Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Time for self-care?

Are you one of the thousands of people who does a lot of care-giving? This is true of parents. It's true of the sandwich generation who cares for parents and children. And it's equally true for people who are by nature nurturers and always find someone to whom they can give time and attention.

This time of year can be a time of overwhelm. You can feel stretched very thin and just exhausted. Your compassion might have reached its limits. Don't feel guilty about that. It's normal.

Just remember that there's nothing wrong with self-care. In fact, it just makes sense. One cannot draw water from an empty well. Nor can we keep giving from a place inside that's gone dry and needs some refilling of its own.

Take time in this new year to deal with your own compassion fatigue. Take care of yourself. Not only will it increase your joy and happiness but you'll be far better able to give to others.

Monday, December 30, 2013

An opportunity for awareness awaits

Do you make New Year's resolutions? Or do you set an intention for how you want to live your life in the coming year? Or perhaps making choices about how you transition through change and live your life is an ongoing process for you.

No matter what your style, I encourage you to be awake and aware. Life can be so much richer when you and I don't sleep-walk through it. Look around you. Savor small moments. Live in gratitude not just for the big things of life but for small blessings as well. The new year offers many opportunities to live a life of awareness.

Choices, choices. Again, you and I have a choice of how we live our lives. We can live out of our own container of love and gratitude. We can live with an open heart and open mind. We can put our gifts out into the world—and experience lives filled with joy and happiness even while we serve others in a way that offers joy and happiness to them, too. Go for it!

Friday, December 27, 2013

If they only knew me...

Have you ever heard of the Impostor Syndrome? You may have felt it yourself but not known there's a name for it. Ever have this thought: If they only knew who I really was, they wouldn't hire me? Or love me? Or want me? You worry that sooner or later, someone will see through your masks and know that you're incompetent or unlovable. And they would reject you.

Apparently, even those with a long list of degrees, successful careers or an adoring public feel this way, too. Perhaps we're more aware of it in Hollywood stars than in those who are CEOs of corporations. We've heard about the needy star who craves attention and in private, deals with huge addiction issues.

However, it's also a garden-variety syndrome that plagues ordinary folks such as you and me. If you feel this way at times, don't ignore the elephant in the room. Take a good look at what it's really about. Talk about it with someone you trust (or with a life coach). Make a list your competencies and good qualities. I know, it's often easier for us to list our flaws than our positive qualities. Isn't that sad? But do try. Affirm yourself for those qualities and gifts. Know, too, that we all wear masks. They are necessary to some degree. However, some of us can do a bit of mask shedding and still be safe and secure.

If you are bothered by this syndrome, I invite you to make 2014 the year you deal with it. You don't have to let it drag you down. Don't let it steal your joy and happiness.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Vulnerable and authentic

This past year I've been intentionally working on being more vulnerable. I know I've written about that in blogs several times. I've spent my life as a strong woman "leaping tall buildings in a single bound, landing backwards and in high heels," as they say. While that's helped me through a lot of difficult life situations, it's not so good for connections and loving relationships. It can also be exhausting.

Recently I heard researcher, storyteller and writer Brene Brown speak of vulnerability as "the birthplace of joy and creativity." She speaks of it as the courage to be ourselves. "Let go of who you think you should be," she says, "and be who you really are."

I'm trying, I'm trying. I want to be strong in a different way—not necessarily by carrying around my shield of protection when I think I'll be hurt. But I want to be open and loving, even if means I do get hurt.

What's your experience of vulnerability? Perhaps it's easier for you than me. Part of that comes from my being an Enneagram 8, and part of it comes from my life experiences. But here's the wonderful part: I get to choose now.

Life really is a lot about choices, even though we think we're simply carried along on life's streams, bobbing about randomly. Choice. Vulnerability. Authenticity. These are some of the themes I'm going to carry into the new year. What about you? What themes are you carrying into 2014?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Gratitude and giving

For what are you grateful on this Christmas Day? I'm spending it with some of my fiance's family—so as much as I'm enjoying connection, love, gifts, food and a warm home, I'm also thinking of people who don't know where their next meal will be, who sleep under a bridge or in a doorway—or if they're lucky, in a shelter—or who have absolutely no family or friends. And I'm grateful for the abundance in my life.

I want that gratitude to spur me to actually do something for those who have far less than I do. It's not enough for me to just think of them; I want to give in ways that will be helpful to (and respectful of) those who don't have all they need. Multiple possibilities exist for doing so. I want to never grow so complacent and unaware that a) I don't feel grateful for what I have, and b) I don't care for others who have far less.

That's what's on my heart this Christmas Day. What's on yours?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Open to love

Because the Christmas season spawns such a wide range of emotions, comments by one of my favorite poets and writers, Mark Nepo, caught my attention the other day. In his The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have, he says: "Perhaps the most stubborn thing that keeps us from knowing love is distrust. Certainly, we have more than enough reason in our world to be cautious, alert, and guarded against being hurt or taken advantage of....

"The question we must ask, that I ask myself every day," he continues, "is which is more debilitating: to be cut off from love or to be scarred by the pain of being hurt?"

It's so easy when life continues to leave its scars on our hearts and our lives to withdraw a bit further with each scarring and become a bit "gun-shy." However, that just removes us further from any possibility of healing. It reminds me of a time in my life when I'd been deeply hurt and feared going back into a situation where I thought I'd face more hurt and perhaps no small amount of judgment. My wise sister told me, "Go back there with your heart open and your head high." She was right.

For, as Nepo says, "... there is no other doorway into kindness and all its gifts but through the gentle risk to open ourselves, however slightly ...." Not easy. But worth doing!

Whatever you're feeling today, whether it's utter joy or absolute sadness and loneliness, be with the feeling. Be honest and real about it. If you're sad, be loving, gentle and compassionate with yourself. And try to open yourself, ever so slightly, to more of the gifts of kindness that are around you—perhaps in places you didn't expect.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Gifts with reach

Lately I've been thinking a lot about those who have no home, no job, no food, perhaps even no family—all the less advantaged here in our country and globally.

There are so many ways of sharing our love—and our gifts—with others during this season. For years when most of my grandchildren were little, we enjoyed pooling money and poring over a Heifer International catalog to choose an animal for a global family—a gift that meant income and sustenance for them. The kids loved hearing what a flock of chicks or bee hive might do for a family, or what a difference the gift of a goat could make to another family.

My church has a giving tree, and we're invited to buy gifts for those who otherwise might have nothing for Christmas. My congregation also is active with soup kettle and food pantry ministries. And almost daily in my mail I receive notices of wonderful organizations who give gifts to people in need.

So many opportunities exist for you and me to give gifts that have real reach, gifts that truly make a difference in the lives of others. Why not pick something out today, if you haven't already? You'll be giving yourself the gift of joy at the same time!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Expectations exceeded: What joy!

Earlier this week I blogged about the frustrations that come from unmet expectations.

Sometimes, though, our experiences exceed our expectations. Have you had that happen? Isn't it pure delight when it occurs?

That happened for me this week. My middle son, daughter-in-law and six grandchildren who live in the area planned to meet us at a restaurant for dinner to celebrate both my birthday and also an early Christmas, since my fiance and I won't be in town for Christmas this year. Because their kids are nearly all teenagers and have extremely busy lives of their own—and my son and daughter-in-law both have demanding jobs—I knew they had other activities going on. I knew we'd have a wonderful and fun time, but I thought it might be a bit rushed because of their schedules.

But the evening was just one of the most delightful ones I've had in a while. We packed a lot of great conversation, joy and laughter into the time we did have. An extra bonus for all of us was that we had an absolutely amazing waiter who was spot-on with recommendations and had a great sense of humor to add to his attentiveness. We each enjoyed our food, the setting and service; and we especially enjoyed each other.

Family time always is precious—and yet we know that at this time of year, our expectations (sometimes taken from Christmas cards, TV shows and other media images) can exceed reality. So it's a real gift when reality exceeds expectations. I intend to savor this experience.

What are you noticing these days about expectations and experience?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Candles and chocolate

This is the first morning in more than a week when I have no appointments or activities and in which I had no baking projects (I'm writing my Thursday blog on Wednesday). So I've been savoring two of the birthday gifts I got this week: Lady Godiva chocolate truffle coffee (oh, yes!) and a lovely jasmine, lily of the valley and rose-scented candle. It's so wonderful to just spend several minutes relaxing and savoring both those things—flavored coffee and scented candles are two of my personal favorites.

It really takes so little sometimes, doesn't it, to bring us joy and to calm and relax us? As much as I've been enjoying baking for loved ones and the season's activities, I also had been looking forward to this morning of a more open schedule. Whew, a breather in the midst of the busyness.

You likely have your own equivalent of flavored coffee and a scented candle. Take a few moments if you can to just stop and enjoy whatever it is that will bring you joy and calm—whatever is your particular version of self-care. And remember, it isn't just the big things in life that need savoring. These small moments can brighten our day and lighten our step. And that has a ripple effect extending out to anyone with whom we interact.

What can you do today? Or tomorrow?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Kindness doesn't cost

These are such crazy-busy days for so many people. I understand how easily tempers can fray. Most people have to-do lists that are longer than a roomful of wallpaper. Money probably is running short as is time. The peace and goodwill of which we speak can sometimes be in short supply.

Recently I was in the grocery checkout line when the woman ahead of me lit into the grocery bagger with all the ferocity of a mother lion defending her cub—and all simply because she didn't like the way he was combining things in her bags. She said offensive things about his bagging ability and treated him like a child. I just cringed when I heard her spiel. She rendered the whole scene toxic, and several of us looked at each other and shook our heads. We were embarrassed by her behavior.

When I got up to the bagger, I said, "I hope you will just shake that all off. It wasn't about you. No one should treat another human like that. Just don't let that toxic stuff get inside you. Don't carry it home." He said, "I know. I try not to do that." But I could tell he appreciated the fact that I noticed and spoke a kind word to him.

What small things can you do today to just brighten someone's day or lighten their load? Sometimes all it takes is a smile. Or a kind word. Or just letting someone cross the street even if you do have the right of way. Opening the door for someone who is loaded down with bags. Friendly conversation with the salespeople and clerks in stores makes their long days more pleasant. It doesn't cost you a thing but it can really make that checkout person forget her tired feet!

Let's check our attitudes and see whether kindness can't be a habit—not just in this season but all year long.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Unmet expectations birth frustration

This is the season for high expectations, isn't it? Visions of a Rockwellian Christmas. The perfect family having the perfect meal and giving the perfect gifts, everything going smoothly and not an unkind word to be heard. All expectations met. Everyone happy. Right?

But it isn't that way, really. For many, this season is not at all pleasant, as I said in a recent blog. And for others, it may be a wonderful season but still include some (or several) unmet expectations.

I recently heard someone say, "All frustrations are birthed from unmet expectations." Yes, that is true. Try as we might, we can't completely refrain from hoping for things—from having expectations of how things will be, what people will do, what a situation will be like for us and so on. It's human nature. Nor should we. Hope is a good thing.

It's just a good time to remind ourselves that things don't always go as planned. We don't always get everything we want. Not everyone performs up to our expectations. We don't even perform up to our own expectations! It's a good time to inject some realism into our expectations.

And it is a season for grace, forgiveness and a little more of the saying, "It is what it is." I'm saying this to myself, too, as I often am wont to have idealistic and high expectations of how things will be. So let's allow for a few unmet expectations in this season. And have a care for those who are really depressed during this season, too. If you are one of those people, be gentle with yourself and plan things that do make you happy.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The gift of time

Perhaps you're already done with your holiday shopping. Maybe you've even got the gifts wrapped and under the tree.

If you haven't finished shopping, however, here's an idea: Don't overlook the gift of time. One of the best gifts can be spending time with loved ones and friends. Promise to take your children, perhaps one at a time, to a special concert or event. Or promise to polish your partner's shoes or bake her or his favorite pie. Or you might offer a month's worth of allowing your spouse to sleep late on Saturdays while you tend to the children and keep them quiet. What's something that would really put a smile on that other person's face—and wouldn't even cost you a penny?

If you want to spend money and still give time, that works too. One grandmother told me recently she'd taken each of her grandchildren, one at a time, shopping for their Christmas gifts. She'd given them a spending limit, but they could choose anything they wanted for that amount. After the purchases, they had stopped for hot chocolate. What special moments for both grandma and grandchild. I've done that for birthdays but hadn't yet done so for Christmas. But I like the idea. You can still wrap up the gifts if they want something under the tree.

Tangible gifts are such fun. But so are the intangibles of time and attention. Get creative and crazy. I'm sure you can come up with some great gift ideas that will blow the socks off your friends and family. And you'll experience such delight both in creating the idea and in spending the time with the other person.

It's all about savoring the season—and enjoying the people who are most important to you. It's not about wearing yourself out to give everyone else a wonderful Christmas experience. Time: It's a wonderful gift.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Feeling stressed?

Is your schedule completely out of control these days? Your to-do list long? And your energy and patience just a bit shy of what's needed to get everything on the list checked off?

Join the ranks. Busyness already is nearly a competitive sport in our country. But at Christmas it reaches Olympic levels.

If you're reading this, you've already taken one good step. You've gotten off the merry-go-round and stopped the frantic dance even if just for a moment. Take some good solid breaths. Deep breaths. Rest your head back in the chair. Inhale deeply. Hold the breath for a few moments. Slowly exhale. Let it all out. Repeat several times. Perhaps you want to add a few stretches, too. Stand up on tiptoes and stretch one arm at a time up into the air, pointing up as far as you can. Bend to one side and then the other. Bend forward and try touch your toes—or at least get down as far as you're able. Do some shoulder circles and knee bends. Do whatever will take a few of the kinks out of your body. When it's as cold as it is now in many parts of the U.S.—including where I live—our bodies tighten up and constrict. So stretching and deep breathing help you open up inside, and they really can help relieve stress as well.

At times when I'm super busy, I just run faster. But it really doesn't help me feel any better, and often it doesn't make my work get done any more quickly either. I'm generally better off hitting the pause button and stopping to do deep breathing, yoga stretches and enjoying a few moments of meditation or quiet time. Go ahead. Do whatever will reduce your stress level. You really will be glad you did.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

'Our deepest fear'

Yesterday I wrote about how inspired I was by Nelson Mandela. I discovered that a quote often attributed to him in his inaugural speech really came from the writings of motivational speaker and author Marianne Williamson. It comes from her book, A Return to Love.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some; it is in everyone. And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

This writing contains so much richness that there really is nothing more I can say. It speaks for itself. I take it as encouragement to be all I can be. Face my fears. Let go of all that holds me back. And just shine.

I hope you will do the same. The world needs us all to shine right now!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mandela inspired me

Last week the world lost a truly great man—Nelson Mandela. He was an amazing example of forgiveness, wisdom and grace—able to move beyond his own suffering to consider what was needed for the greater good.

Although he is known for many quotes of wisdom (just Google "Mandela quotes" and see what pops up!), two stand out for me at the moment. They are : "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it" and "The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."

Both of those speak to me of the fears I often have of moving forward, moving outside my comfort zone and fears of failure. Perhaps you've never had those fears. I surely have. And still do at times.

What I'm learning is that people of courage DO feel fear. They simply face it down (tough as that can be at times)—and then move on to do what they feared to do. Feel the fear and do it anyway. And I'm learning that life isn't about perfection; it's about progress. So when I fall, I just rise again and keep on going. It's not about never falling. It's about learning from the falls and getting back up again.

People such as Nelson Mandela inspire me. After all he suffered, if he could face down his fears, if he could rise up after falling (and after years of imprisonment), surely I can do so too.

What Mandela quotes speak to you today? Who inspires you today?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

We need darkness

For those of us in North America, this is the season of darkness. Days are shorter, much shorter. And for those of us who are Christian, it's also the season of Advent or waiting. No matter where you live or what your spiritual practices, this can be a good time to reflect on birth, growth and transformation.

Author Jan L. Richardson says in her book Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas: "We require darkness for birth and growth: the seed in the ground, the seed in the womb, the seed in our souls. ... journeying in the dark ... teaches us to rely on senses other than sight."

Much as we may not like the dark, we do need it for growth just for the very things Richardson cites. Seeds sprouting into beautiful flowering plants or fruit-producing trees. Eggs becoming embryos on their way to fabulous babies. Caterpillars becoming beautiful butterflies within the darkness of cocoons. So much transformation, so much growth and change in places of darkness.

It's true, too, that as you and I sort through life's deep questions in the darkness of our inner selves, we do best when we rely on "senses other than sight." Answers to those big questions of "Who am I now?" or "What do I really want to do?" are best answered using not just our minds but our hearts. It takes all our senses, all our being, to come to grips with how best to traverse this planet being who we were created to be and using all the talents and attributes at our disposal.

So what's trying to be born in you right now? What questions are burning inside? Let the darkness work its magic, and use your heart and all your senses to nurture whatever dreams and passions are awakening inside.

Or are you at a place of peace with who you are and what you're doing? If so, celebrate the darkness and all that provided the space and place for growth to occur.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Focus on the positive

Technology. I have a love-hate relationship with it. I am just thrilled with all the things made possible by technology these days. Yet when the bouncing ball on my Apple computer goes round and round, I roll my eyes and think, "Really? You mean you can't just open up this web page I want right now?" Or when my iPhone doesn't respond as it should, I get impatient. I've come to expect so much these days. Haven't we all?

Yet when I think back a few years to how life was, say before cell phones, I wonder how we managed! Of course, we did (and we did just fine). But remember when we couldn't let someone know that we were stalled in traffic and would be late to lunch—or that we might not make it at all? Remember when we actually wrote letters—or made calls on land lines?

I especially remember the five years my family spent in Papua New Guinea when my two oldest sons were young. There was no such thing as Skype. We didn't even have phones to connect us with our loved ones back in the U.S. All we had were aerogrammes that still took several days to arrive. Now, thankfully, even our service men and women can stay connected (even if not perfectly) with family back in the U.S. Amazing, isn't it? And although I won't be with my youngest son's family in Phoenix at Christmas, through the wonders of Skype, I'll be able to watch them each open their gifts from me. I love it.

So when my devices don't work as they should, I try to stay focused on all the things they do make better in my life. I try to be thankful for the positive experiences they bring to my life (even while I try to resist being completely plugged in all the time!). And isn't that true of so much in our lives? Lots of things drive us nuts even while we know how many good things are made possible by them. Life is so much better when we can stay focused on the positive. Let's keep that in mind in these busy and chaotic December days.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Connect your gifts & passion

Yesterday I told you about the 21-day meditation series by Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra in which they encouraged us as participants to think about what gift we each have to offer our sister and brother travelers on this planet. Truly, you and I have multiple gifts we can put out into the world. But likely, there's one special gift you have that particularly makes your heart sing. That's the one you should focus on. Be sure that gets out into the world where it can be used.

It isn't difficult to see what things are needed in this world today: kindness, love, civility, compassion, even the gift of listening to one another—and much more. Lots of needs. No doubt about it. But what is your particular passion? What can you put out into the world that jazzes you so totally that you may not even see it as something you give away? Perhaps it's something you just have to do, something as necessary as breathing.

I love encouraging people. Perhaps that's why I was so drawn to life coaching. I get totally jazzed when I see my clients move from places of burnout, pain, confusion or "stuckness" into places of transformation, revitalization, healing, clarity and action. I love helping people access their own wisdom and begin moving forward in a positive way. When I know someone is discouraged or hurt, I love to send cards to perk them up. I know the value of a phone call, email or even a text message just to let someone know I'm thinking of them.

What I have learned, too, is that those who are most difficult to love are the ones who most need it. So I try move past my judgments and out of my comfort zone to encourage those who push me away.

That's my gift. What's yours? Who needs it today? Tomorrow? The next day?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What if ... ?

The invitation came in my email inbox. It sounded intriguing, so I signed up for it. Besides, it was free. "It" was a 21-day meditation series titled "Desire and Destiny" with Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra.

I've just finished the series this week. I really liked that 20-minute time of quiet each morning when I listened first to the inspiring thoughts of Oprah and Deepak and then to the quiet music that allowed time for meditation and for just being.

They sent a bonus, Day 22, which invited me to think about the gift I have to put out into the world. I was invited to picture every human on the planet side by side in a huge circle, to turn to the person on my right offering my gift—and see everyone doing so in turn—and finally to turn to my left with my hands open to receive the gift offered by the person on that side. I'm not always great at guided imagery and picturing things in my mind. Still, I could imagine offering my gift and then turning to receive one from someone else. It was quite powerful. Since I'm better at giving than receiving, the receiving piece was especially powerful for me.

I wonder ...
This was quite an amazing exercise—and after the meditation time finished, it caused me to wonder what our planet would be like if we each focused on using our gift(s) in the world and on receiving those that others offer us. What if we spent no time comparing ourselves to others, envying others for what they have, being angry about what we haven't had or what we've lost, and instead did our best to make sure everyone felt loved and appreciated? What if our goal really was love and abundance for all?

I know, I know. These are the illusions (or maybe delusions) of an idealist, right? Perhaps so. But, seriously, what if? Might the world at least be a better place if you and I made that a goal? And shared it with others in our circles? Hmmm, who knows what's possible?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Happiness is an 'inside job'

My birthday card from my sister has a wonderful message: "Don't go out expecting to find happiness. Bring it with you." The card sports a black-and-white photo of women decked out in hats and gloves with over-the-arm handbags, circa 1950 or so! You know the kind of card I'm describing. I'm sure you've seen them in card stores—or probably received one yourself.

Anyway, back to the message. What wise words. Happiness truly is an inside job, isn't it? It's not something outside of us.

How many times have you heard someone say how much happier they'll be once they move to a new state or new community—or once they find a new job or new relationship? Or perhaps you've said it yourself. I know there have been times when I thought that, too. I'll find happiness once this or that happens.

Now I know, however, that wherever I am and whoever I'm with, I bring all my baggage right along with me. That is, unless I've worked to let go of that baggage and make some changes in my life.

If you aren't content or happy right now, what needs to change within you to make that happen? Of what do you need to let go in order to feel happy and satisfied with your life? It's your choice—and your move. Go ahead. What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Grief as a doorway

I'm aware of so many people for whom this entire holiday season is painful. Some have only recently experienced major loss, whether the death of a loved one, job loss or an awful medical diagnosis. Others have no family or close friends with regular traditions at the holidays. And some have memories of holidays past when they did experience loss. My heart goes out to all who find themselves wishing they could wake up tomorrow well into the month of January. It's not an easy time for them.

Each one of us experiences loss, sadness and grief so differently. Some people bury it deeply inside and carry on in stoic fashion. Others wear their pain and hurt openly. Some cry and cry. Others don't shed a tear. Some move on without examining their loss and grief. Others work hard to experience it, let go and move on. There isn't a right or wrong way. There's simply your authentic way of handling it.

I was really struck by a comment on Facebook last week because it speaks to my particular way of dealing with grief. The writer said, "Grief is a felt experience of love for something lost.... That is an incredibly powerful doorway."

The image of a doorway resonated deep within me. I always want to believe that once I experience the pain and once I get to the point of letting go, the entire experience will have been an open doorway to me for I-know-not-what. I have no idea what lessons or new dreams lie beyond that doorway. Not until I walk through. But grief almost always has, eventually, provided that "incredibly powerful doorway" for me.

What's been your experience of grief and loss? How do you get through? Do the holidays exacerbate this for you? If so, be sure to find someone with whom to talk about it. You don't have to suffer alone.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Only one of you

There is no one else quite like you in the entire world—no one with your unique characteristics and gifts, no one called to do exactly what you do in the way you do it.

Isn't that absolutely incredible and amazing to think about? Only one of you. The mold was broken when you were made. Not another person on the planet exactly like you.

Even if you're a twin, you are not the same as that other person in every respect. Nor have you been given the same work to do in this world.

Several years ago I heard psychiatrist and author Jean Shinoda Bolen speak at a women's conference in Mobile, Alabama. She invited each of us to think of what our "assignment" on this planet was. "You each came with an assignment to do something specific," she told us, "and you've been given the gifts to accomplish that assignment." She sees her assignment as a "message carrier." On her website, here's what she says about assignments: "As one phase of life shifts into the next, energy becomes free to take on something that is personally meaningful, fun, creative and motivated by love—my definition of 'assignment.'"

I don't believe Bolen means that there's only one job or career that's right for us. What I recall her telling us at the conference is that "assignment" should be seen in a much broader sense. Personally, I think you can bring your passion and your gifts to more than one job (and surely also to volunteer positions) that is "personally meaningful, fun, creative and motivated by love." For example, I see myself as an encourager. So no matter what career I'm in or for which organization I volunteer, I will motivate others and encourage them. It's just what I do.

What's your assignment? What's authentic for you? Celebrate your uniqueness—and bring your gifts and passions into the world in a creative way that's just right for you. It will bring you joy, and the ripple effect will be amazing!