Build Your Leaders

Archive for December, 2009

What Lessons Did You Learn?

December 30th, 2009

A review of 2009. “Every situation you face will transform you if you allow it; life is classroom.” This statement is Tenet Two of my revised “life manifesto.” A life manifesto is a list of four to five principles that summarize how you intend to live your life. I wrote my first one when my brother Chip died in 2004. Several weeks ago, I revised it while in New York.

Recently, I asked myself if I was truly living each principle. It was then that I came up with the idea of reviewing this past year and listing all the lessons I have learned or am learning. 2009 was a challenging year for many of us; it was also a year ripe for learning.

Within twenty minutes I had documented fifty lessons. They included:

Brought more being to my doing.

Got more into my body through yoga, Pilates, and dance.

Claimed the role of “artist.”

Defined my personal theology.

Before you close 2009 out, why not take a few minutes and list the lessons you learned and are learning? Try it. This simple exercise may put a whole new spin on this past year. It did for me.

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Power Up for Presents!

December 22nd, 2009

The power behind gift giving and receiving. Christmases and birthdays — celebrations that include receiving gifts — are emotionally-loaded times for me. Like most traumas, the root of my discomfort is lodged in childhood.

I was taught that finding joy in receiving was selfish but to give was divine. “God loves a happy giver,” my parents preached.

It was not until my forties that I began to examine my discomfort around receiving gifts. I remember one Christmas when I was eleven years old. Instead of the FOA Schwarz castle and knight set I had prayed for, my father opted for an educational toy, a chemistry set. A chemical engineer by training, my father couldn’t understand why I wasn’t stronger in science.

Christmases were like that in the Siegel household. Gifts had goals, and few were given freely. Most had hidden messages, and all had sticky invisible strings attached to them.

One year, Dad gave Mother an ornate sterling silver punch bowl. Upon opening it, she burst into tears. Hers were not tears of joy; Dad had been after Mother for years to entertain more.

It’s not the actual gift that matters; it’s the intention behind it. When I know the gift was given with the expectation that it will thrill me, it usually does. I feel loved.

The right gift can help us feel seen and understood. When we receive a gift that hits the mark, it is as if the recipient has said, “I see you. I know who you are.”

Likewise, when we receive a gift that is totally off-mark it can make us feel sad and misunderstood. As recipients, we have some responsibility in helping others give to us.

When I am asked what I want for Christmas or my birthday, too often I reply, “I don’t know; I really don’t need anything.” I respond similarly when a friend senses that I have an emotional need. I don’t want to appear needy, but when I don’t share my wants and needs how can I expect others to know them — and know me?

I used to think that if they really knew me they would magically know my needs. I now know better. I have a responsibility to speak out and let others know what I want and need.

Receiving still causes me some angst; old patterns are hard to change. But it is less stressful than it once was. When I let people know my wants and needs I give myself the greatest gift of all: I allow others to really see me and know me for who I am.

My Gift to You: To thank you for your friendship and support, I’d like to offer you a free copy of my special report on Your Ideal Work Environment.

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When Bad Things Happen

December 16th, 2009

There’s a lesson if we look for it. Sometimes shit happens. That’s what some say. But I believe life is more intentional; there’s learning in every situation if only we scratch the surface. Last week, I lost the keys to my Manhattan apartment. Ever since I took over the apartment three weeks ago, I feared losing the keys. What would I do? The landlord lives an hour outside of Manhattan.

Last Wednesday was a rainy day. I had scored a discount ticket to the Broadway matinee of “Ragtime.”  It was terrific. At the end of the show, I stood up and reached for my keys, and to my horror my pockets were empty. I looked around my seat. No keys. I went back to the restaurant where I’d had lunch. No keys. I called my landlord. No answer.

Panicked, I walked to St. Thomas Episcopal Church, sat in a pew, took a deep breath, and gathered my thoughts. Where would I spend the night? Once I calmed down, I decided to call Roy.

My friend Roy lives in New York; he was in Atlanta on business. He arranged for me to pick up a key to his apartment. Twenty-four hours later, and $125 poorer (my landlord demanded a $75 damage deposit and $50 replacement key charge), I was back in my Chelsea apartment.

That afternoon, my inner critic birthed an inner chorus. In unison they berated me for my lack of responsibility. I began to journal to quiet their roar. Perhaps if I looked at this incident as a dream, I’d find an insight, and that insight would be worth my trouble and the $125.

Losing my key was my biggest fear in New York, and it happened. The truth is, it wasn’t so bad. Roy’s apartment is far nicer than mine, and it’s close to Central Park. One of the highlights of my trip was the walk I took the next morning in the park.

I came to New York three weeks ago seeking clarity. As I reported in last week’s blog, I found it. Maybe not “burning bush clarity,” but I did receive several insights that were valuable. Here’s another: fear is the only thing holding me back, and after losing my keys, I now know that even if the worst happens, I’ll be okay. And if I look for it, I’ll find an unexpected gift: a lesson that will help me live a richer life.

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The Adventure Continues

December 9th, 2009

A progress report. What if every trip could be a spiritual journey? It can, according to friend and fellow author Joseph Dispenza. In his wonderful book The Way of the Traveler, Joseph offers a creative way to “intentionalize” a trip: pack index cards with the virtues or attributes you’d like to take with you on the trip. The four I chose for my Manhattan adventure are:

1.  Receptivity
2.  Creativity
3.  Courage
4.  Clarity

I’ve been in New York for over two weeks with a little over a week to go. It’s time to review my virtues.

Receptivity. Check. I’ve been pretty open to what each day has brought.

Creativity. Check. I’ve been writing, and I’m attending Gabrielle Roth’s dance group this week.

Courage. Check. Finding my way around this city takes courage, but not as much courage as going to Gabrielle Roth’s dance group.

Clarity. No burning bush, but I have stumbled on several insights. I want to:

Shake it up a little. Change my routine in Asheville. View things from a different perspective.

  • Conduct workshops for another college, university, or institution in addition to the University of Georgia. Maybe in New York.
  • Deepen my work. Talk, teach, and write more about connection and contribution. I believe these are the keys to living a life of meaning.
  • Seek ways to strengthen the connection with my readers.
  • Continue to explore ways to be more body-aware. Right now, I am enjoying Pilates and dancing.

Maybe like the sculptor that slowly chips away on the beautiful block of marble, I’ll continue to harvest these small insights until one day I look up and see the sculpture is complete.

And then it’ll be time to start another.

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