For the last few years I've kept a tradition of sharing things I've learned on my birthday. The number of items on my list always correlates with the number of my age. I'm beginning to think that might not be the best idea as I get older. Not only do a lot of things get repeated but I realized that it's going to take longer and longer to create the lists - and your girl is getting busy with life! So I'm just going to keep the list to 4 of the most important lessons of the past year.
Before I begin I want to let you know why I started this tradition in the first place. When I was in my 20's (before social media and blogging) I used to get so frustrated when it came to figuring out my life. Part of it was the fact I was only in my 20's but the other half is that it seemed like people always shared their success stories and not how they became a success. Where were the stories of disappointment, heartbreak, triumphs, and lessons learned? I needed to know it was possible for me to become a success one day as well. I would search and search for books, articles, ANYTHING to help me understand this confusing period of life. I was a new grad, a new wife and a new mother and there was nothing out there to help me navigate all of it. On top of the world being different from my parent's time, I was also a child of immigrants so obviously being in my 20's in this culture in this particular time was going to look a heck of a lot different from my mom and dad.
I made a solemn promise to myself one fateful and frustrated day in the bookstore that when I got past my 20's and figured out life I was going to share my wisdom with those coming up behind me.
So every year this little tradition is me keeping my promise to myself and to anyone who is searching for nuggets of wisdom by sharing from my own life experience.
BTW - spoiler alert - I'm still figuring out life!
1. You don't have to feel feelings you don't want to feel.
Say what? Yes I meant exactly what I said. Read it again if you need to. For a long time I was convinced that if I didn't fully feel the emotions I was having I would somehow pay the price later in life. That my "suppressed feelings would come back and get me in my 40's. Chalk it up to the fear of becoming depressed in my 40's like someone else I knew and cared deeply about. I would allow negative emotions to just take over to the point of it would affect my health.
I thought if someone was upset with me I had to hold all the guilt and blame. I would feel bad for being angry or losing my cool with someone even if it was just on the inside. If I made a mistake and hurt someone or dropped the ball on a task, I would let feelings of shame and inadequacy linger for far too long.
But eventually I realized that trying to "fully feel all my emotions" it was actually the opposite of healthy. It was really harming me and taking away my joy. I mean I wanted to feel happy because over all I was happy...and I liked that! I would let negative emotions and events push out my happiness.
I soon learned that the healthy thing was to acknowledge my feelings, process my feelings, confront the person if necessary and then move on. And most importantly it was okay to happy. It was okay to be happy when bad things happened, it was okay to be happy if someone was upset with me, it was okay to be happy if I made a mistake. My circumstances did not have to dictate my emotions!
I had to learn the difference between pushing down feelings and dealing with them in a healthy but not oppressive way. I was not obligated to feel anything on behalf of anyone else.
This was my life and I wanted it to be a happy one.
You can actually choose the attitude you want to adopt for your own life.
2. Letting go can give you a lot in return.
One of my main lessons the first quarter of this year was about letting go. At the end of last year I was so busy trying to create a product, teach an online class, get a new agent, write scripts, create online content act and on top of that take care of three kids and make time for my husband. I was so worn out trying to "make it happen". I was running around in circles in a way, not knowing what to focus on in life to actually get a return for the work I was doing.
I was happy, excited and more focused than ever but the WAY I was doing it was not working.
So I let it all go.
I cancelled my class, stopped creating online content, quit sending emails. I stopped going to meetings and extra events so I could focus on my health, my family and my relationship with God.
I knew that those things were the most important things in my life and everything else would fall in line.
I realized that if I'm going to do the amazing and ambitious things that God called me to do I needed to do them in a way that allowed for me to stay healthy, have time to hear God's voice and be present with my family.
I had to stop listening to the voices around me...even my own and spend quality time in worship so I could hear God's voice and get my marching orders for the day.
I discovered a lot about myself during those three months. The biggest thing was that I was addicted to doing things. Now I can spot the difference between something that really should be done and the tendency to do things for a "fix" even if it looked okay on the outside. I mean who can deny the generosity of me sitting with someone for 3 hours to explain sales funnels or branding?
In truth I can't really justify spending 3 hours on that topic and keep my priorities in line.
4 months later I can say in this season I'm definitely happier, more grounded, and more peaceful in my daily life. Most importantly, I'm at least self-aware enough to know when I'm about to do something to knock all of that off kilter.
3. I trust your genius - the key to building teams.
This November will mark my 15th year of marriage! It's really amazing to think about. I'm so glad that we kept at it because I've learned levels of love and trust that I would have never known otherwise.
My husband and I are both very artistic and ambitious visionaries. For a long time we were working on our own projects. We could only get so far with what we were doing until it caused some type of issue or argument between us. We were young and didn't really know how to work together. In fact, I might say we didn't really trust each other.
But now after the ups and downs of marriage we've come to a place where we know each other's weaknesses and strengths. We are even able to joke about the places where we struggle - but that's okay because we spend more time focused on where we thrive.
I've learned that my husband is a gifted entrepreneur, strategist and maximizer. My husband has seen my intuition and creativity at work and trusts my input. He sees that I'm a good leader when it comes to producing theater and film projects.
This didn't just happen by chance. We had to work at it. We decided to take personality tests galore! I read his results and he read mine. We discussed for hours and hours what we were learning about ourselves through the tests and how we did or didn't fit into the final categories. Most of all we started to just accept each other for who we were instead of trying to change the other person.
This marriage lesson has come full circle and spilled back over into the way we handle projects - especially when they include building teams to bring them to fruition. We have learned the power of trusting someone's genius.
Teams thrive when each person feels like they are working in their own genius. They feel competent, confident creative and VALUED! You can accomplish more faster when people feel this way. Plus it's a lot more fun during the process!
In order to do what I love - making films - I have to be adept at building teams and getting those teams to work together quickly and in pressurized situations. It's good to find people who are humble and skilled then place them in areas where they can shine.
4, I am what I am.
This is a very very recent lesson. Like it happened on my birthday.
Since I was a young girl I always knew I wanted to be an actress, writer and filmmaker. I didn't know how it was all going to happen but I believed that it would. I had no idea that in my lifetime I would be able to own a quality camera, learn how to edit, distribute my work online or even plan my own premieres. I mean this was back in late 80's!
As life went on and YouTube came about I started to create online sketches, but no one else was doing it. I fell into the trap of creating hair and DIY videos because they were popular at the time and were getting more views.
As I learned more about online marketing I got lost in the trap of feeling like I had to operate in the way that all of the online marketing gurus were telling me. I kept feeling like I had to pick parts of myself to present to people so I could be palatable. I didn't want anyone to be confused when they came to my website because confusion means a "click away" from my page.
But over the near decade of creating online content I've come to realize that I can't be anyone else but myself! No matter how hard things get or how busy my life is I will MAKE TIME to be an actress, writer and filmmaker who also loves talking about God and her spiritual journey. It's just literally who I am through and through. It's not really popular for all of these characteristics to be presented together in online portions of brands.
I know, I've looked.
On my birthday I realized that...I'm getting old. (I know I'm not really old but still). I'm tired of trying to hold parts of my awesome self back for the sake of others. It's like keeping the lid on a pressure cooker. It takes a lot of energy to do that. Energy I don't want to waste...because I'm getting older.
So I decided not to wait until 50 to stop giving a crap. My birthday present to myself was to stop right now trying to be palatable to others. I don't fit into a box and chances are if you're on my site you don't fit into a box either - AND THAT'S TOTALLY COOL!
I am what I am. You are what you are. Just be it and eventually you'll find your tribe.