A Decade of Lessons, Part 2
I love learning and growing – even when it’s uncomfortable and hard. I am so grateful for all the lessons I have learned in life, as they’ve made me who I am and stronger every day.
This is Part 2 of the 10 lessons I have learned in the last 10 years. During this transitionary period on earth and in my life, the lessons continue. This post features:
1. Growth takes courage.
2. Perseverance is rooted in faith and compassion.
3. “Yes” and “No” should come from the heart.
4. I am responsible for myself, my actions, and reactions.
5. Connection and love give life meaning.
6. Anger and fear communicate to me.
01: Growth Takes Courage
Click here for my blog post on “Growth Takes Courage”!
02: Perseverance is Rooted in Faith and Compassion
Moving through life can be sticky at times. Obstacles try to hold us back from our dreams, both in our internal and external world. Yet, I feel we can move through these obstacles and get unstuck through faith and compassion.
This does NOT mean we have to constantly fight. Rather, sometimes it’s just patiently waiting for the fog to clear and things to make sense. Finding a balance between being gentle and having grit is the ultimate task when it comes to hard times.
On your marks
Restart your engines
These big decisions
Aren’t meant to slow you down
Run this race
Be sure to finish
Before your fire’s out
Take your time
Don’t take it lightly
Invest it wisely
Before it all dries up
Keep your mind
All of your blessings
And where they come from
Ready or not
Whether you know just where you are headed to
Give it a while I promise I’ll reveal my plans for you
And you don’t know what will you become
You’re a man that’s on the run and I’m with you
I turn my faith outward: to a higher power, hope, and love. In my travels to Tanzania, I have seen the power of faith and belief. Faith gives strength to those in need – and no need is to great or small. I’ve always had a strong spiritual backbone and trust in the Universe, never doubting we have a higher purpose. In faith, I have found I can persevere because I trust there’s a greater plan for me. I trust that the trials are here only to strengthen me, to make me believe and trust more deeply.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its worth so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
– James 1:2-4 NIV –
There will always be times where we think “why is this happening?” In these times, I have found simply keeping faith in the plan gives me the strength. I know on every side of a trial is renewed strength. Even though I cannot always rationalize the trials I face, I recognize this is not always for me to know. I am limited by my bias, emotions, and past experiences.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
– Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV –
I turn my compassion inward. I have worked towards being gentler with myself: Not judging or putting myself down, because as Pema Chodron says, “Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.”
I practice self-compassion by staying curious about my emotions, experiences, and the world around me. This allows me not to attach to the feelings that rise and fall within me, thus producing more space for the feelings to evolve and reveal a truth. I strive not to judge or to be too harsh on myself. I know this is an area I struggle in, as I build up high expectations for myself. Yet, I recognize all facets of me make me whole – my imperfections, negative feelings, and flaws all make me human. I use kind words toward myself. I shift my thinking, recognize when I am using harsh language, and find a way to soften so I can release judgment.
Compassion also feels like resilience. Keeping the internal peace through difficult times is key to perseverance. Sometimes, this feels like a lot of work, while other times it simply requires a softening of the heart. It is not always talent or luck that gives us success, but our grit and ability to let go of failure, continue in spite of obstacles, and be courageous during our trials.
03: Yes and No Should Come from the Heart
This one is about boundaries. By letting my HEART say yes or no, I am choosing to live with integrity and stay in alignment with my values. Exploring boundaries has let me live a healthy life where I can give to myself and others more fully.
This asks me to stay true to my values – to listen to what TRULY matters to me and live my life reflecting these values. I used to pack weeknights with activities, but I find myself saying “no” more often because I’d rather go to the gym and cook myself a meal to stay healthy. To be honest, a lot of guilt lives behind my “no” and I am still working to release this. Every time I say “no” when it’s hard, I get stronger and I own my authority more deeply.
People who own their lives do not feel guilty when they make choices about where they are going. They take other people into consideration, but when they make choices for the wishes of others, they are choosing out of love, not guilt; to advance a good, not to avoid a bad.
– Henry Cloud, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life
I Say Yes To…
Experiences that facilitate growth
What aligns with my values
People I love
Making decisions out of love
I Say No To…
Negativity and toxicity
Accepting responsibility for YOUR experiences
Opportunities I am not ready for
Making decisions out of fear or guilt
Building a Fence
I visualize boundaries as a fence with a gate around my heart. I am building my fence to keep negativity and harmful things outside of my heart. I can open the gate to positivity and nurturing people/experiences when I am ready for them. I also don’t need to open the gate when I don’t want to. I am in control of when and how people and experiences affect me. My fence can withstand even the greatest of storms – every tornado, hurricane, and natural disaster that comes my way. I am shielded because I am centered on my values.
Boundaries help us to distinguish our property so that we can take care of it. They help us to “guard our heart with all diligence.” We need to keep things that will nurture us inside our fences and keep things that will harm us outside.
– Henry Cloud, Boundaries
I recognize that when I say “yes” but actually mean to say “no,” I am not acting out of truth and love. I aim to have my mouth and heart speaking the same language.
We often fear being honest because it was not safe to express honesty in our earthly relationships. With Job we fear both abandonment and retaliation. People abandoned us or attacked us when we told them how we really felt. Rest assured, however, that God desires truth in our “inner parts” (Ps. 51:6). He is seeking people who will have a real relationship with him (John 4:23–24). He wants to hear it all, no matter how bad it seems to us. When we own what is within our boundaries, when we bring it into the light, God can transform it with his love.
– Henry Cloud, Boundaries
I HIGHLY recommend you read Boundaries to learn more on this topic if you feel so inclined. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon (no, I don’t get a profit for this!).
Sometimes, we do have to say “yes” in order to carry out our commitments. And, unfortunately, a lot of my learning about boundaries has been starting with a “yes” until my heart and gut uncover the underlying “no.” I am working on listening more closely to my wants and needs. This involves moving through the fear of disappointing others, of not doing/being enough for someone – because, at the foundation of this belief, is that I am responsible for others. I am releasing this responsibility and instead staying responsible for myself.
This brings me to my next lesson…
04: I am Responsible for Myself, My Actions, and Reactions
There is a simple realization from which all personal improvement and growth emerges. This is the realization that we, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances. We don’t always control what happens to us. But we always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond. Whether we consciously recognize it or not, we are always responsible for our experiences. It’s impossible not to be. Choosing to not consciously interpret events in our lives is still an interpretation of the events of our lives.
– Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
We are responsible FOR ourselves, but TO others.
This idea has changed so much for me! We are here to share the burdens that we cannot carry on our own. We are responsible to help other people: to serve, provide, support. Our shared responsibility is in the collective: in making decisions to benefit mankind and Earth. We are here to spread love and hope to each other.
The weight of the entire world is never on our shoulders, yet, our individual choices are entirely ours to own. We are NOT responsible for the feelings, reactions, or decisions of others. This alleviates a great pressure because it allows us to own our parts of the stories without guilt or external judgment. We need to set limits on what we are responsible for, otherwise we do not maintain our boundaries. If we are constantly accepting responsibility FOR others, how can we maintain a healthy boundary with those around us? We would become enmeshed with each other, constantly blaming each other for our thoughts, feelings, and actions. This would simply be unfair – not only to others, but to ourselves. Without accepting responsibility for the things we should, we wouldn’t learn or grow.
I’ve had challenges and successes, both of which have helped me grow. There’s truly something about the challenges that resonate more deeply with me. It’s not simply because our human brains tend to remember the negative things more than the positive, but because the challenges asked me to persevere. They asked me to get curious about what I really value, what drives me, and how I can become who I want to be.
We all love to take responsibility for success and happiness. Hell, we often fight over who gets to be responsible for success and happiness. But taking responsibility for our problems is far more important, because that’s where the real learning comes from. That’s where the real-life improvement comes from.
– Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck
The authority I am taking is saying that I, Kristen, am responsible for my OWN happiness. I have the authority to decide who will receive my positive vibes, and who shield so negativity does not seep in. I have many cracks but they’re only for my light to shine out. My light will continue to grow, connecting deeper and more authentically with those around me who share a similar light and high vibration.
05: Connection and Love Give Life Meaning
This is the center of it all. The core of my heart and my being. And it’s probably somewhere in your core as well.
I believe we are here for connection – genuine & authentic connection – via shared smiles, laughs, tears, and hugs. I believe we are meant to lift each other higher, to help each other achieve our dreams so our community can be stronger. No matter what, we are ALWAYS stronger together. When we reach out to each other, we combat shame through being vulnerable together. We create a higher vibration of love in our togetherness.
When we share our cracks with each other, we show each other our light. We all have cracks and are broken in some way. Our scars are profoundly beautiful. They tell us stories. The scar on my knee from falling while riding my scooter down the hill outside my childhood home is no different than the scar on my heart from a breakup, or the scars of my past. They remind me of where I’ve been. If I can tell the story of my silly scooter ride, why not find the courage to tell the story of my broken heart? I love sharing these moments with others – connecting on a deep level. This connection is what drives me. It’s what keeps me feeling alive.
Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued—when they can give and receive without judgment.
– Brené Brown
Then there is love – a deep love resonating in my heart. This love needs comfort and vulnerability simultaneously. I used to think comfort was bland as I tend to blossom in uncertainty and the unknowns. But when it comes to giving and receiving love, why would I want something that feels uncertain? The love I tend to reflect on gives my heart a hug with a comforting and cozy feeling. This comes in moments shared with loved ones: Sitting around the Christmas tree with the fireplace cracking. Snowball fights on the first snowfall of the year with my brothers. Reading a book in a hammock by the sea with my best friend. Hugging on a mountain summit. Laughing until crying for no apparent reason at all.
Yet, love feel messy because of the vulnerability it requires to connect deeply. Love exists in layers like Elmer’s glue on my hands. I used to LOVE doing crafts that required glue. I would smoosh my hands all around the glue and let it dry on my hands in layers. It’d get really sticky and messy, but then I would get to peel it off at the end – exposing my skin again and WOW was it satisfying! Love feels like this. We build up layers of self-protection based on our past experiences. Then, over time, we begin seeing world through a different lens, peeling away the pain of our past, making us emotional and vulnerable. Love asks us to bind together, to hold each other, to relish in the fact that it’s OKAY to need each other. To recognize that we all want to belong, and we all need to feel loved in some way. With our sense of belonging, we begin to expose your raw skin, piece by piece. We build up the layers just to tear them down. We find the limitations of our love, build up our layers of glue to protect ourselves, and then slowly break them back down again. This makes us stronger and allows us to create beautiful art with our heart.
There is immense love within me. I believe I can find love anywhere, because it exists within my own heart. I give myself the gift of love, self-forgiveness, and most of all, TIME. I give myself time to build trust, to learn about myself & others, to form meaningful relationships, to grow, and to continue to be the person I am meant to be.
Being rooted and established in love.
– Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV
06: Anger and Fear Communicate to Me
Emotions are a way to tap into the present moment. They heighten awareness, bringing us a sense of understanding of our experience.
I’ve always been pretty good at listening to and welcoming fear. It fuels many activities I enjoy (climbing, skiing, skydiving), giving a combination of an adrenaline rush and indication when I am pushing my physical/mental limits. Fear heightens my awareness when climbing, making me move with intention. It also lets me step back and evaluate the situation at hand. When backcountry skiing, for example, fear sometimes makes me question what terrain I feel comfortable in. It’s critical in my outdoor pursuits and I couldn’t imagine doing these activities without it.
I went to a course with Kristen Ulmer on “The Art of Fear” where we discussed how detrimental it can be to push our fears down. So many people try to ‘overcome’ fear, which locks it in the basement of our mind. When we trample over fear, it doesn’t go away. It just lays dormant until it’s ready to release. The voices we use when speaking to fear need to be softened. We need to move through four stages of our relationship with fear, from resistance TO acceptance TO embracing TO intimacy.
Whether we like it or not, fear will always be present in our minds and heart. Fear can make things more exciting, heighten our awareness, and fiercely bring us into the present. When I feel fear, I won’t try to label it anymore. Making fear rational vs. irrational is unnecessary. I’ll just hear it, welcome it, and let it walk/climb with me wherever I am. I won’t push it away because that’s plain disrespectful. I welcome and appreciate you, fear!
Anger has always been a different story for me. It’s been the emotion I’ve locked in the basement of my mind, pushing it down and away. I’ve labeled it as unhealthy and nonproductive. It isn’t until recently that I began understanding how important anger can. Like fear, anger pulls us into the present moment. Personally, I feel fear is a response to external stimuli, while anger is the primer to understanding our heart’s feelings. Anger feels like a blanket over deeper feelings such as injustice, disappointment, or hurt.
I have begun allowing myself to get mad at other people when they do something wrong. I’ve been angry, then disappointed. I’ve been angry at rules that need revising. All this anger propelled me into ACTION. It asked me to talk to the person who hurt me. To express my feelings of disappointment. To ask for change.
Acting on anger alone is where we get into trouble. If we stay in the state of anger, without asking WHY we are angry, that’s when we start fighting with ourselves and others. Instead of reacting to anger, why not get curious and dig deeper?
I am grateful for the presence both fear and anger bring me, for they teach me to stay curious about my emotions and experience.
Thank You for reading. I hope this somehow inspired you to think on these topics more deeply.
With love and gratitude,