When newborn infants are not gaining strength, we sometimes use the term “failure to thrive.” I’ve never heard the same words used with adults, but in my many years of working with people, I think the critical issue is the same. We suffer from the inability to gain personal strength–a failure to thrive. This month I promised you ten tips to gaining strength as an adult. Rather than pitch and preach, I think I’ll recount my own ten most critical moments and then distill out the “tip.”
When I was in elementary school I was painfully shy. Even answering a question in class was nearly impossible. This shyness did not serve me well so, in seventh grade, I decided to confront the demon (shyness) and tried out for an all-school play (The Robe). Auditioning nearly killed me and then I found out I’d been cast in the roll of a slave girl who would go onto the stage alone and do “the dance of the seven veils.” Not possible. I explained to the director about my shyness, and he very kindly recast me into the role of a slave girl (silent) who only had to smile and feed grapes to a soldier from Galilee.
Tip #1: Confront your worst fears head-on.
Tip #2: When the road is too difficult, ask for help.
In tenth grade I had a World History Teacher who smoked Pall Mall cigarettes, liked to tell stories of WW II, and had no tolerance for apathy. That man pissed me off, made me think, pushed me around, and then laughed at me when I thought I knew too much. Thanks Charlie.
Tip #3: Accept your teachers in whatever unlikely form they come.
As a senior in high school I lacked confidence in myself as a learner. I opted for a 2-year technical program in Occupational Therapy, but after the first year (in a junior college), I discovered I rather liked college and thought perhaps I could do one more year. And one more year. And one more year. Before I knew it, I was graduating from college.
Tip #4: Follow the natural flow of your life regardless of what you think it is possible for you to accomplish.
When my first child was born, I couldn’t bear to leave her to go to work so I started a day-care center. Running a business set a pattern in my life led me down many different paths. My job at Oglala Lakota College was my first “real job” in all those years. And I like teaching, too.
Tip # 5: Follow your heart–it will lead you to unexpected places.
When I became pregnant with my third child, I was unhappy in my marriage, unhappy with being pregnant, and worried that another child would interfere with my “career.” When Thomas was born, he had a rare blood disorder that was endangering his health. Suddenly, he was the center of my universe and I became this fierce, protective lioness. Later, I discovered that the antibodies left over from my system were destroying his white blood cells. Ironic! But my little baby taught me about what really mattered in my life and adjusted a very bad attitude.
Tip # 6: Accept when higher forces intercede in your smallest plans.
During my first marriage I learned NLP and so much about how past history can create current patterns. I realized that as long as I was time-traveling to an earlier age, I was not being my right age. Essentially, I was a little girl in a grown-up body. I determined to learn how to stay my right age and to recognize instantly when I would go small. It took many years of practice, and I still don’t stay my age 100% of the time (maybe 75%) but I’ve since realized that the world is full of small children in adult bodies.
Tip #7: Learn to be and stay your right age. See the past, acknowledge the past—but don’t go there.
In my late twenties I entered a graduate program but realized that I’d become a work-aholic. I was running a preschool, an aerobic dance studio, going to school and beginning a counseling residency at a local agency. I didn’t know whether to put on a suit coat, a leotard, or a bib. I prayed about it. Two months later, I was pregnant, my first husband was fired from his job, and we were planning to move to Phoenix. I sold, quit, or dropped all activities. Confused by such rapid change, I promised myself I would not do another thing until I was sure it was the right thing. That is when I began training in NLP.
Tip #8: Be careful what you pray for–you may get it.
Tip #9: Be conscious about what you choose next.
Several years ago we put a deck off our kitchen and removed a window and put in a door. Suddenly I could step right out into the night and see the stars above my head, feel the wind on my face, and hear the birds singing. A wonderful feeling. Now we have bought ten acres and built a straw bale house in northern MN. I realized that all things are possible in this life if we but gain the strength to ask–and then work to bring something new into being.
Tip #10: Problem-solving is man’s work. Creating is God’s work.
Thanks again to all of you who took the time to subscribe to my blog. Happy Spring!
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