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Listen to the Whisper

Listen to the Whisper

Embracing courage seems so simple in the life of a child.

It’s a little second grader asking a new friend to play with her at recess, risking the chance she’ll say no.

It’s jumping off that first little diving board into the arms of a swimming instructor.

It’s putting their arms out to catch that ball just thrown to them.

I am convinced that courage is the key element in a life well-lived.   I’m also convinced that admitting that we’re lacking courage is a profoundly difficult thing for adults to do. Because it’s so easy to just continue our day-to-day lives without any examination of our dreams and the courage it takes to pursue it.

Mid-life, I think, is an interesting time to take on the concept of courage.  Typically, this season of life brings about reflection about what has been accomplished and a contemplation of how to make the most impact on others for the remainder of our life.  To be willing to “jump off that diving board” into the unknown takes a lot of courage, because honestly, there’s a lot at stake.  But, perhaps, there’s even more at stake, if you don’t embrace the courage and jump.

For me, it’s a matter of being being at a point where I’ve found success, but knowing that there’s something more that utilizes my talents in a way that benefits others even more.

I am hearing a whisper about what that is.

I’ve tried to deny it.

I’ve tried to ignore it.

And, I’ve tried to say it wasn’t true.

But, the whisper remains.

Why?  Because it takes courage to respond to a whisper that alters the direction of your life. It’s not what was in “the plan.”  It’s not how I defined success before.  But, it is the truth.

So, my first step in applying courage to this whisper is writing it down. Because then, it becomes real.  For me, writing it down, makes it actionable.

Could I easily go on and continue to find success in my current path?  Of course I could.  That’s just who I am.  Progress will always be a part of my life.

But, I’m not going for progress any more.  I’m going for impact. I’m searching for passion.  I’m looking to be the best me I can be, even if it’s a me I didn’t plan for.

If you hear a whisper, I encourage you to listen. Write it down. Let it blossom.  Because that is a life well lived.

Are You Still Broken?

 

LifePlan and Brokenness (1)

“You always put a positive spin on a situation. Why do you do that?” 

Joel, my LifePlan facilitator posed that question to me. That question caught me off guard a little bit.

“Umm…I responded.  It’s just who I am.  I don’t dwell on the negative aspects of life.  I feel like I can see through the challenges for the beauty that’s in them.”

In my head, I was contemplating, “Isn’t that a good thing?”

Admittedly, I was a bit perplexed by his question and honestly, I’m still exploring that question. Positivity is a trait that family, friends and colleague have described me by.  My pride in that probably comes into play.

Fast forward to today, as I am reading Matt Ham’s book, Redefine Rich: A New Perspective on The Good Life. Matt digs into four principles that are represented by the letters in rich.  The first one is Recognize Your Broken.

This particular principle causes me to pause.  Even after reading the chapter about brokenness, something is whispering to me to “keep exploring” this principle.  What does it mean for me?  Why am I caught up on it?

Here’s a peek inside the book and Matt’s thoughts on brokenness.

“This process of understanding brokenness is necessary to obtain the outcome of living richly. In fact, I think we need to work on being broken as a way to grow….Here’s the tension.  The world says, You aren’t broken; you’re fine.  It’s just a phase.”

Here’s what I do know, I pursued and experienced my LifePlan experience with Joel because I was broken. That has been truth that I’ve known for months now and is outlined on my blog here.  It makes sense that I was broken prior to LifePlan, particularly if you look into my root system. That was a past that included an absentee father addicted to drugs.  It included verbal abuse where I was consistently told that I was selfish for pursuing goals and constant attacks behind closed doors and in public on my character.  I had mentors, but I lacked a consistent guide in life.  Thus, I navigated life internally and did the best I could, but it did leave me with misplaced self worth.

Thus, my decision to pursue LifePlan and my life altering discoveries during and afterward.  It was so powerful.

But, what about now?  Am I still broken? After all the discoveries?  Even though I have appropriate placed self worth? Even though my level of content is far beyond what it was a year ago?

There’s a small whisper in me that says a gentle “yes….”

I’m also hearing…

“Here’s the tension.  The world says, You aren’t broken; you’re fine.  It’s just a phase.”  

“You always put a positive spin on a situation. Why do you do that?”  

So, what is still broken?  Is brokenness a big ginormous elephant in the room that can’t be ignored or can be a small aspect of your life that is broken that prevents complete richness?  If so, what is that for me?  Does it lie in a choice I’ve made?  Am I living life on my terms, not society’s?  Am I truly pursuing my passion?  Is there a lie I’m still telling myself?

What I do know about brokenness is this.  It’s a pursuit, one that I might have thought ended with LifePlan, but perhaps it never ends.  Life is challenging and there’s likely always going to be lies that we hear and believe.  Maybe the pursuit of overcoming brokeness is always there?

My first inclination is to deny that.  I find little value in getting caught up in obstacles in life. But, that’s not what I’d be doing, is it?  I would simply be defining the broken aspect and overcoming.

Are you broken? Do you understand that brokenness?  Who can you seek out to help you navigate that?

 

 

 

I am the Writer of my Life

I am the Writer of My Life

I am the writer of my life.

I have choice in my setting

I choose the home I live in, based on my values of living debt free and close to family.That means I am choosing to not live in my dream home yet.

I choose my place of refueling–outside, in the solitude and quietness of the morning.

I choose the place where my talents benefit others.  For now, that is a school setting, and specifically in a classroom so that dialogue about students can take place with teachers.

I choose the characters written in my story. 

I choose my significant other who I will walk through life with. I choose him daily because of who he is.  I choose him in the good times and bad.

I choose to bring children into our life.  I choose to make our son one of the most important people we pour into.

I choose my mentors, both face-to-face and the ones found in books and virtually. That means being proactive about contacting mentors of my past.  And pursuing mentors of my present.

I choose my friends, who add value, joy and connectedness in my life.

I choose my mastermind, a group of ladies who hold me accountable and celebrate my successes.

Within the pages of my book is the plot of my life, constantly being reaped in the small habits that I partake in. 

Sure, I didn’t choose my very beginning, the family I was reared in or their values. But, I did choose to allow them to impact me in a positive way or not to allow them to impact me in a negative way.

I chose to study hard, work hard and be my own person in my K-12 education and athletics.

I choose to exercise on a consistent basis.

I choose gratitude in the small moments of the day.

I choose to lead myself and thus lead others.

I choose to see the beauty in the pain.

I choose to see the beauty in others and in myself.

I chose humbleness and confidence.

I choose courage to be honest with myself.

I choose grace.

I choose to believe that I have significance that is special and unique and will lead to the climax of my story.

I am the writer of my life…and look at the degree of choice I have in it all. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeking Growth? Ask Questions

Seeking Growth- Ask Questions

We live in a society of bold statements. We like bold statements.  They elicit our emotions.  They give us the perception that someone is a leader.  It can even yield group think. 

What if, instead of bold statements, we asked more questions of ourselves, of each other, and of the ideas and beliefs we hold?

Would that not allow us to grow more? Even, if we don’t agree with the answer?

I find this to be true in my work as an instructional coach.  Upon entering this field, I felt I had something to offer. I had knowledge due to my voracious reading and passion on the topic of reading and instruction.  It was my opportunity to invest in others by sharing that knowledge.

I’ve learned coaching is so much more.  In a nutshell, the most effective coaches ask questions.  It is during these conversations that those who I coach grow the most. It’s when I don’t offer them all the answers, but allow them to do the reflecting.

Wouldn’t it be quicker to just tell them what they need to know?  Sure, and sometimes the situation necessitates that.  But, are we going for quicker or more effective and lasting impact?  When I facilitate questioning in a way that allows them to have their own aha’s, the impact is permanent.  When, I tell them what they “need” to know, the impact is short-lived.

Applying this to my personal life, I would say this.  I could easily make bold statements about who I am and the beliefs that I hold.  But, there’s no growth in that, because I’m discussing the truths I already know or the truths as I currently understand them. But, if instead of that, I challenged myself with questions about my talents, my beliefs and the direction in my life, would that not lead to more growth?

For example, I could quickly say “courage” is my top core value, because it allows me to attain my other core values.  It’s a simple, yet bold statement that….stops right there.

Or, I could ask myself: How am I applying courage to my everyday life?  Did I have courage when I was challenged on a topic at work?  Did I have courage to address a difficult conversation with my husband.  Did I have courage to entertain the possibility that I could be wrong about something?  You see, it is these questions that allow growth.  Not the statements.

What questions do you need to ask yourself today?  What questions do you need to ask your team? What questions do you need to pose to your spouse?  

 

Instructional Coaches: Let Others Pour Into You

boat 2

All successful people let others pour into them.

We all have those times in life where we look back and realize we just jumped a hurdle.  You look back in awe and realize  “that was hugely significant in my life!”  Learning that all successful people let others pour into them and living it by letting a life coach guide me was powerful beyond measure.

I’ve been an instructional coach for two years now. My first year, I had no clue what I was doing. I was making it up as I went.  And it was a position that was extremely isolating, as many coaching positions are.  My second year brought on new challenges as I entered a new district and had the opportunity to be coached to some degree.  Though the coaching I was given was limited, it was still powerful.  What I learned in the few interactions with my coach was the most important lessons I learned that year.  And, more importantly, it was during those times our students made the most progress.

Jim Knight talks about how one of the most important factors in the success of a coach is the professional development that they’re given.   If you’re an instructional coach, I cannot encourage you enough to seek out mentors.  Seek out coaches who have “been there, done that,”  because there’s few that really understand the struggles a coach goes through.  And, let me tell you, every single instructional coach has challenges that are hard to navigate through.

I’d like to highlight someone you can seek out.

kathy

Her name is Kathy Perret, an experienced teacher, coach and consultant and co-founder of the #educoach Twitter group.  I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with Kathy via Twitter.  Every conversation I have with her is one in which she is modeling growth in herself and facilitating it in others.  It’s obvious as I witness others interact with her on Twitter, that she is held in high regard.  Most importantly, she has a heart for helping others.

What should you do?

  1. Go to kathyperret.net and familiarize yourself with her philosophy and background.
  2. Peruse the options for customized coaching including initial training, on-going support, and immediate and focused virtual assistance.
  3. Don’t take my word for it, check out her testimonials.
  4. Consider the cost savings as virtual support eliminates travel expenses.
  5. Join the #educoach Twitter chat and see for yourself the community Kathy has helped build.
  6. Email her at kathyperret@gmail.com to see if she can help provide you the professional learning that all coaches need and rarely get.

Instructional coaching can be isolating.  It doesn’t have to be.  

Most of us that enter the realm of instructional coaching are not taught how to be coaches.  Reach out and build your capacity so that you can, in turn, build the capacity of others.

 

Connect, Gain Perspective, Grow

Connect, Gain Perspective, Grow

“Life is change. Growth is optional.” ~Karen Kaiser Clark

This was one of the quotes I put in my senior autobiography our high school English teacher asked us to write. I’ve always used this belief as a foundation on which to build my life.

As I was reflecting today over the last 4-5 years, and particularly this last year, I am amazed at the opportunities for growth that came about in my life because of technological advances in our society.

I’ve wondered why mentors came in an out of my life and honestly, it has bothered me at times. With the lack of parental presence in my life, I learned to become independent at a young age. I was able to find mentors through athletics and my work.

As my life took a different path, I had to fill my yearning for wisdom and perspective elsewhere.

Books were the next logical progression.  These writers were my mentors, so to speak. Books like Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, The Traveler’s Gift, Quiet and Awakening the Sleeping Giant (among many others) became guides for my life.

Then, technology advancements brought me podcasts (ie, Michael Hyatt, Dan Miller, Andy Andrews, Entreleadership, Chris LoCurto). From these podcasts I can get daily inspirations and perspective from those who have walked paths I haven’t yet walked, but will.  They provide answers from people who are passionate about helping others.

It was a podcast that led me to the doors in Franklin, TN where my life would be significantly changed as I took part in Chris LoCurto’s LifePlan event.

And, Twitter allows me to connect (on some level) to others who have a story and a message that provides further perspective.  It’s no exaggeration to say that there are days that the tweets I see coming from people like Joel Fortner, Chris LoCurto and Bruce Van Horn are exactly what I need to “hear” to wake me up. See this post for some of those tweets.

And recently blogs posts from Matt Ham have played a role in my life.

And, all this technology has given me the opportunity to have short conversations with people who can add value to my life.  People I never would have been able to connect with before.

We are all connected more than we ever have been before.  One person’a journey can now significantly impact another’s journey.  Of course, we had that before technology, but the opportunities for it now are only limited by those that don’t engage.

And, you don’t have to be an established coach or thought leader with a tribe.  You just have to have a message a story or a yearning to choose growth.   We all struggle.  We all have the opportunity to overcome.  We all have a story.  Now, more than ever, we have the opportunity to overcome.

Connect, because we are all stronger by sharing our message and gaining perspective through our own life and the lives of others.

I encourage you to click on one of the resources in this post or seek out your own.  These are just ones that have impacted me.

Find someone who has  a message that resonates with you and connect, engage, learn and grow.  Or, even consider sharing your own story. Don’t discount the power your story can have on someone else’s life. 

The Next Five Minutes

5 minutes

“Don’t worry about step 2 or step 222, worry about step 1. What is the next right thing you feel like you’re supposed to do?” ~ Matt Ham

One of my key strengths is listening.  Typically, it’s in regard to conversation, but today it’s in regard to listening to one’s life.  When I first read about listening to your life in Jeff Goins’s book The Art of Work, it really stood out to me. I instantly knew that’s what I needed to do.

What does it mean to listen to your life? That’s a question that could be a post in itself, but for today, it specifically means listening to those statements, oftentimes singular, but powerful statements, that are said to you that could profoundly change your life.

The statement above about focusing on just the next step is one of those statements.

The summer has brought a lot of contemplation about the future. So much so that I consistently awake in the middle of the night. I’ve never been one to do this. I wake with nothing specific on my mind, which causes me confusion as to why I keep awakening. I do think it’s in regard to the future, the enormity of it, what I want and need it to be, the possibilities that exist and the actions I need to take.

Thoughts like that can be both invigorating, but overwhelming.  Thoughts like this:

1) I want a marriage that is solid, strong and one that builds each of us up so much that we can them help one another, our kids and others.

2) I want to significant impact others so that they can live their best life.

3) I want to seize every moment with my son because I know the moment he is little is brief and precious.

4) I want to give all that I need to, all that I’m supposed to, before I die.

Though I think it’s important to take on those thoughts, it can cause us to lose sight of the next five minutes.

Take a listen to this podcast with Matt Ham and Robert D. Smith.  Robert speaks about it in a way that one can’t help but listen to.

Here’s what I believe: If we apply this concept every day, all these small moments will lead to those big moments in life we want to accomplish.  In fact, I would argue, it’s those small moments we need to celebrate because that’s when the change happens. That’s when we affect lives.  That’s when we live our best life.

So, on my list of my “next five minutes” today, I have:

1) Awake early so that I can have reflection and refuel time.

2)  Write this post.

3) Eat a breakfast this is a good balance of protein and fiber.

4) Have a focused and intense work session tonight to prepare for delivering professional development next week.

5) Proactively make the interactions with my husband in a way that shows that I cherish him.  Choose not to let the stress of being the wife of a business owner negatively effect me.

6) Be 100% present.

7) Choose patience, love, and light-heartedness as I interact with my son.  Know that it’s not the amount of time I get with him, but the quality of the time I do.

What will you do with your next five minutes today?

 

Defining Achievement: Part 2

Achievement path

One of the biggest revelations I had during LifePlan was that I got my self worth from achievement. What I’ve realized now is I have to figure out what achievement means to me.

The previous post, Defining Achievement, Part 1, began my journey in defining what achievement means to me.

I had an idea swirling around in my head for part 2.  There were two parts to it:

1) Achievement isn’t what society/culture tells me it is.

2). My definition of achievement in the past may have worked for me, but it doesn’t have to be my definition now.

I re-listened to Christy Wright’s video message about life balance.  I heard something there….something that’s leading me to my definition.

She described what she believed “life balance” to be:

1. Being 100% present

2. Living from your values

3. Living a life that is reflective of what matters to you

One of the most powerful statements she said: Put your time, money and energy in the places that matter to you, because trying to keep up with the demands others have for you will lead to inconsistencies in your life. Then, you’ll be frustrated and bitter.

How many of us do that?  I know I did in my yearning for achievement.  I felt such a pressure to do more, give more, work hours after hours at the expense of my health, my family and my values.

So, I’ve learned to say no this summer. In all honesty, are there times I still feel guilty?  Sure. Because I’m in a transition of living in a way where I allowed culture to determine what and how much I should do; And now,  I am deciding.  That’s a big jump.  Don’t get me wrong though. I allowed that to happen. I’m not pointing my fingers at others, but I do think this is a challenging aspect to our culture, especially if you are someone driven to succeed in work life. I’m also not saying you don’t have to work hard; work ethic is one of my top values.  (I would venture to say I’ve worked more this summer than others. I’m just saying I proactively decide the amount of work I do and where I devote my energies. The result: I am happier.

So, in an attempt to further define achievement, could I say this?  Achievement is not jumping from accomplishment to accomplishment.  It is not letting guilt get to me because I choose to say no to some aspect of my life and yes to another.  Achievement is me being true to myself, living by my values and life purpose (as was outlined in LifePlan). It is being present where ever I am. (Something I struggled with a bit in LifePlan–I was overly concerned with the time and making progress during the event.  So many times, my LifePlan facilitator said: “The only thing that matters is the conversation right now.”)

Achievement is living a life that is reflective of what matters to me.  I wasn’t doing that FULLY prior to LifePlan. 

Defining Achievement: Part 1

Defining Achievement- Part 1

I felt a pressure on me, a self imposed one, to achieve.

Man, that’s so true. The truth is, I’ve always felt this pressure and even thrived off of it. It allowed me to academically excel through school.  It allowed me to be a leader through performance and example on the softball field. It allowed me to earn several scholarships to attend college.  It allowed me to change the cycle of poverty that I grew up in.  It allowed me to enter leadership positions.

It was my motivation….to jump from achievement to achievement, from “end point to endpoint” and say “what’s next?”  I was always thinking ahead.

I appreciate the role achievement has played in my life.

However, I’m wondering now, if achievement is defined differently, post LifePlan.

This question came to me after an early morning run that lasted 70 minutes.  (It’s been at least three years since I’ve ran that much at one time). What I felt after that run was different than what I used to feel after I “achieved” something.

I think previously I would have made a mental check mark in my head and it literally took pressure off of me. Whereas, if I couldn’t mark something off my achievement list, my emotions, my  mood, my drive suffered and I questioned myself.  Not outwardly, but inwardly, I beat myself up.

My definition of achievement is not yet solidified and perhaps this post will help me navigate that.

So, if I attempt to describe how I felt after running this morning….did I feel a sense of accomplishment?  Sure, but I didn’t bask in it. I felt like I was being a good steward with my body and health.  And because of that, I could then invest in others better. My impact on others would now be more than if I would have slept in and ignored my physical health. I didn’t make a mental checkoff, but instead, I had a sense of a higher purpose, much higher than that one achievement. I was ready to invest in others.

Perhaps, before LifePlan, it was about the achievement itself.  And, now, it’s what the “achievement” allows.

I’ve always believed in serving a higher purpose and that has been a big part of my motivation.  But, now, I’m truly living it. Truly feeling it.  It’s about the journey and the impact, not the achievement.

So maybe achievement defined for me is being a good steward with all that I’ve been blessed with so that I can serve a higher purpose, more than I ever have before. It’s not a destination, a goal, or an endpoint.

 

 

LifePlan: The Deeper Why

LifePlan- The Deeper Why

Why make the LifePlan investment?  I had to answer this.  

I have said it was because I was discontent, despite a seemingly “successful” life.  That was true.

But, the “why” was much deeper than that.  Honestly, I think I’m still discovering the why.

I can also say it was because I wasn’t living my best life and I honestly didn’t know what the roadblock was.   That was true.

It was about me.  But it was also about so much more than me.  It was about my three-year-old son.  As most parents do, I feel the weight of responsibility to raise a son who is happy and adds value to the lives of others.  I have no doubt my husband and I will have conversations with him about this.

However, I am reminded about how my high school softball coach wrote about me in my academic and athletic recommendation letters for college.  “Annie leads by example.”

I’ve thought about this off and on through the years.  We live in a society that celebrates the extroverted leader.  Don’t get me wrong, we need those extroverted leaders, but I think there’s much to be said about the person who is quietly and courageously leading their life in a way that is am example of how we all should.

Parenting is the same.  We can have conversation after conversation with our son about how to live his “best life.”  But the message he will hear more is the message in our actions.

This is one reason why I needed to do LifePlan.   My son needed to know that I’m not afraid to confront my limitations and have the courage to move beyond them.  There’s no reason to hide behind them because that’s not living my best life.

What are your actions communicating to your children?  Are your actions speaking louder than your words?

 

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