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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Southern Girls Living Fearlessly - Day 31

Expect good things to happen.

It's an emotional risk to always expect the best. I risk being let down. I risk other people calling me naive. I risk getting less than what I'd hoped for. I risk having to cope with disappointment.

It's an even greater gamble, however, to expect the worst. When I expect the worst, then I look for the worst. Naturally, I seek to confirm my expectations. And more than likely, the worst, in some form or another, will occur. If I expect my children to misbehave, then I begin to look for all the things they are doing wrong instead of appreciating what they are doing right.

Likewise, when I expect the best, I'm primed to notice good things in a situation. If I expect my husband to come home from work in a good mood, I'll notice how he didn't slam the door, or how he greeted the kids, or how he tossed his keys into the basket. If I expect a party to be fun, I'll mingle more, I'll engage in lively conversations, I'll compliment the hostess. In essence, I will ensure that I attribute my husband's behaviors to a good mood. I'll go to the party intending to have a good time.

Will there be times when I expect good things to happen and they don't? Of course. But living fearlessly means that I am willing to take that risk and to accept (which is very, very different from expect) that bad things will happen, too. And when they do, I deal with them without ever giving up on the expectation of better things to come.

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: In your BOOK OF LISTS write down three good things that you expect to happen in the coming week. Fearlessly believe that they will. At the end of the week examine whether or not they happened, how they happened, and how your expectations influenced those good things.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Southern Girls Living Fearlessly - Day 30

Right Lane Must Turn Right.

--Or must it?

I turned 40 earlier this month. And I started thinking about what I have done with my life. And I realized that I've made a lot of right turns just because the sign said so; not necessarily because it was the direction I wanted to go.

I've found myself caught in that right turn lane a lot, doing what other people expected me to do, doing the "proper" thing, making other people happy by going with the flow. Not that other people always imposed right turns on me. I usually imposed them upon myself. I have always been a pleaser.

Not that it was always the wrong decision to go right. It brought me here, of course, and there are many, many things I like about my current parking space on my journey of right turns.

I guess what bothers me is that I've never fully considered all my options when I've found myself inadvertently stuck in the RIGHT TURN ONLY lane:

1) Do the predictable, comfortable thing and turn right.
2) Ease beyond the right turn, into the intersection, and try to unobtrusively sneak back into the left lane.
3) Put on my left blinker, turn the steering wheel in the direction I want to go, and wave my way into the left lane; even stop traffic in the right lane, if I have to, until someone lets me move over.

So what if horns honk. I've got choices! We've all got choices, and it doesn't mean that we're impolite if we take a moment to consider them. It doesn't mean we're unladylike if we choose not to turn right.

I'm 40 years old. I don't intend to travel the next 40+ years going around the world to the right. I want my course to meander, to zig left, to zag right, to make U-turns (even when the sign says I can't), to merge, to travel divided highways, and to take me places I'll never arrive at if I always make right turns.

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: On a yellow or white Post-it Note, write your own sign and post it on your dashboard or your steering wheel.

My sign for today says: CAUTION CURVES AHEAD

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Southern Girls Living Fearlessly - Day 29

So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
--Matthew 25:28-29

On Day 6 of Southern Girls Living Fearlessly, did you find your passion? Did you discover your talent? Are you still struggling to admit to it or find it? Are you fearful, like the servant who received one talent, of taking a risk with it so you've buried it in the ground, held it back, resisted developing it? Or have you multiplied it like the servants in the parable who received 2 and 10 talents from their master?

Who has the more complete life? Who is fully engaged? Who is living each day, week, month, year to its very limits? - The woman who finds her passion, capitalizes on her talents, and fails? Or the woman who plays it safe and never uses her gifts, justifying her reluctance by saying that the world is a cruel, unwelcoming, and unpredictable place and that she will not put herself at its mercy?

Our gifts, talent, passions, whatever you choose to name them, are freely given to us, and we are free to do with them as we please. The master chose to give his servants talents and left them with the responsibility of wisely investing them. Like the servants in the parable, we too have a responsibility to invest our gifts in this world. The greater our investment, the greater our returns, the more abundance we will experience.

As a school child, Thomas Edison was told he was stupid. Yet, as an adult, he discovered he had a passion for inventing. He took a risk. In fact, he took approximately 10,000 risks and failed approximately 10,000 times in his effort to invent the electric light bulb. Had Edison believed his teachers, had Edison not accepted his talents, had he not been willing to invest in his passion, he would never have brought light to the world.

We can bring light to the world as well. In fact we have a responsibility to overcome our fear of failure and earn returns on the talents we've been given.

Thomas Watson, founder of IBM, said success lies on the other side of failure.

If we have not used our talents, we have not failed. If we have not failed, we have not lived fearlessly. If we have not lived fearlessly, we have not lived. If we have not lived, we have not succeeded.

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Read the entire parable of the servants and the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Then read Southern Girls Living Fearlessly - Day 6 again. Find your passion. Next, in your Book of Lists, write down your talents and ways that you can use them. Finally, act.

Know that you too have been given talents according to your ability. Multiply your talents and gain abundance. Ignore your talents and lose what you have.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Southern Girls Living Fearlessly - Day 28

Set the world on fire without burning it up.

My older brother and I performed many, many experiments throughout our childhood. We spent long hours hovered over a microscope lens trying to identify the pond water bacteria swimming on our slide. We verified, as many of you already know, that cats, when dropped, almost always land on their feet. And we set a few fires in the name of scientific discovery.

Since he is two years my senior, and I blamed him for most everything else, I will just go ahead and say that most of our devious laboratory plots were his idea. I went along as his impressionable, and intensely eager to be persuaded, Igor. And this next tidbit I share from our history is only but one example of many:

Where my brother came up with this idea, I'll never know. I doubt he even remembers. But he sent his Igor out to gather supplies: a large piece of Styrofoam from a recently delivered appliance box, rubbing alcohol from the medicine cabinet, and matches from the kitchen drawer. Naturally, he sent me because who, after all, would suspect a blond, curly-headed girl of any hidden agenda?

When I returned to him with the loot, he swore me to secrecy or death by noogies. I chose secrecy and have confessed to no one, until now. But the story has relevance to living fearlessly and must be told. Anyway, he carefully poured the alcohol on the surface of the Styrofoam and stepped well away from it. Then he told me to prepare to be amazed and struck a match. I was prepared to run for help, but he interpreted my wide-eyed stare as one of awe and respect. Which prompted him to flick the match at the Styrofoam.

Whoolfsh! A blaze shot up and burned hot, traveling the path of the alcohol. It was absolutely brilliant. I couldn't believe we were about to burn down our house in this most impressive way. Our parents were going to kill us for sure this time. We whooped and hollered to get as much out of the moment as we possibly could before meeting our end.

Just as my brother suspected, but I did not, the blaze burned itself out, leaving the Styrofoam slightly melted, but no other damage. "Let's do it again," he conspiratorially whispered.

The point of my story is not that we were wickedly sneaky children. Nor is my point that we had no remorse, because for the next week I rode under the radar, sure that my mother knew what we had done and was waiting for the perfect moment to inflict enough guilt on my young shoulders to hunch me over like a real Igor. The point is that we, you and I, can set the world on fire without taking other people down in our ascent to the top.

It is the person afraid of failing who steps on the backs of others to get where she is going. It is the person afraid that she can't make it by her own talent, who betrays those who trust her. It is the person afraid of how she compares to others that gossips and backstabs and sneaks in back doors. This kind of woman, the one who is afraid, still sets the world on fire, but she leaves a blackened, burned path behind her.

But the fearless woman believes in herself and she values the people around her. The fearless woman knows how to set the world ablaze without burning her bridges. The fearless woman never gossips to get ahead, never compromises her integrity, never offers false friendship, never portrays her motives as something other than what they are. She is not afraid of not getting to where she wants to go.

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Try the experiment (using the proper precautions that we didn't). Prove to yourself that it can be done on a small scale. Then apply the lesson to your life.

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