Victor Frankel learned a lot about human behavior by observing people under the most inhuman circumstances.
Victor wasn’t just observing the behaviors of others under horrible conditions. He was also living under these oppressive conditions.
Victor and the people he observed were beaten mercilessly, forced to do grueling manual labor, and randomly executed.
Victor’s observations of human behavior occured in concentration camps. There many people declared “undesirables” were subjected to brutal, inhumane treatment on a daily basis.
Victor learned from his “observations” the secret to human survival.
He noted that it wasn’t those with most physical strength who were able to endure and survive this harsh treatment.
The best survivors were people who found purpose in the midst of their suffering.
Those people who lost their purpose died.
This surprising observation, led Victor to the insightful conclusion:
“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose … He who has a WHY to live, can bear with almost any HOW.”
Victor Frank documents his experiences and insights in his groundbreaking book Man’s Search For Meaning.
I encourage you to read or re-read this amazing book. I find it to be an inspiring and insightful account of the centrality of purpose to the human experience.
As I recently reflected on the importance of purpose, I identified three distinctive benefits that come from having a clear purpose in our lives.
This list of the benefits of purpose is not meant to be comprehensive. But it reflects what I believe to be the most valuable gifts we gain from knowing and living our life purpose.
I hope this list inspires you to take invest in discovering and expressing your life purpose.
Here are the three top benefits that we gain from having a clear sense of purpose in our lives.
Discovering your life purpose will give you focus.
It will help you to make decisions in a way that’s easier and less stressful.
This is because purpose helps you to identify what’s important in life. This will help you be less conflicted and experience less anxiety about saying no.
You are free to make decisions about how you spend your time, money, and energy based on whether it aligns with your life purpose.
There are lots of wonderful things that you could be doing with your time or with your money. But they are not all good things for you to do. Having a clear sense of your purpose helps you to distinguish between the two.
When I first started my career as a college professor, I was so excited to finally have position that I’d worked towards for so many years. I wanted to be of service to the students, the community, and my University colleagues.
I was overcommitted and stressed out!
I found myself getting involved with something just because it was a good idea. But, as I got more clear on my purpose I decided that I could not invest in every good idea presented to me.
Before I agreed to take on any new commitments, projects, relationships, I asked myself a critical question:
“Is this in line with my purpose?”
This was how I raised the bar in my life.
Now, it’s much easier for me to say “no” to most requests. This habit makes it possible for me to give a resounding “yes” to the opportunities aligned with my purpose.
I now have the time, resources, and energy to invest in the things that are important to me. I am able to do this without feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.
My purpose has given me focus.
Having a clear advice purpose helps you to live longer and a healthier life.
A study published in the 2014 issue of Psychological Science, documents the life extending effect of purpose.
In this national study, the researchers survey people and asked them to rate their sense of purpose in life from low to high.
Fourteen years later, those participants with a low sense of purpose were much more likely to have died. All other things being equal, having a sense of purpose made all the difference in their life expectancy.
I was surprise to find this relationship holds true in every age group.
It wasn’t just for older people that having a sense of purpose help them to live longer. It was true for middle aged people and for people in their twenties.
The researchers concluded that having a sense of purpose gives people “protective benefits” to their life. Purpose enhances your physical well-being and has a cumulative effect.
So it’s actually better to develop a sense of purpose as early on as possible. This gives you more time to continue accumulating all the benefits that come with having a strong sense of purpose.
But, it’s never too late to invest time in discovering you purpose.
At whatever moment you get clear your purpose and start living out that purpose, it will extend your life.
Resilience allows you to bounce back from the setbacks that are inevitable in life.
When you’re resilient you, setbacks don’t stop you. Resilient people are able to use those setbacks as stepping stones to their success.
Resilience is the result of having a clear sense of your purpose.
Once you understand why a goal is important to you, you can overcome tremendous obstacles to acheive that goal.
Think about the remarkable survivors that Victor Frankl observed. They did not break even under brutal inhumane treatment. Their purpose gave them to resilience to endure.
I often think about Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison. Yet, he was able to walk directly into world leadership upon from his release.
I’ve spent years teaching in prisons and I know that prison is a horrible place for anyone to be. Everyday, in both big and small ways, there are constant assaults on your safety, dignity, and humanity.
But because Nelson Mandela was clear on his purpose, he was able to walk out of prison as a whole man with a vision.
Mandela’s strong sense of purpose enabled him to lead South Africa into a new era of peace and justice.
That’s the power of purpose.
When I’m talking with people about the importance of purpose, people often tell me that don’t know their life purpose. And that they don’t know how to discover it.
The best way to start uncovering your life purpose by reflecting on how you already bring value to others. Think about times in your life where you’ve made a difference in somebody’s life.
Your purpose is for others. Thinking about the ways you already add value to others can help you better understand your purpose.
Another reflection to get clarity on your life purpose is to consider the activities that place you in your flow.
What are the things you do that give you a feeling of timelessness?
These are activities that you could be doing this two hours, but it feels like just twenty minutes. That’s your flow. It’s that kind of work where you are so fully engaged in the process that time seems to disappear.
Your flow is an excellent window into your purpose.
As you clarify your life purpose, you want to highlight it and expand it. This means organizing more of your activities and goals living out your purpose.
For those who are ready to live a life of purpose that connects with your passions, join us for a FREE 5-Day Challenge to Creating a Life Filled with Energy and Passion.
This challenge empowers you to create a life of purpose that fills you with energy and passion, drastically reduces your stress, and allows you to accomplish your most important goals.
How would it feel to be filled with confidence, energy, and be extraordinarily productive?
Whether you are struggling to stay above the growing to-do lists or wanting to get the most out of each day, this 5-Day Productivity Challenge will give you simple and powerful tools to help you tap into your unique talents and energy to create the rich and rewarding life you deserve!
Get from under the pile of unending tasks, connect with your purpose, and reclaim your life. Click here to join our 5-Day Challenge to a life filled with energy and passion!
Having a strong sense of purpose benefits you and others. Commit to discovering and nurturing your purpose today!
Wishing you a life filled with meaning, purpose, and joy!
In this episode, fitness coach Mel Prickett (www.excelwithmel.com) and I discuss how to avoid the traps and myths that undermine our success in achieving our fitness goals. We discuss why fitness is critical to the reaching our optimal level of success in life.
Read on to discover:
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
Fitness helps you look and feel great; yet the benefits go beyond your physical body. Focusing on your fitness goals will help you feel more confident, energetic, and can help you accomplish your other personal and professional goals.You have enough time for everything important in your life; decide what's important. Click To Tweet
Women of Wisdom is a podcast that brings you insights from amazing women about how you can live a healthier, happier, and more rewarding life. If you have suggestions for future topics or would like to be featured on an upcoming episode, please email me [email protected].
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Peace is something that we all say we want, but few of us actually possess. What makes peace so elusive? Perhaps peace eludes us because we do not understand what it is or we do not chase it with the same fervor as our other goals. In this article, I’ve invited four female winners of the Nobel Peace Prize to teach us what they know about peace. From closely observing their lives, we learn how we too can become women of peace.
There are nine women who have won the Nobel Peace Prize. For the sake of brevity, I’ve only presented four of these award winning women here. They come from various nationalities, religious traditions, and socio-economic statuses. Yet, each of these women distinguished themselves by living a life dedicated to peace. There example encourages others to do the same.
Mother Theresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Born into an Albanian Roman Catholic family in Yugoslavia, she felt called as a teenager to a life of service to the poor and disenfranchised. At the age of 18 Mother Theresa left her family and country to live a life of service in Calcutta, India. She worked with people who were not of her race, religion or nationality. Mother Theresa committed herself to working with the poorest of the poor. She established a new order, Missionaries of Charity, to do precisely that. Missionaries of Charity soon spread to many other countries. This order mobilizes thousands of people around the world to join Mother Theresa in her mission of peace.
Jane Addams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. Jane Addams was born in the suburbs of Chicago to an affluent and privileged family. Addams is known as one of the founding mothers of sociology and social work. Although she considered herself a sociologist, Addams chided the profession of sociology for its elitism and sexism. She advocated a vision of academic knowledge used in the service of society. She wanted sociology to solve some of our world’s most pressing problems, such as poverty and war. Addams was a lead advocate on both these issues.
Addams founded the country’s first settlement house: Hull House. Hull House provided comprehensive community based services to low-income and immigrant families in Chicago. Hull house became the model for social service delivery across the country and around the world. Addams also regularly lectured on peace and the need to end war in this world. She served as the president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom for a decade. Through her teaching, writing, and organizations, Addams embodied the virtue of peace and encouraged others to do the same.
Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991; but she could not be present to accept it because she was imprisoned by the military dictatorship of what is now Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi was imprisoned for her leadership role in a peaceful, non-violent, social movement for the liberation of her nation of Burma. She modeled her life of peace based on the tactics of Gandhi and her father Aung San who was also a leader in the liberation struggle. Aung San Suu Kyi continued their legacy of peace, holding tight to the principles of democracy, respect for human rights, reconciliation between groups, non-violence, and personal and collective discipline.
In 1992, The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Rigoberta Menchu Tum “in recognition of her work for social justice and ethnocultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.” Tum is a Mayan Indian born in Guatemala. Military soldier murdered her mother and brother and burned down the building where her father and his compatriots were gathered in peaceful protest. This pervasive regime of state sanctioned violence led Tum’s remaining sisters to join the guerrilla resistance force. Yet, Tum remained steadfast in her commitment to nonviolent resistance.
Even when personally confronted with such brutal violence, Rigoberta Tum refused to perpetuate that cycle. The chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee describes Tum as “the shining individual examples of people who manage to preserve their humanity in brutal and violent surroundings, of persons who for that very reason compel our special respect and admiration. Such people give us a hope that there are ways out of the vicious circle.”
So what do these women of peace have in common? What do these patterns tell us about the necessary components of peace?
These women shared a unshakable believe that the world should and could be better than it was in the present. They believed in the intrinsic value of human life and worked diligently to preserve that life. It did not matter if the life represented a gender, racial, ethnic, religious, political group different than their own. Their commitment to peace required these women to challenge the social, economic, and political systems threatening the well being and security of others. This shared faith in the value and dignity of humanity comes from a variety of different religious traditions as well as secular humanism. The virtue of peace itself models the common brotherhood and sisterhood of all humanity. It is only once we realize this that we can ever posses peace.
These women did not have easy lives. Their commitment to peace cost them dearly. Sometimes it costs them their freedom and security. For others it costs them their personal and professional relationships and social standing. Many of the women who won the Nobel Prize were unable to make it to the presentation ceremony because of exile, imprisonment, or deteriorating health. These women had given their all in the service of others and we continue today to reap the benefits of their labor.
These women worked diligently for peace in the face of strong opposition. They did this because they believed that their goal would eventually be realized. Their faith in evident in their clear resolution to struggle against odds, to withstand various disappointments and defeats, and to never to give up. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul writes about this type of faith when he encourages his fellow believes to do all that they can and then to stand. Stand in the confidence that God is standing with you and is working to bring about the peace you seek. Although the women of peace presented here come from various religious traditions, they each demonstrated great, unshakable faith.
It is precisely that unshakable faith that gave these women the courage to act in such dangerous times. It took great courage for Aung San Suu Kyi and Rigoberta Menchú Tum to stand up to the soldiers who threatened them. It took courage Mother Theresa to commit to living the rest of her life in a foreign land with people who did not share her culture, religion, ethnicity, or social standing. Jane Addams demonstrated great courage in her decision to commit all her talents and resources in solving a problem that most people thought of as “the natural way of things.”
We honor these women of peace because they symbolize the best in us. They are ordinary women who have done extraordinary things. They show us the beautiful and powerful pieces of ourselves that may have been forgotten or overlooked. So how can we use their legacy to help us practice lives of peace?
It does not matter if others agree with or can see your vision. Women of peace have learned how to focus in on their vision of the beauty and dignity of life, in spite of the brutality that surrounds them. They know that even if others may be living according to such base motivations, there is an underlying reality that is more beautiful and more true. This vision fuels their actions and empowers them to create the world they already see within.
You too possess this creative power. Whatever you focus on will direct your behavior and magnify its presence in your life and in our world. It requires effort to see beauty in the midst of brutality. The fact that others do reminds us that this too is our choice. The lives and legacy of these women of peace show us that this is also the most effective choice. As Dr. Martin Luther King said: “Hate can never drive out hate; only love can do that.”
You have the power to choose your vision. What do you see?
You do not create the life you seek by merely wishing it. It requires consistent and sustained action. We learn from the lives of these women that peace is not a passive attribute. Peace requires action. We create peace for ourselves and others based on the choices that we make each day.
Many times the choice for peace is the more difficult choice. It is easier to go with the flow and model what everyone else is doing. But everyone else does not have peace. They do not see your vision of life as it can be. Thus, they need you to show what is possible. Our world needs for you to “bring peace” with you so that we can see a better vision of life as it can be.
The fact that others don’t already see your vision means that you will need faith to carry it through to reality. Your faith in your vision, yourself, and the righteousness of your cause empowers you to stand in the face of opposition. Whether that faith is grounded in a specific religious tradition, a more general spirituality, or a secular humanism, your faith ensures your victory.
Most people do not believe that peace is possible. I see this in the political discussions of nations eager to go to war. I see our eye for an eye thinking in the street code of violence or public discussions about the death penalty. I see the lack of faith in peace in our tolerance of poverty and injustice. While we might say that we want peace, most of us think of it more like a children’s fairytale or Santa Claus.
But there are some of us who believe in the practical reality of peace. Like these Nobel Peace Prize winners, we know that peace is not just a way, but the only way to ensure our individual and collective well-being and survival. If you share this faith, guard it dearly. Protect it against the cynicism, fear, and apathy that would try to undermine your vision. Faith is the bullet proof vest that you can use to protect your vision for peace.
Courage does not mean fearless. Courage is the ability to act in the face of your fears. Courage empowers you to follow your internal compass when it leads you on a path different from those around you.
These women of peace were also women of courage . There vision of what should be inspired them to act courageously in the face of the world as it was. Their courageous action inspired others to do the same. Your individual actions posses that same power to enact change and to inspire others to do the same.
There’s no need to wait for someone to say or do something about this situation. You are here. Stop waiting, step into your vision, and act courageously. Others will be blessed by your example.
I’d love collecting stories of inspirational women; some famous and some unknown. Please share believe your personal role models of peace. You might also like to post quotes or resources that help you to live a life of peace. Thank you for demonstrating the faith, hard work, and courage that it takes to make your vision a reality!
Being a person of action is important because it keeps us from being passive participants in life. When we commit to acting upon the world, we help to reshape ourselves and our world through our own efforts. Yet, not all action is equal.It is important to distinguish between fear based action and inspired action. Only inspired action will allow you to create the life your desire.
These two distinct types of action the produce different results in your life. Fear based action will drain your energy, alienate you from others, and undermine your health. Inspired action will produce the exact opposite effect in your life. It will provide you with more energy, connect you to yourself and others and promote your health and well-being.
So how can you tell which type of action is motivating you? I’ve identified three characteristics to help you distinguish inspired action from fear based action. Pause to ask yourself these questions, before you act. Your answer will reveal to you the true motivation for your behavior. The brief reflection will give you an opportunity to make a choice about the type of action you want in your life.
Is this ego-driven or purpose-driven? Are you performing this action because it will make you look good to others or because it is in line with your life purpose? Inspired action is any activity that expresses or advances your life purpose. It is action that you “have to” do because it is an expression of your most authentic self.
This is a question that only you can answer. The same action could be either ego driven or purpose driven. Consider for example, serving food to homeless families in a soup kitchen. That act of generosity could be driven by ego; an attempt to show to others what a good and moral person you are. The same activity could be an expression of your life purpose to eradicate suffering in the world. You are the only person who can answer this question about your behavior. Just remember to be honest and to use this question to reflect on all your actions, even the seemingly “noble” ones.
Is this motivated by fear or by love? This is a question, that only you can answer. Inspired action is always motivated by love. Dr. Martinez’s research reveals that emotions are bio-cognitive fields that can either be healing or destructive to our physical and emotional health. This means that the emotion motivating your action alters your physical and psychological state. Research on social intelligence helps us understand how these subtle emotional states are communicated to others with whom we interact.
Much like how we “catch colds” from interacting with others who have a particular bacteria or virus, we can “catch” emotions in the same manner. Emotions shape our cognitive understanding of the world and our physical health. Thus, it’s very important that we maintain our own emotional health so we don’t negatively impact others with our dis-ease.
Dr. Martinez argues that fear and love are mutually exclusive bio-cognitive states. Fear always produces damage to the immune system and love always repairs the damage and restores healthy functioning. So, the question of the emotion motivating our action, is not an esoteric one. Rather, the emotion motivating our action shapes our well-being and the well-being of those with whom we interact.
Will this action only benefit myself or will it benefit others as well? Inspired action is action that benefits ourselves as well as others. We do not need to see the world as mutually exclusive choice between our well-being and the well-being of others. Inspired action allows us to see how we can contribute to our own well-being and happiness by actions that benefit others. Happiness research reveals that activities which focus on doing good for others not only makes us happier, but makes us healthier as well. Researchers at UCLA distinguished between two types of happiness: happiness resulting from a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life and happiness focused only on pleasure seeking and self-gratification. In their report to the National Academy of Sciences, they found that happiness resulting from a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life promotes the gene expression of anti-viral and antibody genes. Happiness focused only on self-gratification had the opposite effect, suppressing the health of the immune system.
An important part of empowering yourself is taking the time to pause and reflect on what is important to you. As you become more clear on your life purpose and core values, you are able to evaluate your activities in light of this focus. Inspired action expresses your life purpose, is motivated by love, and places you in the service of others. This type of action strengthens your sense of meaning and feelings of connection in the world. These attributes are empirically proven to improve both your physical health and your happiness.
Inspired action is much like the Tao concept of “effortless action” (non-action). The process of being and flowing from one action to the next effortlessly, rather than imposing conscious action. Based on knowing yourself. It feels like you’re not doing anything except showing up and being who you are.
This is how inspired action puts you in your flow. You are no longer “making” yourself do things, you are simply “being”. That is more than enough. Your authentic presence brings the gifts of love, purpose, and healing to both you and others.
Inspired action is a choice. It is a choice that is always available to you at the moment you decide to act. Give yourself and our world the gift of your inspired action. Create a life that produces happiness and healing through your inspired action. Start today.
Share your moments of inspired action in the comment box below. How have you showed up and shared your authentic self with the world today? I am proud of your courageous commitment to be uniquely you and to share the gift of you with our world. Thank you!
Courage is a character trait that is rarely associated with women because we are socialized to be overly cautious and perfect. In her inspirational Ted talk “Teach girls bravery, not perfection”, Reshma Saujani describes the damage that is done to individual women and our society as a whole by socializing women to be overly cautious. She recounts an HP report that shows that men will apply for jobs if they meet 60% of the qualification criteria, but women will not apply unless they meet 100% of the qualification criteria. That difference creates significant gender differences in the career trajectories and incomes of men and women. In addition to limiting the career potential of women, this over cautiousness also limits their family’s earnings as well as the growth of our national economy. As Saujani states, “ our economy is being left behind on all the innovation and problems women would solve if they were socialized to be brave instead of socialized to be perfect”. This illustrates the deep connection between our personal development and collective development on a local, national, and global level. The world is significantly improved by you developing yourself and your abilities Click & Tweet! .
So how do we correct our national deficit in bravery? Reshma Saujani suggests that “we have to show [women] that they will be loved and accepted not for being perfect but for being courageous…. women who are brave and who will build a better world for themselves and for each and every one of us.” In response to Saujani’s call to action, I’ve decided to dedicate this week’s post to 12 courageous women who gave up the pressure to be perfect in pursuit of being their fully authentic selves in the world. Through their courageous choices, these women made the world a better place for themselves and for us all.
It took courage for Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer to attempt to register to vote in rural Mississippi in 1962. Her act of bravery resulted in her being fired from her job as a sharecropper and her and her husband losing their home. Rather than see these negative results as a reason not to take a stand, Mrs. Hamer became even more resolute in her commitment to courageously pursuing freedom for herself and her people. Thank you Mrs. Hamer for your courage to stand up for justice regardless of the personal costs.
It took courage for Arianna Huffington, an ambitious entrepreneur and founder of The Huffington Post, to redefine success for herself. Although her personal definition of success conflicted with larger cultural expectations, Huffington reorganized her life according to her priorities. In her book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining success and creating a life of well-being, wisdom, and wonder, Huffington describes the risks involved in rejecting the culture of the rat race and prioritizing sleep, family, and generosity. Arianna Huffington courageously refused to sacrifice personal and family well-being in pursuit of an external definition of success. Thank you Arianna Huffington for your courage to form your own definition of success and for encouraging us to do this for ourselves.
It took courage for Jillian Mercado, a woman with muscular dystrophy and confined to a wheelchair, to submit her photo and letter for an open casting call to model for Diesel jeans. She risked rejection, ridicule and destroying her lifelong dream of working in the fashion industry. Jillian Mercado’s courageous act has created modeling opportunities for herself and for other individuals who aren’t typically including in fashion. Mercado states “I kind of took it on as a challenge to make sure that I represented all those girls that didn’t see themselves in the industry.” Thank you for Jillian Mercado for your courageous act to show your unique beauty and creating a more inclusive space for us to do the same.
It took courage for Robin Emmons to leave a 20-year career in corporate finance to nurture herself, her family, and her nation. After placing her brother in a mental health facility, she witnessed first hand the damage that is caused by regular consumption of unhealthy food. Emmons bravely dedicated herself to providing fresh produce to individuals and communities that have limited access to healthy food. Through her courageous act of founding Sow Much Good to address head on the systematic injustices creating food deserts and poor health outcomes in working poor and minority communities, Robin Emmons has provided thousands of people who are food insecure with the opportunity to have quality nutritious food to promote their health and well-being. Every time I eat a fresh delicious apple, I think of Robin and thank her for her courage to propose new strategies to solve our pressing social problems.
It took courage for Adrienne Rich to refuse the National Medal of Arts in 1997 because she disagreed with the politics of the White House administration. She risked public shaming and the end of her career as a beloved poet. Yet, Rich was brave enough to protect her personal integrity even at the loss of public support. Thank you Adrienne Rich for producing years of courageous social justice poetry and for showing those words in action in your own life.
It took tremendous courage for Cynthia Cooper to publicize the fraud of WorldCom, a company in which she was the Vice President. Her career and professional reputation was on the line and it would have been easier to ignore the fraud that she discovered in her internal audits. Yet, Copper’s bravery protected the financial security of many Americans who were being tricked by the telephone company’s misrepresentation of their financial status. Cooper received a public thank you for her bravery in 2002 when she was named by Time magazine as one of the “People of the Year”. Thank you Cynthia Cooper for demonstrating the public benefit of courage and honesty.
It took courage for J.K. Rowling to continue to pursuing her goal to be a novelist in spite of the numerous rejection letters she received. Had she not continued to risk rejection, we would not be able to enjoy the “Harry Potter” series. However, J.K. Rowling also did another courageous act of publicizing a recent rejection letter she received while writing under a pen name. She wanted to make her rejection public as a way to encourage other aspiring writers to bravely pursue their own paths. Thanks J.K. Rowling for courageously making your private failure public so we could be emboldened to take our own risks.
It took great courage for Toshonna Ross to commit to living after enduring years of physical and emotional abuse. In fact, the pain of her life was so great that she attempted suicide multiple times. Yet, Ross found the courage to commit to herself and to build a life for herself that was better than what she had experienced thus far. As Ross rebuilt her life, she courageously shared her experiences with other women in similar situations. The bravery that Toshonna Ross’ demonstrated in rebuilding her life and sharing her experience reminds us all that our tragedies can be triumphs if we face them courageously Click & Tweet! . Thank you Ms. Ross for your inspirational courage.
It took great courage for Zenzele Johnson to resign from a successful career as a youth educator. She was well loved by her students and served as a strong advocate from them, often going above and beyond the call of duty. Yet she knew that continuing to be in this position would lead to burnout and a compromise of her health. Johnson’s brave choice to prioritize self-care was a bold declaration of the new life she was creating. As Johnson states “Taking care of oneself is a true testament to growth and for that it will always be a step in the right direction, it will always be brave.” Thank you Zenzele Johnson for courageously valuing and protecting yourself and reminding us to make the same brave choice.
It took courage for 13-year old Mo’ne Davis to step into the national spotlight and dominate little league baseball, a sport that for decades has been thought of as male only. Numerous women who have courageously played “male” sports recount the taunts that come from players, opponents and fans. It takes tremendous fortitude to remain in such settings, let alone thrive. A significant part of Mo’ne’s success on and off the field is her unwavering confidence, even in the face of her obvious difference. In describing her dominance on the field, Mo’ne explains “I throw my curveball like Clayton Kershaw and my fastball like Mo’ne Davis.” Thank you Mo’ne for having the courage to be uniquely yourself in the national spotlight and inspiring us to do the same.
It took courage for me to risk my professional status as a social science researcher and commit to engaging and helping women through life coaching. I risked losing the esteem of my colleagues and my financial stability, but the opportunity to have this knowledge applied and used to make people’s lives better was worth that risk. Now as I witness the growth that my choice has produced in myself and my clients, I am so glad I exercised my courage.
Although I may not know you personally, I know that you have tremendous value, a distinctive set of talents, and a unique perspective on the world. I realize that your uniqueness may not always be celebrated and it takes courage to be different. Your acts of developing yourself and your talents are valuable contributions to our world. I thank you for exercising the courage to be your authentic self and share that with our world.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the willingness to act in spite of the fear. As Arianna Huffington explains “Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it, the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me.” Courage is a skill that can be learned like any other skill set Click & Tweet! . Courage is best learned in “small moments” when the stakes are less high. It takes courage to raise your hand in class and ask for clarification. It takes courage to voice an opinion different from those around you. It takes courage to speak of your dreams and ambitions that are outside of the norm. Practice taking these small risks daily and you will see your courage muscles grow Click & Tweet! .
Please share below your small and large acts of courage so that we all can be inspired to courageously be our unique selves.
Failure is something that invokes fear in us and that we often seek to avoid. However, if properly embraced failure can catapult us to our success. In the video below we see Heather Dorniden (now Heather Kampf) fall on her face in her second lap of the Women’s 600 meter run. Yet instead of being immobilized by her failure, Heather pushed herself up off the ground, focused on rebuilding her momentum, and eventually finished in first place! Heather’s effective response to failure catapulted her into winning the race and winning the hearts of millions of people around the world who learned of her success through the youtube video. In an interview with Brent Yarina of BTN.com, Heather offers us insights about how we can use our big and small failures to promote ourselves to first place as well.
How do we get the motivation to get up and keep going after we’ve experienced an epic failure? Dorniden recounts that “the positive vision of what I was hoping to accomplish in that race was stronger than the adversity I faced”. If we use the experience of failure to ask ourselves what we wanted to achieve and why it was important to us anyway, we can reconnect with our original vision in a way that motivates us to success. Failure does not mean that our goal was unworthy or that we are incapable of achieving it. Failure is teaching us critical steps to accomplishing our goal, but we must remain engaged in the process to learn. By reminding ourselves of the value of our goal, we affirm for ourselves that it was and still is worthy of our effort. The clarity of this vision is what enables us to push ourselves up and keep running.
When we are learning from failure, we realize that our goal is worthy but that we don’t yet have all the tools necessary to accomplish that goal. Failure focuses us on identifying and developing those mission critical tools that will enable us to achieve our goals. There is social science research that suggest that focusing on the process, rather than the outcome, is better able to produce successful results. This makes sense because when we are too focused on the outcome, we can become immobilized by fearful thoughts that we are never going to make it. However, when we focus on doing what is immediately in front of us well and better, we build up the talent and momentum to reach our goal Click & Tweet! . As Heather remembers:
“all I really thought was I need to keep running, because if I finish I’ll at least earn one point. As I started running, I began to gain on one girl, and then the rest of the pack didn’t seem that far away. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I caught them all?” Then, on the final curve, I heard the in-house announcer say, “Watch out for Heather Dorniden!!” and I thought, “Yeah!! Watch out! I’m coming!” And from there, it was just this incredible surge of energy and an effortless press for the finish line.”
There are few things that raise self-confidence as much as accomplishing something that you couldn’t do before. I love jigsaw puzzles and find them quite addictive. What makes them so pleasurable to me is how proud I am of myself when I successfully make a puzzle out of what used to be a table full of nonsensical pieces. Making sense out of what used to be nonsense to me reveals to myself how smart I really am. The things that cause you frustration and difficulty now will become your future trophies of your talent and strength. Click & Tweet! Heather Dorniden reminds us that the most inspirational component of her epic win is what it reveals about her internal strength. She states, “I always tell people this race isn’t just about never giving up, it’s about discovering what you’re capable of when you are given the opportunity to rise above adversity.”
So what distinguishes the failure that ruins lives from the failure that brings success? Simply speaking, it is your response to the failure that will determine the impact of that event on your life. Here are two ways you can ensure that you fail intelligently in a way that brings you to your ultimate success.
What are the lessons embedded in your failure. What new skills, behaviors, understandings can you learn from this event? Why is failing or succeeding in this endeavor important to you?
This requires implementing a process where you develop and practice using the insights you’ve learned from your failure. As you methodically place one foot in front of another, you begin to see you increased distance from where you were and proximity to where you want to be. Steady activity based on the insights gained from your failure will lead you to success. Heather Dorniden shares:
“I would have never guessed that getting up and finishing that race would have made me a “YouTube sensation.” Not every fall I’ve had has been quite so epic, but I learned that it’s worth getting up every time. “
Imagine what success you can achieve if you get up and finish!
I’d love to hear your reactions to this inspirational story and moments in your own life when you have used your failure to promote you to success. Please share below.
So that’s my top ten list of inspirational quotes from Maya Angelou. I’d love to hear which quote inspires you the most or which one you’d like to add to this list.
In 1928 Marguerite Annie Johnson, the great spirit that we have come to know and love as Maya Angelou, began her life journey. Maya gained strength and wisdom from her family and community that enabled her to thrive in spite of the oppressive force of Jim Crow segregation. Through her writings, Maya Angelou taught us how to transform our own suffering into triumph Click & Tweet! . As I reflect upon her legacy, I am struck by three major themes that shaped Maya Angelou’s life and writings. These themes present important life lessons to us about how we can transform our suffering, maximize our joy, and impact our world. Click & Tweet!
As a woman who enjoyed a long and prosperous career as a writer, poet, actor, and singer, it is hard to believe that Maya Angelou’s voice was ever silent. Yet from the ages of 7-12, Maya experienced selective mutism. Maya Angelou was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend. Shortly after her telling her brother about the abuse, the man who abused her was found dead. Maya refused to speak believing that her speaking caused his death. Even her silence was a result of Maya’s belief in the power of voice. Fortunately, Maya regained her willingness to speak and through her writings has helped so many people who were also victims of sexual abuse also find their voice.
The first of her autobiographies, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, discussed this traumatic event and other painful memories of growing up under racial segregation. This book was an immediate national and international success, catapulting Maya Angelou onto a worldwide stage. It also made literary history as the first non-fiction best seller written by an African American woman. Maya Angelou’s willingness to courageously voice her truth paved the way for her success and enabled her to help countless people around the world who have read and benefited from her work.
This is the power of voice. Imagine how your life can change and how other people can benefit from the contribution of your voice. Do not shrink from the challenge of the task by playing small and suggesting that there is nothing for you to contribute. Your challenges and triumphs have given you a unique perspective that will add value to others if you are willing to give it voice. If there is something you want to say, chances are there is someone who wants to hear it Click & Tweet! . Activate the power of your voice.
Maya Angelou’s artistic career began in her late teens and continued until the time of her passing in 2014. She was always producing without recognition of the clock of ageing and cultural expectations about slowing down. Maya Angelou published her first memoir at the age of 41. She began her academic career as a college professor at the age of 53 and was invited by President Bill Clinton to write a special poem for his Presidential Inauguration at the age of 65.
Much of the reason for Maya Angelou’s longevity in her career is the vitality with which she approached life. She was always learning and growing which enabled her to continually make fresh contributions to our world. The writings of Maya Angelou are not recycled versions of her earlier work; they reflect change and growth. Maya demonstrated a willingness to engage in new forms of expression and start new careers past the age when society expects us to retire from life.
Maya Angelou serves as a positive model for aging, especially for women who are often taught to connect our vitality to youth. I remember the wisdom she shared with Oprah about the glory of life after 50. Although I was barely 20 at the time that show aired, I remember thinking how excited I am about turning 50! And then Maya returned to the Oprah show to report that 80 was even better!
Maya Angelou showed us that our beauty, vitality, and ability to make valuable contributions to the world does not stop at any age Click & Tweet! . Her commitment to life-long learning and her openness to sharing makes Maya’s legacy so impactful. She did not shrink from the painful, dark places both internally and externally. She faced them with courage, humor, and love and invited us to do the same.
Maya Angelou spent much of her time in the 1960’s living abroad. She lived in Egypt for some time and worked as an editor of the English language weekly, The Arab Observer. Later Maya Angelou move to Ghana where she worked as a freelance writer and editor of The Ghanaian Times. These extended travels outside of the United States helped to expand Maya’s understanding of herself and her place in the world. She later returned to the US to help her good friend Malcolm X build his new organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity(OAAU).
The experiences and relationships that Maya formed during her travels expanded her understanding of the human struggle and the possibilities for our collective future. Travel can do the same for us. Too often we remain in our comfort zones, interacting only with people who share our identities and perspectives. Whether we are traveling across town, across the country, our across the world, travel can disrupt our comfortable notions of ourselves and our world Click & Tweet! . This disruption is valuable because it requires developing a bigger, more comprehensive perspective that can incorporate the new perspectives and experiences of the diverse people we encounter through our travels.
Maya Angelou has given us a precious gift by sharing her life and her art with us. Although we can no longer ask her questions about the new challenges of our day, we can continue to draw upon her wisdom. We are the beneficiaries of Maya Angelou’s legacy and we can commit to making sure that this powerful legacy does not end with us. We can choose to share the courage, wisdom, and love that Maya shared with us Click & Tweet! . We can give the gift of our voice, commit ourselves to lifelong learning and growth, willingly share our contributions with the world, and expand our horizons by engaging people and places outside of our comfort zones. In doing this, we rise to greet the possibilities of each new day with the hopefulness embedded in Maya Angelou’s poem “On the Pulse of Morning.” Please listen to the poem below and imagine Maya Angelou speaking to you about the power and potential that exists within you at this moment.
I invite you to share your own reflections on the legacy of Maya Angelou for you below.
Serena Williams has won over 20 Grand Slam singles, multiple Olympic gold medals, and a series of double titles with her sister Venus. Serena is one of only six women to complete a career Grand Slam: holding all four of the major tennis tournament titles simultaneously. To what does she attribute her success and longevity? You may be surprised to learn that visualization, not physical skill, strength, or endurance, is the key to her success. According to Serena Williams:
“Mental fitness is much more important to my game. To be at this level, everyone has great physical tools. What separates winners is the mental game.”
Serena Williams uses visualization to rise to the top of her industry and stay there. Tapping into the power of visualization can help you achieve extraordinary success in your life and career as well. Click & Tweet!
As the above video clip illustrates, Serena’s father taught her and her sister the technique of visualization in order to “prepare us for greatness.” Regardless of whether your chosen activity is athletic performance, public speaking, or creative production, visualization can distinguish you among the top performers in your field. While learning the basic nuts and bolts of your industry is critical to creating a successful career, learning the technique of visualization is critical to creating an extraordinary career. Here I explain how visualization can contribute to your success as well as provide you with simple guidelines to effectively use this powerful technique in your life.
Visualization is defined as “a technique involving focusing on positive mental images in order to achieve a particular goal”. This technique can be applied to virtually any goal that involves human performance. Visualization is valuable because it improves your physiological performance, enhances your motivation, and increases your confidence. Click & Tweet! Taken together these alterations in your mind and body take your performance from great to extraordinary.
Visualization strengthens existing neurological pathways as well as creates new ones. Through visualization we “rewire” our physical bodies. In 2007, the North American Journal of Psychology published a study reporting that athletes accomplished almost comparable gains in strength through mental exercises (visualizations) as those who actually did the exercises on weight machines. If visualization is this powerful alone, imagine how it can improve your performance when combined with physical practice.
In addition to enhancing your physiology, visualization improves your psychology as well. Through visualization, you come to see yourself, literally and figuratively, as a peak performer. The psychological research on the self-fulfilling prophecy documents that people perform at levels consistent with their expectations of themselves. Visualization raises your self-perception and thus your performance as well.
Now that you know the power of visualization, here are some practical guidelines to help you effectively use this technique in preparing yourself for greatness.
The more senses you engage in your visualization, the more powerful the physical and psychological changes produced within you. Rather than simply “seeing” yourself performing the desired activity, ask yourself questions about what you hear, taste, smell, and feel as well. As I visualize myself giving a dynamic and wildly successful speech, I can hear the cadence and rhythm of my voice changing throughout the talk. I also hear the sounds of the audience laughing and clapping at the appropriate times in the speech. I feel the warmth of the spotlight on my skin and the stability of the podium under my arms as I lean in closer to connect with my audience. I can even smell the scent of my perfume lingering in the air as I walk to different parts of the stage.
Life is a full-sensory experience and so is a powerful visualization. The more we engage all of our senses in each visualization, the more we respond physically and psychologically as if this mental image is “real”.
Part of the effect of engaging multiple senses in our visualization is that it moves us from watching the action to experiencing it. Effective visualization requires that we experience these events from the first person perspective as the “hero” of the show. Visualization requires that we are active creators of the outcome, not passive viewers. As I visualize myself making an awesome jump shot, I see the ball through my perspective as the shooter not the wide angle lens of the audience. Visualization is a powerful technique because it blurs the line between our imagination and reality. The more vividly we see from our perspective as the doer, the more concretely we understand ourselves as one who is capable of creating this desired outcome.
Everything requires practice, even visualization. The more you incorporate this activity into your daily preparation, the more easily and vividly you will be able to visualize yourself performing at your peak level. The more vivid the visualization, the better your performance. Click & Tweet!
I encourage you to develop your mental fitness through visualization. Visualization is a skill that can be used in every area of your life because it can easily be generalized from one set of behaviors to another. Visualization works as successfully in enhancing your physical fitness as it does your work productivity Click & Tweet! . Please share below ways in which you have (or intend to) use visualization to enhance your performance. Unlock your greatness!