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The Risk We Take For The Change We Make: Overcoming Disappointment

Optimism is a peculiar thing.  It’s so great to have and helpful to keep.  But what on Earth are we to do when we’re getting scared of it?
Time after time, we each face disappointment in our lives.  The source can be anything from work projects falling through to plans with friends becoming no plans at all.
But then there are times where that optimism reaches far deeper than you realized.  That’s where it turns into risk.  Moving forward can sometimes be so painful and scary, you’d rather stay where you are and halt any chance of having to change anything.
Lately, I’ve found myself a little confused.  I’m going to be 34 and I’m starting again.  I’m absolutely comfortable in my own skin and know exactly what I love and what ways I take in the details of life.  I’ve found my passion and my courage to pursue it thanks to the help of people I love dearly.  I have so much acceptance from friends and family who welcome me into their lives without question.  It’s scary, though.  There are certain aspects of myself I’m having to make vulnerable in order to keep moving and evolving.  Things like the prospect of dating again and the idea that I’m back to a blank canvas looking to fill it ultimately with more love and hopefully a new location, or the opportunity to test myself.
Well, it showed up.
And I got burned.  Quickly.  Unexpectedly.  Really, though, it’s been a learning experience.  I wasn’t expecting to finally let myself get excited about a possibly new thing or connection with a person.  But I did.  Just a little bit-  Enough to have hope that I might be able to find some butterflies in there again. It was sad, exciting, new, unknown.. And then it was completely over.  The situation changed literally overnight and I was left to decide if “heartbroken” was OK.  Turns out, it is.
It’s perfectly OK.
But I wasn’t heartbroken over a person.  In fact, I respect him a great deal in the very short time I’ve known him.  I was disheartened over the fact that it took me so much to finally be alright with the idea of a little crush again and then finding out that I’ll have to rebuild that strength again so quickly.  At least it was a quick burn with absolutely no hard feelings at all.  I’m seeing it as just a little reality check-  an opportunity to recalibrate and check my levels.
Regardless of what is happening in our worlds, disappointment is real and, as it turns out, weighs about 19 tons.  We give the benefit of the doubt and even a little of ourselves to the unknown and it goes dark.  We’re left wondering what happened as we’re gathering what’s left of what we gave.
This is what I’m learning, though- Each time we are disappointed by a person or a situation, we’re given an opportunity to push ourselves a little further.  We know now that whatever happens next will be handled- expertly or terribly.  It will be handled.  We know it’s still going to work out alright regardless of if (or when) it all hits the fan.  Disappointment can shed light on things you’re already experiencing to make you that much more grateful they’re happening.. OR that they’ll stop.  Personally, this recent experience just leaves me grateful in general.  I have no doubt that I am the luckiest still.
Sometimes it’s exhausting.   It’s hard to think about it when what you’ve had for years is something you never want to replace.  I won’t ever replace that.  But I can move forward knowing how lucky I’ve been for every experience I’ve had.
In the toughest moments, look around you.  Watch for those who are unchanging and completely undaunted by the prospect of having to help you out of the dark.
They’re the ones who are pushing you forward even when you’re not sure another chance is worthwhile.  They will not disappoint you.

Progress Through Compassion Take Two: Keys To Learning The Curve

While composing part two of this short series on Progress Through Compassion,
the topic of empathy often comes up when I hear from management teams who are struggling to balance productivity with workplace independence. Employees want to be able to assert their independence as everyone works differently toward the same goal.  This is a beneficial thing, however it can also be detrimental.  Many times, employers find themselves feeling a loss of direction as their employees scatter into different procedures and methods.
So how do we find that sweet spot where our employees feel appreciated, respected, and independently productive?  For many in an employer’s position, this is where empathy becomes a skill to learn.
Here are two key points from that new baseline to regain balance and productivity.
 
Expand your vocabulary to avoid words like “control” or “policy”.
These words are obviously functional and important in any working environment.  But what if we flip that into this:  Control is actually a function of maintaining balance.  Approaching the same principle with a less polarizing perspective by simply switching a word helps to give you a platform while letting your employee stay open to ideas and even constructive criticism.
Take notes.
Take notes-  Not about work.  Not about profit margins or Power Points.  Take notes about what makes your employee tick.  What makes them thrive?  What changes their demeanor or makes their day?
We often get lost in the technical side of conducting business while losing site of WHO is conducting it.  This is your baseline-  your key to moving forward.
I often think of a particularly fantastic Seinfeld reference where “Anyone can take  reservation.”
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Think of this as learning how to “*hold* the reservation.”

Help In Hiding: 6 Ways To Be Helpful When You Feel Helpless

I took a break from as much as possible yesterday to focus on using the feeling of heaviness the best way I could.  I still couldn’t.  The news surrounding so many recent events has had  millions of us shaken and confused.  For me, silence is key.  I want to stay out of the frenzy, inform myself as much as possible of the necessary facts, and figure out a way to help.
I drove into a dusty sunrise hearing chatter on the radio with updates of new statistics and speculation.  I knew the recent storms and violence shed a lot of blood and I was saddened by the fact that I cannot give mine.
Due to my heart condition, I cannot donate blood.  As I see Red Cross trucks setting up in the parking lots of various offices in the city, I thought about those who can’t use them.  Here are a few ways to help when you can’t give yours for a host of personal reasons.
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My view this morning was stunning.

1.  Pay it forward-  This does not require money as many of us do not have enough of that to give, either.  This can be in the form of helping someone carry heavy items to their car from the store.  Your act of recognizing another human as a fellow human is priceless.  This can even include going with someone who can donate blood-  Support is key.
2.  Donate time-  Many of our resources (time, energy, supplies) quickly dissipate once help is needed elsewhere.  If you’re able, donating time to spend with people who need company or kids who need distraction is more valuable than any check you can write.
3.  Volunteer at a shelter-  This is one I’ve always had a heart for ever since spending my first Volunteer Thanksgiving in one.  Serve food to those who are not only dealing with the heartache of a chaotic world situation but are also facing their own.  Sit down and share some conversation over coffee with fellow volunteers or guests.  You will be amazed at what you learn.
4.  Don’t click the bait-  In our world of instant information, news streams and media channels are running rampant with headlines and feeds.  There is a major setback to this.  The rush to get the first lead is a prime breeding ground for sensationalism and misinformation.  Help us save the unnecessary stories from polluting the real ones by stopping to consider if it’s correct, if it’s necessary, and if it’s going to help someone else.
5.  Call your representative-  This is one not many of us think about on a daily basis.  If you have concerns over policies regarding the response to catastrophe or the availability of weaponry.. Really anything-  Call your representatives and voice your opinion.  You may think that your voice won’t count or be heard.  But even 10 voices are really, really loud.  Be that guy.
6.  Inform yourself-  I cannot stress this one enough.  Informing yourself of current events and causes is the groundwork for making change happen.  We cannot move forward without knowing why we should.  It is crucial.

The One With The Food: Quick, Clean, and A No-Bake Guarantee.

As the weather cools off and the evenings free up, I have found myself starting to cook more often.  There’s something about Fall that makes it one of the most peaceful and gratifying things for me to do!

I get asked quite a bit about my favorite go-to recipes and things to keep on hand.  So here we go!  I love to stay with a gluten-free, whole-food approach to anything I make at home.  These are three of my quick and easy favorites!

 

 

Grilled Pineapple, Onions, & Jalapeno

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Stay with me here.. It LOOKS very strange.  It’s actually very good and as a bonus, it’s adjustable!

Slice a fresh pineapple however you like it.  I prefer chopped.  Add a sliced jalapeno and chopped onion and grill until it’s slightly browned.  Trust me on this one.

 

 

Who doesn’t love pancakes?!  On to the next one:

Easy Egg-Banana Pancackes

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This one is just as easy!  I take two fresh eggs and mix them with a banana until it’s a relatively smooth consistency.  The eggs will allow the banana to set.  I grill mine over a little bit of coconut oil until they’re cooked through and drizzle with raw, unfiltered honey.  Perfection in the form of protein and potassium for breakfast.

 

The next one comes with a disclaimer:  These will be gone before they hit the counter.  It may be best to make these under cover of night before the other house mates catch wind of it.

 

 

Reptar Bars 

(Hey.. I had to think of something besides “Magic”..)

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Ground Almonds

Pumpkin Seeds

Pecans

Flaxseeds

Dried Cranberries

Honey

Coconut Oil

You can adjust this however you’d prefer.  I like to take a little of each in a bowl and add the honey and coconut oil until it’s pliable but holds together.  Spread the resulting mixture into a thinly oiled pan until they’re a little over an inch thick.  I cover them with wax paper and let them set for about an hour in the fridge.  This is one that may take some trial and error.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve ended up with something more like granola cereal instead.  No matter what, it will be just as good!

 

I hope you’ll try these and enjoy!

Translating Transformation- A Different Point Of View

How do you take on something that overwhelms you?
How do you turn doubt into determination?
How do you translate someone’s perception of you or your actions?
These are questions I’ve asked myself as I go through yet another shift in my Darah-fied life.  I keep coming back to the same conclusion:
Transformation isn’t about your image.  It’s about the image of everything else to you.
Let’s break it on down now!
Transformation isn’t about your image.  
How are we presenting ourselves as authentically as possible?  The truth of the matter is this-  Our ability to be authentic requires us to do some ridiculously tough but valuable work in looking at ourselves.  Human nature is to run from discomfort and one of the most uncomfortable things in life is to look at our own flaws while simultaneously displaying our own vulnerability in the form of.. well.. every bit of what makes us who we are.
Transformation is about the image of everything else to you.
It’s about perception. It’s all in the approach and how you choose to navigate things you see and experience. This is where the aforementioned questions come in for me.  Allow me to present a super detailed info-graphic**:
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**Not an accurate depiction of how it looks in my mind.***
*** Note to self: Work on design skills.
If you’re anything like me, an idea can quickly become a challenge.  This can be a good thing!  The problem is this:  If I don’t focus on how I personally approach that challenge, it can then become an obstacle.  The obstacle starts to seem insurmountable.  I start to realize how done I am with stressing over it and I’m back to where I started before I even began.
Lately, I’ve shifted my focus to small changes instead of giant ones.  This strategy allows me to maintain some balance while everything else is shifting.  While I have undergone some pretty sizable transformations in my 33 years, none of them have been without self-doubt, outright failures, and numerous “restarts”-  You know those Mondays where you promise yourself you’ll start fresh right after you enjoy a ridiculously lazy and gluttonous Sunday night.  I have done this using three key thoughts.
*Missing a personal goal isn’t failing as long as I’ve successfully tried.
*Try again.
*Smaller goals in daily life can be as simple as drinking more water than you did yesterday.
True transformation begins with looking at that line between our own view and theirs.  
True transformation shows us our strengths, weaknesses, and willingness to challenge them.

Overcoming Overwhelm: Five Key Steps To Visualizing, Organizing, And Using It.

I sat here for longer than I’d like to admit staring at a blank document- The cursor flashing like a four-way stop light, words ready to be typed once I figured out which ones to use and in what order to do so. The irony was not lost on me.
I’m writing about overwhelm and I couldn’t seem to step back long enough to just let it happen.  Therein lies my first point.
1.  Write down whatever five words show up first.  
It doesn’t matter what they’re about.  They could be about the morning or about something stressful in the office.  They could be about dinner last night.  From there, write 5 more that have even a slight relevance to them.
1st:
Cat
Breakfast
Drive
Blue
Wine
2nd:
Soft
Fed
Travel
Favorite
Break
In one step, I’ve gone from objects of every day life to concepts of things I enjoy.  Let’s take it a step further.
3rd:
Nurture
Health
Goal
Change
Companionship
This strategy can be applied to anything your brain reacts to as an attack.  We are wired to immediately deflect these in the form of doubt.  We doubt this will work.  We doubt we have the ability to overcome whatever is creating our stress.
2.  Visualize everything you can.  
Five apples into one bowl.  Five people into one car.  Five concepts on one hand.  It can be daunting to come up with FIVE things to write.  But visualizing the fact that you can count them on ONE hand will ignite a different part of your brain that involves that familiar fight or flight response to pressure.  Visualizing putting five big things onto one surface lets you know it’s manageable and definitely not as chaotic as you want to think it is.
Apples
3.  Count your steps.
This can be taken literally or figuratively.  There is a technique in anxiety and stress management called “grounding” that I’ve found to be highly valuable in dealing with those moments of overwhelming blankness.  You know the ones-  A crippling sense of absolutely everything and nothing going on in your head at once causing a massive short-circuit and a blown fuse.. Maybe that’s just me.
Literally, the act of stepping away to walk and regroup is highly effective.  As you walk, count.  As you count, just keep doing that.  You’re clearing your head to make way for something simple and naturally restorative.
Figuratively, you’re already over half way through the five key steps to overcoming your situation.
4.  Think of two things you look forward to having settled.
Being an extremely visual person, I consider myself lucky to see this as literally switching off as many lights as possible to focus on just one or two spotlights.  When we’re overwhelmed, it’s relatively easy for us to just shut them all off and walk away from a dark room.  We don’t have to look at it then and will somehow deal with the mess later.  The problem with this is in the build up.  That room is still there full of the mess that has yet to be sorted.  This is where the idea of pulling any two things out will help.
Consider it this way:  Organizing your tasks into a list by order of importance and deadline is the first thing to cross off of it!
5.  Give yourself a break.  
This can be the toughest step to take.  We are wired to be our own worst enemy.  It’s a primal nod to how we evolve as people.  If we didn’t challenge ourselves, we wouldn’t get past merely existing.  In a world full of constant static and distractions, it’s easy to let that natural self-challenge to become self-doubt instead.  There are two common and valid hangups with this step.
The concept of giving ourselves a break can seem counterproductive.
The question I get most often:
“How are we supposed to make progress if we are off taking a break?”
My question back:
“How are we supposed to make progress if we’re too exhausted from not taking one?”
Here’s what I mean:  We have to recharge.  We deserve to do it and trust that it is part of a strategy in reaching a goal.  We cannot reach them if we’re on empty.  Taking a break for even ten minutes of mindless Solitaire is more beneficial than we may realize.  It isn’t all or nothing.  It’s ten minutes of putting cards in order.
The biggest key I try to convey to any one of my peers struggling with stress and exhaustion is this:  You deserve to trust yourself and trust the fact that it will get figured out.  You deserve to slow down and let it.

One Minute Day Maker

I woke up and managed to polish this morning’s edition of myself entirely too early.  This meant I had extra time to spread coffee-fueled, unsolicited morning greetings to a far less enthused group of peers.
This morning was different, though.  Perhaps it was due to a pending early exit for me to spend time with a wonderful friend this afternoon.  Or perhaps it had something to do with a particularly energetic morning soundtrack brought to me in part by Robert Randolph And The Family Band.
I came around the corner as an equally cheerful coworker came up hiding something in the palm of her hand.  Her smile lit up as she said with her signature giggle, “I thought of you this weekend.” She slid something across the file cabinet toward me;  a shiny new discount card to replace the expiring one she gave me last year.  I was elated.  It was thoughtful and the timing was absolutely perfect.
I looked at the card as I held it out and thought of such a sweet gesture dropping out of nowhere and into my day.  Something stopped me.
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Upon closer inspection, I realized I was smiling back at my beautiful friend Katie in her blue work vest beaming with pride for a job I know she loves.
What appeared to be an overly done spectacle of excitement over a discount card was actually a surge of spontaneous joy personified.  Someone took a minute of their day to brighten even a minute of someone else’s.  She had no idea whose smile she was handing me.  She does now.  (Let’s be honest- The entire department does now.)
These are the moments where our opportunities write themselves to show our intent.   We never know what will stem from a few seconds of time and thoughtfulness.  We know something will.
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Camp cabin = Impromptu hair salon

And just like that- My day made me.
There are countless chances in our days to do something for the person next to us.  I challenge myself and anyone reading this to follow one step:  Find something short, sweet, and intentional to do for another.
Refill a coffee cup.
Leave a quarter in the vending machine.
Tell someone how genuine you think they are.
What are your one minute day makers done both for you and for others?