This image, posted online by an unknown source, featuring this anonymous quote, inspired me:
From my perspective, these are timely words for this Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. For years after Dr. King’s service and sacrifice, there is still the need to do what he lived and died to ensure: the snuffing out of hate; more people following the Golden Rule; everyone looking beyond race and ethnicity into one another’s eyes and hearts to see (and experience) mutual humanity.
So I challenge myself – and you – to care enough to do a little more, to be a little better, to…
Do what it takes to create a life and not just live.
Keep seeking the good in others;
growing into a stronger, kinder, wiser you,
and giving from the purest, most selfless place in your heart.
For when you persistently seek, grow, give and live with hope, resilience and integrity, your courage and optimism will inevitably overflow and touch the people and the world around you.
We often make resolutions at the dawn of a new year, believing that with a fresh date and fresh start, we can jumpstart what fell by the wayside weeks, months or even years earlier. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t – a reality that all of us can own.
In my case? I haven’t started exercising regularly yet in 2019, although my gym is awaiting me. And I’m still trying to convince myself to give up refined sugar.
I did purge my closet, and that felt oh so great. Yet I’m still in the process of mapping out a quarterly To Do list, to make sure that by the time I reach April, I can actually mark as completed most of the 90-day goals I set out to achieve. (That list will be finalized before this month is over!)
Tackling goals like these year after year is refreshing in a way, because they are reminders that we always start again; that we should never stop living, learning and growing.
Yet, the first step, in one sense, is the easiest: We’ve talked ourselves into doing what we know is right and good for us in both the short- and long term. On Jan. 1 of (whatever year) we’re psyched and excited.
However, then comes Day 2 and Week 3, and before you know it, Month 10. Taking step after step, day after day, in moment after moment is where we must keep talking and walking and envisioning that for which we long. For it is after taking step after step, day after day, in moment by moment the magic, the movement and the new reality await us.
Are you up to the challenge and the change required to actually shift into this new space? I think I am, even if I have to recalibrate and restart on Day 15 and then again on Day 30 and Day 225. For, when we really decide we’re ready and we choose to really dig in, we’ll be able to appreciate the small transformations along our journey that make it as worthwhile a process as achieving our ultimate goals. Even if the process takes longer than we want (which it often does), we can stay on course by remembering that delays aren’t denials and “not now” doesn’t mean not ever.
I’ve done it before, and I’m aiming it to experience those mountain moments again, for both my big and small dreams. Are you with me?
If so, remind yourself throughout the process – on the days when sticking to your goals isn’t fun or when it seems easier to say you’ll get to it “tomorrow” – that the change you long for – the change I long for – requires that we change our minds today.
Throughout your process, remind yourself…
When you’re open to consistently learning and growing;
to seeing life from another person’s point of view;
to stepping outside your comfort zone;
to helping someone else just because;
to opening your heart to new adventures at any age;
to living in peace and ensuring others that same opportunity,
the sky is not your limit and your joy can’t be contained.
It’s the true definition of changing for the better; of transforming into more of you.
Vacations are great for many reasons – they give you a chance to do nothing if you want; to savor each moment without rushing; to be fully present in your here and now.
What I’ve learned over the years is that this even applies to breaks from social media. (According to a recent Washington Post article, a Pew Research Center study shows that 68 percent of Americans have either temporarily signed off of social media this year or left various platforms for good.)
I took time away from my social media pages last week and part of this week to brainstorm a few writing projects; to connect with fellow writers and authorpreneurs, and to strategize/envision my first quarter of 2019.
All good stuff and worthy of the focus I gave.
But equally important was the time I took to enjoy each day and each encounter – from leisurely reconnections with longtime friends and the meeting of new ones, to an empowering luncheon with amazing women leaders to the simple yet heartwarming phone chats with two of my 20-something nephews, who (unbeknownst to each other) called me out of the blue last week to shoot the breeze. Both of them made my day. 🙂
So my point? Consider taking your own social media break (whenever and however long suits you best) to enjoy your family and friends in real time. Focus on some goals away from the hustle and bustle of the internet highway.
It can be refreshing and revealing, and perhaps you’ll return ready to appreciate – all the more – the good that comes from connecting online, as well as the good you rediscovered within.
Only you know the purpose that fuels your passion;
Only you can conquer the mountain over which your destiny awaits.
How you get there matters just as much as when.
Focus with fearlessness. It’s natural for fear and doubt to sneak up on you every now and then – we’re all human. When it surfaces, pause in the moment and recognize it for what it is. Briefly analyze what’s causing the anxiety, then decide to push forward.
Persist with integrity. Be the same person in private as you are in public, and be sure that’s a person you honor and respect, so others will learn to do the same. Make decisions filled with honor and fairness so that you can expect the same when others deal with you. Not everyone will treat you right; but in your doing the right thing consistently, you’ll sow enough good seed to make a positive difference.
Dream big, then do. If you don’t dream beyond your borders you’ll have no new territory to conquer. Allow yourself to imagine the grandest vision possible for your life, then sit down with pen and paper (yes – old fashioned journaling) and map out your path and plans to get from idea stage to reality. Stay the course and eventually you’ll get there.
Travel with likeminded warriors of hope who’re willing to stand with you. Everyone needs friends, family or colleagues who believe in you as much as you do – those supporters who will remind you why you started and insist that you finish on the days you want to quit. Some of us may have a tribe of people and others of us may have just one. One is all you need, and as Beyonce’ once sang, in some instances we have “to be our own best friend” and be that one! Whatever it takes, stick with hope.
Bless and release those meant to travel another way. Not everyone will get you and not everyone has the stamina to stay the course with you until you win. Be grateful for the part they’ve played in helping you grow, embrace those lessons and wish them well. Just because their part in your story has shifted doesn’t mean they didn’t add some value. Yet, value yourself enough to know when your inner circle must morph in order for you to get unstuck, avoid becoming stuck or humbly soar to your next level.
Be an example of the light and generosity of spirit that make the most difference, and remember to treasure the journey as much as achieving your goal. Everything begins and ends with love. Keep this circular reality in mind and operate accordingly, so that when you arrive at your destination, you’ll have few regrets.
“Don’t Make Assumptions.” I appreciate this one of Don Miguel Ruiz’s tenets from his book The Four Agreements in particular because it reminds us to give grace to others due to our own blind spots.
There’s no way we can fully know what someone else is going through or has gone through – especially by watching their social media “commercials.”
There’s no way to know the complete behind-the-scenes experiences that have motivated others’ next steps or perhaps left them stuck – unless we both ask with an open heart (when appropriate) and listen with unfiltered ears (always).
Until we can truly see and value others, we’ll always assume what “should” or “could” be their reality and/or their responses. But what good does this kind of judgment yield?
So consider this agreement a practice worth pursuing, in the spirit of elevating relationships of all kinds.
Ask instead of assuming you know their truths and speak up instead of assuming they “should” know yours.
Pause instead of pointing fingers; reflect instead of rejecting. Know that unless you’ve walked the very path they’re trodding, you really know very little – and vice versa!
Extend grace as you’re also seeking it. Hold at the forefront of your mind that each day and each personal encounter should begin and end the same – with love as the central force.
May These Authors Making Moves Offer Inspiration for the Purpose You Want to Pursue
One of the participants in the writing workshop I hosted at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden yesterday shared a profound revelation that she received after attending my inaugural Writing @ The Garden seminar at Lewis Ginter two weeks ago.
While her comment gave me chills, I won’t share it verbatim, because I’m expecting it to show up in the book she’s writing. In essence, however, she challenged herself after that workshop to get off the sidelines of life and claim all the good she possibly can.
I celebrate her courage and the courage of all of you who are loosing the shackles of “Why me?” and celebrating where your “Why not me?” attitude is taking you – in particular my literary friends who are touching the lives of others with their words and deeds as they live their dreams:
Congrats to Kwame Alexander for opening a library in Ghana in his mother’s honor.
Congrats to Robin Farmer for securing an important platform at the 2019 Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference.
Congrats to Sadeqa Johnson for being named National Book Club Conference Author of the Year.
Congrats to Bonnie Newman Davis for launching and leading a successful media camp for RIchmond-area teens – filling them with wisdom and ideas that will help shape their future.
Congrats to A’Lelia Bundles for landing a Netflix series for the story of her great-great grandmother Madame C.J. Walker, America’s first African American female millionaire, in the early 20th century.
And this is just in the past week and just in my writer community!
I celebrate their wins and cheer you on, too. Look around you and dance with those in your circle who deserve it. As you applaud their steps forward you’re also moving in the right direction.
Research shows that most people dislike change so much that they’d rather stay in unfulfilling, stagnant or unstable circumstances rather than risk the unknown or stretch past what feels safe. It’s human nature, it seems, to “go with what you know.”
Over the course of my personal and professional journey, however, I’ve become convinced that the different or the uncomfortable (or even the heartbreaking) can sometimes be a sacred path to purpose.
For it is on this fresh course and in unfamiliar territory that we learn more about ourselves, discover strengths we might not have otherwise realized, and connect with ideas, skills and relationships that are meant to play pivotal roles in our destiny.
Yet, if we’re not open to change, or avoid accepting its unexpected arrival, how will we ever know our other (possibly wiser, stronger, happier) selves?
This is my sentiment as I bid farewell to readers of Life Notes, the parenting column I’ve had the pleasure of writing since July 2007 for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Yes- more than 10 years! (Read my farewell column, in today’s newspaper, here.)
Life Notes was actually my second venture as a columnist for this daily newspaper in Richmond, Virginia: From 2000 to 2006, I wrote a weekly column for the Saturday metro section called Inspirations, which acquainted readers far and wide with the uplifting and resilient journeys of metro Richmond residents and with their explorations of faith and personal growth. It had a tremendous following, and according to Times-Dispatch reader surveys, was a primary driver for Saturday newspaper sales during that time.
Both columns were meaningful to me, as was my connection to their readers.
I retired Inspirations, however, when I “retired” from my daily journalism career to focus on penning books and freelance writing. Not an easy decision since I loved my work, but an exciting and necessary one, in order to fulfill the other dreams on my To Do list. I never regretted the choice.
This time around, with changes abreast in newspaper column inches and editorial direction comes the opportunity to take another leap that has long been on my To Do list: expanding the genre of books I write to include more nonfiction (in addition to my women’s fiction) and perhaps some young adult reads. And while I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to blog for the Huffington Post, I look forward to penning more essays and profiles about the power of story and the relevance of our individual journeys for additional national publications. (Stay tuned!)
So yes, this is a goodbye of sorts to one platform for my writing, but a hello to all of the opportunities and open doors on my uncharted path. Will you celebrate with me?
I hope you’ll follow this blog to see where the written word takes me. Feel free to comment below and share ideas about what you’d like to learn about personal growth, matters of faith, living your best life, walking in purpose or writing your way to joy. I look forward to exploring these themes and more with you, and to growing with you.