Friday, January 23, 2015

Is Procrastination Killing Your New Years Resolutions?

It's interesting to be writing about the subject of procrastination when I haven't blogged in months. The truth is, I've been working on a book project and I have found that all my writing energies are going in to my book. However, even in writing the book I find that I want to put off the hard work until tomorrow or the next day.

Procrastination seems to be a universal truth for many people. It shows up in various forms and takes on different lives, yet the outcome is always the same. That thing that I really need or desire to do I don't do. And, that thing that I don't want to do because it is a waste of time, that I do in excess.  We can procrastinate in our careers, relationships, dreams, health, eating plans, organization and so many other areas. Sometimes it can seem when we have overcome procrastination in one area of our lives, it rears its ugly head in another.

So once again, we begin the new year with a fresh start and an energized resolve. This year will be different. This year I will do those things that have been pressing at my heart to do. This year, I will be better. Yet, what was once reignited resolve often fizzles more quickly than we could ever imagine. Once again, we find ourselves slipping back to old patterns and and putting off that which we were so excited to change.

What I find in the new year is that with all the resolutions of weight loss and outward change, very little thought is given to the inside. I don't necessarily mean the foods that you are putting in your body, though those are certainly important. I am talking about the inside of your heart. What most of us need more than anything else is an emotional detox.

Most of us are trained beginning at a very young age to stuff that which we feel. Emotions have energy and what you do not express you will suppress and that means that energy will stay in your body for a life time unless you learn how to express it and get it out for good. If you're wondering what that has to do with procrastination, let me tell you. We learn to avoid what we feel.

Procrastination is an outward manifestation of an inward experience. When you avoid what you are carrying on the inside, you will avoid that which is difficult on the outside. When we do not face our pain, we will not face our lives, it is that simple. If you go inside first and deal with what you are running from, you will begin to face that which you have been avoiding in the outer world. We live from the inside out, it doesn't happen any other way.

I know this first hand. When I was at my lowest, addicted to drugs, medicating and avoiding in any way possible the pain that I was carrying, I did not deal with my life. Mail would stack up in volumes and I would feel anxiety just at at the thought of opening it. Everything around me was a mess. Yet, when I chose to face what I was suppressing and walk through it, my life changed drastically. Now, I open the mail as soon as it comes.

So if this is coming up for you, what will you do different on the inside this year? You will make tremendous change if you chose that route.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Danger of Positive Thinking that Does Not Equal Joy

I am really excited about the series that our Church is doing. It is called 40 Days to a joy filled life. It is based on the Scripture in Philippians 4:8 that reads "...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." The workbook is written by Tommy Newberry who is an author and a Life Coach. I've also been listening to his audio book called The 4:8 Principle. All very good stuff and I highly recommend them both.

What I realized in the midst of doing this work is that I somehow had confused the concept and was applying the Scripture inappropriately. I had a week where I was really struggling with feeling sad and afraid. I kept trying to "think positive" and to get myself to joy. It was a disaster. I actually felt worse. It was no fault of the author and of course of the Scripture. It just goes to show how things that we learn at a young age can trickle in and make something into something that it is not.

I was trying to take Philippians 4:8 and make it in to our modern idea of "positive thinking". The idea of positive thinking is that if you just think in a positive nature then everything in your life will work out. The problem comes that if something happens and you have an emotional response that is not positive then what do you do with it? I have found that applying just the modern concept of thinking positively leads to stuffing, minimizing and denial. In addition, what you resist will actually persist. If positive thinking is used as a way to resist feeling then the feelings will grow, not lessen.

Emotions don't work the same way as our mind does. They do not just switch on and off. Once you have an emotional response it will stay there until it is acknowledged and released. That is why we can carry emotional baggage from years ago. No amount of stuffing, denial or positive thinking will make it go away. Now, I'm not talking about staying in pain and sitting in self loathing. I am talking about the healthy acknowledgement that not everything that happens to us or around us is "happy".  Emotions are not something to be afraid of. They are barometers for our soul. They help us to gauge what is going on inside and can lead us to roots of pain and burden that need to be released.

The other truth to this is that if one disconnects from painful feelings then that person will also be disconnected from joyful feelings. You cannot pick and choose. And being disconnected just takes the color out of life. So the first step is recognizing that focus does not mean denial. Focusing on having better thoughts does not mean minimizing or stuffing. It is a very different process, one that actually takes work and application.

We were meant to be connected and to feel. I will be blogging more about what I'm learning in applying Philippians 4:8. What do you think of when you hear the words "positive thinking"?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Do you want to get well?

 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.  One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” John 5:3-6

I have found myself in this situation many times. Stuck in a rut, knowing that something is wrong, yet not desiring to do the very thing that will help me. At those times, I will often hear those words... "do you want to get well?" Even though I coach people and teach Grief Recovery for a living, I still have my moments when I want to turn away from the very thing that will help me. I, like so many others that I have coached or facilitated, want it to be a quick fix. I don't want to "keep doing the work" because I want to get on the other side of things once and for all. 

I have seen this in others also. They have been in pain, frustration, hurt, anger, fear, or bitterness for a long time. Or perhaps they have felt stuck for a long time. Or they are surrounded by life circumstances that are painful. Yet, in all of that, some times when asked that question, the answer through actions is no. They do not want to get well. I find that heart breaking. Though I can relate.

There was a time when I did not want to get well. I wanted it to be the fault of everyone else. I wanted to be rescued and I wanted someone or something other than God to do the rescuing because I was unwilling to walk through my own exposure and responsibilities to get there. The truth is, try as I did to find someone or something to rescue me, nothing worked. It was all quite miserable to some degree. The pain was almost unbearable, yet I did not want to take responsibility for what was going on inside of me. I wanted it to be fixed by something on the outside. 

One of the best ways to tell if you are looking for a rescuer as opposed to healing is to look at what kind of help do you seek? Do you look for someone to tell you what your itching ears long to hear? Or do you look for someone who is willing to be honest with you? I'm not talking about someone who will berate you or try to fix you. I am talking about someone who will come alongside you, love you and help you to see your side of the street. Just getting that kind of help was life changing.

It was difficult because some of my initial injury started as a child when I was not at fault at all. It was not my responsibility. Yet, as an adult, the only person who could help what was going on inside of me, was me. Taking responsibility meant getting honest about what was in my heart, what I believed about myself and utilizing tools to get healing. There was a part that was my side of the street and there was a part that only God could do. 

That kind of approach is what brings true life change. It requires going underneath the behavior and circumstances to the root of the matter. Our lives are a reflection of what is going on inside. If there are unresolved emotional hurts and negative belief systems, they will play out in the present. A wise woman once told me that our past is our present until it is healed. 

I just had a situation recently where I lost someone that I cared about and it was very painful. I teach Grief Recovery, yet, I found myself in check out mode not wanting to go through the process of grieving her. Yet, I would rather walk through the hurt then carry it around with me for a lifetime. I would rather ask the tough questions and deal with the uncertainty that her loss brings than hide in the shadows afraid to be in my life. I would rather embrace the pain and feel it than work so hard and tirelessly to avoid it. I've done all those things for way too long. I want to get well. 

Monday, October 6, 2014


I have started to write this blog numerous times and have erased everything that I have written until now. That's not usually the case with me. I usually write and it all just comes out and I really don't have to think about it much. Today has been different. Until it just hit me that it might be a good time to write some inspiration.

You see for most of my life I have identified with pain. My childhood was painful, I made a lot of choices that brought me pain, and then I spent a great deal of time working through all of it. In some ways, working through all of it was the hardest for me. I spent so much of my life disconnected that I really didn't even know what was in my heart. Once I started my healing journey, I was face to face with all that I had been running from (and all the avoidant choices I had made, which actually just brought me more pain). This may not sound inspirational thus far, but trust me I'm getting there.

Today, I get to live on the other side of all that. I'm not perfect, I have not arrived and I certainly have a lot more growing to do, yet I experience joy. So much so that at times it feels uncomfortable and I jump out of it because I'm just not used to it. For the most part, I live life here in the present and when I don't I am very aware that I'm not present. I have purpose, I know why I'm here and I know what it is that I'm supposed to do. I feel connected to God and I trust and believe that He loves me. This is a miracle. And I want this for others because I know that it is possible.

If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, fear. hopelessness or you just feel stuck, then that is your spirit giving you a warning light that something is not right. Something needs to be dealt with and faced and you can face it. We have learned in this society that we are supposed to avoid anything negative and run to comfort. That is a death sentence. Comfort only leads to numbness. That is not how you were designed to live!

You power and strength lie in walking through the difficulties because there is another side. There is another way to live. And I fully believe that for you because I know that it is possible. We need to wake up and stop sleeping. We need to live on purpose and by purpose because that is how we were created to live. I'm not saying it's easy and I'm not saying to just "think positive". I'm saying face your pain. It will not go anywhere. No matter how much you try to run, duck and hide you will take you with you. You cannot escape from yourself.

So let me ask you, what are you running from? Whatever it is, it's not worth stealing your joy. You can this, I'm certain of it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Beautiful Girl

I met Rachel a little over 2 years ago in the park. Our Church was meeting at the park once a week to spend time and I happened to strike up a conversation with a woman who was there. After talking for awhile she shared with me that she had a 16 year old living with her. This teenager (named Rachel) had a problem with drugs (specifically meth) and that she had run away and she was trying to find her. I gave the woman my business card and told her that if she found her that I would love to talk with her. I smoked meth almost every day for 3 1/2 years. I understand how damaging that drug is. I also understand that it's possible to let it go, heal from the pain driving the user to it, and live a life that is vibrant and fulfilling. I really didn't expect to hear from that woman again.

Yet, nearly 2 weeks later she called and left me a message. She had found Rachel and wanted me to meet her. So I went to the park and spent time with Rachel. She was nervous, yet as we talked she came out of her shell and shared more with me. She was introduced to drugs at the age of 10. She had been in and out of rehabs, yet would run away and return to her old life. We talked for a long time and we bonded that day. Through her insecurity, I saw a beautiful girl with a vibrant spirit.

Rachel came to Church with us several times. She came to the park and she spent time at our home. She would bring her guitar and sing. Her voice was absolutely incredible. One day she called me very excited. She had written a song about Jesus and she wanted us to hear it. We went to her house and she sang it for us. It brought me to tears. She had notebooks full of songs that she had written.

Rachel was also on and off drugs during the two years that followed our meeting. I prayed for her so many times. Several times, when she was in juvenile hall, she wrote me letters asking all kinds of questions about God. I knew she was seeking.

The thing about Rachel was that to meet her was to really love her. She lit up a room and she had no idea how amazing she was. Every time I saw her she would yell my name excitedly, run up to me, and wrap her arms around me. She'd comment on my hair or notice something about me. She really loved to be around people and she loved to connect. There was something about her that seemed hopeful in spite of her sadness and wells of pain. It was that spark that kept bringing her back to Church. Then she lost her boyfriend. He was killed in a car on his way to see her. It seemed that one more brick of pain was too much for her.

I saw her a few times after that. I could tell that she had lost some of her spark. It was painful. I so wanted to just reach in and connect with her heart to let her know how loved she was. She really had no idea how lovable she was. Then on Thursday, September 18 she overdosed. It was most likely on drugs and prescription drugs. I went to the hospital on Friday. I held her hand and prayed over her. She died on Sunday, September 21. I am heartbroken. She was such a beautiful soul.

Losing Rachel has sparked something in me where I realize that there is just so much more to life than worrying about what everyone thinks. It also has helped me to realize that half of what I focus on is not even worth the time it takes to focus on it. There is a bigger picture in this life and a larger purpose. We were created for so much more than worrying about schedules and looks and magazines and television. We were created by the Almighty God, who made us in His image. The spirit that each one of us possesses will fill an entire room. I don't want to waste these precious moments on distractions and comforts. I don't want to live to be comfortable I want to live to be purposeful. Rachel was more than worth every moment I spent with her. She inspired me to love deeper. I love you Rachel.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Circus Elephants

The following is a quote by Tommy Newberry from his book The 4:8 Principle. "When I was a kid one of my coaches told me a story about circus elephants. When these elephants are still little and weak, they are chained to iron stakes in the ground, which prevent them from breaking free and running away. This allows the circus trainers to keep them close, work with them, and prepare them for their routines.

What's strange is that even after the little elephants grow into huge, powerful animals capable of lifting a ton or more with their trunks, they remain restricted by those same miniature stakes in the ground. Even when they are more than strong enough to yank the stake out of the ground and roam free, they don't do it. They don't even try.  They remain limited by the old boundaries."

Now personally I am an animal lover so I really don't like the idea of little elephants being confined to chains and iron stakes; however, the illustration of the story is powerful. So often, we are like those circus elephants. We have been trained as children to believe we are weak and limited. We have learned to believe that we cannot and therefore we don't. Yet, in many cases it is the limiting belief (I cannot) that is the only thing keeping us from actually living a different or more powerful life.

There are the events that have happened to us, in sight of us or events that didn't happen yet should have. Then, there is the emotional response that we have that often gets suppressed. And finally, there is the story that we made up about ourselves and/or others that then becomes our belief.  Emotional expression and healing helps to resolve the suppressed emotional response; however, many stop there. Not realizing that what you believe is what you will create until you realize that it's not your circumstances that are causing your pain and limitation. It is that which is inside of you that you believe about you that isn't even true. Yes, that self talk about how you are not enough, not worthy, not lovable, not capable (and many more) are lies. And if that describes you then you are operating on a faulty system.

Much like the circus elephants you have been trained to believe that your life is limited to a little chain and stake in the ground. Yet, deep inside you know that you were created for more. And that's because you were and you are. The first step in not being like a circus elephant is realizing that you are bigger than the stake in the ground. Limiting beliefs only have power when they are believed. If you realize that they are lies built from negative experience you are taking the first step in living a present and future that is different from your past.

What limiting beliefs are keep you from realizing your potential?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Fear of Pain

"The tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness. Since most of us have this tendency to a greater or lesser degree, most of us are mentally ill to a greater or lesser degree, lacking complete mental health." M. Scott Peck - The Road Less Traveled

I just love this quote. It flies in the face of the culture that we live in. We live in a culture of comfort and avoidance. We are surrounded by convenience and quick fixes. The idea of suffering for anything is just not popular. Yet, I believe that as a society we pay a price for living this way. We can lose our very souls and the essence of who we were created to be.

One of the biggest fears that I often hear when people are considering Grief Recovery or Life Coaching is "will I make it through?" The perception is that if I take this class or begin coaching on emotional, spiritual or mental issues I will fall apart and I will never be able to come back together again. That it will be too overwhelming and I will lose me. And I understand the fear. We've been trained to believe that. Many of us were raised this way, by very well meaning parents/caregivers/societal culture who taught us that negative feelings and perhaps any experience that could lead to them were to be avoided at all costs. Avoidance is what lead me to dangerous behavior and drug addiction. I believed the lie.

The ironic part about this belief that taking a class (or any transformational workshop), coaching or other methods of facing what is inside will be detrimental is that the opposite is actually true. We suffer to a much greater degree by not dealing with what we are carrying. Yes, it can be painful to look inside or to walk through a process to resolve things we have experienced or lost. Yet, it is damaging to keep going and not. Things do not get better with time and they do not just go away. Avoidance will only lead to greater neurosis and a heightened problem.

You can see this happen in relationships. People may get in a romantic relationship (or even a friendship though it seems to play out at a deeper level in a romantic relationship) and feel that the other person is the one. That person is making them happy. Then time goes on and things start to get hard and the person decides this is not the one I need to go out and find someone else. Then the cycle continues. No matter how many people this person finds to get in relationship with the same result continues. Why? Because it's not the other person. The relationship is only bringing out what is inside and what needs to be dealt with. Until the person makes the decision to look inside and go through the process of resolving it, it won't matter who the relationship is with.

So to the fear that so many have of walking through a process to get healing or healthy, the truth is that yes, it will be challenging. You will most likely feel things that you may not want to feel. You may even face things that were not your fault but deeply affect you. Yet, on the other side there is a freedom that you have never experienced. Your life goes from the inside out. Your outer world reflects your inner world. If you choose to run you will only go in circles because you take you with you. You cannot run from yourself as much as you may try. So I pray that you will decide to stop running, stop avoiding and do the things that will bring you back to the person you were created to be.