Choices, Choices…CHOICES!

For the past few years, as part of my new year planning, I’ve selected a phrase or word to remind me of how I want to show up, day in and day out, in order to become more of who I want to be.

This word helps keep me headed toward my north star.

A few years ago, my theme was Best Life Design. This theme nourished me as I focused my efforts on offering events and services to help entrepreneurs make a living in way that holistically fueled their best life and allowed them to make a greater impact in the world.

Two years ago, I was guided by Service. This word came through strongly as I wrote a book about the wisdom of my life’s greatest mentor. Walking with Justice teaches that it is our service to others that defines the quality of our lives. It was this focus on service that nudged me to step forward when my community needed guidance after the loss of three teens to suicide. This work led to the founding of the nonprofit Community Resiliency Project, for which I serve as director.

Last year, my theme was Ministry. Our community work was challenging me to learn and practice new ways to guide others through grief and adversity. This focus on ministry pulled me toward being a more vibrant instrument of peace and healing. I am very much a work in progress.

Over the past month, I’ve been letting “my word” marinate, trusting that it would show up with its special juiciness before the ringing out of the old and in of the new.

And it did.

Choices.

In my community resiliency work, I’ve often reminded parents, teachers, and leaders that they always have a choice. Regardless of the increasing noise and chaos of our society from outside in, we can choose to take a deep breath from inside out.

We can choose to say: “No matter the pace and dysfunction out there, within this home, within this classroom, and within community, we choose peace. We choose love. We choose acceptance, compassion, and kindness. We choose to create an environment in which we thrive.”

Over the past year, I’ve personally and powerfully witnessed in both my community and servant leadership work how hungry people are to be seen, heard, and affirmed. They thirst to know that they matter and are needed. This validation was the greatest gift my mentor gave to me as a young lawyer – and it was life changing.

You likely will find the next sentence to be an oversimplification or a profound observation…

If you want to thrive, then make more daily choices that allow you to thrive.

The truth is that our choices, day in and day out, move us closer to or away from a condition of thriving.

Our daily choices, big and small, represent our quest for wholeness. They also serve as a powerful manufacturer of the natural consequences we experience in life.

We can choose who we are, what we think, how we feel, how we act, and the difference we’re going to make in the world.

My wish for you in the new year is that you become more aware of the power of your choices and intentionally make better and better choices that fuel your health, wholeness, and service to others.

Parenting and Work…Not Oil and Water

Parenthood is a tricky subject because there are all different types of parents and all different types of kids. If there is one area where “one size fits all” does not fit, parenting would be it.

I strongly believe that when you start judging other parents, you have no room to love and support them as they strive to do one of the hardest jobs in the world. We need to help each other any way we can.

My intent for this post is to inspire parents to help their children…by fully embracing work they love and that they feel matters. Counterintuitive? Stay with me…

There are so many lessons for your children as they watch you completely and fully embrace your unique talents and passions, and make a big contribution to the world.

Whatever your work is, share it openly with your children. Move from a place of guilt (“I have to go to work”) to a place of strength (“I love helping others through my work”).

When you passionately and openly commit to your life’s work…in front of your children…without conflict…you model full and authentic living.

So, what inspired this? The following letter I received from my 11-year-old daughter on Sunday morning:

Happy Mother’s Day Mom!

Mom, Happy Mother’s Day! I want to thank you for everything you have done for me. I love you very much, I think about you all the time and I know you think about me

You are so amazing with everything you do, and I don’t know how you can do it all. Your heart is always open for anyone who needs your love. You always help me out when I need your advice or when I am hurt, and make me feel better.

I am so proud of you and all of the work that you do to help out your family and other people. You are so, so beautiful and fit no matter what anyone says or thinks. You deserve way more than 1 day to do whatever you want when us kids are pulling you around everyday.

You are the best mom anyone could ever want and you’re my mom. I want to be just like you. Pretty, nice, smart, and everything you do. I have tears in my eyes as I’m writing this. I just wanted to say thank you for being a great mom for your 3 kids, and a great wife for Monte. I love you so much.

Love, <tear drop>

your daughter

I’m sharing this letter word for word as written with only my child’s name deleted…and noting a teardrop where it fell on the page (hers, not mine. Mine fell later but I kept them off my precious letter).

My youngest daughter then gave me a M-O-L-L-I-E card:

My mom is awesome

Orange is her favorite color

Likes to play with her kids

Loves to walk

I enjoy her because she cares about me

Enjoys her job

What immediately struck me is that both of my daughters mentioned my love for my work and helping others…right alongside my love for my family.

These don’t need to be separate. Have you been telling yourself they do?

From time to time, my kids ask, “Mom, if you could have any job in the world, what would it be?” My answer: “I would do exactly what I’m doing. I love teaching and coaching people how to create their best life and make their unique contribution to this world.”

This is my passion. What is yours? Identify it. Go after it with zest. Give yourself permission to be fully and authentically yourself. Even…especially…to your children.

You will become a stronger role model, a happier parent, and a better steward of all of the gifts you have been given to use in this short time on earth.

A warm and sincere nod to all of you mothers doing your best to raise your children. (Dads, your well-deserved day of recognition is coming up!)

Originally Published: May 15, 2009