Living Life through Improv

photographic-spotlight-1418280-640x480I stood in the middle of a circle surrounded by colleagues. I had five seconds to think of a non-work-related fear. I shouted “I am scared of congested traffic.” I anxiously awaited movement from the group. No one moved, which meant that no one had that fear. I stood alone. Suddenly, applause erupted from the circle. Cheers filled the room for my fear. I felt like a hero in the improvisation spotlight.

Improvisation is the act of creating something without preparation. For musicians, it is a song. For actors, it is a play. For writers, it is a short story. For employees, it is creative play in the workplace.

Being in the improv spotlight opened my eyes to the power of improv in the workplace, but more so to the power of improv in life. Improv breaks the chains of perfectionism while using each other to make life the best it can be.

Here are the three improv rules to help you improve your life.

#1 – Be spontaneous. Life is busy. Calendars are full. I doubt that “be spontaneous” is on your daily to-do list. Being spontaneous takes practice especially for a recovering perfectionist like me. We live handcuffed to our calendars, our chores and our responsibilities. We develop blinders to life around us and scurry to the next thing. We miss the blooming tulips and smiling faces. We miss life. Define your handcuffs and blinders to allow spontaneity.

#2 – Build upon each other’s ideas. I have ideas. You have ideas. Together, we have the best ideas. Our life experiences, beliefs, values and perspectives allows us to open our mind to the possibilities. It take vulnerability to step out and share your ideas and remove your personal insecurities. This builds a “we”, not “me” mentality. Embrace your insecurities and build upon each other’s ideas and strengths.

#3 – Make each other look good. We do life with family, friends, coworkers, etc., which I call my life people. We also do life with our enemies, which can suck the life out of you if you let them. Sometimes we have a choice to interact with or avoid our enemies and sometimes we don’t. Either way, we need to make our life people and our enemies look good. We promote, never demote. We praise, never criticize. We love unconditionally, never hold grudges. We become “we”, not “me.” Love your life people and your enemies no matter what and make each other look good to outsiders.

Let’s live life through improv by encouraging spontaneous moments, building on each other’s ideas and making each other look good. You are only promised this very moment, so define, embrace and love life through the rules of improv!

Credit: Kudos to Hal Adler and Kenn Adams who created the ah-ha moment for the power of improv for me.

Oh Mr. Redbud

My eyes watch the road. My hands occupy ten and two on the steering wheel. My favorite morning DJs entertain me. I am smooth sailing down the expressway. Suddenly, BAM! A beautiful splash of color catches my eye out the passenger window. My attention immediately turns to this magnificent redbud standing center stage with a backdrop of dead grass and dormant trees. Have you ever had the beauty of nature take your breath away? In that moment, I did.

A week ago, there was no color along my daily route. It was a perfect monochrome winter scene of browns with no sign of life. Now, the redbuds dominate the landscape with their beautiful reddish-pink flowers. I started a game of I spy with myself…I spy a redbud and another and another. I spied over 10 redbuds between the breathtaking moment and my destination. I finished the game. I laughed at myself for getting so energized about a tree. Then, I asked myself why is this tree impacting me so much? There are two reasons.

The redbud represents the beauty of God’s creation. The redbud produces reddish-pinkish flowers first, which tells us that spring has arrived. After months of short days, leafless trees and lots of brown, the redbuds symbolize life, energy and hope. We leave the darkness of winter and move into the excitement of spring. The flowers last a short period until they are replaced by heart-shaped leaves. The leaves carry the spirit of love. Redbuds  symbolize hope and love.

The redbud takes me back to my childhood. I spent countless hours exploring the huge redbud in my backyard. It occupied almost half of our backyard and spread wide rather than tall. My brother and I climbed up, down and all around the limbs. I remember finding the perfect nook to sing a song at the top of my lungs, act out a skit, hide during hide-n-seek or just hangout. It was a place of freedom and fun.  Redbuds symbolize the importance of having a special place to play or get away from life’s hustle and bustle.

As we enter spring, take a moment to recognize the budding and blooming of the trees and flowers. Define how you need to bud or bloom in your life. Take a moment to think about what nature teaches you. Embrace the lesson or lessons. Love the lesson and choose to change. Spring, it’s a new season, a new start, a new hope. Come alive again!

Admit One: Zoo

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We celebrated my sweet friend’s birthday with Italian takeout and our  kids. Once dinner was over, the kids scurried off to the playroom. Our lady talk lasted about five minutes before the interruptions took control. It went something like this: talk, chase the crawler, talk, check on the screaming kiddos, talk and get the kids a drink. Now, what were we talking about?

After the fifth interruption (this is a guess…I wasn’t counting), my friend ran to her daughter’s room with her lil’ guy on her hip saying, “Heather, you must think my life is a zoo. I promise I am listening.”

I giggled at the use of the word “zoo.” I thought, uh, your life is so far from a zoo. First, you don’t have a smelly house or smelly kids. Second, you buy your food from Target, not an exotic pet food store. Third, I don’t see any cages for the said animals. Fourth, you don’t have on a uniform with the name of a zoo and khaki shorts. (However, you would look beautiful in that look.)  Last, I don’t pay an admission fee to enter your home to see your family’s exhibit.

In her mind, the moments of craziness felt like a zoo. She is right. We all have zoos. We all give it our best. We all love each other through our zoo.

We live in the zoo unique to us. Based on your season of life, your own zoo will be unique to you. My friend stays home. I work in Corporate America. She lives in comfy yoga pants and tennis shoes. I wear dress pants, blouses and somewhat comfy 1” heels. She commutes to her kitchen. I commute in rush hour madness. Our zoos differ greatly. We know the realities and the struggles of our zoos and try our best to relate to each other. Please don’t compare your zoo to any other zoo. The comparison game only brings misery.

We handle the zoo in the best way we know how. We transform into zookeepers who care for others, play with others, feed others, nurture others and love others. We all strive to give our best to the ones that we love while being the best that we can be. Sometimes we make the right choices. Other times we make mistakes and learn from them. We struggle, get weary and want to quit. We engage, excel and conquer! No matter what, we wake up the next day and do it again!

We love each other even more in the midst of the craziness. We are not alone. We all do it. We are better together because we can learn from others. Someone who knows your current zoo can offer their experience and give hope. Someone who has never experienced your zoo can listen and provide a new perspective. Either way you build your support team, your cheerleaders, who love you for you and your zoo.

Define your current zoo. Embrace it with optimism, energy and faith. Love it with all you have. All our zoos make an exciting world for all who want to enjoy the field trip!

True Beauty never Fades

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Sequins, jewels, high heels, bowties and tuxedos walked across the red carpet at the Oscars Sunday evening. It was a night to celebrate the film industry and the talent who make the stories come to life. It was also a night that fuels the flame of pressure to be beautiful on the outside.

Today’s to-do list for outer beauty is quite overwhelming. We must sleep eight hours, drink 64 ounces of water, eat a healthy diet with organic vegetables and fruit, exercise for 30 minutes, get 10,000 steps, eat one serving of dark chocolate and drink two cups of coffee. We start an anti-aging skincare program in our mid-twenties. We use online fashion consultants who ship the perfect outfits to our front door. Whew! I’m exhausted!

We wrestle with our own dislikes about our outer beauty. One of my dislikes for many years was my fair, freckly skin. I wanted the Hawaiian Tropic tan. Every summer, I drowned my fair, freckly skin in baby oil. Every winter, I had an unlimited pass at the tanning bed. No amount of baby oil or tanning minutes gave me the beautiful tan. My fair, freckly skin burned and burned and burned. Now, I am a three time skin cancer survivor. The outer beauty of tan was not worth it. I have learned to be comfortable in my own skin. (No pun intended.)

Outer beauty is important, but it should not consume us. The beauty in life is not defined by a wrinkle count, foundation shade or clothing size. True beauty is defined by your spirit. “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4 NIV).

A gentle and quiet spirit is true beauty. A gentle spirit is kind, slow to anger, compassionate, sympathetic, and sweet-tempered. A quiet spirit is peaceful, even tempered, untroubled and calm. Our spirit builds the inner beauty that we demonstrate to others through our actions and our words.

What image of true beauty are you sharing with others today? Are your thoughts and words positive, optimistic, uplifting, loving and full of grace? Are your actions selfless, sacrificial, genuine, generous and loving?  Do you live a life that follows the Word of God and strives to make the world a better place through love and serving others?

No matter how hard we try, outer beauty fades with age. Our inner beauty remains; it never fades. People do judge by outward appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV). His judgment is the only one that really matters!

Define, embrace and love your inner beauty! Define, embrace and love the inner beauty of each other!

Fear Hides in Room 13

What is fear? It is a physical or emotional response to danger. Different types of fears lead to different responses.

You have routine life fears. The fuzzy eight-legged critter named Charlotte who calls your living room corner home. The six-month check-up for your pearly whites that includes scrapping, gum bleeds and the tooth doctor reminding you to floss every day. The airplane that is the only mode of transportation to that remote island on your bucket list. The wood podium and microphone that awaits you to share your knowledge with the audience.

Routine life fears are manageable and usually don’t keep us from achieving our full potential. The biggest fears, those which can interfere with our success, are failure and rejection. These fears find a cozy place in our mind where they often hide without us knowing of their occupancy. They live in room 13 in our blindspot hotel.

When a sudden change in your world causes your fears to come out of room 13,  you likely react through paralyzing yourself or retaliating in a passive or active way. You paralyze yourself when you quit, avoid, run and hide and focus on what you cannot do rather than what you can do. You retaliate when you stop communicating, hide information, exclude rather than include, roadblock others and cause drama. Either response  can lead to a dysfunctional environment and kills relationships.

Think about your fears that hide in room 13, fears that you have already experienced. Define the fears. Embrace the fears through self-awareness. Stare the fears in the face when they exit room 13 and stop them before they stop you. Love the fears for helping you learn and grow through life’s experiences.

When you let fear help you rather than hurt you, you will save yourself, achieve the things you want to achieve and build long-lasting relationships.

5 Ways to Cure Life’s Momentary Hiccups

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I had a crisis on Thursday. I lost my credit card. I dug through the trash of smelly macaroni and cheese, rock hard cinnamon rolls and slimy brussel sprouts. No card. I checked the crevices
and pockets in my car. No card. I searched the house high and low including the laundry hamper. No card. I even ran my hands through the shredder bin in hopes of feeling pieces of a credit card, which was a ridiculous act. No card. Finally, I surrendered to my absent mindedness, became accountable for losing my card and returned to the real world.

Upon exiting my crisis in that moment, I was reminded that I could be faced with a true crisis, a life-changing crisis as many in my community had experienced this week.

A large employer in Oklahoma City laid off 700 employees. The media covered the story. The beautiful skyscraper maintained its dominance in the skylight while its heart broke as employees were told the news. All levels of employees filled boxes and exited the building. My heart was heavy for everyone employed there. My prayers were that God’s plan would prevail for every person whose world would be turned upside down in a moment.  Many talented professionals are now on the market for a job. That’s a life-changing crisis.

A beloved wife of an Oklahoma City Thunder  coach lost her life in a car accident. My heart was heavy for Coach Williams and their five children. My prayers were that this family would find peace and comfort. Over 900 attendees celebrated her life and her brave husband delivered a beautiful eulogy full of love, grace and inspiration. I watched his eulogy to his wife. He mentioned the woman who drove the other car and how her family needs prayers during this tragedy. They are suffering too. They need peace and comfort too. The man who just lost his everything thought of the other family. What a selfless man in so many ways. That’s a life-changing crisis.

Losing my credit card was not a life-changing crisis even though it was big to me in that moment. It was a life hiccup, a small life hiccup. However, I still have to deal with the hiccup and cure it.

No matter how big or how small your life’s hiccups may be, here are five steps to help you cure life’s hiccups in that moment:

  1. Breathe. Don’t hold your breathe like you do for real hiccups. Breathe!
  2. Feel the emotions. Do not jump into problem solving mode, which is the human tendency. If you stuff emotions, then you only hurt yourself.
  3. Pray. Give it to God. Let Him guide your solutions, so that you find peace. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NIV)
  4. Give thanks. Gain perspective of the situation and focus on the blessings in life. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)
  5. Smile. Just smile or laugh. Laughing at the situation is a healer.

Life has brought hiccups to you. Life will continue to bring hiccups to you. These hiccups groom and grow you into the beautiful person that you are today and that you will be tomorrow. Whether you lost your credit card, lost your job or  lost a loved one, God’s plan will prevail. Define yourself through the situation. Embrace yourself as you move forward. Love yourself for you are a beautiful creation inside and out!

P.S. – As I was doing laundry today while writing this post, guess what I found in the washing machine three days after my hiccup?!?!? THE credit card!! I am still laughing!

If you enjoyed this post, please share it with someone!

 

 

 

Stay Away Mediocrity and Melancholy

stay-out-1550977-639x425This week I came across the reasons that talented employees stay at an organization. Number one is paid well. Number two is appreciated. The list goes on. I then asked myself why do I stay at my employer, in my job, in a friendship, in a small group, in a neighborhood? Why do I stay?

When we ask ourselves a question like this, we experience Fourth of July in our brains. Logic. Emotion. Logic. Emotion. Logic. Logic. Logic. Helllloooooooo emotion. Somehow through all the fireworks we define the logical reasons to stay and the emotional reasons to stay. The hard part is making sure that when we stay we step into a healthy physical, emotional and mental state of mind.

Think about a current area of your life. Which one of these three state of minds best describes you?

  • You are in a state of merriment!! You feel energized and valued! You give your best! You look forward to the day ahead, interactions with others and life’s experiences. Your soul is content and full of bliss. You are in a happy place, so you stay.
  • You are in a state of mediocrity. You just show up. You give just enough to pass go. You just warm the seat. You are in a comfortable place, so you stay.
  • You are in a state of melancholy. You live in the world of sadness. You worry. You fret. You isolate yourself from others. Melancholy can and will lead us to bad, dark places. You are in a helpless place, so you stay.

Yes, all three state of minds drive you to stay, but merriment is the only reason that you should stay. It is the only state of mind that allows you to bring the best you who can make a difference and change the world.

If you are in the state of mediocrity, take some time to reflect on why you are there. Is it you, your boss, your circle of people? Then, find a way to move out of mediocrity.

If you are in the state of melancholy, I beg you to seek help, visit with a counselor, pastor or a trusted confidant. You need to find your light again.

My sweet friend, it’s not too late to find merriment! First, define your merriment. You can beat mediocrity! You can beat melancholy! Second, embrace your current state of mind and learn from it. You will enter merriment one step at a time if you change your mind. Last, love your journey to find and maintain merriment! You can do it!

Look for Innocent Intent

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Have you ever wanted to shout out “I object” during a heated conversation? Have you ever felt like a helpless witness being badgered on the witness stand? We all have been there and don’t want to go back.

We all control how we feel following either of these experience. No one can control how you feel except you. It is okay to ride the emotional roller coaster of anger, sadness, fear, and disgust. It is okay to take as much time as you need to reset and move forward.

One of the worst things that you can is measure your self-worth in that moment based on how the defendant made you feel. You control how others make you feel and should never let someone else make you feel any less than the unique you that you are. As you determine how to move forward, keep these things in mind.

Define the intent of the person.  People do not wake up every day and say “I am going to be condescending, rude, selfish, hateful, etc. today. That’s my mission.” We must believe that deep down everyone has good in their heart. The problem is that people fall victim to portraying bad intent due to strong emotions, insecurities or stress going on in life. These are not excuses for their words or actions. These are the life struggles that we all have.

Embrace the person’s innocence until proven guilty. Look back at the history of your interactions with this person. Do you see a pattern of behavior? If the answer is no, then the defendant is innocent and deserves your forgiveness and grace. Remember that their intent was good even though their words or actions were different. If the answer is yes, then the defendant is guilty. You do need to forgive the person, but need to establish boundaries for future interactions. It is important that you do not let them affect your emotions or your self-worth because they have too much control over you.

Here’s a quote from one of my favorite books that says it well:

“If you continue to blame other people for “making” you feel guilty, they still have power over you, and you are saying that you will only feel good when they stop doing that. You are giving them control over your life. Stop blaming other people.”
― Henry CloudBoundaries: When To Say Yes, How to Say No

Love your intent and show it.  Think often about the intent of your words and your actions before you say them or do it. You should strive to always have good intent and show it no matter how the other person treats you. You have heard the saying “kill them with kindness.” That’s the best philosophy to have. Scripture says “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind,to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” Jeremiah 17:10 (NIV) If you do need a reset moment, then reset, give yourself grace, apologize and move forward.

When a conversation heats up, stay out of the courtroom. Try to show good intent always, focus on good intent for the other person and give grace, lots of grace.

Come as You are, Accept as We are

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Who are you on the inside – your true self? Who are you to the outside world – your family, friends, coworkers, etc.? Are you the same person on the inside as you appear to those on the outside?

You likely have one of three answers to the last question – yes, sometimes or no. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to confidently say yes? Let’s take a look at two life principles to help you come as you are and to accept others as we are.

#1 – Come as you are. Spend time getting to know your true self. Identify your values, your views, your dreams, your passions. Look at the past to find the people, situations, accomplishments that energized you and made you feel on fire (in a good way). Look at today to find your concerns, your roadblocks, your fears, your worries. Don’t focus on problem solving or goals. Focus on letting your true self find himself or herself to the outside world. Most importantly, forget human acceptance. Do this exercise over and over until you find inner happiness and peace with your true self. Keep in mind that your true self changes through the seasons of life. Define, embrace and love the changes.

Kinky Boots is an award-winning Broadway musical passing through Oklahoma on its tour. I fought back tear many times during this musical last Saturday. First, I love going to the theater with my mother and sharing a passion for musical theater with her. Tears – making memories with her! Second, the story is based on a true story where complete strangers meet and face similar life struggles to appreciate their destinies (God’s plan) and their differences. Charlie accepts God’s plan to run his family’s shoe business. Lola, aka Simon, accepts his lifestyle of being a cabaret star and overcomes his fear of rejection by his father. Tears – inspiring me to follow God’s plan and overcome fear of rejection. Last,  they took a stand together to live out their passion and dreams. Tears – what a friendship!

#2 – Accept each other to come as we are. We must accept and love each other. “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.” James 2:8 (NIV)  We need to encourage others to define, embrace and love their true self. We must show unconditional love to each other and remove the fear of rejection or abandonment. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37 (NIV) We must embrace and accept each other to come as we are.

During my morning commute this week, I heard Tim Tebow on the KLOVE Morning Show. Tim shared a testimonial about a mission trip to the Philippines. Tim, named the American by the village people, noticed that some boys hid in a hut during the service. Tim’s loving heart pushed him to find out why the boys excluded themselves. Inside the hut, he found three boys and asked the boys why they were hiding in the hut. One of the boys responded that he was told to not let the American see him because his feet were deformed; they were backwards. He embraced the boy and loved him. Tim defined his foundation’s mission in that moment to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. I cried at the end of his story.  Tears – love this little boy no matter what his feet look like. Tears – why are you segregating one of your own?  Tears – we need more Tim Tebows in this world!

You must learn to come as you are. We must accept each other to come as they are. If we all change our living philosophy to include these two principles, we will be happier people who live in a loving world. It starts with you and me! Will you join me?

Dear Self, I Love You!

sharpie-love-1519317-638x411Red hearts, pink flowers and boxes of chocolates fill the grocery store aisles. Love letters fill the card aisles in forms of humor, religion and serious messages. The spirit of Valentine’s Day is in the air.

Valentine’s Day brings joy and celebration. Valentine’s Day brings heartache and sadness. These emotions form based on how much we feel loved by another human. Whether we realize it or not, these emotions become regulators of our happiness level and our outlook on life, especially during this time of year.

The truth is that Valentine’s Day should be a celebration of the person that God made you to be. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14 (NIV)  We must be humble and grateful for who we are while opening our hearts to experience God’s love, the greatest love that we will ever know. It is a day for us to stop being a prisoner to the worldly love of humans and turn to God for love.

One way for us to keep our eyes on God’s love is to write a love letter that promotes positive self-talk and gives the glory to Him. You should confess your love for yourself through humility and thankfulness, not self-worship or boasting.

As you purchase or make your valentines this week, take time to write a love letter to yourself using these five steps:

  1. Dear Self or _____________. Find a journal or a sticky note. Write the words.
  1. Define one attribute that makes you wonderfully made. My best attribute is __________________. Think about the roles that you play in life. Think about the many attributes that you have. Define your true self and what makes you wonderfully made.
  1. Embrace why the attribute makes you wonderfully made. I am _________ and this makes me wonderfully made because _______. Dig deep to find your emotional and spiritual response to the “why.” Think about it, pray for it, laugh at it or cry about it. Capture the reasons before they float away.
  1. Write an affirmation to maximize this attribute. I will continue to be _________ by _________. Find ways to maximize this attribute and praise and thank God for making you who you are.
  1. Love yourself with a closing of “I love you!” I love you!  Sign your name.

We must define who we are, embrace who we are and love who we are every day of our life because you are exactly who you were designed to be. Write love letters to yourself often as a reminder to be thankful to your Creator! Read them on happy days and sad days! Celebrate that God loves you everyday!