personal growth

Your Words Have Impact When You Least Expect It

And Your Actions Will Carry Even More Weight

Sarah & Mom, Mt. Helena City Park

Sarah & Mom, Mt. Helena City Park

I have moments in conversations with my children that I think: “That was good! Where did that wisdom come from?” And in my mind, I’ve said something so perceptive, so wise, that my boys are sure to remember it and apply it.

That’s rarely the way it works. They remember some of the most ridiculous things I’ve said, and most of the time when they tell me something deep that I shared with them, I have no memory of the conversation.

When my mother came to visit our family recently, I took the opportunity to have this conversation with her: Do you remember telling me these wise things that I’ve written about in my blog? At the time you shared these words with me, did you think they would have life-long impact?

I loved this conversation, partly because it confirmed this generational commonality, that our children remember things we don’t remember. And more importantly, that they remember our actions, the values we demonstrated to them, with even more clarity.

In our conversation we mentioned a few things related to childbirth and breast feeding, and I promised to include links to explain. Mom mentioned meconium aspiration, and her activity in the early 70s with La Leche League.

Also in the conversation, we talked about the Jewish holiday called Purim, the cookies we make to celebrate that holiday, and the act of delivering a basket of those cookies and other treats anonymously to people.

Sarah and Mom, Helena Regional Airport

Sarah and Mom, Helena Regional Airport

Knowing that we think differently, and process information differently is critical to the health of our relationships, and talking through how we remember our family history helps clarify those differences. When I remember hard times, specific incidents that had impact on me, I vividly remember the people involved, and my feelings and experiences with those people. It turns out that when my mother remembers specific incidents that had big impact on her, she remembers her feelings about it, the emotions she experienced, not the specific people involved.

Having this conversation allowed me some insights in terms of her emotional response to things I say or struggles she experiences in her life. She simply processes things differently from how I process them, and there’s so much beauty in that difference.

Your Turn

Have you told people the impact they had on you? Do you share your memories with people, so they understand how much their actions meant to you? When you share these stories with people in your life, you have an incredible opportunity not only to be grateful, which has positive impact on your brain, and to thank people, but to see those same experiences through their eyes.

Not All of the Most Important Lessons Come from Struggle

We learned so much about ourselves and our relationship on that adventure. Our resourcefulness, silly senses of humor, and resilience was on full display.

Stories of Outdoor Adventures Color Our Lives with Gratitude

Returning From an Adventure with No Toilet Paper Makes You Grateful for the Little Things

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Kevin Strauss wasn't born into a family that was outdoorsy. He didn't grow up in a place where it was common to hike for miles, or to go camping in the wilderness over the summer. But at some point in his life, he realized he wanted to reconnect with nature, to explore his adventurous nature and stretch out of his comfort zone. He did something he never thought he'd do, and that experience set him up for a future full of extreme outdoor adventures.

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When we think about our lives and how we live each day, we have three concentric circles of our activities and behaviors. The innermost, smallest circle is our comfort zone, and most of us stay in there in the majority of our daily activities. The next circle is about double the size of the comfort zone, and that's our stretch zone. The majority of us spend about 5 percent of our time there on a daily basis. And then there's the huge, outermost circle - our "oh shit" zone. That's the place we avoid as much as possible, totally out of our control and beyond our imagination of our own capacity and drive.

When we take a leap like Kevin did, we stretch that comfort zone out a bit, but more importantly, we stretch our stretch zone out dramatically. What we thought we'd never do, suddenly becomes an option, a possibility.

Being in nature, really out there, beyond easy access to an escape route, we realize a) how little control we really have, and b) how little, in terms of "stuff" we need to survive. Being out there with no toilet, no toilet paper, and no access to prepared food leaves us with a complete understanding of exactly what is a necessity, and what is simply luxury.

Mount Helena City Park, Helena, Montana

Mount Helena City Park, Helena, Montana

That's when we can connect deeply with ourselves and the world around us. The best part of this kind of adventure is the return to "real" life, when we get to apply the lessons we learn on our adventures. We realize that gratitude changes our lives, improves our relationship with ourselves and others, and helps push us to try new things and set our priorities.

As promised in the podcast, here are a few resources for you, just in case you are inspired to step out of your comfort zone in an outdoor adventure:

  • Local REI and MeetUps often have trips for beginners, as well as classes

  • Backpacker.com is a great magazine to get you started and thinking about trips and gear

  • Backpackinglight.com has a plethora of articles, webinars, podcasts, etc.

  • Cottage shops for gear often have great articles and resources on their websites, as well as “real life” experiences. Gossamer Gear, Six Moon Designs, ULA, Mountain Laurel Designs, Zpacks. You won’t find this gear at REI or other major sporting goods stores, but you’ll learn about real gear that works.

And here's the other promised link to Kevin's blog post about toilet paper.

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Kevin Strauss is a 17-year, injury-free Ironman Triathlete and Coach. If you have any question or need help with your endurance events, including backpacking, or if you want to get started and run your first 5K and do it right, visit his website. Learn more about Kevin and his products, Family eJournal and Corporate eJournal, and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Your History is Your Story; It Doesn't Have to Be Your Future

Shelley Beth Brown is one of those creative people that, when we first meet her, we assume has always thrived in creative environments. Her writing is whimsical, raw, and full of childhood imagination.

Struggle Stories Help Define Patterns

Code: Opportunity for Personal Growth

After two years in the position, I found myself standing in the bathroom with a tear-stained face... again. What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I make this work? I'm not a particularly emotional person and yet, here I was with swollen eyes and runny nose... again. Why was I letting my boss get to me like this?

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This wasn't the first time I found myself struggling with an abusive boss in a bad environment. Just two positions before this one I had another abusive boss. As I stood looking in the mirror, my reflection said it all: You've been in this position before that, too.

I started to look back at all of my jobs, all the way back to being a food server at an IHOP in college. There were some exceptions; I did experience jobs where I was valued, where I thrived and became the professional person I am today. Looking back though, there were far too many similar situations in my past. This was a pattern.

It took some deep self-reflection to come to this conclusion, the most humbling and difficult moment in my career.

I had some complicity here.

What an awful realization. Who wants that kind of answer to a question? No one I know wants to admit they did something wrong or that they played a part in what was wrong with a relationship or job.

I'm not for a second suggesting that bullying and abuse is the fault of the victim.

I'm not for a second suggesting that it is ever okay to treat people badly or that a victim as somehow earned abuse.

there are circumstances and patterns, though, that when we see them in our lives can awaken us to our role in our own success, if we take responsibility as adults and choose to make changes.

I learned a lot of lessons in those 2+ years; I continue to face similar challenges, now I'm more aware of my actions that might be contributing to the problems.

Here are some of the lessons I continue to practice:

  1. Your contribution may not be necessary or may not add value to the discussion. Stop. Think. Listen. Then decide how or if to weigh in with your thoughts or suggestions.
  2. Trust is good, but take the time to know a person before you share. Trust your instincts! If you observe characteristics about a person, incorporate those observations into your overall level of trust and figure out with what you can trust each person in the environment. If someone is sharing gossip with you, they're likely sharing gossip about you.
  3. Related to #2, be careful where you dump (especially if you live in a small town), and DO NOT DUMP at work. The person you want to vent about may be right around the corner and that is simply disrespectful - and you will not like yourself afterward. As bad as it is, it can be worse when you know you've earned some of the scorn. Sometimes you need to share frustrations at work, be careful not to become the person who is constantly griping and complaining.
  4. Sometimes you have to play the game. Don’t antagonize, especially if it won’t bring you closer to your goal. Always think of your ultimate goal for the relationship and your job. I once hit "send" on an email I knew I shouldn't have sent. It took me about five minutes to feel the consequences and to know how sophomoric I was for sabotaging my own day. That's where I developed the 24 Hour Rule.
  5. Be aware that your position in the project may not be what you want it to be, find out what's expected for your role and focus! Do your job with all of your skills and energy, and learn what you must to do your job well. My mom once told me that every trial you face will keep coming back until you learn your lesson from it. Remember that it's not forever and that you must "find the nugget" before you can leave.
  6. Find people you trust and who know you well, but are separate enough from the situation to provide an outside perspective, and ask them for specific ideas about where you should be looking for your next adventure.
  7. When faced with a difficult situation, reflect on how you would want to perceive it from 20 years in the future. Did you handle it well, with grace, dignity and compassion?
  8. Sometimes people are just mean. It may be time to call them on it and stand up for yourself and others, or get out.
  9. My most unpleasant lesson: Figure out how you might be complicit in your own patterns of frustration in jobs and relationships. Until you identify your patterns, you will continue to face similar situations. If every boss, or every romantic partner in your life was the same... the common piece of the puzzle is you.

 

There are no easy answers.

 

Be kind to yourself while you work through this. And know that you are a work in progress; what makes you happy and content today will probably change in the future.