Your Circle Wants To Keep You Encircled

Your Circle Wants To Keep You Encircled

Your carnivore friends won’t understand when you tell them that you’ve decided to give up eating meat. Or when your drinking buddies find out that you’ve quit drinking. They’ll just see you as weird. Or going through a phase.

But when your actions show them you’re serious, tensions will inevitably rise.

Tension is a force which breaks things. In these scenarios it will either break your commitment to eating only veggies, break your resolve to embrace sobriety, or it will break the Circle which needs you to remain who you are.

Circles. Our own tribal communities built upon common bonds. The influence our Circles have on us is quite strong. Standards, expectations, and compliance. Circles aren’t typically an encouraging place to grow or change. Your Circle wants you to stay in the Circle, gravitationally pulling and pressuring you to remain exactly as you already are. That’s why you’re in the Circle.

The growth you want requires joining a different Circle.

That’s a huge factor as to why many people choose to never grow. They feel safe and even somewhat obligated to their Circle. They fear being ostracized so they stay exactly where they are to maintain exactly who they are. Even if remaining exactly who they are no longer serves them. Because that’s what the Circle demands.

You’d think personal growth and the changes that come with it would be a universally supported ideal. After all, we do want those who matter most to thrive and live their best lives. Don’t we?

Or perhaps our true motives are far more self serving?

Unfortunately personal growth often comes with a healthy dose of raised eye brows and resentment. As if your personal growth is some sort of de facto pronouncement that the life you’ve built within your existing Circle is now somehow not good enough for you. You’ve rejected them, they’d surmise, and rejection is never very well received by the rejected. Their resentment and hostility can even lead us to question our own worthiness of attempting to become anything more than what we already are, which, inevitably, will keep us in the Circle.

At some point you’ll find yourself at a crossroads. Will you remain loyal to who you’ve always been and to your Circle, or has your loyalty shifted toward who it is you know you were created to become?

Leaving stagnant Circles for new growth Circles isn’t easy. We are creatures of habit. We crave the comfort and safety of the familiar, even if the familiar is keeping us from creating the life we know we are capable of living. But finding a Circle to support our growth and evolution is extremely beneficial. We do become more of who it is we surround ourselves with.

Most of the important growth I’ve experienced in my life has come from finding Circles aligned with my vision of what I wanted to create for me. As my vision has evolved, so has my need to find Circles which support my evolution. New people, new situations, new opportunities…all located in unfamiliar places outside of my existing Circles. And as uncomfortable as stepping outside of the familiar can be, staying within the limiting Circles of “What Is” comes with it’s own degree of discomfort. Consciously deciding that comfortable stagnation is preferred over stepping into your own growth is the perfect garden for the seeds of regret to grow in.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced enough regrets to know that I have no intentions of create any new ones.

In our ever-connected world, finding new Circles is significantly easier than at any other point in history. Whatever it is you wish to become or experience there are those who are also walking a similar path, who’ve shared a similar experience, who are willing to support and encourage, to collectively help move their Circle closer to who it is they wish to become.

Is your Circle moving you closer to who it is you want to be?

Moving forward. Staying put.

There’s a circle for each one.

Which Circle will you be a part of?

Photo by Pablo Guerrero on Unsplash

Where Has All The Encouragement Gone?

Where Has All The Encouragement Gone?

Maybe it’s just easier to beat people down instead of building them up?

A friend of mine was having a conversation with her young neighbor. The young neighbor had grown frustrated with his inability to finish a project he had started. Inability, as in he didn’t think he could figure out how to do it. My friend mentioned to the neighbor that since he had already figured out how to get the project to this point she was certain that he’d be able to figure out what to do next. “You’ve gotten it this far, I’m sure you’ll be able to get it done. You’ve got this.”

Encouragement. It’s not something the young neighbor was too familiar with. “I can’t remember that last time anyone has told me they believed in me.”

Kind of sad.

I was raised by two loving parents. One was an optimistic encourager, the other a pessimistic pointer outer of what I did wrong. A bad grade on a school exam produced two distinctively different parental responses. While both were disappointed, one responded with a compassionate encouraging vibe of “I know you’ll do better next time” while the other grounded me and made sure I didn’t watch TV for a week. One left me feeling empowered, the other simply watered the seeds of doubt I’ve now been uprooting for years.

I prefer the encouragement, please.

I think we all do.

But where has all the encouragement gone?

For those who weren’t ever encouraged it’s often difficult to be encouraging. It goes against what they’ve known, of what they’ve experienced. Often our ability to be encouragers is passed down, almost genetically, like the color of our eyes.

Further putting the hurt on encouragement is society’s growing bias towards negativity. Reality shows, “news” outlets, political grandstanding, and to a great extent social media are all fertile breeding grounds of hate and tearing others down. Apparently it’s quite good for their business.

Kind of sad.

We often think of encouragement as something we do for our kids. Like it’s something that is eventually outgrown. But at what point in life do we ever truly outgrow the benefits of being encouraged? Or the need? We all carry within us our own personal heaviness, mostly unseen by others. Unseen, because it’s visibility we fear would make us appear weak. Especially us men. Our world is unkind to those perceived as weak, so we embrace the facade of strength. And the people we see as strong never need any encouragement, we tell ourselves, so none is ever offered.

Pick one day. One day to simply notice how much encouragement you witness. Listen. Observe. How much are we picking each other up? My experience of purposefully noticing the tone and content of conversations usually results in witnessing very little encouragement. But there are so many opportunities to do so.

We just need to decide to share some.

Even at my advanced age I still appreciate and benefit of words of encouragement. I’ve figured out a great deal about life, but that knowledge alone doesn’t always make life easy. Sometimes being the recipient of a few positive words can change my energy and move me forward.

Each day will present us with opportunities to offer words of encouragement to those we interact with. Friends, family, and strangers alike.

It’s also extremely impactful and important when we are interacting with our self.

In a world somewhat obsessed with the negative, we can offer a different voice, a voice of encouragement which will always create a more positive impact.

Closing the encouragement deficit starts with us.

Each of us.

Me. And you.

I know you can do it!

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

The Environment of Growth

The Environment of Growth

“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” – Mark Ambrose

It’s been about a year now since I joined a gym. Not from a desire to become a body builder; rather, to regain some of the muscle mass we all lose as we age. Preventative maintenance of sorts.

I’d never been in a gym environment before. Certainly, I had heard of the gym being a place full of performance enhancing substances and people looking to hook up with each other. That’s not something I had any interest in, nor have I seen any evidence of either.

Mostly the gym is full of individuals who pretty much keep to themselves, there to take care of their own fitness goals and then they just leave.

I have had plenty of false starts attempting to gym at home. Weights, dumbbells, exercise bike, treadmill. For some reason, though, I never was able to stick with my home routine. I’d dabble, watch the DVD’s I bought on how to transform myself in 90 days, yet I never quite got transformed. I never stuck with it long enough for that to happen.

I guess the living room wasn’t such a great environment.

As I’ve observed the gym life for the past year, what I’ve seen is a great many of people just trying to get better. Better at their physical conditioning, whatever their individual goals may be.

Me? I’m there taking care of me.

And the environment has been a key component in me taking care of me.

Fitness doesn’t happen by itself. It takes a great deal of work, consistency, and commitment. In the gym, you can easily see those who’ve made the commitment. An environment of committed growth is quite infectious. The energy is different. It collectively breeds more growth. That’s what I’ve found at the gym. No one is judging, they’re busy doing. Big bodies, small bodies, young bodies, and old bodies. Everyone silently goes about their business of working toward their own personal targets, surrounded by others driven to do the same.

All of our environments influence us. The productive ones as well as the stagnant ones. This is true for friendships and relationships as well. Our circle matters. Our community matters. Seldom will we ever outperform the collective expectations of our circle or community. Surrounding yourself with others who share a common goal, outcome, or vision greatly increases the probability that you’ll hit your own goal, outcome or vision.

If you want to grow, place yourself in an environment populated with people who are actually growing, who are doing the work, who are actually in a position to support your growth, who actively encourage your growth.

Growth isn’t always easy, especially when surrounded by those driven by, well, nothing.

Does your environment support who it is you desire to be?

Perhaps it’s time to find a better circle?

Photo by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash

There Is No Need To Struggle Alone

There Is No Need To Struggle Alone

“Just suck it up.”

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. I had no idea until just recently. One of the goals of NMHA Month is to hopefully provide a safe space for uncomfortable conversations around mental and emotional health. The unfortunate stigmas surrounding mental health often prevent any conversations from even getting started. That silence keeps us suffering…alone. Alone with the pain and the hurt and the anxiety and isolation we may be experiencing.

That silence, at times, can even even end lives.

As a man, I was taught to keep my emotions to myself. I think most men have been told or shown the same. Expressing emotions is a sign of weakness, they’d say. “Real” men simply “suck it up” or “deal with it” or are told to “man up”. Manhood and emotions don’t mix, I was told. That generational stigma often keeps us from even admitting that we are struggling, let alone actually seek some help and guidance. That stigma is not gender specific.

That stigma needs to end.

I have a rather small number of people I consider friends. The benefit of that is I actually know them some quite well. I’ve gotten to know their stories. And not just the happy stuff. I’ve gotten to know many of their pains, their struggles, and their challenges.

There are friends currently dealing with the heaviness life sometimes forces us to carry…the anxiety, the uncertainty, the unhealed traumas, the emotional scars, the pressure, the unmet expectations, the feelings of doubt and unworthiness, of being in accepted as they are. Often hidden behind the facades of some beautiful smiles or jovial laughter.

Life teaches us many things, but learning to deal with the weight of life is something we’re forced to figure out on our own.

Often we will try and minimize the pain we feel. Others, we tell ourselves, have it much worse than we do. But our pains and hurts and traumas need never be justified. They exist. If we feel them then they are real, regardless of what else is going on in the world. If we minimize them, all we are doing is suppressing them, and the suppressed pains always find a way back to the surface eventually. They seldom simply go away by themselves.

I see Mental Health Awareness Month as a great opportunity for me to proactively begin a dialog with those closest to me. It’s an opportunity to remind me to simply check in and touch base, to simply call or text and let them know I’m thinking about them. To remind them I’m here for them, to support them. Because you just don’t know what others are going through. You just don’t know what may be weighing them down.

Maybe checking in is something we can all do for each other?

Check in with the “strong” ones. Often the “strong” ones are strong because they feel they have to be, sort of their way of attempting to rise above the weight of their pain. Check in with the “quiet” ones, the ones who’ve been less available and less accessible than usual. And those who tell you they’re “fine” are usually anything but. “I’m fine” is a way to answer the “How are you doing?” question without having to actually answer it.

And don’t forget to check in on the most important person in your life. You. How are you doing? How does your life feel? Perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, or simply not feeling like your usual self. Is there someone you could reach out to, a friend or colleague, and let them know how you’ve been feeling?

Struggle, at times, feels inevitable.

But there is no need to struggle alone.

Let’s take care of each other, shall we?

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

The Promise

The Promise

I probably won’t have the answer.

(Questions sometimes don’t have answers.)

I probably won’t fully understand, either.

And, no, I won’t know exactly how you feel.

What I can give you?

My presence.

Compassionate presence.

My full attention.

My open ears.

My open arms.

My open heart.

My infinite patience.

My silence if that’s what is needed.

I will never minimize the burden you carry.

I just won’t let you carry it alone.

Photo by Brent Ninaber on Unsplash

This One Assumption Can Save A Life

This One Assumption Can Save A Life

Thursday was a big day for Danielle.

11 months sober.

I didn’t even know sobriety was an issue for her.

You could feel both her pride and apprehension in her Facebook post informing her friends of her milestone. Apparently she’s been down this path before, she knows it’s something she is taking one step at a time.

It was great to see the love, support, and encouragement her friends posted in reply. Her replies to their posted comments indicated she, too, was quite happy for the love being sent her way.

Danielle bravely decided to publicly share her struggles with those in her social media world. Bravely, because our world tends to look down on struggle, leaving many of those who do struggle to struggle in silence, battling their own demons alone. Struggle often Continue reading “This One Assumption Can Save A Life”