn’t think of a more fitting word to describe her. She’s the lady standing in the middle.

My friend Tonya and I are training for our first triathlon in September. We have come such a long way, but the swim has by far been the biggest challenge. We had to forget everything we thought we knew about how to swim and learn to be more efficient. We’ve spent hours in the pool getting rid of our bad habits.

Unfortunately for us, the race doesn’t take place in the pool; it’s in the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The waters are an amazing sight, but they’re also home to many different species of sharks and things that bite and sting.

Because of this, I’ve been struggling with my fears.  Getting comfortable swimming in the open water has been a real challenge for me. This day was no exception. In fact, it’s probably the hardest day I’ve had in the ocean. Perhaps watching way too much Shark Week on the Discovery Channel didn’t help. The crazy guy that was on the beach that day telling shark stories right before we swam didn’t either.

Tonya and I decided to meet up with a group of people who were going to be doing a swim that day. We felt like the more people, the safer we’d be. As soon as we got started, I felt myself begin to panic. I started thinking about the likelihood  a shark was swimming close by, and I began to struggle. It seemed like each breath I took, I swallowed salt water instead.  Several times I had to stop to regain my composure. Each time I did, so did Grace and Tonya. They encouraged me to keep going.

Grace was so kind to this crazy lady she’d never met before. She shared with me how she’s overcome her own fears, she made me laugh, and most importantly, she motivated me to keep going. We ended up swimming close to a mile that day, and the second half was much easier, all because of her kindness. I have to say, what I will remember much more than the accomplishment of completing the swim, is Grace.

I was beyond impressed with her, both by her attitude and athleticism. I never would’ve guessed if I’d met her on the street. This brings me to the point of this post: Judgment and preconceived notions.

We’re all guilty of having them, and we’re also all victims of them. There are too many times to count that I’ve been judged because of being a woman, the way I looked, where I was from, etc. So how do we move past them?

Be More Than What They Think You Are

  • Be Confident

When I arrived at the firebase when I deployed to Afghanistan with a team of Green Berets, I knew I’d have to prove myself. As soon as I stepped off the Chinook, all eyes were on me. I felt them sizing me up, wondering if I could handle being there. It was intimidating to say the least.I got through the initial, and short-lived judgments by being confident in my abilities. I knew I could do the job, and I did.

Be confident in who you are and what you bring to the table. We can all learn from each other. You have so much to offer, a unique perspective, experience, and mindset. Don’t let other’s ideas of what you appear to be suppress who you really are.

  • Be Kind

Hands down, one of the easiest ways to win someone over is to be kind. Grace is a shining example of this. She didn’t have to take the time to reassure me and help me along. She could’ve easily continued swimming, never saying a word. Her kindness showed me so much more of who she was.

  • Be The Unexpected

Over time you can begin to anticipate what people will automatically assume about you. If that assumption is accurate, great! But if it’s not, then it’s your job to prove them wrong. Be what they don’t expect. If they assume you’re weak, be strong. If they think you aren’t going to stay the course, be the last one to leave. Know what they assume, and be intentional about being the opposite of what they expected.

  • Be Genuine

Know who you are and be proud of it! We’re all unique. We all have our flaws, as well as the things that make us special. Embrace what makes you individual.

Be genuine. Don’t try to be something you’re not. People may or may not like you…and that’s ok. All you can be is yourself. Be the authentic you.

What is something great about you most people would find surprising?

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