3 Ways to Offer our Life Story Well
In his book, Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer talks about his noble ambitions to live up to a high standard by observing great lives and emulating the loftiest of ideals. However, in his quest to achieve a high standard of living, he realized how false his life began to feel. In his words he had “simply found a noble way to live a life that was not my own, a life spent imitating heroes instead of listening to my heart.”
What does it mean to listen to our own hearts and live the life that only we are meant to live?
1-We take the time to pull away and listen to the whispers of our hearts.
What is important to me? How am I aligning my time and resources to listen to my heart well?
2-We honor all that we have lived and anticipate more story yet to be written.
How do I honor my failings and my successes? How do I get to use what I have lived to finish writing my story well? What is my best to offer the world? What am I anticipating?
3-We OWN the responsibility of writing our life stories and intentionally offering it back. Where do I need more support for the story I want to offer? How do I want to finish well? What is the legacy I want to leave? How is Divine Love guiding my story? What is blocking me?
Why is it so important to be intentional about writing our life stories well and offering it back?
Because just like our own unique fingerprints…so is the story for your life. The world is waiting for you to show up and offer your story well.
I learned this life lesson well teaching in East L.A. With a low socio-economic at-risk community of middle school children, I was hired to teach English. As I learned to trust my intuition by incorporating the arts and integrating the right side of their brain to both soothe their spirit as well as energize their creative thinking, I watched the test scores go up. I witnessed a population that had consistently failed begin to succeed at high rates. What if I had passed over this position? What if I had ignored my instinct to incorporate art? What if I had dismissed the whispers of my heart to find creative ways to support the journey of these children?
We each have the joy of living fully present with our lives to offer the story that only we can offer.
My heart is with you and for you as you step nobly into your story and offer it to our world, Heather
THE LESSONS I LEARNED FROM CHILDREN
We learn so much about who we are, how we view the world, and how we grown when working with children. They teach us about spontaneous joy, uncontrollable laughter, and seizing the present moment. For this reason alone, I have always loved being a part of children’s lives. We have boundless opportunities for learning and growth. Children remind us of this.
But after years of teaching, I began to notice something else, they teach us when we stop believing in our power to be great and live courageous lives. The older my students became, the more the dreams of becoming a professional dancer or a race car driver shifted to fears of not ‘being enough’ or fear of ‘failing’. Not being enough for what? For who? Failing in what? Why all the pressure? Where was it coming from? These questions began to haunt me.
Grappling with reality and reconciling dreams is a process we all go through. It comes with the journey of ‘doing life’. But with age, do we really need to believe less in who as we grow our inner critic that scoffs at the dreams we once had and the hope to accomplish great things?
After teaching young children in private schools, working with junior high at-risk students in East Los Angeles, training teachers in the jungles of Belize to break the cycle of poverty, and teaching educators at universities… I wanted to learn more about supporting individuals daring to believe in more. I returned to school to research human services with the focus of exploring what influences personal growth and emotional well-being as well as what inspires transformational living. My Ph.D. focused on researching gifted women transitioning with the purpose of coaching women and supporting them in their journey.
THE ART OF ASKING PRODUCTIVE QUESTIONS
One of the most recurring questions in coaching conversations with women is the question, “What is wrong with me?!?” I hear it asked in moments of acute frustration, overwhelming despair, internal disgust, and sometimes even just out of sheer curiosity.
After noticing how often I heard women ask this, I was struck with the thought of how unhelpful this question really is. In fact, it is actually quite cruel. It hurts the person being asked and does not set anyone up to receive a fair answer. When we ask this question of ‘what’s wrong’, we do harm to our self by not allowing a fair answer to be found…and instead an assumption is made that something is indeed very wrong with us.
The truth is, nothing is ‘wrong’ with us…we are simply at a painful or confusing place in our journey. What we need are helpful questions that set us up for success to receive better answers. I have found that kinder gentler questions such as, “Where does it hurt?” or “Why am I stalled?” to be fairer questions, which eventually lead to answers that guide us.
As I listened one more time to this question being habitually tossed out in our conversation, I found myself saying, “How about we ask what is right with you?”
A STRONG COMMUNITY WAS DEVELOPED
In the belief that we are stronger together as women, I wanted to develop a community that came together holding the valuable belief that so much is right with us.
Forming a community around this powerful posture of asking helpful questions such as ‘what’s right with me?’ gives us the permission to move forward in authentic ways as we dare to explore new possibilities. To consider helpful questions challenges a whole new level of self-talk. Most importantly, it engages our critiquing abilities to focus on our strengths instead of our weaknesses, to find the solutions we need, and build the courage, confidence, and clarity to move forward. Arise & Be is a place for the woman to truly Arise…and…BE.
Communication…it makes or breaks a relationship, doesn’t it? Because of the power communication holds, it is a core value for Arise & Be. Communicating well with an emphasis on fostering positive community and relational teamwork requires a commitment to ‘weed out’ confusion and constructively address what is causing anxiety.
This was a lesson I recently learned in leading a team of highly gifted individuals. After a successful event, I began to pick up on a general sense of anxiety within the team.
After making observations and checking in with several members, I realized individuals were struggling in how to give and receive constructive feedback. There was a general unease about how to say some hard things. I soon came to understand that the anxiety was stemming from a fear of hurting feelings if they said what they were feeling.
What was needed?
We needed the space, time, and safety to communicate well. So, at our next meeting, we decided to practice giving and receiving feedback based on basic communication principles:
1. Affirm the relationship and your positive intent.
2. Specifically describe what you observed.
3. Share the impact of the behavior or action.
4. Invite the listener to respond.
5. Focus the discussion on moving forward and finding solutions together.
It was a meeting well spent. We established a safe and healthy culture to communicate what needed to be said in a way that cared for the relationship as well as directly targeted the need for growth. Because the time was taken to practice communicating well, relationships grew stronger, goals became clear and more achievable, and the group angst was replaced with a spirit of security and confidence.
When we have a sensitivity tuned into the emotional vibes coming from our relationships, we can recognize it as an opportunity to pause…address it…and step into the conversation.
Hold the tension of both honoring the relationship as well as encouraging growth. Perhaps considering these questions for your own journey in communication will help:
· Where do I want to communicate better?
· How do I want to intentionally move into a conversation?
· What is stopping me?
Taking the time to communicate intentionally is the best gift you can offer a relationship. Step into this with courage and confidence. Try out these 5 basic communication principles…you can do it!