Were you in the Clean Plate Club? Did you power through that horrendous college course instead of dropping? How inspiring are these phrases: never give up; finish what you start; go the distance. We learned the importance of finishing as kids and we teach it to our own kids. Yes, I believe that when one commits to something, it is important to stay in it and at it until the end. But sometimes we can’t see when it’s time to be finished. So, how do we know the difference? Over the past few years, God had been trying to tell me to let this one rather BIG thing go. I was fighting to stay invested, but God was directing the river’s current to take me somewhere new. I was enthusiastic and ready for this new venture. I was taking risks, wading deeper and investing myself whole heartedly. I was all in! Yet, I was also chained to this one thing – this good, helpful, worthwhile thing. Obligation and commitment and good intentions were weighing me down, and I was choking in the water. I was slow to “get” the message that it was time to quit.
One reason we miss the signal it's time to let it go is that intrinsically it seems wrong, especially if the decision will affect people. Inconvenience, discomfort, and disruption aren't usually fun, and people often interpret this as "personal hurt” inflicted by your choice. We keep working well past quitting time. We remain in the wrong place because if we don’t, something will change for someone. We make their comfort our responsibility. Sometimes people will tell us it’s our job to keep their lives constant and orderly. I have heard this from others and believed it myself. This was one of the reasons I couldn’t see that God was encouraging me to let it go.
It’s hard to quit because God calls us to endure. Christians are patient, long suffering, and live sacrificial lives. Here is my second reason I couldn’t quit: I was afraid to trust myself. I questioned if I could accurately know my own motives. What if I was being selfish? What if my exhaustion was from “working from my own strength” and I needed to rely more on God? Perhaps I was being double-minded. Later, I recognized that my exhaustion was from working from my own strength and reaching my own end. God wanted me to come to the end. He wanted me to recognize the crossed finish line.
How do we know if we are quitting too soon? What if it's more like, "ending earlier than expected"? Perhaps it’s a role you agreed to perform in, but there isn’t an end in sight. It may be a ministry you started or a career you’ve pursued. It could be a relationship, too. You may have poured your time, money, and heart into a God-sized vision and wonder if stopping now makes you a quitter or a finisher. I wondered too. I hung on another year. I adapted. I asked a close friend for insight. It was my topic of conversation with my professional coach. I waffled, questioned, felt guilty, and more and more like a failure. I didn’t know how I could know for sure if God was saying, “Let this go.”
I didn’t find my answer easily. Before I remembered that God’s will for me isn’t complicated, rigid or shrouded in mystery, I made a mess of mistakes. I was afraid that I was abandoning my own party. But in reality, I was overstaying my welcome. And I felt like the person enduring that overstaying house guest. I also felt like the house guest who is so very ready to go home. I was impatient. I was irritable. I was growing resentful. I felt stuck. I was checking my watch. I didn’t recognize myself. Five years ago, I had super-human patience, an easy-going and positive spirit, and contentment in serving. I once was invigorated by the work. Why was I so stressed, anxious and exhausted?
Back in the early 2,000’s I ran the Chicago Marathon. The last two miles were tough, but I knew I would reach the finish line. When I did, I slowed down to a walk and exploded with relief and joy and celebrated completing 26.2 miles! I didn’t keep running past the finish line another 46 miles. That would be dangerous as well as crazy.
One way we can determine if we have continued running past the finish line is by paying attention to the health of souls. What does that look like for you? I started asking myself if my impatience, irritation, resentment, and growing sadness came from my own choosing or from somewhere else. I started listening to God’s voice and listened expectantly. He spoke to me through my circumstances and through some deep hurts. He used an encouraging email from someone who affirmed my now current direction. He showed me His truth through a client. He spoke through my loss. I kept seeking him, and he kept speaking to me. I realized that when I was working with God, I had grace to handle much. When I kept working after my quitting time, I was pushing from my own strength, and that strength had run out. I was well past running on fumes. I couldn’t even run on Dunkin. Have you been there?
There were two reasons (that I mentioned) that prevented me from believing I could finish early. I had accepted a job for myself that was impossible to do. I couldn’t shield anyone from challenges, discomfort, or change. And if someone translates discomfort as hurt, that doesn’t mean I harmed them. The same goes for you. You and I can move on, finish early, or even quit. I also had doubted myself and God’s gracious, non-complicated, never-ending love for me. I could never be loved less by God, even when I quit. I could never be loved more by God, even when I run myself ragged. His yoke is easy and He wants to talk with me and show me His ways.
This was a hard-learned lesson over many years, and it would be wonderful to have a quizlet or “five easy steps” to show you how to know when it’s ok to quit. If I had discovered the formula, I could have written a book with an accompanying journal. If our Christian life could be worked through with formulas, we would have little need to spend time talking and listening with God. Sometimes it’s time to keep going, to lean on God’s strength and go the next step one day at a time. I am there now. Maybe you are there, too. Sometimes it’s time to recognize the finish line, lay down the burden, and rest in God’s peace and timing. I am right there now, too. What is God saying to you?
I remember a summer when I was visiting my sister. I had traveled from Chicago, IL to Minnesota with two young kids, ages 2 and 4. She also had two little kids and the four of them played together beautifully. I recall during this visit I had left the room for a few minutes and returned to see my two-year-old son standing on the top of a glass table. My older sister was just sitting there, which surprised me at the time. I lifted him from his perch and set him down, informing him not to climb on the table again. My sister looked at me and said, “I was considering if I should take him down or not, and I was a little nervous watching him stand on the table. But I tried to guess what you’d do, and I figured you’d allow it since you let your kids take a lot of risks.”
This floored me. I had never considered myself much of a risk-taker, so that comment provoked some introspection. I realized that my definition of a “risk taker” created the context by which I judged myself. I noticed that I do take risks, but certain elements will either encourage or discourage me from doing so. This isn’t just true for me. Everyone has a certain make-up that draws out their confidence or their fear when presented with any risk.
First, let’s define risk-taking so that we are all on the same wave. Risk-taking is the act of going forward into an unknown when there is a chance that something you value could be lost. The greater the value, the higher the risk. The more clouded the unknowns are, the greater the risk. We live in the world of low risk decisions and meet them head-on without much thinking every day. Every time we get in our car and drive to the store, we are facing the unknowns of other drivers, sudden weather changes, a tire blowout, some dude with road rage, but the value of getting to where we want to go outweighs the risk. We also face high-risk opportunities every day and decide to sit them out. Something we value could be lost, and the unknowns deter us from stepping forward. Sometimes we surprise ourselves when we take a big risk. For some reason, we say yes instead of no. A lot of your risk-taking behavior can be predicted by your personality.
Your personality can actually offer some significant, bright insights into your relationship with risk-taking. Some people, like me, are drawn to the risk-taking that brings fun, comradery, new opportunities or the chance to inspire others. They don’t need much more than a spark of possibility, a group of enthusiastic people, and freedom to do it creatively to jump head-long into the adventure. My husband is drawn to risk-taking like a duck to water. It’s in his blood and is essential for life. When risk-taking offers him challenge, personal advancement, and the chance to take the lead, I have learned to get out of his way! He will charge forward, often without looking at all the details, believing he can fix any problems along the way.
Maybe this isn't you.
Some personalities resist risk-taking, but are the best at coming behind others, offering support and encouragement, while staying outside of the line of impact. They won’t lead the charge; they prefer to remain in the safe pace of routine and predictability. But these are the people that are happy to do the less exciting background support. They may not take risks, but without them, this world would fall apart. There is another personality type that doesn’t just resist risk, but they can talk others out of taking risks. They are the most calculating, analytical, and critical minds of all. They will question and puzzle through a risky circumstance, consider all the angles and possible outcomes, and make a decision when it isn’t a risk anymore.
So, some of us are natural risk-takers. Some of us are natural risk-killers. Some of us fall somewhere in between. However, all of us grow more resilient, creative, and confident by taking risks. We all can accomplish important, worthwhile things for ourselves and others by taking risk.
Each of us have our strengths as well as our challenges that may lead us to success or failure in the process. Some act without thinking, and that can create problems for families, teams and themselves. Some are excellent starters but lose their focus and don’t finish. Some are so hesitant in making decisions that they make their decision by not making the decision. Some see the unknowns as a challenge to control and drive everyone around them crazy. We all have our ways.
Whether it’s taking a risk by speaking our truth despite opposition, starting an organization or business before fully ready, inviting guests over when hospitality isn’t a natural strength, setting boundaries with a difficult person, or allowing your teen to step out more toward independence, facing your own risk with strength and courage brings success regardless of how that thing turns out. There are always unknowns. There will be elements outside of our control that impact the outcome. But taking a risk, especially when something we value is at stake, is part of living an abundant, fulfilling life. It requires us to understand our weaknesses, lean into our strengths, acquire outside resources, and grow comfortable with the unknown.
The key is understanding the unique person you are. With more self-awareness, we can also more understand, relate, and adapt to working successfully with others. DISC personality coaching provides a way to gain insights into why we feel, think and act how we do, and provides growth for us to appreciate, understand, communicate and value all people. As a Certified Life Coach and Certified Human Behavior Consultant, I can partner with you individually, or with your team, and help you LOVE risk-taking.
Jesus told them, “Refuse to worry about tomorrow, but deal with each challenge that comes your way, one day at a time. Tomorrow will take care of itself.” I didn’t think I was a worrying person. In fact, I valued my worry-free disposition. As an extroverted, spontaneous, “embrace the moment” person, I was pretty sure that I didn’t worry much. I can vividly recall the exact moments I thought to myself, “I can’t think about that today! I’ll just go crazy if I do! I’ll think about it tomorrow,” but with much less theatrical Scarlett O’Hara flair. No, I didn’t have a problem with worry.
I saw what worry and anxiety looked like up close and personal when we would drop off groceries to my grandmother’s apartment. My mother’s fear of heights, flying, and her need to keep life inside her comfort zone influenced my counter-familial decision to be a free-spirited. I wasn’t a worrier. I wouldn’t be a worrier.
Worry doesn’t want a little corner in your life. It wants to own all of you. When you don’t give worry the time of day over the small things, it doesn’t mean you’ve won the battle for life. When something we deeply value and love is threatened or challenged, worrying can feel like a comfort. We open our minds and hearts to it because it can feel like we are doing something. This is how worrying hoodwinked me.
Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.
I write this as a humbled woman. I have come to terms that I struggle with worrying about the bigger things in life. I worry about the people I love so dearly; ones I wish I could gather up and rescue and envelop in secure, bullet-proof love. And I must confess, I worry about the “medium stuff”, too. I worry about my kids’ education and preparedness for this crazy world. And I see how I worry about the little things, too. I worry that I’ll fail at teaching my daughter to merge successfully onto a highway (our third to learn to drive, and we cross fingers that this one won’t total a car). I worry about what I'm cooking for dinner. Lord, help me not to worry about tomorrow. Today has enough problems of its own.
Do they like me? Is it good enough? Are my kids getting into trouble? Does my computer have good anti-virus software? Did I spend too much time in the sun as a teenager?
There is a deeper cost to worrying. Often, worrying is the cause for your brain fog and inability to focus or the gnawing, empty stomach feeling of impending doom. When we feel that much of life is spinning out of control, it may be under-the-surface worry. We slip into compulsive behaviors that become habits, become overly critical of ourselves and others, or find it nearly impossible to just slow down and rest. Often, we aren’t consciously and deliberately worrying. We may not even be aware that we are. It’s hard to stop doing something that you won’t admit you are doing. Do we feel guilty or weak when we worry? I wonder.
Jesus says to us, “Refuse to worry.”
When I have my creamy iced coffee in hand, I really don’t want to pair it with broccoli. My taste buds want a bagel, bacon, or a handful of pretzels but NOT spinach salad. The thoughts we give a home to creates a chain reaction, too. One thought often leads to another like-thought. After the first taste of worrying or negative thoughts, it takes a strong action to disrupt the flow. The worry train grows, builds strength. Refusing to worry means I must choose to chase down faith, trust, gratitude, and joy multiple times a day. Our thoughts directly lead to our feelings, which then create the outpouring of our spoken words, our physical state, and our behaviors. Just like my appetite, I will need to make a concerted effort and choice to at some point, stop with “less healthy” thoughts and choose whole-life-thinking. The sooner, the better. We need to bring the worrying thoughts out of the little corner and onto the table and deal with them.
But worries are sneaky little things. Remember how I told you about my alternate reality where I didn’t worry ever? Worry will come, and it will either sneak in or roll in like a thunderclouds. Worry will know which entrance works best on you. In a way, worry is a living, breathing thing. It has an energy all its own, attaching itself to us.
Learn to recognize what worry looks like and sounds like in you. Become comfortable with pulling it up and throwing it on the table and dealing with it.
Talk out your worries. Go for a walk or a run and be the crazy person talking to herself. Talk to your dog or the trees. Talk to Jesus. Do something physically active while working your thoughts from worrying to praise. Write it out in a notebook, journal or create a list. Use my Circle of Influence sheet to reduce your worries and make a simple plan in less than 10 minutes. Whatever you do, however you do it, the worry must go. It is the thief of purpose. It is the robber of joy. It adds absolutely NOTHING to your life. It kills creative problem solving. It ruins relationships. Jesus said, “Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
Worrying cannot add a single hour to your life. It cannot add peace of mind. The answer that seems simple, is the answer that works for me. Jesus’ love gives me the courage to refuse my worries. He calms my mind. I’ll go for a drive or a walk and talk to Him until the worries appear smaller and smaller. The ones that won’t get small enough, I ask Him to be patient with me and help me chip away at it each day, handing over tiny particles of anxieties.
So, I worry. It’s true. You do, too. You may not worry as much as others, or you may really struggle with worrying. You may need people beside you, supporting you. You may need to give yourself grace when you are too exhausted to pull out your chisel. You may need to get real with yourself that you have worries. We are all different in that way. Yet, God is constant and faithful. You can trust Him today, wherever you are in your faith. Jesus said to the entire crowd that day, "But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own."
See Matthew 6:19-33, I Peter 5:7, and Isaiah 26:3 for more on worry.
I have three reoccurring dreams. In one of the dreams, I’m in a school building, racing through a maze of hallways.
Seconds before the tardy bell, I enter the classroom for the first time. Only, it’s the last day of class and I realize that I’ve not shown up all semester, nor have I turned in any math papers or taken the exams. I am a failure. I wake up drenched in sweat, heart racing, and talking myself down, “You are 48 years old with four kids and a dog. It’s just a dream… school cannot hurt you anymore”
The week when report cards were issued always found me an anxious, panicky mess.
I don’t recall one time in my years of schooling where I felt successful at the end of a quarter. I experienced some proud moments with a successful creative assignment, oral report, or project that received a “good grade”, but in my role as student, I felt like a failure. But I remember this one report card that was different.
In my perfect world, I make Swedish pancakes in the morning. I make Swedish pancakes, and they are wholesome and lovely, and they set the tone of the day: cheery, efficient, spontaneous and meaningful. All of that, right there. Now let's talk reality: Waffles in the toaster, left-over pizza, goldfish and grapes or whatever the kids decide to tackle. And, I am out the door quick to grab an iced coffee to kick my mind into motion. I am NOT a morning person. I am not up early enough to make Swedish pancakes, even when I decide to get up early. And my mind wants to battle this out with me every morning.
Not a morning person, either? Keep reading to learn my Jedi mind trick to get out of bed in under 10 seconds.
If Only My Mind Would Behave.
The mind is so much more than a collection of neurons, dendrites, and axons. Our minds are really the element of us that composes our ideas, opinions, emotions, reflections, biases, zeal, and beliefs. The mind is a direct influencer to what you and I say and do. And nearly every morning, I have a decision to make: will my mind be in control of me today, or will I be in control of my mind?
Consider the typically unchallenged thought, "I'm not a morning person". I believe it is true and attached to that are a list of behaviors and standards I apply automatically. What thought do you accept about you as if it is an absolute truth not to be challenged or changed? The simple belief that I am not a morning person is just the starting point. My mind will lead me on a pathway of zero resistance. I will not make Swedish pancakes or develop any new routines or habits that are outside the acceptable patterns of my "non-morning-personhood". All these patterns, habits, and excuses begin inside my mind without my active consent -- and this happens for you, too!
Sometimes the beliefs we hold onto as IDENTIFYING us SHOULD be challenged. Actually, I believe that most of the beliefs we have that limit us must be challenged. When my 7th grade teacher told me that I wasn't very smart --a "D" grade for me was like other students getting a "B"-- it should have been challenged. Messages that define you, whether they come from parents, teachers, peers, or ourselves, have a way of attaching themselves and burrowing into us. They take deep root and then branch out their tangly, skinny, hairy sub-roots, touching many areas of our lives. The teacher's statement, and the message given to me from other adults, impacted many decisions, including my final decision on a college major. It wasn't until I entered graduate school that I dared to consider, "What if what I believed about my intelligence wasn't true?"
What If That Isn't True?
I'm not a morning person. What if that isn't true? What if something in that defining statement is NOT true? What would that mean? Could I start the morning differently? If that is true now, does that mean it needs to stay true tomorrow? As we dare to challenge our beliefs, one question leads us to the next one and to new discoveries. What if I find that I am not a morning person, and will remain a non-morning person. What defines me as not a morning person? Is it because I get up at 7:45 am instead of 5:00 am and don't like to make a mess of dishes right away? Now I'm getting to something.
Get curious. Get crazy curious about the beliefs that limit you. You need to have the curiosity of determined, feisty, child version of you -- like when you were younger and didn't want to accept the limits.
What if the thing you believed about yourself wasn't true? The power in this question can lead you right to the edge of your comfort zone. It can lead to a huge breakthrough. It can give you the confidence to pursue your dream. It can also shake you up, surfacing some uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. Truth has a way of doing that. It's a hard question to ask ourselves. Our minds strive to keep us in safety, so it may resist the questions that bring us to the edge of the unknown. Your mind may push your limiting beliefs right in front of your face, playing out all the reasons why you can't, you won't, you shouldn't, including examples in HD and surround sound. Often, we need someone else to help us through the process as a sounding board and as a non-judgemental, impartial partner.
I'm not a morning person.
Yeah, by some people's standards, I'm not a morning person. But this question led me to understand that I want to get up a little earlier each day, but NOT because I want to make Swedish pancakes. I actually don't want to have a mess to clean up in the morning and prefer a simple, easy breakfast routine. This question also led me to understand that I am smarter than the adults of my childhood told me I was. A few years ago, it helped me discover I can create an organization from the ground up that successfully serves many families in my area. Two years ago, this question helped me discover that I can start my own business. It also helped me gain clarity on what I truly value, how to overcome my weak areas, and a better way to help my children discover their motivation to do school work. Have I convinced you yet of the power of this question? Want to work together to challene your limiting beliefs and gain clarity on what is keeping you from leading your life forward with joy? I can't wait to talk with you!
Oohh! I promised you my trick to getting out of bed in less than 10 seconds! Here it is!