Do we need to feel like we belong and are accepted as we are to be happy in life or work?
Yesterday I mentioned the importance of love and loving and how belonging and acceptance are an integral part of perpetuating that state.
Whether we admit it or not, we all deeply long to be loved and accepted. What that looks like is a matter of personal preference.
It’s understandable why. We are conditioned to focus on outcomes; to believe that our worth is defined by our level of productivity and status/income, the amount of money we make, our zip code, the toys we have, the cars we drive, our looks, our home, our standing in the community, our likes and followers, and platforms, etc. The list never ends.
Today I want to further explore how to create a greater sense of belonging and acceptance not only for yourself but also for others. Why is this so important?
Several employee satisfaction studies show a greater emphasis being placed on internal measures of success, especially about a sense of belonging and recognition.
Akin to climbing Maslow’s Hierarchy, there is a clear trend toward personal growth, spiritual enlightenment, and awakening. In addition, issues-based goals to increase cultural awareness and affect change, especially with issues of equity and justice are fast becoming new barometers of success, especially for the next generation of leaders.
Creating healthy inclusive communities or companies will require that all are welcome. For the organizations and communities of the future to thrive we must feel like we belong and are accepted as we are.
The responsibility to create this sense of belonging and acceptance rests with each individual as well as the leaders of the various communities, organizations, and companies who place a high value on inclusion.
To create this for ourselves and the organizations we lead means we need to be crystal clear about what we want and what purpose the organization or we serve. That will differ among every person or group. But once those questions are answered it will create a unity and cohesive mission where individuals and the collective community will collaborate to serve a purpose far more significant than individual or corporate selfish interests and desires.
I don’t know about you but I don’t want to die with regrets.
In fact, my drive to thrive and live life as fully as possible, liberated from the shackles of my past, is so powerful that it can be scary.
For many reasons, but nearly all include this inner pull to let go of my past so I can be more fully alive in the present.
I have come too far ever to want to revisit old beliefs, habits, deep-seated fear, anger, resentment, and other debilitating ways of thinking and acting that I know only bring pain. For years they were the source of anguish that I held onto and used as an excuse for why I nearly drank myself to death before getting sober at 22.
Escape with drugs and alcohol was a solution. So were sex, gambling, shopping, and overachievement, until they weren’t.
When I made the decision to get sober I was left with a gaping hole and needed to fill it with something healthy, something loving and kind. Something that would extend my life. Something that would help me heal from the inside out. That something was a spiritual awakening.
Any friends of Bill W. know what I mean. Others with a strong sense of spiritual understanding may as well.
Nearly as scary as a life trapped in a downward spiral of negativity and emotion or addiction and fear is a greater tragedy—a silent killer of our soul—that permeates the body, mind, and spirit of countless millions. That silent, soul-sucking “disease” is regret.
That silent, soul-sucking “disease” is regret.
We all live with a certain amount of regret but if we want to fully become alive, we must learn to let that shot go and embrace the messiness of life and make the most of the cards we’ve been dealt.
Yesterday I had the privilege to participate in an author launch with 19 other authors from the Redwood Writers Club. Each author had five minutes to read a sample of their work.
So many authors were powerful and poignant, sharing heartfelt poems, a memoir of life in the sixties, second-chance romance, children’s books, and so much more. As I listened I thought, how wonderful it is that so many creative souls are brave enough to not only share stories but share them in public. To follow their passion and realize their own dreams of being published authors.
How awesome is that? For a few hours, I got to witness firsthand the power of dreams fulfilled and lives lived, at least for those five minutes, without regret. Of conquering any fear of public speaking and being vulnerable enough to tell their stories in public. To me, each author who spoke epitomized what it means to be brave and not regret the fact that they wish they would have written a book, or whatever.
I share them because of the impact they had on those brave enough to approach me at the break and share what these words meant to them and why they wanted to buy my book.
For instance, an 80-year-old man named Gary was vulnerable enough to share with me the challenges he had with his estranged daughter of forty years. And though he forgave his own father and himself as best he could ( he didn’t say why and I chose not to ask in public), he was now grappling with how to repair the broken relationship with his daughter. He even asked for my number so we could talk more about it later. I happily obliged.
I don’t share this to brag. I share this because this is the power each and every one of us holds with our life experiences—good, bad, and indifferent. The point is none of us know who we can reach until we are vulnerable enough to talk about our truth and brave enough to let go of most of that crap from our past.
Every single human on the face of this glorious planet has the unique ability to reach others in a way that is purposeful, meaningful, and lasting. We also have the ability to let go of all the pain and anger of our past and to write or tell a new story for the remaining days of our lives. We get to choose.
The story we tell may be a tragedy or it may be a love story or a little bit of both. It will be whatever we decide and choose it to be.
My hope and prayer for the handful of folks that read this are that you do not allow your past to continue to hold you back from the possibility of a better today and tomorrow. That you find the courage within to let go of that bag of crap you’ve been dragging around far too long and instead become courageous enough to write a happy ending to a life lived with no more regrets.
Here are my notes verbatim. I hope you find what you’re looking for and become brave enough to take a chance on yourself.
The Essential Guide to Solving Problems and Building Self-Confidence
I wrote this book because I don’t want to die with regrets. (HOLD IT UP!)
Regret for all the things I wish I would have done but never truly believed I could. Regret that I believed the lies of my inner critics, who incessantly questioned my credibility because I don’t have three or four letters after my name. That decades of experience overcoming challenges of all kinds did not qualify me to discuss the value of courage and confidence. Regret that I was so afraid of failing that I never found the courage to try.
– From Why This Book, Now? Page xxi
I wrote this book because I don’t want to die with regrets.
– Now, here’s an excerpt from pages 79–82…
Chapter Six Bridging the Confidence Gap
“It’s not what you think you are that holds you back, it’s what you think you are not.”- Dennis Waitley
For Father’s Day in 2021, my son treated me to a zipline tour. For two and a half hours we traversed the treetops across seven ziplines and two sky bridges. The only things that separated us from the forest floor two hundred and fifty feet below were a harness with pulleys, a 3/8” cable, and the courage to let go.
It was the most exhilarating and memorable Father’s Day ever!
Though I was anxious on the first two zips, I relaxed by the third. I found my legs, so to speak. Until we approached a hundred-foot-long, wobbly sky bridge made of ropes and planks. I stared at it, then at the ground. My knees began to shake. Unlike the ziplines which meant harnessing up and letting go to enjoy the ride, to continue our adventure meant I had to put one foot in front of the other and cross that rickety bridge seventy-five feet above the hard ground below. I watched as others crossed first and realized it wasn’t impossible. I grabbed the rope rails, and after finding my balance, found it was not as scary as I thought. I took a few steps then skipped the rest of the way across.
When I got to the other side, My son asked, “What was that all about Dad?”
“I decided to have fun ’cause I knew it was safe.”
Your Confidence Gap is Not as Big as You May Think
The bridge between where you are and where you want to be is shorter than you think. In fact, for most people, it’s only six to seven inches: the average space between your two ears.
The goal of this chapter is to inspire you to take the next step forward. To help you bridge your confidence gap.
When I have too many projects, goals, and to-dos going on at the same time I can easily get scattered and lose focus. They all seem important, but whenever I look at them all at once, I get overwhelmed. It’s like an overstuffed garage or closet, or a home office with disorganized drawers, boxes of notes, and yes, even file drawers bursting with old utility bills, notebooks, etc.
Eventually, the clutter of my environment and my mind becomes so great that I feel ineffective. To regain focus, I take time to organize and declutter.
When I finally decide to tackle big projects, organizing or otherwise, I do it one drawer, one closet, and one room at a time. I focus on making progress in one area before moving on to the next.
… I don’t obsess over results. I strive to maintain a healthy balance between work and relaxation, remembering to also take time out to celebrate my accomplishments, small or large…
This process has become a set routine or habit. Just like making my bed in the morning.
Prompt #1: Make Your Bed and Take Out the Trash
It’s important to pay attention to unresolved problems or unfulfilled ambitions you have and how you typically respond to them. Watch for:
Choose one area, skill, attitude, or belief, that’s been bugging you or that you’ve been procrastinating over and make a decision to do something about it as soon as you finish this chapter.
Be bold. Practice the five steps. Decide, commit, and let it go, now.
It can be anything. Making your bed. Taking out the trash. Starting a load of laundry. Anything. The key is not to just think about it, but to actually do it. Decide what it is, then make a plan, write it down, set a date, and get started. That’s how it’s done.
As you apply the skills you learn in the book, it will become readily apparent how easy it is to transfer them to other areas essentially building your confidence one closet or room at a time. The cure to overcoming any and all of the above is: Be bold. Practice the five steps. Decide, commit, and let it go, now.
Sign up for my newsletter and send me an email with a picture of the book and I will send you the edited, unmastered audio file of Chapter Six of the audiobook of TSB (to come out this summer), for free!
I don’t sell your name and only use it to send any latest musings, advice, or life lessons. If you need more encouragement, shoot me a message: at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to learn more about letting go including how to silence your inner critics, overcome procrastination, get over writer’s block, or increase your self-confidence, you should buy and read my latest book, Ten Seconds of Boldness. It will change your life if you are willing to change.
Connection is the secret sauce of success. It’s what makes living worthwhile and fun.
One of the greatest joys in my life is learning about yours. Yes, even if we’ve not yet met. I want to hear about your problems, joys, and challenges. What’s going on in your life, for real. Not the public “Social Media Smile” version. The raw, real, nitty-gritty truth of what is working and what is not in your business or professional life. Why? Because life, and business for that matter, is all about connection and relationships. And it is in sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of ourselves or our businesses — being vulnerable — that bonds are formed. It’s also how I have made a living and a life for the past thirty years and hopefully for many more.
Even though most of us crave connection on some level, how many of us have been burned or are reticent to share? To let others know what is really going on because if they knew they may they may think less of us.
I encounter this all the time while attempting to establish rapport with prospective new clients like you, especially if I have not yet earned your trust. But to properly come up with a solution, I need to know what’s really going on — what problems are you facing and what do you know or not know about the problem or how to fix it.
I attended a writing webinar the other day and the speaker implored the audience not to look for the first tool they found to solve a problem until they knew what problem they were trying to fix or what they were trying to accomplish. Seems like comment sense, right? But, as the speaker pointed out if you are going to build a table, Channellock’s are not going to be of much use. Can you relate? I know I can.
There is a lot of wisdom in what he said. In sales, in recovery, in relationships, and in life, the temptation to rummage through our toolbox at the first hint of a problem is like a bad habit — hard to break. It takes a lot of self-control to not reach for the first tool to solve a problem especially if we think we can fix it.
Healthy relationships are built on trust. And many are broken, because of a lack of trust or true connection. Healthy relationships in ANY area of our lives depend on the exchange of information, opportunities, problems, and shared wisdom and effort. And sometimes, especially in intimate relationships, that trust is built on just listening. Not solving a problem or trying to fix it. Just offering an empathetic ear if you will. Fortunately for me, I have a wife who reminds me of this fact anytime I put on my “Fix-it Man “ hat after she has shared something that is bothering her or causing her stress. Her willingness to teach me how to better connect has helped me become a better listener, mostly.
That’s important, but in a consulting, sales, or counseling position you need to temper listening, empathy, and rapport with wisdom, confidence, and trust if you are to be successful. It’s both a science and an art. That is one of the reasons I love what I do so much. I get to connect, troubleshoot, and help others. And when we solve a problem, everyone is happy. Doing so makes me feel useful. But trust and success require effort by all parties.
So why did I even take time out of a busy day that included multiple client appointments, a trip to the ER for my mom, and now a five-minute blog on the importance of connection to our happiness? Because it brings me joy to help others.
By helping others, I help myself. That’s the deal. It’s why I work with alcoholics in recovery. It’s why I reach out to new clients. It’s why I write and speak and lead and do all the things I do. Because I care. I care about you even if we never meet. And sometimes that’s enough to inspire someone else to do something they have been wanting to do but didn’t have the courage to try yet.
Because I want to connect with you. Whether it’s through this blog. Through my books, in a recovery meeting, or if you are a business owner who needs marketing help, I want to be there. It’s what I do. I help people identify and solve problems. I help others become better.
If you want to connect, reach out. I can be found at shawnlangwell.com. Let’s discuss what you may need and see if there is a fit. If not, that’s cool too. I hope that in some way this post made you think a little bit differently about connection and how easy it is to integrate all aspects of your life into a common thread that can provide joy, purpose, and a new level of significance to your life.
Until next time,
Never give up on your dream and never stop trying to connect. It’s the secret sauce of all success.
Nothing is more powerful to the life and self-esteem of a child than knowing they are loved and accepted by their parents.
While mothers often get most of the credit as the nurturers in a family, dads play a vital role in loving their kids too. Unfortunately, most guys have a hard time showing their feelings, of being vulnerable. This is largely due to gender stereotypes and patterns passed down from generation to generation. That’s not always the case but generally, it’s much more difficult for dads to show affection in the form of empathy and compassion to their kids than it is for moms.
But there is one thing that has a direct impact on a child’s long-term well-being, self-esteem, and sense of worth in the world. It’s one word that is more powerful than any other form of encouragement we can give our children.
That one word is LOVE.
With Father’s Day fast here many people have mixed emotions about their dads.
For years I was angry at my dad for abandoning me, my two younger brothers, and my mom when I was twelve years old. Even though my mom was there, I felt completely alone.
I was a shy, introverted kid who had done well in school and my world had just been turned upside down. To mask the feelings of emptiness, I turned to drugs and alcohol to escape. I went from being a good kid who felt loved to a recluse on a self-destructive path that nearly cost me my life.
At twenty-two, the wheels came off the wagon. My life was slipping into a pit of alcoholic despair. I even briefly entertained thoughts of ending it all, but a greeting card changed the direction of my life.
One afternoon I came to and saw an envelope on my nightstand. Inside was a simple greeting card with penguins standing on an iceberg. In the middle was one lone sunburnt penguin standing in the middle.
Inside the card read,
You are one in a million.
I love you too much to watch you die.
Please get help.
That card was a lifeline.
Shortly after I went into rehab and began to heal.
But as I began the process of recovery, I still had feelings of anger and resentment toward my dad. Part of my recovery required me to forgive him. To let go of the anger I had toward him. I tried, multiple times, but anytime I faced stress or doubt or confusion, the anger returned.
Then I became a dad. In many ways, I tried to be the dad I thought I’d lost. I did my best to play catch with my son. To show up for his baseball games. To be there for him and not repeat the mistakes of my dad.
Sadly, my first marriage didn’t last. But we both made a commitment to keep loving our son no matter what.
We all make mistakes and sometimes we have to remember to forgive ourselves and others.
I did the best I could by being present in my son’s life and showing how much I love him. I do the same for my stepkids and they all have turned out to be fine adults.
One day after work, I got a call from my mom that my dad was in the hospital. It had been two years since I saw him. The next day, I went to visit him.
As I turned the corner and peeked into his room, I felt a lump in my throat. My dad lay in a gown staring out the window at a mighty oak. As I entered the room he turned and said, “Shawn! So good to see you.” Though he was smiling, his gaunt face covered with salt and pepper stubble, made me take pause. He’s dying and I need to heal old wounds I thought.
We had a wonderful conversation, and I finally felt the connection I’d lost for too many years.
He left me with the most important words any child could hear,
“I love you son. I’ve always loved you, boys. I’m sorry we didn’t get to see each other more.”
This father’s day, if your dad is still around or if you’re a dad, I encourage you to let go of any harsh feelings, call or send a note and say these three powerful simple words,
Elizabeth Cooley 5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for those in or affected by addiction Reviewed in the United States on December 2, 2020 Verified Purchase
I had the honor of meeting the author and hearing his story. Then I found out about his wonderful book and ordered it immediately. I would recommend this book to anyone affected by addiction or in recovery. Shawn has such a powerful story and the beauty of his experience, strength and hope are shared so wonderfully in this book. I can’t wait to share it with friends in recovery and sponsees.
Lorri5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Recovery receives an A+Reviewed in the United States on March 27, 2021 Verified Purchase
A friend told me that she was reading Beyond Recovery and she could not put it down. I was a little skeptical but followed her recommendation. I absolutely delighted that I did. It’s not only a great, albeit at time, heartbreaking story of the author’s experience as a child being introduced to drugs and alcohol too early in life and his subsequent trouble with addiction, his road to recovery and the ultimate purpose he has found in serving others. He is a fabulous storyteller and an excellent writer. The reader is offered an intimate peek into his childhood adolescence and early adulthood. I highly recommend this book to anyone struggling with any kind of addiction. The book is a testament not only to the author’s powerful journey but to the power of getting and staying clean and sober. https://amzn.to/36iXvBr
My step father once said,
“What are the dots in your life?”
As in, I did x dot, dot, dot then y dot, dot, dot.
I didn’t fully grasp it at the time but now it’s a little more clear.
What he was saying is to pay attention to the pauses in life—the thoughts, moments of mediation, reflection and of being not doing. Sage advice. Thank you, Dave O’Connor!
As he and my mom age I am reminded how very short this life we have is.
In November last year, my mother took her second big fall. This time she was partially paralyzed and forced to recoup in nursing home for five weeks. Meanwhile, her ninety-year-old husband of twenty-eight years and my stepfather was battling age related memory loss and required a caregiver to assist with meals and meds. To top it off his son attempted to assert control over David’s health and finances. It was a nightmare, but we survived.
My wife graciously cared for my mom for six weeks after she was released from the nursing home and eventually moved in with us for four months. When the six weeks leave of absence for my wife was up, my work was generous enough to allow me to work from home, so I could care for her until we were able to sell their house and find a new place for them.
For four months, I was not able to break free to recharge. I was unable to make time to feed my soul. I desperately needed to hike the coast, to be in nature, to reconnect with my spirit. I needed to pay heed to the other dots in my life. Once their house closed escrow and we got them all settled in one of the first things I did was take a long hike along the West Marin Coast.
Even though I battled fears my mom would never be able to live on her own again, I trusted everything would work out the way it was supposed to. Fortunately, it did.
In hindsight, everything happened exactly as it was supposed to. My mom and Dave are now in a place in Petaluma where they can maintain their independence while having meals and cleaning services provided.
Though I did the right thing, those few months sapped my soul to the core. Now, I make it a point to carve out time for me to rekindle my inner spirit. To dream again. This year has been a challenge but despite it all me and our family have been blessed beyond measure. I don’t take anything for granted and am even more intentional about investing my time on the important things.
The past three years my wife has chosen a word as a focal point for something she wanted to work on that year. It worked. Last year I watched her whole life transform as she lived out her word, confidence. My word for 2018 was focus. I have accomplished virtually everything I set out for myself and more. When it is all said and done, my relationships are stronger, my faith has grown immeasurably, I joined Toastmasters and even pushed myself to go back to school.
I am feeling pulled to grow even more in the year ahead and that is both frightening and exciting. I know in my soul that I need to dream bigger. So big, in fact, that I must rely on the divine forces of the universe to do for me what I cannot do for myself. I am growing to trust my higher power even more. From a logical standpoint, there is really no reason to live in fear or doubt. I could list hundreds of experiences where I was given exactly what I needed, despite any of my best laid plans.
2019 will be a milestone year. The events and blessings to come from faith, effort and my willingness to grow will set the course for the rest of my life. The dots will be many. I will walk through every moment of fear with a quiet certitude that there is a plan for me and my only job is to seek and trust that inner voice which guides me— my responsibility is to put one foot in front of the other and march forward into the vast unknown. In so doing, my prayer is that the dreams I live and achieve will ignite many others to aspire to whatever change they seek.
I am more determined than ever. This year, my word is commitment.
In the wake of the tragic wildfires, I am a bundle of mixed emotions. Me and my family were spared from major loss, but thousands of others were not. At last count over 7,000 homes and businesses were destroyed. Over 43 are dead. Many families lost everything.
In many respects, we are all hurting from this. How do we process our feelings? How do we cope?
I’m not a psychologist nor a counselor and therefore I am not qualified to give any specific advice.
I do however, know that I have to process my own emotions and do what I can to help those who need it.
Here’s what I can offer:
Offering food, clothing, shelter and financial support are also helpful.
Yet even then, I am left with a sense of grief. How would I handle it if I lost everything? I don’t know.
A couple things that have always helped me in past personal crises are writing— journaling about my thoughts, and emotions, talking with others, counseling, and trying to offer help to others.
I was given two opportunities to talk with people in the midst of these devastating fires.
Last Saturday I had a book signing at Barnes and Noble. In some ways, it felt selfish to promote my book, but I quickly realized that I was there for another purpose—to offer encouragement and guidance to those who had family members suffering from drug and alcohol addiction and also to offer encouragement about the fires. I was able to listen to their stories and offer suggestions. Many of them also bought my book. Beyond Recovery: A Journey of Grace, Love, and Forgiveness.
Two days later on Monday, I was scheduled to do my first live radio interview by phone on KZSB – 1290 AM in Santa Barbara. It was largely unscripted and conversational. Granted, I had a framework for the program including talking about the fires, ways people can help, and, of course, my recovery journey as it related to my book.
The interviewers, Ed Giron and Maria Long were both gracious and kind and asked some really good questions. Ed at one point asked me what advice I would have for those that don’t think they are ready to stop drinking or using drugs and a follow up question about what I would suggest for those who really don’t think they have a problem. I paused before answering.
You see, my experience has been that sometimes we may think we are ready to stop drinking, using, overeating,etc… and may even go to a meeting or seek counsel, only to return to our old addictive behavior(s). Other times, we feel we still have control and therefore have no need for any solution. If you want to learn more, you can listen to the whole interview here:
In summary, I suggested that for those who don’t think they have a problem with food, drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, etc., —they may not. However, if they are causing an individual pain and affecting their relationships they may want to seek help. In response to Ed’s question about those who think they may have a problem but are not yet ready to change or seek help, I expanded a bit more but, in a nut shell said that the first step is admitting that one has a problem. Then an individual can follow the 12 steps or work with a counselor or another program to find a solution.
The bottom line though, for me and millions of others, is that the solution must come from a power greater than ourselves. We are not God. And no matter how much we think we are in control, ultimately, we are not.
That brings me back to the current state of my emotional and spiritual development. I rely on prayer and meditation to help me stay centered. I have a sense of faith. I call my higher power God. I have witnessed hundreds of miracles in my short lifetime and trust that even in the wake of these horrific fires that most of us will survive. In some respects, we have become closer as a larger community and stronger because of them. That is not to placate, minimize, or sweep away the pain they inflicted.
My heart goes out to all who lost it all. I too have lost so much in my life—jobs, health, brother, family, broken relationships. In the midst of it all, I always found hope.
My prayer for all is that we find the courage to process our emotions and continue to grow in love and kindness for each other. May we become more unified as families, community, country, and world. May we realize that we are truly never alone. That at the end of the tunnel there is always light.
I love Steve Jobs quote, ”The people crazy enough to think they can change the world are usually the ones who do.”
I believe it. Do you? I’ve seen it happen so many times already in my lifetime. Someone comes up with a new way to put together things and suddenly we have new industries, new ways of communicating, new ways of travel.
What will be the next big paradigm shift in our world? Who knows? One keeps coming up for me that I am very passionate about.
It’s not new. In fact, it has been around since the dawn of our existence. It is not unique to man either. Before humans inhabited the earth, this powerful force was alive and well. It touched every living creature on the planet in some way. It is something that people will die for. It has the capacity to change someone’s life forever or when withheld, destroy it. It is free which would lead one to believe that it was ubiquitous, but sadly, it is not.
I, like many of those around the world have been at odds with each other over values, opinions, ideals, religion, race, and politics for far too long.
There is something that can wipe away pain, dissension, hate, judgment, and prejudice. Virtually all of us have the solution in us already, sometimes though we don’t use it. Instead we would rather be right or on one side or the other. We all have the capacity to love.
How hard is it to be kind? How hard is it to love another even if you disagree with their opinion? Would you no longer love your wife or child if they didn’t agree with you? What if they had different values, beliefs, religions than you? What would you do? Would you love them anyway? Why then is it increasingly difficult to do our own part of loving one another? If you stopped to think about it, if we all loved each other, there would be no more war. There would be no more famine. There would be no more hate or prejudice. No, what I am suggesting though, is that the blame has to stop. It’s time each of us steps up and takes personal responsibility to be a little more loving.
All we need is love.
Each of us has within ourselves the capacity to love another human being. Yes, it is a choice. I am not saying that we need to like everyone or even agree. But, for crying-out-loud, embrace our differences! We are all unique creations with a purpose. I seriously doubt our true purpose in this brief time on planet earth is to tear down each other and consume as much as we possibly can before it’s all gone.
There is more than enough for all. Some of us have been blessed with more resources than others. We all have a virtually unlimited capacity for love and kindness. Unfortunately, like muscles, they need to be exercised.
I have done my best not to engage in the slamming of one side or another especially on Facebook. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the fear and hate that is being spread on media like a California Wildfire. We all have choices. We all have our values, morals, ethics, beliefs, and opinions. I am not advocating that we all become yes men and women. I am advocating though, that we need to practice a little more kindness, empathy, and love toward one another.
After reading a couple friends rants and posts on Facebook recently I started to get angry. Rather than engage in the polarized, virtual, not face-to-face dialogue that was only going to go around in circles I posted this instead—
“Be the change you desire— spreading hate just fuels the fire.
Try instead, if we might, to live in peace, harmony, and light.
To love and be loved no fear, no spite.”
Kiss your babies if you got em. And hold the door open once in awhile.
Love a little more, you’ll feel better, I guarantee it.
Hey, if we all got along a little better we could change the world!
What-if syndrome is that gnawing, nagging, often unnecessary feeling that, if left to run wild, can turn into a raging torrent of fear paralyzing us from action. If we’re honest with ourselves, we have all experienced it at some point.
For me, it usually comes up around money issues. What if I don’t close that deal? What If I don’t make that goal? Then what? Will I have more money than month? How will I pay the mortgage? The car payment? The credit card bill?
Deeper than that though, what-if syndrome may lead to feelings of inadequacy that cause us to doubt and question our worth— Will I fail? Am I good enough? Or feelings of pride— What will others think if I don’t get my kids new clothes for this school year? How will my kids feel if they have to go to a different school?
In a word, what-if syndrome is worry. At its root, worry is a form of fear tied to our belief system and lack of trust.
I have lived through my share of worry over the years and have pushed through it with faith and effort to keep it at bay. It was not easy, but when it came to my addiction to drugs and alcohol, it was a matter of life and death to overcome it. I had a big enough reason why to motivate me to do something about it.
Like many things in life, it takes diligence and practice to:
a) Recognize worry or a problem when it comes up and
b) Become willing to learn some new skills to address our problems so we don’t stay stuck in them for too long.
I’ll be honest. Right now, I am wallowing in a little self-pity. For the past two and a half years, I have been riding a high from my efforts and blessings at work. I have managed to triple the sales volume for my territory in less than three years. I have written and published a book and managed to make time to work with other recovering alcoholics as a sponsor and mentor volunteer leaders at my local church. Life has been good.
Currently, however, I am facing a less than ideal sales month and fighting worry while also trying to find the desire to complete my next book on goal setting. I am dealing with the very challenges I want to write about overcoming.
Is this an accident? I think not. I believe that this is a wake-up call. In a sick twisted way, I am having to practice what I want to talk about.
I am grateful that I now recognize what is going on and how I feel but that, by itself doesn’t change anything. I have to change. So what do I do?
Over the years, I have acquired tools, primarily through AA, on how to cope with and conquer worry and fear. The basics consist of three steps:
1) Identify the problem.
2) Ask for God’s help. (Surrender)
3) Pray for the willingness to allow God to help me.
The short version, which, to outsiders may sound like a cop-out is, I can’t. God can. I think I’ll let him.
But, it doesn’t stop there. I have to do my part, which usually requires work. In most cases that work includes changing my thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes about my current situation. This process takes time. It starts with humility and honesty and taking a deep personal inventory of what is bothering me. I need to look at my part—what I can and cannot control. That is but a beginning. I don’t have the space to do a deep dive into this right now. I talk about it more in my book, Beyond Recovery A Journey of Grace, Love, and Forgiveness. And I will unpack it even more as one of the blocks in my upcoming book on goal setting. If you want immediate answers or help, there are countless coaches, mentors and counselors well qualified to help.
For now let me give you a personal example of how worry has come up in my life and how I have processed and overcame it.
In very early sobriety, my biggest worry was whether I could go twenty-four hours without a drink. I had tried on my own countless times, with no lasting success.
Then, after several months of practicing the program of AA, drinking was no longer an issue. Instead, I had to face the feelings beneath the surface that I was running away from with drugs and alcohol. Without booze or drugs, I needed to find a new set of tools in order to cope with my feelings.
I found help in the twelve steps of AA. I was willing to do whatever it took to stay sober, one-day-at-a-time and quickly realized that when I worked the steps daily, my days got better.
Yet some things continued to come up—usually feelings around scarcity. I believe these were tied to my belief about not having enough and feeling uncomfortable in my own skin as a teenager.
I was raised in a middle class family until my dad left when I was thirteen. Through my first two years of my high school I had to deal with having very little, money was tight. I recall my freshman year wearing red Toughskin jeans and a hand-me-down shirt from my older cousin. I was mortified. I felt so out of place. All I wanted to do was belong.
Adding to my anxiety was the fact that I went from a small class of forty students to a high school with over twelve-hundred, I was out of my comfort zone.
My solution then was to pour myself into schoolwork and making money. I soon had a job to earn money for new shoes, pants, and shirts I liked. I received praise and recognition from teachers and peers for being smart. In other words, my entire sense of self, how I felt, was dependent on external things—money, clothes, grades, recognition.
I am now realizing how much of my identity is still attached to external factors and how much more work I still have to do to find peace within; to tap into my higher power and be willing to walk through temporary fear, worry, doubt, and insecurity.
I have a feeling that I am not alone. I am sure many of my recovery peers can relate to some of this, perhaps others as well. I know I must overcome this mental block so I may confidently speak about it in a goal-setting book. My guess is that is exactly why I am facing this right here, right now.
I have a higher power. I have faith. God has never let me down before, but I have noticed that sometimes he gives me a challenge as a wake-up call for something he wants to work on in me. So what do I do?
Experience has shown me that what I need is willingness and courage. Along with that, I need to trust that He will show me a way out—He always does, sometimes though, it takes awhile for me to see it. The other thing I need to bring to the table is vulnerability. I need to be humble enough to ask for help, from others and from God. Before any of that though, and most important, I need to know what the problem is—my negative beliefs and what I have bought into, and become willing to develop a new way of thinking to overcome them. What results is greater confidence for the next time I have to face a difficult situation. With practice, I learn to not stay in self-pity so long and more quickly focus on the solution. Sometimes though, I need to sit with it for a bit to look harder at what is beneath the surface so I can better get at the heart of the problem.
In short, I need to do the work, and leave the results up to God. That principle was taught to me in early recovery and it still holds true today. To conquer worry and fear requires faith and effort.
There is no quick fix, and it will not magically disappear. The good news is that we can overcome worry when we apply faith and effort.
Thank you for listening to what I am struggling with in this moment and how I am dealing with it. I know this too shall pass. I know I am not alone. I hope that some of you have found this post helpful.
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Thank you all for being a part of this journey.
If any of this has hit a chord, here is a promise—one of never being let down or alone which has been around for over 2,000 years.
Over the next few days God (your higher power) is going to show you how your worry can be replaced with confidence.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”