How to Achieve Hard Stuff

I considered myself to be a fairly fit person until I met Stone Mountain. Stone Mountain is a sight to behold, about 10 miles outside of downtown Atlanta,  it is the world’s largest piece of exposed granite. It is a sight to behold. When you get to the top of Stone Mountain, the view will take your breath away with a breathtaking view of Atlanta and the surrounding areas, it is glorious. On one side of the mountain is a carving of the leaders of the Confederate army, which is fraught with all types of controversy as to whether it should be removed but that is the subject for another post.

The road to Stone Mountain is steep, uneven and deceiving with jutting rocks and gravel. It is so deceiving you will ascend to one portion of the mountain and believe you have reached the top and then you will catch sight just ahead of an even steeper incline in front of you. It is completely unpredictable. At the end of summer, September 2018, I began my first of many hikes up Stone Mountain. The battle up the mountain made me consider what it means to achieve hard stuff in this world, to go against the tide, to scale high heights that not many would attempt.

It is not easy but so worth it. Once, I finally made it to the top, the view was so worth it. It was even more worth it for the euphoria of accomplishment and overcoming a difficult challenge. In my way down, in a moment of deep reflection, I began to list the top 5 necessary items and tools to achieve hard stuff so here are my musings:

5. Don’t be surprised by a lack of motivation or times of frustration, prepare for it.

When you start the challenge, you are going to be hyped, excited, ready to take on the world. It will not last, it never does. Most people think it will so they do not prepare for when it does not and they believe they no longer supposed to continue. Not true. Everything is seasonal, even motivation but the key is to keep going even when you are not feeling it. How do you do that? Great question. Here some other tips to keep yourself motivated in the midst of an uphill battle.

4. Get your tribe.

I started hiking by myself but eventually fell in step with a group. 
one was a man who looked to be in his 60s, another was a family with a boy who looked to be like 3 or 4 years old with a walking stick. Everytime I looked at these two athletes and the other people in our little makeshift group, I said surely, if they can do it, I can too. My ankle started throbbing at one point, I stopped briefly to stretch it out and then kept moving to catch up with the group. Get people around you who are moving in the same direction who will push you to make it.

3. Acknowledge the pain but do not bask in it.

Doing hard stuff is well…hard, no ifs, ands or buts around it, that is why so many people avoid hard stuff, it takes determination, time and resources do hard stuff. Some things you encounter will be painful, I guarantee it. But similar to what I mentioned with my ankle, acknowledge the pain but don’t fall into the trap of self pity and fear. I can say this honestly because I did it for years, it is easy to do but I believe if you keep moving you will learn how to manage the pain yet still make the destination (and win!) or the pain will go away on its own and the goal is still met (another win!) Keep moving, don’t let pain stop you.

2. Focus on the end to get you through.

At one point, every muscle in my body felt like it was screaming and ready to give up in protest. So, I started to play a game where I imagined myself at the top, wind blowing through my hair, relaxed and accomplished. Did it make the pain stop? Nope. Did it make it bearable? Absolutely. I stopped focusing on it, it was like an annoying photo bomber who just refuses to step out of your frame but it was not the main thing. The main thing was the top, the goal of completing, finishing, accomplishing, my mind was already there just had to physically get there

1. Pay it Forward.

When I got to the top, it was glorious, my body felt like one big ball of hurt but my mind and spirit felt incredible. It was better than I imagined the view, the feeling, the wind and the sense of peace and accomplishment. I basked in it for awhile and the headed back down the mountain, triumphant and pleased. Well on the way down the mountain, I ran into my former self, so many people still making the upward battle, faces twisted in pain, chests heaving, wondering when and if the end will ever come. And I started cheerleading, I encouraged them, told them “you are almost there, great job, keep going, you are going to feel so great when you are done.” I saw there faces relax for a bit, renewed confidence and focus and their pace quicken a bit in anticipation for the end. We all need encouragement, we are just wired that way. Once we make it, we have an obligation to help others, we cannot do it for them, we may not be able to carry them but we can encourage them, we can be open to serve as inspiration that they can do it too and it is possible.

I believe we are created for hard stuff, if you are not moving forward, you are falling back.

Look at how beautifully complex our bodies and minds are, we were created to solve problems, achieve the unattainable and scale the impossible.

We owe it to our Creator and we owe it to ourselves.

Go get it.

Good Dirt

I am not extremely familiar with horticulture but I am pretty familiar with the basics. The cycle of horticulture is standard, the cycle of planting, tending, watering, growing, pruning and harvesting. This concept is a powerful analogy of the concept of our lives. In the lives of humans, ideas, habits, mindsets, activities are planted in our lives either through things we have adopted through experiences like family or environment, things we have learned and adopted along the way. These systems will inevitably produce a harvest, one that we appreciate or one that we struggle with. When these new habits or thoughts are presented to our lives, we often do not give much thought to the outcome, perhaps at the time it addresses a need or seems like a worthy pastime.

I remember when I started feeling anxious as a child. It was all tied to my mother. As a precocious only child raised by a single mother, I viewed my parent as my only lifeline and I constantly worried something would happen to her. I remember fearfully looking out a large picture window in the living room of our flat waiting for my mom to arrive home. My ten year old mind would race fearing she had been in a car accident or accosted by an armed person because she should have been home ten minutes ago. Each night, she would arrive home a few minutes later and I would breathe a huge sigh of relief. This went on for years and my fears graduated to what people thought of me, my future, my job, my safety, and anything else I could find to be afraid of. In retrospect, I never learned the skill of acknowledging and addressing fear in a positive manner. I never challenged the fear with trust or love. And so it grew, like a seed planted, I watered it with insecurity, fear, ignorance and consistency. As an adult in her thirties, I bore the harvest of years of unaddressed fears. I suffered anxiety attacks every day and would sleep for hours just to escape the thoughts. Sometimes, I would wake up and mercifully, I could function for awhile, most often I could not, they would instantly return.

Through misery and pain, I learned something had to change and it needed to be me. I began to plant different seeds through actively seeking a relationship with God, facing my vulnerabilities and dysfunctions, allowing God to heal my insecurities and destroy lies with truth. It was a slow process, too slow for my liking. But, we must understand planting and harvesting is a slow process despite the desire for immediate results.

God’s process is so much better than immediate results. It was four years before I started to feel some substantive relief But, during that time, I experienced the most ugly and beautiful time of my life as I clung to God as the only lifeline who could help me. God rooted me in Him, I can never fool myself into thinking I did anything, during those four years I was sustained by God. Not only did I keep my job but I thrived in my job, received a promotion and received awards for the work I had done. Simultaneously, I became the president of a non profit organization with over 150 members and managed a team of 12 board members, all while experiencing the most challenging season of my life. In hindsight, it is incredible and glorious to see the favor of God in your life even as you struggle.

Every day, you are planting with the thoughts you think, the activities you do, the people you spend time with and the words you say. Make them good, make them holy so it will reap and incredible harvest. A good question to ask, is will this thought, person or experience bring me a positive result in the future? Or negative? Then with your knowledge make a choice.

the Bible says, “the power of life and death is in the power of the tongue and those that love it, shall eat its fruit, Proverbs 18:21. In Deuteronomy 30:19-20 it says, “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”

We make choices every day, recognize that choices are connected to the future, they have promissory notes that state, if you do this, this will happen or if you select this, that will happen. Choose that which will serve God and bring life. Choose wisely.

How to Make Better Decisions

It was my birthday (YAY!) and I was running errands and getting ready to attend a celebratory dinner with a friend. I stopped by the mall and decided to peep into a designer store. This store was the one that I always peered into with wide eyes but never went in, because, I just know everything was out of my price range.  Not today. High on birthday gladness, I boldly walked right into the store and started looking at pieces. Just as I suspected, most of the clothing items were well out of my budget, like more than my rent out of my budget. However, I spied a pretty pair of wide leg pants and after inspecting the price, was shocked to see they were expensive but not expensive expensive like the other items. I tried them on and they fit perfectly, the sales women complimented me profusely and once I told them it was my birthday, they just exclaimed, Well you just have to get them, it is your day.” I began to think to my self, “you know what it is my day! I deserve these, I need them.” Never mind, I was saving money to pay down debt, I deserved those pants! So I bought them and walked out of the mall feeling triumphant.

Two weeks later, one of the seams in the pants came a loose, I got it fixed and then another seam came a loose and the pants turned into an utter tattered mess. I COMPLETELY regretted making such an emotional decision, can anyone relate to making such a poor emotional decision?

As human beings we make a lot of decisions each day, they are necessary and important, yet many of the decisions made are based on our emotions, how we feel at any particular moment. Basing decisions on our feelings is  an inherent problem because  feelings change from day to day, heck minute by minute! Emotional decisions can leave us with regret, emptiness and shame wondering, how did I get this so wrong??

The decisions we make leave clues about who we are and what we value. Decisions lead to habits, habits lead to a lifestyle and lifestyles do provide certain results in our lives, positive and negative. If you tell me about your decisions, I can learn what you value and prioritize where you place your self esteem and ultimately where you are headed. Ultimately, decisions point to the direction in which your life is headed and consequently, your destination. Decisions, not intention will lead your life.

So given the gravity of decisions, how do we make better ones?

GET SOME VALUES

Most companies have a mission statement as well as values that dictate the company operations, brand, people and vision. This mission statement is a beacon of light communicating priorities and vision to employees and customers alike. At companies that are really excelling you can ask any employee at random and he/she can say the mission statement without missing a beat.

You, my friend, are also a brand, a force in your own right and therefore, should have your own mission statement, your own values that you live your life by.

We all have values but have you given thought to them or even written them down?  If you are not sure where to start, think about what is most important to you? What principles do you live your life by? What wakes you up in the morning?

For me, my values are God over everything, purpose, loving people, joy and lightness. In my life when I encounter decisions, I put them next to my mission statement and and
I ask myself, will this exemplify loving God with all my heart, loving myself, loving others? Will this set people free in their mind, spirit and body? If the answer is no, the decision is easy. If I a m unsure then I need to seek God for answers. I have learned to be prayerful about many things, my purpose, who to hire? What to do on a daily basis? And even what to eat?

Line up every decision and compare it to your values, nothing is excluded, include friends, job opportunities, goals, activities, matters of the heart and everything between, and then, decide accordingly.

STAND ON A STABLE FOUNDATION

We have qualified, your emotions cannot be your barometer, they change too much, they are unsteady and not trustworthy. In contrast, you have to find something weighty, strong, stable and consistent to use as a foundation.

My foundation is God, Jesus and the Bible, it is stable when I am not. When I do not feel like forgiving someone, I read the Bible and decide to do it anyway. When I feel like worrying because I do not have control and am scared, I read the Word and it encourages me not to worry no matter what I face and to let it go. It pushes me beyond emotion to make decisions that align to the values I have set for myself. It is absolute.

CHECK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF

There are decisions and habits so ingrained in our being, we have to do considerable digging and self reflection to change those decisions. Some decisions are so ingrained they are automatic like judging others or speaking negatively to yourself or even deciding to pursue something you have never done before.

Begin to ask yourself, why you do, what you do? Please note, this is not for the faint of heart, this is designed for those who understand the gravity of decisions and are focused on making thoughtful decisions that will lead them to their goals.

As you assess your decisions, you may trace them all the way back to your childhood. Maybe Mom taught you the best way to handle conflict is to ignore it so now you run from conflict and give excuses to yourself why you cannot face it. Maybe you told a love interest your feelings and he/she betrayed you, so now you keep your heart tucked away so no one can break it again. The decisions we make and the habits we conduct over and over again are often tied to past experience or hurts deeply ingrained in our psyche.

Recognizing the genesis of these roots is the first step and then taking action to address it. This can be done in counseling, using affirmations to start overcoming the fear and past hurts and letting God take the time to heal your heart. As you undergo the healing process, you will identify alternative actions for those that used to be automatic. When the decisions come, you will perceive it differently and in turn select differently. As you move towards better decisions, the outcomes will also change for the better.