Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Four Steps to Facing Failure

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In my life time, I have heard many quotes on facing failure and learning from mistakes. Just listen to the wisdom of some people who have been successful. They can be quite inspiring.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
– Samuel Beckett (novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet)

“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.”
– Eloise Ristad (musician and author)

“Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.”
– Robert T. Kiyosaki (businessman and founder of Rich Dad Company)

On the other hand, sayings like these can be very discouraging to someone who has just experienced the sting of failure. Their simplicity seems to delegitimize the pain of failing.

Can I be honest about this? It hurts to fail. I don’t want to put time, energy, and resources into planning and reaching a goal only to fail.

I’m certainly not successful like the people featured above, but I just have to say this. It’s okay not to like failing. Really.

Maybe you made a plan, put in lots of effort, and didn’t meet a goal. Maybe you studied hard and didn’t pass a test. Maybe you thoroughly researched an idea and it didn’t produce results. Maybe you made a commitment to a relationship and it didn’t last. It’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to grieve. Failure is a type of loss, and loss is painful.

Eventually though, when you’ve properly experienced the loss, you need to get back up, learn from the mistakes, and try again. How can you face failure in a healthy way?

  1. Take time to experience the loss. I know I already said this, however, don’t skip over this step. Each situation will be different, but it is important not to minimize your emotions.
  2. Identify what you did well. All is not lost. Celebrate the positive elements and accomplishments. Ask others for their feedback. Their perspective is valuable.
  3. Examine what you need to improve. Think about how you could do things differently, and then determine to make the necessary changes. Again, ask for input from others. They may see things that you missed.
  4. Above all, remember that you are dearly loved by your heavenly Father. Your worth is not determined by your failures or your successes. He loves you. Period.

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you (Deuteronomy 31:6, NLT).

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love (Romans 5:3-5).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that my worth is not based on my accomplishments. Help me to answer Your call, give my all, and learn from my mistakes. Be my strength and encouragement. Be my teacher and guide. Please remind me that failure is never final when I keep my eyes on You and refuse to give up. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

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Posted in Faith, Personal Development

You Are So Much More Than Labels

papers in air

Have you noticed all the quizzes on Facebook these days? Take a short test and learn which Disney character you most resemble, or who your literary soulmate is, or what era of history you belong in. We human beings are fascinated with ourselves and how we fit in the world. If we really want to figure ourselves out, there are many professional assessments from which to choose. We can build quite a profile:

~Are you an introvert or extrovert? (Did you know there is even an ambivert?)
~Which one of the four personalities are you in the DISC personality assessment?
~Which one of the 16 personalities are you in the Myers-Briggs personality assessment?
~What are your top five leadership strengths?
~What are your spiritual gifts?
~What is your preferred learning style?
~Which of the nine intelligences do you possess?
~What is your IQ?

And this is just part of a long list.

I’m not minimizing the value of learning about ourselves. It is enlightening and even fun to understand how God made us. It helps us to become more aware and better leaders. However, who we are goes way beyond labels.

The personal assessment mentioned above usually identify positive or neutral characteristics. Sometimes we receive labels from others in our lives.

Outgoing. Shy. Smart. Slow learner. Stupid. Beautiful. Full figured. Fat. Ugly. Athletic. Clumsy. Driven. Lazy. Worthless. Failure…

People can inflict great damage from their use of labels.

Regardless of the labels you have received, you are so much more than labels.

Labels may describe aspects of ourselves. But they are limited. They may or may not be true. They cannot describe everything about us. And they certainly do not define us.

A couple weeks ago at a counseling session, I took an assessment regarding a trauma that occurred earlier this year. As I result I was diagnosed with PTSD. I felt shaken and frustrated that the event continues to affect me, and I reached out to a friend who shared words of wisdom.

“I hear what you are saying, that the diagnosis of PTSD is disappointing. Know it is only a path to healing, not an identity.”

Thank God for this friend and her reminder! This label does not define me. The work of God is working in me.

Being an introvert does not keep me from loving people. Preferring to work alone does not prevent me from working with a team. Being detail-oriented does not mean I cannot develop visionary skills. The diagnosis of PTSD will not cripple me from doing the things the Lord has asked of me. It is a pathway to experience more of Him in my life.

What about you? Do you realize that God is at work in you?

The One who knows your thoughts before you are even aware and has counted every hair on your head is working to transform you into the image of Christ.

The Lover of your soul is teaching you to love. He is working in the midst of your closest relationships.

The Healer is strengthening you by His mighty power. He sees your current diagnosis or health challenge and is closer than you know.

The King of all kings has set you in your current place of leadership. Even when the task seems too large for your experience and abilities, He is equipping you with everything you need to do His will.

Don’t put too much authority on the labels in your life. Use them as tools and discard the ones that are damaging. You are so much more than labels. You are a cherished child of our Heavenly Father who has a special plan for your life and is working in you to fulfill it.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think (Ephesians 3:19-20, NLT).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your perfect love. Help me to remember that the labels in life do not define me. I am who You say I am, and You are working in me to become more than I could ask or imagine. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Personal Development

Learning with Preschoolers

happy-preschool-kids

I just enjoyed a wonderful week of vacation. My husband and I flew to Los Angeles to spend time with our daughter, son-in-law, and twin granddaughters. Almost four years old, my granddaughters are full of energy and creativity. They are joyfully curious, and passionately explore the world around them. Being with my granddaughters is sheer delight. Their zeal for life is contagious. Each moment is filled with learning, either through experience or instruction.

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One moment they learn about the qualities of sand, how to build towers just the right size to support imaginary flags made of leaves.

Another moment they are coached by their mother to face their fears. “Being brave doesn’t mean that you are never afraid. Sometimes it means feeling afraid and doing something any way.”

“Oh, that was good!” I think to myself. “I really needed to hear that.” (How did my daughter become so wise?)

I also got to see my sweet grandson who lives in Seattle with my son and daughter-in-law. At five months old, everything goes from his hands into his mouth. He literally practices “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8, NIV).

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Every time I am with my grandkids, I am reminded to open my mind and heart to discovery. We have all heard that we are never too old to learn, but do we really believe it? Something happens the longer we journey into adulthood. Perhaps we get so engrossed in our routines of “adulting” that we lose sight of life long learning. What can we do to return to the adventure?

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10).

Our reverence and awe of the Lord is just the start of wisdom. We are told to “get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you (Proverbs 4:7-8). There is so much to discover about the Lord. Though we seek to know Him our entire lives, we will just barely scratch the surface of His glory.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Transformation is on-going. Renewing our mind is a continual process.

But the on-going nature of being transformed and becoming who God designed us to be does not need to be drudgery. We can thrive as we seek to grow personally, in our skill levels, in relationships, as leaders, and in faith. Let’s be open for God to teach us through ordinary moments in our daily lives. Let’s follow the lead of the preschoolers and learn with joy.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I want to learn more about You. As I grow in You, empower me to answer Your call in life and as a leader. Teach me Your ways, and restore the joy of learning. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Personal Development

Keep Learning No Matter What

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” This phrase is generally used as an excuse for being too old to learn a new skill or habit. It may be true for a dog, but it doesn’t have to be true for us. In fact, no matter how old or educated we might be, we should always seek to learn and grow. How sad it is to be around others who are so set in their ways that they refuse to listen to new or different ideas. It isn’t just “the old folks” with this kind of attitude. There are plenty of “young ones” that fit in the closed mindset category, too.

People that thrive in life and as leaders are poised to learn. Learning leads to creativity and the ability to innovate. Being stagnant is draining to relationships. Maintaining the status quo is damaging to business. Growth and vitality come from the willingness and ability to change as needed.

Twenty-five years in non-profit ministry has shown me there isn’t just one right way of doing things. God’s Word remains the same, but there are a varieties of ways to express it. Just when a system is perfected, it’s time to tweak it to address a situation that arises. Thirty years of marriage has taught me that I need to find new ways to connect with my husband to keep our relationship solid. Resting on our laurels will take us to a dangerous place. We can’t just pat ourselves on the back because we’ve gained so much experience. We need to keep moving forward.

Transformation is produced from the consistent, on-going application of knowledge, whether it comes directly from the untarnished truths of God’s Word or from wise principles spoken by others.

We don’t have to go to school in order to learn. I enjoy academics and I love reading. However, I have found people to be the greatest resources for learning and transformation.

Mentors are older than I am or have walked where I want to go. They are farther along the road of life and can share their experiences. I recently had the opportunity to meet a former Executive Director of the organization I currently lead. She resigned 10 years ago. Things have changed remarkably since she was at the helm. However, I listened intently to her stories of how God met financial needs in the midst of difficult times. She inspired me, and showed me a dimension of faith I hadn’t seen before.

Reverse mentors are younger than I am and don’t have the breadth of experience that I have. However, they possess specific skills that I lack (i.e. social media savvy), or they have a particular perspective I want to understand. So they mentor me in an area I want to grow. The majority of people my organization serves are between the ages of 15 – 29. It’s important to connect with our clients. By engaging in conversations with young adults, I learn about their mindset, beliefs, and values. The knowledge helps me serve our clientele better.

Learning from others is enhanced when I glean from people that are different from me. Rather than surrounding myself only with people that agree with my beliefs or point of view, I welcome alternate opinions and ideas. Differences don’t need to create tension or alarm. Instead I try to look for principles that are beneficial. At the very least I come away with deeper understanding of somebody who is incredibly valued and loved by our heavenly Father, whether or not they know Him. As a committed follower of Christ, I took two classes in Eastern religion and philosophy for my undergraduate degree. I enjoyed robust conversations about a worldview quite different than my own. As a result, I emerged better equipped to be a Christian and live out my faith than before.

No matter your age or how much experience you have, remain teachable. Be open to the Lord and expect Him to use many kinds of teachers.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1:7).

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding (Proverbs 4:5-6).

Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;
teach the righteous and they will add to their learning (Proverbs 9:9).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for the gifts of wisdom and knowledge. Help me never feel that I have arrived, but rather seek to learn, improve, and grow. May my ears be open to Your instruction as you use many people along life’s way. May I be transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name. Amen.