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Strengthening Your Steps

*article written for Judi Moreo's personal growth/development publication, "Choices"

When considering life's journey, it helps to think of myself ascending a spiral staircase. This visual reminds me that there are steps behind, steps still ahead, and that anything I'm circling around once more is allowing me to look upon a situation with more knowledge and experience than I once held.

A wise woman told me to "give yourself permission to be in process." When we let ourselves note the importance of each stage of our journeys-and not only our completion of a task or making it past a finish line-we are wiser and more empowered for it. In the midst of the process, there are certain habits than can help keep us uplifted, determined and focused. These habits, if maintained and practiced over time, will help bolster not only us, but the people around us.

*Keeping Commitments to Yourself

Anyone who wants to maintain a job or grow a friendship knows the importance of keeping their word. We avoid being late. We don't cancel on a coffee date at the last minute if we can help it. We do our part of the group project and ensure our team players are more than satisfied with our work. If we don't follow through, there's often a steep price to pay.

But what about the commitments we make to ourselves? Motivational speaker Rachel Hollis says, "If you take a good hard look at what you’ve canceled on in the last thirty days, you might be shocked to discover how you’re training yourself to behave." If we're not writing our goals down or speaking them aloud to someone else, it's likely we won't see them through. Just think to the last nutrition plan you wanted to uphold, the run that you planned to take, but didn't, or the painting class you wanted to enroll in, but decided to postpone again.

For those of us who cancel on ourselves often and without much regard, it becomes much harder to reach our next step. We're a lot more freed up to give to others with a giving heart when we've kept small commitments to ourselves along the way.

*Saying "No" More Often

If you're a people pleaser, chances are that you find yourself torn with your commitments and all that you try to pile on top of them. As you probably know, an overburdened schedule can quickly breed resentment, and even the worthy causes you wanted to partake in can become a strain if it's not the right time.

As a mom to two busy elementary children, I'm doing a better job at only agreeing to commitments that are a good fit for my family. While it's still not easy to say "no," I'm reminded that I have less "yes" to give to those who matter most if I'm filling my calendar too quickly.

If it doesn't work for you to organize the company camp out, attend every birthday party your daughter is invited to, or join the monthly book club in your neighborhood, you don't have to commit. You also don't need to give paragraph responses to justify your decisions. If the people asking you to take on the added responsibility don't show understanding, it's even more evident that you've made the right decision. Streamlining our focus and knowing where we want to go makes for a happier, more meaningful life.

*Watching Internal Talk

It's easy to forget the red-lined drafts, the splattered paintbrushes, and the worn out running shoes that tell the actual story behind an individual's accomplishment. Yet, chances are that before those authors, painters, or runners were ready to share their achievement with the world, they experienced unseen struggles and a lot of resistance. There were moments when many thought about quitting because the task became too daunting, too repetitive, or downright painful.

Having experienced the "should I press on?" sentiment a time or two, I knew I had to start talking to myself differently if I wanted to publish my first book.

Instead of allowing myself to wallow in uncertainty or thinking I might be an "impostor," I began to tell myself "you were made for greatness" and "He who began a great work in you will see it to completion." I also picked up a copy of Dr. Caroline Leaf's "Switch on Your Brain" and completed her 21 day journaling prompt (would highly recommend). Choosing the positive bent seems almost laughable at times--when things aren't going nearly as fluid as we'd anticipated--but remembering who we are and why we started enables us to tap into a strength that we didn't even know was ours.

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