nancy williams

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Archive for January, 2010

Set Your Sights on Success

2010 has arrived, bringing with it our hopes and dreams along with our goals and resolutions for this new year as we set our sights on the things we want to accomplish. We do that every year, yet we don’t always see those goals turn into successful realities. Oh, we mean well, but somewhere along the path we drift off course. We lose focus, or perhaps momentum. Discouragement sets in and we begin compromising those intentions or setting them aside all together. And yet, we look around at friends and colleagues who seem to find success in their life endeavors, even in these challenging times. So, how do they do it?

I’ve been paying particular attention to the lives and experiences of people who are finding their own unique measure of success and I’ve noticed a particular characteristic that influences every aspect of their lives. It helps them set their course and maintain their focus to achieve their goals. Their key? Cultivating a spirit of confidence.

Webster’s Dictionary defines confidence as “…a consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance on one’s circumstances; faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper or effective way.” The dictionary goes on to say it involves faith in oneself without conceit or arrogance. So, how does that self-assurance translate in the lives of successful people?

Confident people know themselves, their values and beliefs, their strengths and weaknesses, their needs and wants. They trust in themselves and accept responsibility for their actions. While they are open to considering criticism, advice and pressure from others, they’re careful to make choices that honor and care for themselves, even as they care for others. They balance appreciation of their uniqueness and self-acceptance with the challenge for growth and refinement. They honor the priorities of their lives. They’re committed to caring for themselves physically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, financially and in their relationships.

Having confidence doesn’t mean there are never any self-doubts. We can all be subject to insecurities at times when we take an objective look in the mirror of our own lives; but a closer look at confident people reveals their ability to face self-doubts when they arise. They determine to work through the issues, resolve uncertainties, and then move forward. Confidence, for them, is not the avoidance of doubt but rather the belief that when those doubts come, they will deal with them effectively, draw on resources as appropriate to help them address concerns, refocus on their strengths, and then continue to create successful, meaningful lives.

As I’ve met confident people from many different walks of life, I’ve found some common characteristics among them – traits that we would be wise to cultivate in our own lives.

1. Vision. They have a purpose, a sense of direction for their lives, a calling.

2. Passion. They’re excited about life and eager to embrace it fully.

3. Foundation. They know the value of building life on solid spiritual ground.

4. Self-awareness. They capitalize on strengths, manage weaknesses and respect their own intuitions.

5. Courage. They face their fears and don’t run from difficulties.

6. Discipline. They maintain focus and order, choosing actions that will strengthen them and further their goals.

7. Determination. They press on through challenges and disappointments with resiliency while allowing flexibility to re-evaluate plans when necessary.

8. Balance. Time and energy are structured to attend to the important areas of life.

9. Conscience. They’re clear about their values and don’t compromise integrity.

10. Self-care. They know the importance of self-care – physically, emotionally and spiritually.

11. Community. They cultivate healthy relationships with others and seek opportunities to give of themselves to the world around them.

12. Attitude. They recognize the role their mind-set plays in successfully embracing life as God desires.

These confident men and women are moving forward into 2010, boldly embracing both the challenges and opportunities available as they strive to live life intentionally. With a determined spirit and a strong voice, they’re focusing on creating a life of purpose, satisfaction and fulfillment. A life of excellence. With God’s help, we can create our own unique measure of success as we fully embrace the life God designed for each of us – with confidence.

Heads Up, Everyone

I’ve decided: 2010 is going to be a good year for me. No, I didn’t consult a fortuneteller. Nor did I look into a crystal ball. I don’t have a Ouija board, and I don’t claim to have power to see into the future. I just decided. Oh, I didn’t come to this decision lightly; and I don’t mean to sound like I’ve lost touch with reality. Yes, I read my share of fairy tales as a child that all ended with people living “happily ever after;” but I’ve lived long enough to understand how both the struggles and the joys of life ebb and flow.

I thought about it as I packed away Christmas decorations and began to settle back into the routine of everyday life. My mind has been spinning with curiosity about the year ahead. Expectations. Possibilities. Uncertainties. I’ve set some goals and have some ideas of what might come to pass, including the birth of a new grandbaby, a book to write and some trips planned; yet I realize I don’t know what will actually take place as this year unfolds.

One thing I do know: I have some options about how I’ll approach the coming days. I can look forward with eager anticipation to a positive year filled with opportunities and blessings. I can dread the challenges and struggles that will cross my path. Or I can let my mind race with anxious thoughts about the unknown. Now, anxiety and dread are two emotions I don’t wear well; so, I think I’ll choose optimism.

I suppose if I’m going to maintain this perspective I need to start when I wake up each morning and prepare to approach the day. First impressions are powerful, often prompting us to form assumptions about what will follow. They weave their way into our minds so quickly, setting a tone for how we interpret what comes next. It’s as if we put on a pair of tinted glasses. Everything we look at through the glasses seems to have that tint. ‘Tried on any sunglasses lately? There are some out there that create a view pleasing to our eyes, while others are so heavily tinted and dark, even distorted, they skew our perspective.

I want this to be a good year, so I need to pay attention to the thoughts I entertain each morning that will form a first impression of the day. I want to choose glasses that will help me focus on the positive things taking place around me. I know there will be challenges, trials, and disappointments along the journey. As much as I’d like to avoid them, they will be there in view. Rather than run from them or be consumed by them, I will need to face them, work through them, and look for lessons to be learned. I just want to be sure that along the way, I don’t miss the joys and blessings that are there as well.

The power of positive thinking: not just a catchy, well-worn phrase. It’s a testimony shared by many as they recount experiences of successfully working through struggles. It’s a powerful teaching tool of coaches preparing athletes for competition. It’s a conclusion drawn by healthcare professionals as they witness healing in the lives of patients. It’s a challenge before each of us as we approach a new day.

If you have ever visited my office you may have noticed a print by Norman Rockwell who is well known for creating vivid portraits of American society. This particular drawing depicts people traveling along a sidewalk in front of a church: heads down, shoulders stooped, mouths closed in silence, each one focused intently on shuffling in solitude from one place to another. Unaware that along that same path are birds soaring, trees budding, flowers in bloom, blue sky, the warm glow of the sun, and a plea on the church’s message board: “Lift up thine eyes.”

As we move through this New Year, let’s pay attention to the way we greet each day we are blessed to have and then watch where we’re walking, with the eyes of our minds and hearts wide open to all that is along the journey.

Heads up, everyone!

Need a Life Adjustment?

Here we are, nearly three-quarters of the way through 2010. It seems as if just yesterday we welcomed in this year with enthusiasm and hearts full of hope. We set goals and moved ahead, determined to make it a successful year. Armed with our ‘to do’ lists, we bought memberships to fitness centers and purchased the latest personal organizers. We declared war on clutter and vowed to be more diligent in our time of worship and spiritual focus. We developed a budget to get our ‘financial house’ in order. And, instead of grabbing whatever we could find in the fridge, we turned off the television and gathered around the dining table for a healthy dinner and family connection.

We were off to a great start toward balanced living; but as the year has unfolded, the demands of life have been creeping in to take over our schedules and good intentions. Our focus seems to be shifting as distractions draw us off course. We’re grabbing more fast food in between the activities we’re trying to squeeze into an already-busy schedule as we find less time for exercise and spiritual nourishment. Family members pass each other, all going in different directions. Our ‘financial house’ is not quite so orderly and we’ve forgotten what that concept of balance means. The ‘want to’s’ are getting lost as the ‘have to’s’ take over.

When Life’s Demands Press In

Do you notice how often we wake up thinking about what we need to do that day? Oh, I’m not implying that goals are wrong. It’s important to have a focus, a target to set our sites on as we navigate through the challenges of life. Goals provide us with a sense of direction and purpose, and sometimes a sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves.

It just seems as though we’re driven so much by what we must do, what is expected of us. We may begin the year, excited about the goals we want to achieve and the life we want to build; however, if we’re not mindful, that excitement can give way to the stress that comes from feeling pressured to accomplish everything we envision. Not to mention the anxiety that creeps in as our mind struggles, “How am I going to get it all done?” That is especially true if we set unreasonable goals or don’t keep a sense of balance in place that considers our physical and emotional well-being as well as our to-do list. Even good things can become stressful. If we’re not careful, we’ll move through our days either (1) running as fast as we can to accomplish everything; (2) going in circles, without a clear sense of direction; (3) going through the motions yet finding little pleasure; or (3) missing out on opportunities to relax and enjoy the blessings of life. We may find ourselves overloaded, overworked, overwhelmed, and burned out – not moving at all.

That pressure and stress, if unaddressed, can lead to anxiety, discouragement, irritability, depression, even to physical problems. So, what do we sometimes do? We push harder, bringing even more stress. Or, we give up and don’t accomplish anything, losing sight of those things of value in our lives, including our health and well-being. Our relationships may suffer as well.

Interestingly, if I ask someone what they want to do, not what they need to do but what they really want to do, there is often silence. “Hmmm, what do I want to do?” “Yes. If you had your life to live as you wish, if you could spend time doing what you really want to do, those things of greatest value to you, what would you do? How are you honoring both your passion and your priorities?”

If I asked you that question just now, how would you answer?

Living Intentionally

Spend time with people who sense they are nearing the end of their life’s journey and you may hear them recount, “If I had my life to live over I would…” Most often, they caution us to avoid letting the demands of life keep us from experiencing the joys of life. They challenge us to assess our priorities and consider what we believe God desires for us to accomplish with our lives, and then carefully, prayerfully, choose activities that fit our vision. They encourage us to take a balanced approach to life.

Many of you are facing uncertainties about your future as you confront diseases that can cut life short. Consequently, you are determined to value each moment and make each day count. You cherish the present and find joy in even the smallest of blessings that come your way. You make certain you speak your mind. You are intent on bringing a spirit of peace to your relationships and you take time to pass along a sense of your heritage to those who will follow in your steps. You work hard on the tasks you deem important, yet you also stop to smell the roses. You take a deep breath and soak up the sunshine. You share stories and pass along life lessons you’ve learned. You laugh. You seize each moment and value it as a gift. What a powerful example you set of the importance of making time for the real priorities in life as you carefully choose how you will live each day to the fullest.

Perhaps each of us need to pause in the midst of our busy, demanding lives, for a mid-year review and ask ourselves, “What do I want to accomplish with my life? How does God want me to manage my time and also take care of myself? When I come to the end of my journey, what do I want to say about my approach to this time in my life?”

Taking Your Personal Inventory

Carefully consider these questions and see if there are any adjustments you want to make as you continue through this year.

(1) What do you envision overall for your life? What do you want to “be?” Now, is what you’re “doing” bringing that vision to light or hiding it in the dark?

(2) Have you set reasonable goals to reflect that sense of purpose? Are they attainable for you at this point in the year? Are they consistent with your personal values and priorities? Do you believe you can reach them?

(3) Are you on course to accomplish your goals? If not, what adjustments will you make?

(4) Are there obstacles impeding your progress? What will you do to clear the path?

(5) Do you need to address any physical, emotional or spiritual concerns to improve your health and bring renewed energy?

(6) What support resources will you turn to for encouragement and accountability as you move forward through this year, committed to building the life you envision?

When you look back on these days, years from now, will you be pleased with how you approached life and how you managed your time, your energy and the opportunities before you? No, you can’t live your life over; however, today is a new day, offering the opportunity for a fresh start toward a better tomorrow. What can you do – what will you do – throughout the rest of this year to live your best life, the life God designed uniquely for you?

Removing Life’s Clutter

Before we barely finished our eggnog, the festive lights began to dim as the season of goodwill and cheer faded, bringing 2009 to a close. With a collective sigh, we are now packing away memories as we bid farewell to the past year and usher in 2010. It’s now time to carefully box up those treasured decorations to be enjoyed during Christmases to come and discard the worn wrappings, burned candles, and broken ornaments.

Organizing experts advise us to clear out the clutter in our closets to make room for those treasures that will remain, and then let go of those things that are not of value. While some heed their advice, others set it all aside with an “I’ll take care of it later” attitude. After all, we have a busy year ahead and want to get going.

Determined to make it our best year yet, we blend our enthusiasm with hope as we set goals. Then, armed with ‘to do’ lists, off we go. We buy memberships to fitness centers, purchase the latest diet books and personal organizers, and vow to be more diligent in our time of worship. Instead of grabbing whatever we find in the fridge, we turn off the television and gather around the dining table for a healthy dinner and family connection. We develop a budget to get our “financial house” in order, and we read about living a “balanced life.” We’re bound for success, or so we assume.

Wonderful intentions, yet we often seem to have difficulty turning them into positive successes. While the reasons for our achievement struggles may vary, organizing experts, life coaches, and counselors identify a problem area that hinders many of us from reaching our goals: CLUTTER – unnecessary, unorganized, sometimes even unwanted elements that are roadblocks to success.

We have too much around us, physically, emotionally, and perhaps even spiritually; and what we have that we do need is often not organized in a way that helps our lives function well. We’re trying to pile one thing on top of another without thought to what we actually need for this season of our lives. We seem to have a hard time letting go, so we buy more storage containers and bigger homes. We pack our schedules tighter with less and less room to relax. “Yes” seems to flow from our lips so much easier than “no.” We hold onto emotions that drain us and hinder our growth. No wonder so many of us feel overwhelmed, frustrated, stressed, disorganized, and weighed down.

Yet talk to people who are de-cluttering their lives and becoming more organized and you’ll hear them speak about reclaiming their time and space – even their lives. They seem fit physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They are more selective about what they embrace and what they choose to set aside, and they speak about more balance in their lives as they accomplish their goals.

The life lesson is clear: taking time to clear out and clean out will indeed free us up to a more successful approach to the new year.

As we focus on organizing our schedules, our spaces, and our keepsakes, we must also make certain our minds and hearts are ready to embrace the experiences ahead. What memories do we want to savor from the past year and carefully tuck away in the closets of our hearts to be opened and enjoyed in days to come? What recollections to cherish, traditions to pass on, family history to share? Treasures, how will we preserve them?

Taking our personal inventory may also identify emotional clutter we need to clear away: disappointments, hurts, unmet goals, broken promises, and unfulfilled dreams. If left unattended, they take up space in our minds and hearts where peace and joy want to reside. It’s time to repair what needs to be repaired and set aside what needs to be set aside, to make ready for the fresh start that is waiting as the new year unfolds.

Are there relationships to be mended, forgiveness to be offered or accepted? If there are hurts lingering in your heart, perhaps this is the time to ask the Lord to help you let those go and fill that broken place with His healing mercy and grace.

So often we come to the close of the year disappointed that we did not accomplish certain goals. Now is the time to set those unmet objectives aside and ask God to give you wisdom and to guide your mind and heart as you look ahead, to align your vision and your steps with His perfect plan for your life.

As we continue bringing closure to yesterday, it is important to reflect back on the life lessons God has taught us that we need to carry forward. Some experiences were cause for celebration. Others we’ve been grateful to survive. Through them all, He has taught us how to trust Him in all circumstances, to listen to His voice and follow His commandments, to care for ourselves and minister to others in His name. He has stretched us, pruned us, and molded us as we’ve yielded to Him, revealing His mercy, His power, His goodness, and His unfailing love. Through yesterday’s experiences, we can find truths to build on in the days to come. Nothing wasted, but rather wisdom to invest in the future.

As the glass ball in Times Square announced the beginning of the new year, our minds swirled with hopes and dreams, questions and curiosities. What will 2007 bring for us? We have suspicions, yet with all our plans and good intentions, we really don’t know what the future holds.

What we do know is this: God has a plan for our lives. He does know what lies ahead and has promised that if we draw close to Him, He’ll equip us with all we need to move through the days to come and He’ll walk alongside us on our journey. The challenge is ours to remove the obstacles that may hinder our walk as we prepare our minds and hearts to embrace all He has in store.

Blessings to you in this new year!