A Lovely Time in Charleston

Mike and I traveled to Charleston for a few days, celebrating his birthday while we were there. It was a lovely trip. I had not been to Charleston for perhaps ten years and had forgotten how much I enjoy the city. I vowed to not let so much time pass again without a visit to this wonderful city.

The weather was unseasonably warm, with breezes to break the heat. I walked several miles each day, and Mike walked a lot also. We ate some delicious food and had several things that we both said were the best that we have had. We walked to most of the restaurants where we ate. That, of course, limited our choices, but we had plenty of good food. 

The first night we ventured out to a restaurant recommended by the hotel, the East Bay Biergarten. I was out of our room, and we were on our way when I realized that I had left my phone at the hotel. I did not need my phone, but then, what does need have to do with our phone obsession? I had to make myself get comfortable with being without my phone for an hour or two. I decided that there was absolutely no reason that I needed my phone during that time. I was proud of myself for making that decision.

The next morning, I left for my walk and forgot my AirPods.  Since I enjoy listening to podcasts and books on Audible while I walk, I almost went back to the room to retrieve them. I decided that I should just enjoy the scenery all around me, and not be engrossed in a book or podcast that could detract from my enjoyment of the city on my walk. So, I left the AirPods in my room and kept walking. I was so glad that I did. I realized that I probably miss the magic of too many moments due to technology accompanying me on my walks.  

One of the highlights of our trip was lunch with Mike’s cousin, Spike, and his wife Cam at their lovely home. Cam prepared a delicious meal for us, and we were nurtured by the good food and wonderful conversation. I am reminded of the gift of time and family and do not want to take either for granted.

We had another special meal with friends from Raleigh at Tavern and Table in the Shem Creek area of Mt. Pleasant. While we missed seeing all the water around the restaurant due to the arrival of Daylight Savings Time, we had a wonderful meal and visit with friends.

The only shopping I did while in Charleston was at the Market, which I frequented several days, although I did not purchase anything. One just has to go to the Market while in Charleston, but as I have learned from my year of no spending (2006,) shopping does not have to involve spending.

Charleston has many beautiful hotels, and we stayed in different ones on our previous trips. On this trip, we stayed at Liberty Place, a Hilton Club property, and it was one of the nicest hotels we have stayed in anywhere. We will definitely choose Liberty Place on our next trip to Charleston.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the friendliness of the people in Charleston. From hotel staff to restaurant staff and salespeople in stores, all were friendly, in a southern charming kind of manner.

This trip reaffirmed why Charleston is considered the number one city in the United States by Travel and Leisure Magazine, a designation it has held for ten consecutive years. Wonderful restaurants, beauty, easy walkability, and great shopping are just a few of the reasons for its attraction.

But don’t just take my word for it. Head on over to Charleston while fall is in full swing and judge for yourself.     

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Knowing When To Quit

It is time to write this week’s blog, and the well is dry. I reviewed my November 2021 blogs, looking for inspiration, and I found it. Last November I wrote about the importance of commitment. Commitment is on my mind again, from a different angle. How does one who is a person of commitment know when it is time to quit? When does commitment become an excuse?

I am a person of commitment. That does not mean that I always get it right. What it does mean is that I have a hard time letting go. The “letting go” can be of people as well as things. It has also included a career and a job. I know where this difficulty in letting go comes from. I grew up in a very dysfunctional family, where stability was lacking and alcoholism thrived. I know how to hang on. I just don’t know when it is time to let go. Or maybe, I know when it is time to let go, I just don’t let go. At some level, I think I believe that if I just work harder at whatever it is that isn’t working, it will work. What I am realizing more and more is that it isn’t only about me.

People who grow up in an alcoholic home tend to be controlling. The controlling can be of people and situations. While we all know it isn’t possible to control another person, that the only person we can control is ourselves, we too often try anyway. The result is that we end up being disappointed, angry, and in general unhappy. All because our controlling behavior isn’t working. And we shouldn’t expect it to.

So, does this mean we are no longer people of commitment? No. It just means that our commitment to ourselves has to take priority over what other people do or do not do. Our focus needs to be on ourselves, not in a selfish way, but in a manner of trying to only control ourselves and our own behavior. This must include managing our expectations so that we are not continually disappointed by the behavior or actions of others.    

I don’t have clarity yet on when it is time to quit, other than it is time to quit trying to control others. I also have clarity in knowing that our first responsibility as adults is to ourselves. If we work harder on ourselves than anything or anyone else, clarity about the rest will come. It always does.

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Changing For the Better

You have probably experienced this. Sitting in church on a different side than you normally sit on. Mike and I arrived at church on Sunday a little late and found it best to sit on the opposite side of the church from where we normally sit. I was immediately struck by how strange that felt. My mind became aware that I felt strange due to this small difference in my normal routine. I have used this example in speaking about change through the years, yet I haven’t felt it in many years, I suppose because I have not changed this sitting routine. I was reminded of the power of habits, and the importance of intentionally changing small things often enough that when large changes happen to us, changes we can’t control, we are better able to deal with them.

Another change that is all around us. The leaves are changing colors and falling, which is nature’s way of preparing us for the dormancy that soon follows. I can’t imagine going from the heat and luscious foliage of the spring and summer to winter without passing through changes of the fall. As much as I love spring and summer, I have a physical response to the beauty of the leaves changing. I feel the change in my body. The beauty of each of the four seasons is stimulating. Imagine the boring sameness if we only had one season. I know there are states in our country that actually have that sameness. But North Carolina is not one of them, thankfully.   

What about us? Are we stuck in one “season?” Or are we changing? For it is in changing that we grow. And in growing, we become someone different. Granted, all “different” is not positive, but much is.

Personal change is not easy. It is much easier to keep on keeping on, doing the same things with the same people, going to the same places. Getting outside of our comfort zone is required to make personal change. Consistent behavior change is necessary for new habits to replace the old. And the even harder part is maintaining the change. Just about when we think we have mastered the new behavior change, boredom sets in, and it is easy to revert back to old ways.

Is there a behavior change you want to make? Maybe there is a behavior change you do not just want to make, but need to make. What is your stimulus for doing so? What will you do to increase the likelihood that you will be successful in making the desired change?    

There is no better time to start than now. Just where you are. While the urge is present. Before you talk yourself out of it.

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With Only a Little Time Left in 2022

With Halloween just over two weeks away and the holidays of November and December soon to follow, it is time to focus on our priorities in this last quarter of 2022. It is hard to believe that we have another year about to end. If I asked you to go back to January of 2022 and review your resolutions for this year, what would you find? How successful have you been with what you had planned for this year? Perhaps you should review those, and see what is feasible to accomplish in this last quarter.

October, November, and December are busy months. The holidays of these three months add to the frenzy of our normally busy lives. Before we get caught up in the frenzy, it is good to take stock of where we are, and then to decide where we want to be at the end of the year. With only two and a half months to go in 2022, there isn’t much time. But time will pass whether we are productive with it or not. Let’s determine to not just be productive, but effective.

We all know that time is our most valuable resource. Time is the one resource that is finite. We may think that other resources are also finite, and they are, but not to the degree that time is. Take money for example. If we want or need more money and have time to do so, we can make more money. But not when there is no more time. Knowing this, we should guard and protect our time as the valuable resource that it is.

Many of my readers will recall my Three-Part-Process for Effectiveness. The main points of this are the three areas of Plan, Purge, and Perform. Perhaps a review is in order. Thinking of the end of 2022 as our focus, let’s use the Three-Part-Process for Effectiveness to structure our priorities.

Plan relates to identifying our priorities, and putting structure to them. Let’s use a simple example to best understand this. If my Plan includes being healthier at the end of 2022, I will want to be specific about what that means. One thing it can mean is exercising consistently. “Consistently” needs to have some structure. It might mean walking at least two miles a day five times a week. Healthier may also mean losing ten pounds, and maintaining that weight loss. It may also mean sleeping more and better, such as seven hours a night without interruption.

Purge refers to what we will eliminate. Using the “being healthier” plan, if we want to lose 10 pounds in two and a half months, we will need to reduce calories. We need to establish a number of calories consistent with our plan. We may also need to eliminate fried foods, sugar, and excess carbohydrates. You can add some specifics to this plan in the other areas mentioned, specifically exercise and sleep.

Perform is about operationalizing our plan. An example of Performing is “To consistently walk a minimum of five times a week at least two miles each time.” Another example is to establish a set time for going to bed and rising, consistent with being able to sleep at least seven hours a night. Performing related to our dietary changes may include becoming a Weight Watchers member and managing our weight within the identified parameters.

I chose “Being Healthier” as my plan to provide structure to the Three-Part-Process for Effectiveness for a reason related to this last quarter of the year. If we are healthy we are better able to manage the stress of this time of the year. Not only will we feel better, we will be able to accomplish more of what is important to us.

Being productive for productivity’s sake is not enough. We need to be effective, not just productive.

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The Great 100 Nurses

Whose heart have you touched lately with words of affirmation? Do you know whose life your actions and words have touched through the years? It is sometimes easier to remember the problems we have had in relationships, and not be aware of the blessings we have been a part of bestowing on others, and they on us. I have been blessed recently by the words and actions of two people in particular and have been touched beyond words by their kindness in sharing those with me and others at the Great 100 Nurses event held Saturday night, October 8, 2022, at the Greenville, NC Convention Center. My heart is so full I need to share this with you, and the lessons this has reaffirmed for me.

It is fine to be happy, but being compassionate and making a difference in the lives of others describes the Great 100 Nurses.

In the late 1980’s I was privileged to be a part of forming the NC Great 100 Nurses. At that time, I was VP of Nursing and Special Services at Rex Hospital. Heather Thorne, Director of the new cardiovascular service at Rex, brought the idea of forming the NC Great 100 Nurses to me, having experience with a similar organization in Louisiana. It was a wonderful idea, so of course, I put my full support behind it. I became the first chair of the steering committee. The inaugural event was in 1989 and the organization is still going strong this many years later.

My career focus changed in 1993 when I left Healthcare and started my own Speaking, Consulting, and Coaching business, The Fralix Group. Heather Thorne and I were both at the 25th anniversary of the NC Great 100 Nurses celebration. That was my last experience with the organization and the events until the most recent event on October 8th. 100 nurses were honored for 2022, as well as others who were selected during COVID and did not have the opportunity for their celebration. There were also nurses honored who were scholarship recipients. Congratulations are due to all of them, as well as to those who took the time to nominate them and to fill out the paperwork. Appreciation is also expressed to the volunteers who give many hours to keep this important organization strong.

Shirley Harkey, DHA, RN, FACHE, is an expert nurse who worked with me at Rex in the mid 80’s. Shirley was the manager of the Rex Pediatric unit. She left Rex in the late 80’s and has held VP and other positions at several NC hospitals and completed her doctorate. Shirley has kept in touch with me through the years, and I have enjoyed following her successful career. She has been a strong supporter of the Great 100 Nurses since its inception and was a recipient of the Great 100 Nurses award in 1989.

Shirley was asked to be the keynote speaker of the 2022 Great 100 Nurses event, and she honored me by asking me to share the platform with her. Shirley wanted to honor my involvement in the inception of the organization. She also honored the memory and involvement of other NC nurses who were instrumental in the organization’s inception.

The Great 100 Nurses event is a formal affair. There were over 600 people in attendance at the October 8th celebration. Shirley, my husband Mike, and I were seated at a table with Shirley’s daughter and her friend. There were two open seats, and two people, Janice Laurore and her husband Kevin, joined our table. Janice was the chair of the Publications Committee of the event. I did not think I knew them, but how wrong I was.

When I introduced myself to Janice and Kevin, Janice shared a story with me of her and my involvement in 1990 at Rex. She told me I am the reason for her long tenure at Rex hospital, giving me entirely too much credit for that. Janice told me a story about that, saying she had shared that same story with many others through the years. I was touched beyond words. I could not believe that my actions had such a positive impact on this then new nurse at Rex Hospital so much so that she not just remembers that but has told that story to others and now to me. What a gift Janice and her words were to me.

I am sharing Janice and her story and Shirley and her actions with my readers for one reason only, and it certainly is not to be boastful. I am not boastful about this. I am humbled by being able to be a positive influence on others. I am reminded of the importance of all our words and actions, and that we may never know how those words and actions impact others. And I am well aware was it not for the actions of Shirley Harkey inviting me to share her podium, by reaching out and honoring me, that I would likely never have known about Janice and her story.

What about the randomness of Janice and her husband Kevin sitting at our table at the event? Was it really random? I don’t think so. I prefer to think that God reached down and touched me, giving me the gift of reconnecting with Janice, of being able to have her words bless me. Also, I was given the gift of reconnecting with Shirley Harkey, of her honoring me as an important part of the inception of the NC Great 100 Nurses and inviting me to address the organization.   

Thank you Shirley and Janice who both have the gift of affirmation, and have reached down and touched me in perhaps the most positive and powerful manner that I have ever experienced. While I do not know if I deserve your gifts to me, I accept them as given to me with your whole hearts.

Now, I need to pay it forward. I am thinking of how to do that.

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Why Do I Spend Money Shopping?

I struggled with the title of this blog. One title I considered was, “Why Do I Shop?” I discarded that because why I shop and why I spend money shopping are two totally different things. I am going to assume you understand the difference. Another title I considered was, “Why do I spend money?” I decided that title did not fit because this is about spending money on stuff, not experiences or other things. I decided on the title, “Why do I spend money shopping?” This title best fits my focus, especially since I had several recent examples of spending money shopping and not being pleased with my purchases, including taking several purchases back in the past few days. The items I returned are good examples of the points I am trying to make about my spending, and the changes I want to make.

Those who have been with me for a few years will remember my year of no (really, very limited) spending, which was chronicled in a book, A Year in the Life of a Recovering Spendaholic. The year of limited/no spending was 2006, although the book was only published in 2017. It is available from Amazon, and I have some copies for sale as well. I would love for you to read it.

I had two most profound changes from my year of no/limited spending. First, I no longer wasted money on purchases. (Not true lately, but more about that later.) Second, I was no longer an impulsive spender. (Also not true lately, which I will explain further.)

Please note that the title of my book is “Recovering,” not “Recovered.” I am a Spendaholic and will always be. Although I am much better about what I buy and what I walk away from, I will always have a spending tendency. My problem is just like those who struggle with alcohol, eating disorders, and other addictions. The best way for me to control the problem is to be in control. When I am shopping, I sometimes forget, and buy things I do not need, or do not even want, and end up returning, wasting time and money by doing so. A recent example.

I went to Belk a few days ago and saw a few things that were on sale. Sales are one of my problems. I left Belk with (another) throw, a set of pillowcases, and 2 sink mats. I used one of the sink mats and decided that they are not the right size. But since I had already used one, I could only return one. I liked the throw but decided that I already have plenty of throws. There were no matching sheets for the pillowcases, and I know that I will not be happy with mismatched bed linens, so I decided to return the pillowcases, although they are great quality and only $7.00 on sale.

While in my closet tonight, my eyes fell upon a recent purchase, a sterling ring holder. I bought it a couple of months ago and love the way it looks, but I find that I am not using it. The ring holder part is not tall enough to hold much, so I have reverted to using my crystal ring holder which is much more practical. While it really wasn’t an impulsive purchase, I let my need for beauty, (not want, but need; I have a need for beauty, and I love sterling) override my practical side. Had I only paid attention to its size, I would have known the sterling ring holder would not work for me.

Back to the two changes from my year of no spending, not wasting money, and not being impulsive. While those changes stuck for a while, eventually I slipped back into some old habits. Not in total, but more than is good for me. I still wait until I get home if I want some tea, and do not have any with me, instead of stopping and spending money on tea that will not be as good as mine. That is an example of not wasting money, But I do waste money when I buy something that doesn’t fit, or work for me, such as the dish drain and sterling ring holder. I am being impulsive when I buy another throw when I have plenty, even when I love the one that is on sale. I am being impulsive when I buy a white jean jacket for one of my granddaughters, not knowing if she will like it, even when it is 50% off and is a very good price. It can’t be returned, and she doesn’t like it.

Being in control includes not buying something because it is on sale, regardless of how good of a price it is, especially when I do not need it.

Being in control includes living within a budget, something I have never done. Is it too late for me to do so at soon to be seventy-one years of age?

Have you heard, there is another Prime Day coming?! It is scheduled for October 11-12, 2022. Regardless, convince yourself that if you didn’t need it before Prime Day, you do not need to buy it. You may rationalize that spending money on Christmas gifts during Prime day is really saving money, not spending money. Maybe so if you plan to buy something that is less expensive on Prime Day. But not if you forget you have it or buy more because you forget what you have already bought for Christmas. This can be tricky. Just be careful.

Why Do You Spend Money Shopping? A good question to ask yourself before getting caught up in the frenzy of holiday shopping.

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Relaxing in Key West

Mike and I have been traveling to Key West about once a year for many years. We usually go in mid to late September, when there aren’t as many people, although that is hurricane season. Only once has our trip been cancelled because of a hurricane. This year we left a few days before a hurricane, Hurricane Ian, was expected.

Key West is a place I had to develop a liking for. I often say it is somewhere I am never really excited about going until I get there. The attraction is the sun and pure relaxation. Since I do not enjoy the drinking lifestyle, some parts of Key West are wasted on me. But there is wonderful food, you can walk most everywhere, and it is a place where one can totally relax.

Mike introduced me to Key West. He went there for the first time in 1975, taken there by a fraternity brother who lived in Miami. It was on that first trip that he heard musician Michael McCloud for the first time. Michael McCloud is a Key West icon, still playing and singing at seventy-five years of age, the last more than thirty years at the Schooner Wharf bar. He has recorded some wonderful songs, and if you can overlook his irreverent mouth, an afternoon listening to him is time well spent. As my readers know, I do not like profanity, so I am somewhat conflicted by Michael McCloud. But I recognize his talent and suffer through his choice of language. I also abhor the profanity on t-shirts in store windows. Call me a prude and tell me that is the way things are these days. But I do not agree with it, and question why I support it by my presence. But so far, I have overlooked those parts that I do not like for those that I do.

There are two wonderful bookstores in Key West, one, Books and Books, owned by Judy Bloom. There is also one of the best antique shops I have found anywhere, Duck and Dolphin Antiques. There is a plethora of restaurants, many with Happy Hour meals that replace an expensive dinner.

One of my favorite pastimes while in Key West is walking. Every morning around nine AM I head out and take my walk, past storefronts and restaurants. It is different than walking at home, where I listen to podcasts so as not to be bored. I do not even use my earbuds while walking in Key West, enjoying the scenery of the city. Before I realize it, almost an hour has passed, and I am back where I started.

Key West. A beautiful city with some less than desirable aspects to it. I suppose like many cities and like some of us.

Stay safe, Key West, and all of Florida and South Georgia, as Hurricane Ian passes through.

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Dignity, Grace, and Faithful Service

The world has mourned the passing of Queen Elizabeth II since her death on September 8th. Her funeral, on Monday, September 19th, which was planned by the Monarch herself, was watched by many people worldwide. Never has a world leader been so revered. The adoration for ninety-six-year-old Queen Elizabeth II, which was present for many years, reached an all-time high with her passing. Many accolades have been written and spoken about the Queen. My favorite is these words used to describe her: Dignity, Grace, and Faithful Service.   

While I do not really understand how the Monarchy continues to be an important part of British society in the modern world, they undoubtedly do. How this family can still be financially supported to the degree they are is amazing to me. In spite of their ups and downs, the support for the Monarchy continues. I recognize, of course, the tourist attraction of the royalty, and understand that attraction. But this tourist attraction continues at a significant financial cost to the British economy. Even so, this fact in no way diminishes the attraction. Of all the royals, the Queen has been revered. Perhaps this has something to do with the Queen’s behavior. For many years, and through several major crises, her behavior has been steadfast. Perhaps the adoration for the Queen, and consequently for the monarchy,  can be explained by this fact. Queen Elizabeth II led the monarchy and her family with Dignity, Grace, and Faithful Service.

Dignity is defined by Oxford Languages as “the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.” The description of Dignity continues to include “being valued and respected for what you are, what you believe in, and how you live your life.”

Oxford languages describes Grace as: “simple elegance or refinement of movement, and courteous goodwill.” The definition continues by stating “Grace is not about perfection, and that you give yourself space to be flexible with your perceived reality with acceptance and kindness.” Queen Elizabeth II certainly had opportunities for displaying Grace in recent years considering the behavior of some of her family displayed on the world stage.

The Reverso Dictionary describes Faithful Service as “remaining true, constant, or loyal.” The definition continues to include, “consistently reliable, truthful, and accurate in detail.” The word Service is described as: “an act of helpful activity.”

Considering these definitions, Queen Elizabeth II epitomized Dignity, Grace, and Faithful Service. It remains to be seen if King Charles and other royals will continue her legacy.

While it is interesting to consider Dignity, Grace, and Faithful Service regarding Queen Elizabeth II, it might be more instructive to consider if these same words would be used by others to describe us. If not, where is the gap?

It may be time to “Mind the Gap.”                

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Time Stands Still, Until It Doesn’t

Thinking about the recent death of Queen Elizabeth ll at 96 years of age (more about that next week) has me counting the years. At soon to be 71 years old, I wonder how long I will live. Probably not more than 20 more years, if that long. (Although we really do not know, do we?) I remember the last 20 years as if they were yesterday. On this side of those 20 years, they seem so recent. 20 years ago was before I had any grandchildren. It was right after daughter Tara’s wedding, and before we did a major renovation on our home. I remember that time with fond memories. It seems impossible that 20 years have passed since then. But they have. And the next 20 will probably pass even quicker.

We obviously do not know how long we will live. Unless we have a serious illness that we assume will end in death, we often act as if we will live forever. That is, until someone we know who we did not expect to die does. I had that experience this week. I read on Facebook about the passing of someone I knew, a mom like me with children and grandchildren. I had not seen her lately, although I kept up with her through (of course) Facebook. She was the mother of one of my daughter Tara’s best friends when she was in elementary school. Rest In Peace, Celeste.

I do not want these thoughts to be read as morbid. We all know that death is a part of life and that none of us outlives our time. What we do not know is how long our time will be. What we do know is that we can do our part to stay healthy physically, emotionally, and mentally. We can eat healthy food, exercise to stay limber, get enough good sleep, and keep our stress at a manageable level. We can avoid unhealthy habits, such as (especially excess) alcohol consumption. We can read to keep our minds active. We can spend time with those we love. We can focus on the positive in our life and do our best to rid ourselves of the negative. While we do not have any control over the length of our life, we can certainly influence it. Many diseases are due to or worsened by unhealthy lifestyles. Let’s be wise enough to do our part to remain as healthy as we can for as long as we can.

For time stands still, until it doesn’t.                  

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Just Take The Next Right Step

Long ago I recommended that we should not try to figure it all out, (whatever “all” is varies) or we will be immobilized since we can’t figure it all out, and probably if we try, we will not get anything done. Recently I have heard similar advice from two different people, worded a little differently.

The first person who I heard talk about this is Brianna West on a podcast, “101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think,” which is also a book by the same title. West says, “Focus on the next right step.” (A necessary disclaimer. I love this work, but I do not appreciate the occasional use of profanity.) This is also discussed in an article in Joshua Becker’s September 2022 digital magazine, Simplify, an article by Leo Babauta. In Babauta’s article, “How Healthy Habits Spark Healthy Success,” he states, “Just take the next step.” Although these two are similar, Babauta’s word “take” is more action-oriented than West’s “focus on.”  West’s “Focus on the next right step” places importance on “right.” I recommend we combine these two versions and “Take the next right step.”

Too often we are trying to figure out all of the steps involved in an action, when if we just take the next step, the rest of what we need to know and do will become clear. We need to trust the process and move forward by taking the next right step. We can think of the next right step as the most logical step. We can also think of it as the step we know we should take, even when we can’t figure out the steps after that.   

This way of thinking and behaving, taking the next right step when we don’t have a clear sense of what should or will come after that step, requires trust and faith. Faith that the unfolding of those next steps will occur. Trust in the process.

Given the rapid pace and unpredictability of change, being able and willing to take action when we can’t see clearly past the next step requires courage. Courage that we will have what we need when we need it; maybe not before, but at the moment we need it. Courage that we will be able to deal with ambiguity. Courage that we are up for the challenge.

Is there a message for you in this? Is there something you have been resisting doing because you can’t clearly see all of the steps in the process? Are you trying to figure it all out before taking the next step?

Are you able to trust in yourself enough to move forward, take the next right step, and watch the others unfold?

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