9/11 will always be memorable to me for two reasons. First, of course, is the 2001 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. However, 9/11/2014 is equally unforgettable for me. That was the day I fell and broke my right (dominant) arm.
On the morning of my accident, I had acted on my commitment to step things up a notch in my business and spent hours setting various projects in motion. Then I went out that evening and broke my arm. It was devastating. Those projects were the foundation for the success I planned to attain in 2015 and they had to happen soon. But I was in a sling strapped to my body, unable to move my right arm and unable to do very much with my left. There was a bruise from the crook of my arm to my armpit the color of ink.
The “woe is me” syndrome kicked in big time. I could not believe God had allowed this to happen to me. He and I were of one accord about His plans for my life; there was no way a broken arm could be a part of the plan.
Dressing by myself for the first time took 20 minutes just to get into my underwear. The experience made me sincerely want to go back to bed but I was going to a meeting I could not miss. Through tears of pain, frustration and discouragement I cried out “Lord you’ve given me so much to do. Why must I do it with a broken arm?” His reply was “You’re the resilience expert, go be resilient.”
He was right. Resilience has been a relevant subject to me for most of my life.
The topic peaked my interest when working with middle school students who lived in dysfunctional but non-abusive households. They were negatively affected by the family issues but not enough to be removed from the home. Resilience was the attribute that would allow them to survive and thrive in those types of environments. I also did my doctoral research on resilience and when you spend years studying reading, researching, and writing on a certain topic you are considered an expert.
I realized that God had just given me another opportunity to practice what I preach.
It was time to severely limit my use of the words “I can’t.” I began having the following dialogue with myself several times a day. “I can’t do it.” “Yes you can, think about it.”
I got determined and creative. I slept on the other side of the bed, re-thought my hairstyle, how I cooked, drove, and used my cell phone and computer. I went back to Pilates, Zumba and Bollywood dance classes modifying all the way; but I was there. My classmates helped me get in and out of my shoes and change from my “driving sling” (which allowed a little movement) to my “dancing sling” (which kept the arm from moving).
Ever the diehard diva, creativity was crucial when it came to dressing stylishly. It was fall and I needed a coat that could accommodate the sling so I searched online and found a stunning poncho. When I couldn’t face putting the injured arm in a fitted sleeve or pulling anything over my head the search was on for sleeveless blouses that fastened in front. There were two beautiful blouses that buttoned up the back. The tags were removed so they could be worn backwards.
Let me be completely candid with you. I did NOT simply vanquish every obstacle and get everything right. There were lots of times I spent crying and there were several days in bed with the covers over my head. I’m not superwoman. However, between my bouts of self-pity, God blessed me with the strength to get up and keep moving forward, even when I didn’t know exactly where I was going or how I would get there.
I shared this to let you know that you have all the resilience, creativity, strength, power and whatever else you need right now. God is just waiting for you to trust Him enough to use it. Consider this: instead of saying “I can’t do this” try saying, “I can’t do it this way.“ Then get still long enough to allow God to show you alternatives.
In my lifetime, I can list many great achievements. If you want to know what they are, you can read my resume and my bio or talk to friends and family. But I will tell anyone who will listen that the absolute greatest thing I have ever accomplished was to quit smoking cigarettes. That’s right, I was a one pack a day smoker, a habit that caused me pain, shame, and fear. Even when I worked as a drug treatment counselor I was in the clutches of the most addictive drug there is, nicotine. At first, when I worked with adults, it was not too much of a problem for me. Most of my clients smoked. When I got a job working in a middle school with adolescents it became a big problem for me. I did not want to be an excuse for any of my clients to smoke. The bottom line was I was a role model for those kids. I wanted to quit but didn’t really think that I could so I did the next best thing. I would not smoke while I was working. So for 8 hours a day I did not have a cigarette. After a while I did not even crave cigarettes during that 8 hours. I continued this habit when I started working in a university setting, much for the same reason. Eventually, I was able to make the commitment to do whatever was necessary to become a nonsmoker. I will never forget that day. I decided to go for a long walk and have a talk with God. On that walk I proclaimed that I would do whatever he led me to do and begged him to help me give up this terrible and dangerous addiction. On July 22, 2002 I experienced my first day as a nonsmoker. I have not had a cigarette since that day. It was a process that took a while and it was very tough but I did it. If you are interested in the details, email or message me, I would be happy to share. I image that some of you are thinking, “Dr. Lori, sure it is great to quit smoking but out of every thing you have done why would you consider it your GREATEST accomplishment?” It is (and probably always will be) the utmost triumph to me because it had such a positive domino effect in my life. When I quit smoking I realized that I could do anything and that paved the way for every victory I have enjoyed since then.
When I saw the poem below featured in Dr. Natalie Francisco’s book I’m Just Saying. I knew I had to use it. The poem’s author, Edger A. Guest used the word he in the original version. I could not resist changing it to she. This poem reminds me so much of my own experiences that I need to share it with others who may be having the same experience.
Somebody Said It Couldn’t Be Done
By Edger A. Guest
Somebody said it couldn’t be done,
But she with a chuckle replied
That maybe it couldn’t but she would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till she tried.
She waded right in with a trace of a grin
On her face, if she worried, she did it.
She started to sing as she tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done—and she did it.
Somebody said, “Oh, you’ll never do that,
At least no one ever has done it.”
But she took off her coat and she took off her hat:
And the first thing we know she’d begun it.
With a lift of the chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quit it,
She started to sing as she tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done—and she did it.
There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure.
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a lift of the chin,
Take off your coat and do it.
Starting to sing as you tackle the thing
That cannot be done—and you’ll do it.
The tagline of Nova Southeastern University’s Fischler School of Education is “Cause An Effect.” I love the graphic. It is a drop of water entering a still pond and the ripples appear to go on indefinitely. Words cannot describe my pride in being an alumna of the doctoral program in organizational leadership. I will never forget the first time the words cause an effect became real for me; the first time I genuinely felt the ripple. It was at graduation and a list of the countries represented in the graduating class was being read. When I looked around in that huge auditorium at the hundreds of people receiving masters and doctoral degrees, the picture of the drop in the still pond came to my mind. When I remembered that graphic, I had two thoughts. The first was “I am here among this amazing and exclusive group of scholars and educators who will touch millions of lives.” The second was “all of those small-minded, envious people I have encountered who tried to place obstacles in my path were not able to stop me. It was an experience that was so emotionally empowering that I had goose pimples. I will never forget it. While I was in school I just moved from one thing to the next, not thinking too far ahead but now I was finished. I had already started causing my effect, two months prior to graduation I had begun teaching in South University, Virginia Beach’s Masters level clinical mental health counseling program. I had trained graduate interns for years, now I was taking my knowledge, wisdom and experience into the classroom. This was my passion and my legacy. When I look into the faces of my amazing graduate students, I realize that I am touching their lives, the lives of their families, as well as the lives of their clients and their families. Can you see the ripple? Each of us has the power to cause an effect. It is up to you to decide if the ripple you create is positive and productive or negative and destructive. I have chosen to create a positive ripple in every life I encounter. What is your choice?
I am a firm believer in taking care of your inner child. It may be my background as a mental health clinician. Making sure the child in you feels loved and safe is something I stress to both my clients and the graduate-level counseling students I teach. The child that we once were is still with all of us, and, yes that means YOU! If you don’t think you have an inner child you are seriously out of touch and you really need to read this post. Your inner child is the person you were from birth through adolescence. She/he is part of the reason you still love, video games, Disneyworld, action figures, stuffed animals or milky ways (even if you don’t eat them). She/he may also be the part of you that carries old hurts and fears; those experiences that still affect you as an adult. Getting over childhood ordeals does not involve getting rid of the child within you. It involves reassuring that child that you (the adult) will love and protect him/her no matter what happened before. That little one in you should not be hidden and denied. In fact, every so often she or he should be indulged. It could be something as small as having some cotton candy or as big as going to Disneyworld for a week without kids. One of the ways I indulge my little one is to fly my kite. I’m a city girl. I grew up in Brooklyn NY where many of the trees grew out of concrete. Flying a kite was kind of difficult with the streetlights, street signs, cars buildings, people etc. As a result I had never flown a kite and, until a few years ago, was something I had always wanted to do. About four years ago I walked into a store that specialized in kites, told the owner I had never flown a kite so I needed an easy one and that I loved butterflies. After choosing one of the 4 available butterflies and a brief lesson I was off. It was exhilarating and calming at the same time. Getting the kite up was a rush and focusing on it in the air was relaxing. The little girl in me had a ball! Now every spring no matter how busy I am, my little one and I go to the beach and take our butterfly for a flight. By the way the photograph in this post is my kite.
It is really sad that there are so many people in the world who are afraid to pursue their dreams because they don’t think they are intelligent enough, or educated (skilled) enough. If you are one of those people, LISTEN UP, this one is for you! Let’s start with “but Dr. Lori I’m not smart enough.” If you look at a random sample of the intelligence of people in the world you will find that, while there are a few who fall into the very high or very low range, the overwhelming majority fall into the average range. What that means is almost all of those successful people that you look up to or aspire to be like are of average intelligence just like you. Most likely you are already as smart as you need to be. But Dr. Lori, I’m not educated (skilled) enough. Of course there are some careers or businesses that require continuing your education and improving certain skills. However there is somebody somewhere teaching everything you need to learn whether you choose to go to college or not. Also there are grant, student loans, fellowships, and millions of dollars in scholarship money that goes unused every year. If you want more education or skill, you can get more education or skill. And if by some chance nobody is teaching what you need to learn then you can figure it out yourself and build your business teaching it to others. But “Dr. Lori, I’ve been out of school for so long.” I will never forget my first doctoral level class. I sat there among my peers, feeling old, bewildered, and completely terrified; thinking “Lori you have not been a student for more than 20 years. You may not be able to learn this stuff.” I was also wondering (seriously) if I had brain damage because we were two hours into an eight-hour class that was moving faster than any class I had ever taken. When we got back from our first break my Professor, Dr. John Kellmayer’s very first statement to us was “life will get in your way.” He went on to explain to us us that earning the title Doctor was not just about how well you write, or how much you know or even how well you learn. What he said was “it is primarily a matter of perseverance. Will you persevere when life gets in your way? ” When he said that, a light bulb came on in my head and I had a series of thoughts. They went something like this. “You don’t have brain damage. Your brain is just like your muscles when you start using them differently it’s hard at first but it gets easier as you go along.” Next was, “don’t be silly. You learned to get through elementary, middle and high school. You’ve been to college twice before. You can lean this stuff. Finally “this has nothing to do with your ability to learn and everything to do with your ability to hang. CAN YOU HANG? When I realized the answer to that question was yes I was well on my to becoming Dr. Lori. We will end this conversation with this thought. You already have everything you need to learn what you want to know. The question is this “is it what you really want and CAN YOU HANG?
In my last blog post, "How to Have Unlimited Power" I mentioned two issues I help people deal with over and over no matter who they are or why they come to me. I discussed the first one in the aforementioned blog post. They second issue is the title of this post. You can survive whatever you are afraid of. So many of us allow fear to prevent us from living an amazing and successful life. Whenever I encounter someone who is hindered by fear, I offer him or her this anecdote. Imagine you are standing in a lighted hallway looking into a dark room. As long as you stand in the light, you cannot see anything in the dark room and your imagination can have it’s way with you. For example, you can imagine there are spiders or rats in the room. You can convince yourself that there is someone with a gun or there are items on the floor that you can trip over and break a bone. The thing is, you will never know what is in that room or if you can handle it until you step into the room. When you step from a lighted area into an unlighted area you can’t see anything for a very brief moment. Then your eyes adjust and you can see everything. If there is danger you can prepare yourself for it or get away from it. If there are obstacles you can work around them. Of course, it is possible to encounter serious unavoidable challenges. However facing and meeting those challenges makes you stronger, wiser and moves you closer to that amazing, successful life I mentioned before. Most adults have experienced one or more of their greatest fears coming true. Most adults have also survived one or more of their greatest fears coming true. Sometimes the experience changes your life completely maybe for the better, maybe for the worse. Nevertheless, it is always possible for that change to lead to something much better. My suggestion is you take fear, strap it on like a backpack and carry it with you into new situations. I recommend this because that fear will never go away on it’s own as long as you stand in that lighted hall waiting for it to leave.
In my 30+ years as a counselor, I have found myself working on two particular issues over and over again. Despite a client’s age, gender, race, career choice, sexual identity, socioeconomic status, etc. and regardless of why they say they are seeking help. One of those issues is the desire to control the behavior of someone else. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have the power to make anybody do anything you want anytime you want it? Guess what? That is never going to happen! I don’t care what dynamic or diabolical schemes you come up with. Every human being has the power of choice. At this point you may be saying “Dr. Lori you said this was about unlimited power. Now you are saying I have no power over other people. What’s up? This is what’s up. “You cannot control the behavior of other people. You can only control your reaction.” Accepting this gives you unlimited power. By now you could be asking, “do I have power or not Dr. Lori?” The answer is yes you have an abundance of power. The only reason any of us wants to control anyone else is our reaction to something that person does or does not do. Your power comes from how you choose to react and/or respond. For example: your son comes home from school everyday with his shirttail out. You can decide that his untucked shirttail makes you the worst mother in the world and, to prove otherwise, you must show up at school daily to check his shirt. Or you can ignore the shirt, realize neither you nor your son is perfect and save yourself a ton of anguish (not to mention time). The bottom line is this. Your only source of control over other people’s behavior is your reaction to it. In fact you may find that changing your reaction causes a change in them. Even if it doesn't, your control of your response prevents you from giving your personal power away. Yes, I did mention two issues. Are you wondering what the second issue is? Stay tuned to my upcoming blog posts for that answer.
One of the things I often tell my clients, students, and readers is “I will be president of YOUR fan club until YOU can take over.” Please note that president of your fan club is my favorite job so I’m not willing to give it up easily but you don’t have to fight me for it either. The only thing you have to do to take my favorite job is be ready and willing to do that job to the best of your ability. When you’re ready, I hand it over without a struggle. Most people know what a fan club is but not everyone knows why all of us should have one. All of us have things that need improvement, things that are just fine, and things that are absolutely magnificent. That’s the great news. The not so great news is that the more awesome you are and the more you know it, the more haters you attract. For sake of clarification a hater is a jealous person who tries to bring you down, for no reason other than the fact that you are great. You should be president of your own fan club so you always have a defense against haters, a positive force within you to counteract the negative in them. Another thing I tell my clients, students, and readers is “confidence & arrogance are not the same and confidence & humility are not opposites.” Arrogance is thinking that you are better than other people or making excuses to mistreat others. In my opinion confidence is being certain of the talents that God has given you. Humility is being humble because those talents are a gift given to you by God. Confidence and humility can and should coexist in everyone. So far I am president of thousands of fan clubs. The numbers are climbing and I love it but there is only one of me. Don’t forget I am waiting for you to take over!