Friday, April 30, 2010

Time to get real with my fears

Last night I was asked to write out a few gaps I have in my life and I'm thinking I should post them here as well, just so I can remember them as it may be worthwhile to come back and see if I still have the same view or not in the future. Here are the three gaps I wrote:
  • My heart sucks and is full of crap. While I can acknowledge this is totally based on fear, it is still something that resonates within me. In my past, I have had rejections that likely make this feel deeper than it really is, but this is definitely something for me to work through as my life continues to have its story written.
  • I don't take proper care of myself and don't understand why this is so important to other people. This is kind of like a demon from my past, where it wasn't that long ago that I really showered quite infrequently and rarely got comments on it so I figured, "Hey, if it was really so bad, someone would say something right?" Well eventually someone did, but by this point I was in my early 30s, so there is something to be said for this being a combination of education and encouragement to overcome this and most criticisms will have my fear winning in no time.
  • I should know how to be a man and be doing it already. This is kind of like the first point in that it is all false expectations and uncertain stuff. Now that we are a few decades after women's liberation where women got to be anything a man can be, what is the role of the modern man? I do mean this as a sincere honest question for anyone out there that wants to answer. Is it merely that a male has existed for so man years on the planet that makes a guy a man? That doesn't quite seem proper to my mind and so I have the question but not really a great resource for the answer.
Some of these are easy for me to write and express, but moving past the identifying of the problem, there is the rub to my mind. I'm also reminded of the idea that I have to figure out how to work exercise into my daily routine. I imagine this could be true for a lot of people and depending on how one was raised, this could still be a great challenge. Is it so horrible that my parents didn't teach me about some of these finer points of life? That's a really good question to my mind but for the moment I think I'll put it off to the side as I'm not sure any answer will bring me peace which is really one of a few things I desire these days.

I still have my moments where I get nervous or anxious, but my toolbox for dealing with this is getting much better. In yesterday's exercise class, I had my mouth full when I was supposed answer something and so I just chewed properly and swallowed rather than try to do something fancy to get past the problem as quickly as possible. I do realize that I need to "let go" and this will be the theme of my next week or two of life that I need to get some stuff straightened out and then I can get back on figuring out where I want my life to go. In a way, it is an amazing thing that someone in the modern world can have this question and be given the freedom to answer it that I have if one really looks at it. Yes I have bills and other basic things to handle, but I don't have so much working against me that I'm forced into anything.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Changes and would you believe...

A friend of mine made a remark yesterday that I feel is worth sharing and analyzing to some degree. I told her about how I now have changed my Sunday habit that I used to have. Over on a site called, there is a thread about a Calgary Sunday Breakfast group that for a little over a year I had gone to quite faithfully and enjoyed attending. Now, I wouldn't say that I was very close with the other attendees, but my friend seemed to think that I was "dumping my friends," by my change of plans. My new Sunday group, "Tree of Life" is one I find a little better in terms of being a bit better suited to me. The ultimate irony in this is that the founder of "Tree of Life" had another group that I learned about through someone from that PoF breakfast group. Is that destiny or something else? If I the "Tree of Life" group doesn't meet, then I'll probably go attend the old breakfast I had before, but it isn't like there is attendance at either group to see that I'm coming regularly or anything quite that formal.

I do wonder about how does one see a relationship transition from acquaintance to friendship. Can it be as simple as sharing a meal a week with someone? Or is there more to it that drives that closeness? This is what I'm wondering as while I do know some people from various PoF events, I'm not sure I'd say they were friends for the most part. I never went to their home or did a lot with them, aside from the Euchre thread as I do enjoy some good Euchre.

Today's "Tree of Life" get together involved us cooking 32 lasagnas for some youth in transition in Calgary. Hopefully the meals will be welcomed and be enjoyed by some people that could use a good home-cooked meal. The group of us that were cooking the meal gave me an opportunity to examine when I'm using my strengths without it being something that I suspect a lot of others would notice. Like wondering, "Is this a good time to be strategic?" or "Time to be a responsible achiever with this, right?" just as my role shifted throughout as I started cooking the meat but ended up being the spreader of the sauce near the end. It was a fun adventure that was my second Impact Kitchen project. As an opportunity to give back, I am thankful for it. I do have some selfish reasons to be thankful for it, as it gives me an opportunity to see my strengths in action and notice, "Oh yeah, that is where I rock!" in the overall scheme of all the cooking to be done.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Those most awesome of moments

Since last September I have had more than a few times where I had what I'll call an awesome moment, where there is that sense of things just feel almost surreal and you could swear someone slipped you something somewhere as there is no way one should feel this good at any point in life. Last September was once such experience where over the span of 6 hours I went through a rather wild ride all told, as in the beginning was going to a new place, not sure what I was going to do, or who would even show up. I had my dinner and tried to relax but I'm guessing something or someone suspected something was up and I was asked to dance, which for me is quite challenging. Now, I took this in stride but oh boy was I ever nervous, sweaty, jittery and thinking I was barely keeping it together. Thankfully my dance partner understood my nerves enough to give me some pointers and try to get to me relax, though I could say with almost total certainty at that point that that wasn't going to happen any time soon. However, this did get me into a different place at the bar so I was now near the pool tables and got pulled into a game. I accept that I suck at pool but I played anyway and even got someone to tell me, "She beats everyone," which I found funny as I know how bad I am. It was still fun to play and enjoy some laughs and learn a few more names. Then came the flash and my time to launch into action mode. This would be the first of when things were just quite nice to my mind. I was a man on a mission at that point and I did eventually land over at a table and settle in enough that the following day I had some comments about how I looked so comfortable up there. There were some cool people there and some good discussion that night. Eventually we ended up going to a Denny's for some early morning food and on my way out I received quite the compliment that I must be quite a lucky guy. Ah, that was just so hilarious as the woman I sat beside I had just met and while I did have a crush on her, it wasn't recipricated, but oh well life moves on.

My other time this has popped up has been in group settings where I seem to just be on this massive roll spewing out either an experience I had or something I read or heard somewhere. In this case, it is almost like I have this surge of energy to do whatever I need but I somehow almost reject it to keep my tempo but become almost hyper-aware of what is going on around me. Like my Spidey-sense was triggered or something, but I just remember some of these moments with amazing clarity and hope to have many more of them. Sometimes there are laughs and other times there is that, "Uh-uh," from someone that I have given them a thought or two that sticks with them. It is a rather incredible feeling to have all this ample energy, know that you aren't threatened or scared just excited to get this out and off your chest as you believe someone there was meant to hear that truth that night or something. Maybe it is a form of divine luck or God wanting to show me, "Look, here is your gift in action, dude!" I just know I relish such moments and hope to have a few more soon.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My mother....

Now for a completely different type of post, I thought I'd post about the person that has had the greatest influence in my life, my mother. My mother ran the household and I was the poster child for a "Mama's Boy" complete with often favoring my mother over my father in most situations. I often would volunteer my mom to drive on school trips and she usually worked midnights so she would get home at 8 in the morning, just the right time to see me watching TV and get me to school for 9. My mom worked as a nurse, so she was a rather knowledgeable person and often I'd hear about someone asking for help with this problem or that. My mom was also an intensely private person, who could compartimentalize like nobody's business. It was rather remarkable to notice this about my mom along with how she could be pleasant to almost everyone.

My mom's health took a turn for the worse in the Fall of 2002, which just happened to coincide with my father's quadruple bypass so they were both in the hospital together. My father for heart surgery while my mother had cancer. She lost a dramatic amount of weight and her voice really changed a great deal when I last saw her alive in November 2001 which was only a couple months after 9/11 so flying wasn't an easy thing to do this time. However, back I went to say good-bye to my mama and sure enough just before the end of January the next year she passed away. I scramble to fly back for the funeral and oy was this ever a hard time in my life. Her funeral was on the exact anniversary of my first working day in Seattle 4 years earlier, which struck me as ironic that day that I even remember telling the pastor that ran the service about that. This weekend is a ceremony for my aunt that just passed away that somehow I don't quite have the same reaction. Not even close, though I'm not sure if my faith is mostly responsible or if the relationship distance is the reason. By relationship distance I mean that I wasn't that close with this aunt, even though she did call me, "Boogus" a lot! I'm not sure I was ever really comfortable with that name, but that is what she'd normally want to call me.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Leadership ideas within my Strengths

"Strengths-Based Leadership" by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie is a book I read last night that was quite interesting to help me develop my strengths as they apply to leadership. The book documents 4 domains that leadership falls under Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building and Strategic Thinking. For better or worse, my strengths fall into the first and last category as Achiever and Responsibility are part of Executing while the Learner, Intellection and Strategic are all part of Strategic Thinking. This makes me wonder, "How well could I lead if I'm missing in the relationship areas?" as I see the influencing as still being part where I'm not alone. It may be part of the challenge in my life to figure out how to take my strengths and go beyond myself to include others in using these strengths that I have. Thankfully for me, there were a couple examples of leaders in the book where leaders executed more in one domain than the others and so I got to see how one can take some of these and use them in a different dimension in a sense. In a way this re-affirms my career goals of wanting to be in strategic planning. I enjoy analysing things and running various "What if..." scenarios all the time, so I think it may be one of those, "I like this but a lot of other people probably don't," areas.

A few months ago now, a friend showed me a few others that had taken the Strengths Finder exercise and I found it really interesting to apply what domains each covered. It was strangely relieving to see others with similar holes to mine but also odd to see how someone actually did manage to have a strength in each of the 4 leadership domains that I found kind of surprising. Such a well-rounded individual I'm thinking now.

Another part of the book mentions 4 themes when it comes to people following leaders, Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope. I can see how these do influence me in various ways though I suppose my challenge in the coming years is to see how each of these can be met through my strengths. That I can learn to communicate with compassion about stability and hope, identify various relationship objectives and meet them through my Achiever and Responsbility strengths, etc. It could be some exciting stuff and part of the book does come with a code to get on-line guides to help with each of these and a strength so I just have to find where there is good overlap and see if I can shift my role in work and in social groups to have those kinds of positions to see how this could come to fruition. In an odd way, I'm reminded of how 6 months ago I remember saying that getting in on the ground floor of a movement would be really cool and now I think I'm starting to see some fruit from that.

I'm that person that may be a bit of a loner at times, which may not make a lot of sense to some people. I'm introverted and like seeing things through my mind's eye which makes sense to some people and very little to others but I'm not sure how else to describe what I can do. I remember yesterday just playing around on a pool table by myself as I recognize that I struggle to some extent with the physical aspects of playing billards as some would call it. Learning muscle control, thinking through the scenario of, "If I do this, that'll happen..." is kind of interesting to me and so I just enjoyed some of that. There are times where I can recognize that I'm really blessed have people in my life that have such resources for me to use and enjoy.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Redemptive gift thoughts

A friend of mine came up with his own interpretation of the seven redemptive gifts as well as a questionaire so we could each see which gift we have. The order of my gifts seemed to be Teacher, Mercy, Prophet, Ruler, Exhorter, Servant and Giver. I'll admit that I love knowledge and helping people so in some ways this seems like a natural fit. At the same time, the Mercy gift scored almost as high and thus I think I may also have this gift but it has been buried in me. When I was bullied when I was younger this seemed to be a way to encourage me to shut down what I was feeling and so now that I'm starting to awaken that part of me, I feel this seems like an interesting shift to me.

Another side to this is how the Teacher and Mercy seem to complement each other in some ways as the Mercy seems to suggest that my heart is with God while the Teacher suggests that my mind is with God in a sense as I absorb knowledge here and there. Thus, I see this as a rather powerful combination for me to see if this is really what I have. At the same time, there is some responsibility that comes with these gifts and that is where part of my current challenges are. I have to be responsible enough that if I know how to live better that I do live better. I may screw up trying to do it, but I will put forth the effort and see what happens.

The Prophet and Ruler seemed to be where I scored high enough that I may have a little bit of each of these gifts. Strangely enough these gifts are adjacent to the Mercy gift if one studies the order that the gifts are listed in the book of Romans. Thus, these seem to complement the Mercy in some regard that makes this seem more likely to possibly be where I am in some way. Perhaps there is a part of me blinded by logic and thus I'm not easily capable of shifting over to the Mercy so much but we'll see how this evolves over time.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The evolution of understanding my strengths...

A couple of months ago now, a friend told me to try "Strengths Finder 2.0" to see what my strengths really are. Now, prior to this I had done some pondering about what I thought were my strengths and these were the two themes that kept repeating:
  • Solving puzzles. Whether this be a brain teaser, Math problem, mystery or something else to figure out, I really do like the process of starting with a question and then having an answer in the end. There is a sense of achievement here of course as well as that of learning something, either something matching what I already knew or something new to add to my arsenal.
  • Helping people. This can be sharing knowledge that I have about something that I overhear someone ask, giving support to others that may need some in a moment of need, or just generally feeling useful and getting a thank you in one form or another. Even if the person doesn't thank me, I may internally thank myself so it still works out well.
Now, after taking the questionaire from the book, I got quite the different themes to explore and I really didn't think these fit me well at the time. My strengths were so different than others I had seen and thus I felt some shame over it, kind of like "I don't want to be different" to put it in simplest terms. Those 5 themese are:
  • Learner - This has 2 parts to it for me. The first is that I like to know stuff and so acquiring knowledge on a subject is something right up my alley. The second part to this is that I like to find new ways of doing things, continually improving what I do. Is there a better way to do this? How could I make this better? Those are questions I routinely ask myself at times.
  • Achiever - This is shown in how I keep busy and always seem to be doing something. I want to get things done, has something I can reflect upon as "I did that" where the that can be almost anything in a sense.
  • Responsbility - This has been a part of me since my grade 2 teacher wrote as a comment in my report card that I was dependable and responsible. Thus, this has been something I've done for years though in some parts of my life I am surprisingly irresponsible like with my health.
  • Intellection - This shows up most frequently in various brain-y compliments I get. I really do like to think a lot and this is what this strength is. One could argue that back in my early school days, I knew I wasn't athletic or artistic, so I found academics to be where I'd carve out my niche in a way.
  • Strategic - This is how I tend to see the periphery more than what is right in front of me. I can see consequences before they happen and try to prevent bad outcomes in a way. This can be a problem in some cases if I try to stay too far ahead as trying to stay 10 steps ahead is amazingly hard to do well. At the same time, staying only one or two steps is much easier to do.
Given that I've had a couple of months to reflect on these strengths, I can know see more of how I do really have each of these within me and where I can use these. Learner, Intellection and Strategic are all part of "Strategic Thinking" in various ways so that may be where I try to take my career in the next few years. At the same time, I feel like I've repressed my emotions for so long that I'm tempted to try to get more mature in that dimension of myself. This will be hard, but I believe I am in enough good communities where this is accepted that the next stage of my life is about to unfold. I will try to get this blog to be a bit more up to date as my journey continues so for anyone reading this, thank you for sharing in my journey.

Friday, April 16, 2010

What do I really want

This question has plagued me for a long time. There are tons of different answers I've wanted to give over the years though right now I like the idea of sharing my heart with the world. There are other things I want too like being healthy, having a successful life, being a man, etc. I believe that in sharing my heart, various doors will be opened so that new goals will become apparent or possibly a path to achieving them will become an option. Thus, I'm trying to concentrate my focus for now to one thing rather than trying to do too much at once.

Of course having spent so much of my life confronted with this question and feeling like there had to be a right answer, when in reality there are numerous good answers if I'll just listen to my heart instead of my head, and I sought it repeatedly. I dabbled into various psychology and behavior ideas that may help explain what am I here to do, what is the purpose of my life, what am I supposed to achieve in my life.

Moderation has struck me as a rather useful point for so many things in life. Kind of like that pendulum that is trying to stop in the middle, it is a constant struggle to hit that spot exactly and not be too far on either side of any topic. Not too liberal, not too conservative. Not too interesting, not too boring. The list can go on and on really.

I doubt I've admitted that for most of the past 25 years, I've been the one driving my life. I got to decide what I wanted to do and did whatever I felt like in many ways. Yes, I did my schooling as far as I could and then went on to find a job like most other people I'd imagine. However, in pursuing my schooling, I'm not sure I ever got the feeling of someone really being there with me. Someone that understood where I was, what I was doing and most importantly, would listen to me in such a way that I knew this person got me. It can be so easy to just nod and say, "Uh uh" and fake showing interest which irks me and may be why I'm careful about what I share and where I share it. At times, I think I have a turtle mentality. If threatened or disrespected, into my shell I'll go and hide. Meanwhile, if encouraged and welcomed, out I'll come and share what I have. Do I have a lot to give? Probably, I have numerous stories of what I've done in my life and various thoughts and feelings that I'd like to share but how do I find those that want to hear those stories?

My final thought is around my thought that I may be shifting where my personality would be categorized by Myers-Briggs and Keirsey to give a couple of examples of personality sorting methodologies. I suspect that as I listen more to my heart and use it, that I'll become more of a feeler than a thinker. While this is scary in a way, as I am changing a part of myself, this could also be quite cool to picture where this will take me. Thus, instead of being that INTJ, I may become an INFJ which seems to be a fairly rare type from what I could find out about it. Parts of each type resonate well with me. I like keeping things hidden, looking at the big picture, and having structure so the INxJ is 75% of where I am. That last one though is what may be changing.