The Word In Our Heart
Opposition is a natural part of life. Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition-such as lifting weights, we develop our character muscles by overcoming
challenges and adversity.
~Stephen R. Covey~
Every day millions of people are faced with disappointments, heartache, and adversity.
They say things like, “This is just too much for me to handle.”
“What’s the use, nothing I do seems to work?”
“My life will never be the same.”
“Why do I keep getting the short end of the stick?”
“It’s taking me forever to get my life back on track.”
My friend, life is a smorgasbord of experiences. Some of them we love and some of them, not so much. When we experience disappointments, obstacles, and setbacks the ‘word in our heart’ plays a crucial role in our ability to bounce back from adverse circumstances. The ‘word in our heart’ is a reflection of the beliefs, assumptions, and emotional interpretations we attribute to the meaning of an experience.
In his book, Learned Optimism, Dr. Martin Seligman Ph.D. writes, “Your way of explaining events to yourself determines how helpless you become, or how energized when you encounter the everyday setbacks as well as momentous defeats…your explanatory style reflects the ‘word in your heart’.”
When you choose to look at a challenging situation from an empowering perspective, this perspective increases the likelihood that the story you tell yourself empowers you to believe in your ability to bounce back and thrive versus telling yourself a story that diminishes your faith and trust in yourself which causes you to wallow in self-pity and a state of learned helplessness.
Steve Pavlina writes, “Events are neutral. What causes you to feel a certain way is how you interpret an event, how you think about it. The same event (even one as serious as the death of someone close to you) will be interpreted differently by different people. You were taught to interpret certain events to yourself as tragic while other people on the planet were taught to celebrate these same events. The event itself has no meaning, but the meaning you assign to it (whether done consciously or unconsciously) is what causes you to feel a certain way.”
For many people, Pavlina’s statement is viewed as heresy, especially in many Western cultures, because it goes completely against what most of us have been conditioned to believe. However, after experiencing several deaths of family members, including my parents and son, I believe with no doubt that the reason I was able to move beyond the emotional pain of these experiences and bounce back from them better, stronger and wiser came down to God’s grace and my ability to transform the meaning I’d attributed to each experience.
So often, when we are facing difficulty, the experience discolors our perspective. We begin to focus our attention and emotional energy ONLY on the not-so-good that we’re experiencing at the time. Right? We allow our challenge to define how we show up to deal with it. Instead of activating our self-leadership and deciding how our best self would show up to the challenge and embody the energy of our best self.
When our heartache, disappointment or adversity runs the show, this way of thinking leads to a limiting perspective of ourselves and what’s possible in our lives. It diminishes our hope for experiencing better and reduces the emotional energy and resilience we desperately need to rise up and navigate our way forward with clarity, courage, and confidence.
I’ve been in this mental and emotional state more times than I like to admit. Years ago, after the loss of my son Blease, and while I was writing my book Get Unstuck Now I came across Steve Pavlina’s statement about experiences being neutral, it prompted me to “see” that the “dark night of the soul” I’d experience after the loss of my son was primarily because of the fear-based story I’d been telling myself since I was 13 years old after the loss of my mom. My 13 year-old self had associated my mom’s unexpected death with the murder of my brother Arthur which happened nine months prior to her death, I told myself, “A mother’s heart is not strong enough to bear the loss of a child.”
This unconscious belief was an agreement that I made in my mind after my mom's death which I had no awareness of holding it to be true. I've learned that many of our unconscious beliefs are created during strong emotional events or subtle repetition.
Despite my professional success,at the time, I suffered in silence with the fear that if I allowed myself to grieve the loss of my son, my heart wouldn’t be strong enough to handle it. I would die and my teenage daughter Dee would be left in the world without a mother. After losing my mom at 13 and knowing that I didn't have the best experiences after her death for many years, I didn't want to put my daughter in the situation of experiencing what I'd experienced after the loss of my mom. This is an example of how irrational our thinking can become when we believe in our distorted assumptions about any experience.
Of course, once my perspective began to shift, I was able to recognize how irrational my thinking was at the time. However, when I was caught up in this story as “the truth” of my experience, I believed my thinking was rationally based on the anger, grief, and sadness that I was experiencing. I share this to encourage you to speak with someone, a pastor, mental health professional, support group, best friend, mentor, or coach when you recognize that you are struggling to get a handle on any situation. Please do not put yourself through unnecessary suffering.
Believe In the Possibility of New Possibilities
Always seek out the seed of triumph in every adversity.
~ Og Mandino ~
Because we have a tendency to believe everything we think, we have to be willing to examine our thoughts and challenge those that are not in alignment with our desired experience. When our thoughts go un-examined, especially during difficult times, our lives can be hijacked by disempowering emotional reasoning that derails our effort to get back on track.
In the Art of Possibility, Rosamond Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander writes, “…many of the circumstances that seem to block us in our daily lives may only appear to do so base on a framework of assumptions we carry with us. Every story you tell yourself is based on a network of assumptions.” The Zanders points out, “Draw a different frame around the same set of circumstances and new pathways come into view.” When you begin to examine the ‘word in your heart’ and start to challenge limiting beliefs about yourself and what’s possible in a situation - you begin the process of opening yourself up to experience new possibilities.
This possibility has within it the power to blow many of the limiting beliefs and misconceptions you have about yourself and your experience to smithereens. Many breakthroughs come from simply believing a new idea has validity. Admitting the existence of a new possibility sets in motion the probability that you can perceive and approach your situation with a more empowering perspective.
When you rely solely on your own understanding during a challenging experience, especially one in which you have no experience or have had a lousy track record for success, you suffer from a shortage of data. Increasing your level of success requires that you develop a fresh perspective on the situation which will help you to cultivate a spiritual and mental fortitude that fuels your emotional energy. Your bounce-back success and ability to thrive during and after difficulty comes down to developing your self-leaderhip and cultivating the mental and emotional fortitude that strengthens your resolve to draw the line in the sand and say to yourself, "Onward, no matter what!"
Fundamental Self-Leadership Skills You Need to Demonstrate
First, make the brave decision to move beyond a victim or a scarcity mindset.
Second, develop the mindset that everything in your life is happening for you.
Third, you will need to take 100% responsibility for your life and your decisions.
Four, get clear about your values, who you are, who you want to become, and what you want to achieve.
Five, start where you are with what you have and believe you are enough and what you have is enough to start.
Six, be adamant about surrounding yourself with people who can help you achieve your dreams and goals.
Seven, commit to being intentional and strategic towards the achievement of your goals.
Eight, be receptive to constructive feedback because you don't know what you don't know.
Nine, be willing to course-correct as often as needed to achieve your desired outcomes.
Ten, build supportive relationships with people who will hold you accountable for achieving results.
How to Bounce Back and Thrive in the Face of Difficulty
Oprah writes, “What I know for sure is that no matter where you stand right now - on a hilltop, in a gutter, at a crossroads, in a rut – you need to give yourself the best you have to offer in this moment. This is it. Rather than depleting yourself with judgments about what you haven’t done who you could have become, why you haven’t moved faster, or what should have changed, redirect this energy toward the next big push – the one that takes you from enough to better. The one that takes you from adequate to extraordinary. The one that helps you rise up from a low moment and reach for your personal best.”
From both my personal and professional experiences, I know that nothing changes in our lives without a change in our inner-world. Also, without initiating corresponding actions relevant to the desired change, we will continue to miss our desired aim. This leads to frustration and disappointment. If we don’t muster up the determination necessary to try again, we will begin to accept the status quo as the best we can experience.
This my friend can lead to living in a state of learned helplessness and accepting the notion that we are powerless to create the change we desire.
The actions in this guide debunk the notion that you aren’t capable of bouncing back from difficulty better, stronger, and wiser. You are smart enough. You are strong enough. In the midst of the difficulty that you are experiences, there is a seed of an equivalent advantage. A fresh perspective towards your experience will help you to see that you have what it takes to bounce back better and thrive.
Step 1: Acknowledge the Truth of Your Reality.
Self-awareness is the starting point for creating change. A surefire way of remaining stuck in a disempowering cycle of beliefs and behavior is the denial of the truth about how you feel and the circumstances that led to experiencing your present reality. Whether you had a hand in creating the situation or not, getting on track and moving forward from where you start with acknowledging the truth of the situation.
It’s important to understand that your perception of any experience in your life depends largely on the meaning you have attached to them. It is possible for others involved in a similar situation to have a different perception about it. This step is not about being right or wrong. It’s simply about ending any denial or resistance on your part about the truth of what you feel and and think about the situation. Instead of numbing, dismissing or denying yuor truth, allow your truth to activate a greater measure of your potential. Get real. Tune-in to the thoughts and emotions shaping your perception of the situation. You can’t change what you refuse to acknowledge.
Insight Into Action: Show yourself tender loving kindness without judgment (this means that you accept the fact that you have every right to feel and think the way that you do). Get a few blank pieces of paper or your journal and begin to write down your true feelings and thoughts about the situation. Write until you feel you’ve put the core of what you feel and think about the situation on paper. Remember, this is a judgment-free zone. It’s your truth.
Step 2: Identify the Meaning You’ve Attached to the Experience.
In his book, The Law of Agreements, Tony Burroughs points out, “Your agreement is your point of power, and you can add to or weaken any idea or commonly held belief simply by making a choice. We have within us, in each moment of our lives, the ability to discern- to decide whether something is working for us or not – and to choose to agree with it and make it stronger, or to say “Hey, I don’t think this is working for my highest good.” In order for you to exercise this power, you have to first, develop an awareness of your inner-state and second, make the decision to take personal responsibility for dismantling thoughts and beliefs that do not add to your well-being.
Your beliefs about your situation reflect agreements you’ve made unconsciously or consciously about it. Today is just as good as any to end your allegiance to beliefs and assumptions that limit your power to take the purpose-driven actions necessary for you to pull up your stakes and move forward in the situation.
Now that you’ve acknowledged the truth about what you feel and think about the situation. The following questions will help you tune-in to the story you are telling yourself about why you think, and perhaps feel you can’t bounce back from this difficulty.
What are the agreements (the beliefs and ideas you have bought into) that are influencing your lack of progress in this situation?
What factual evidence do you have that proves your beliefs and assumptions about what isn’t possible are true?
What are the emotional interpretations (the meaning you’ve attached to the experience) driving the beliefs and assumptions you have about what isn’t possible in the situation?
In what ways has this meaning (the story you are telling yourself about the situation) diminished your ability to bounce back and thrive in the face of this difficulty?
In what ways have this meaning (the story you are telling yourself about the situation) supported your ability to bounce back and thrive in the face of this difficulty?
Acknowledging the truth of how you feel and think about your circumstance and answering the above questions provide you with self-awareness. Being self-aware helps us to see how our perception (beliefs, assumptions, and emotional interpretations) is shaping what we feel and how we are responding to any situation.
Identifying the meaning you’ve attached to your experience allows you to examine your perception and determine if that perspective is working in your best interest or not.
Step 3: Be All In.
Adopting an empowering perspective about who you are and what you’re capable of doing enables you to harness your authentic power and be proactive toward what you decide to believe and do to experience better in the situation.
Stop overthinking. It fuels self-doubt and leads to procrastination.
Creating momentum in your situation requires that you get off the fence. You’ve got to be more than just interested in bouncing back and thriving in the face of this difficulty. You’ve got to be committed. The difference between interest and commitment is reflected in the actions you exhibit toward the change you say you want. This moment requires that you show up for yourself in order for you to grow forward and flourish.
When interest becomes commitment it fuels a passionate determination within your soul that ignites your faith and provokes the strength of your spirit. The courage dwelling in you will be stirred up as you seek to find ways to make what may seem as impossible possible. Exhibiting this level of desire towards the change you want to experience has within it the power to create a new reality.
You may be saying to yourself, “Jackie, I’ve done all that I can do, and nothing has changed.” If this is the case, then you’re probably feeling frustrated and angry. I would be as well. This is perfectly normal. The first hurdle you’ve got to get over toward creating a new reality in this situation is yourself. It’s up to you to learn how to better manage your thoughts and emotions so that they are not a hindrance to your progress. Private victories always precede public victories.
What I’m challenging you to consider is this: what you feel is important; however, what you believe and do is just as important. And in this step, you need to demand more from yourself. You’ve got to rise above any negative emotional reasoning about your situation and dig deeper then you have in the past to tap into the reservoir of strength in your spirit.
You have what it takes to accomplish the actions necessary to manifest the breakthrough you desire. Realizing a new possibility requires radical faith and a willingness to take radical actions that will release the untapped potential dwelling in you to manifest your vision of new possibilities.
Insight Into Action
In your journal or notebook, write down your answers to the following questions.
What’s most important to you now?
What parts of your life will be impacted if you committed to this desired change?
Step 4: Mind the Gap.
You can have in life what you are willing to be. One of the most effective ways I know how to develop the mindset and habits essential to achieving any goal is the adoption of identity-based beliefs and actions. Identifying the personal attributes of the person capable of manifesting a particular goal will help you develop the mindset and habits essential to your breakthrough. When your actions are aligned with the change you desire to experience, you will increase your chance of making your desire a reality.
The following six self-leadership habits will empower you to create and maintain congruence between what you say you want and that actions you are courageous enough to take to experience it.
Tune-In to Your Strong Moments. There have been moments in your life when you were faced with challenging situations and instead of floundering under the pressure from them you reacted to them from a place of strength that you didn’t know that you had in you. You were energized by them and perceptive enough to identity what it would take to move forward. Remembering to remember your strong moments enables you to galvanize your strengths and identify what works and what doesn’t work for you to reach a successful outcome in a challenging situation.
Identify Your Compelling WHY. You possess the power to utilize your imagination to create new realities. This power is activated by a clear vision of what you desire and a compelling reason that stirs your soul as to why you must make this vision a reality in your life. When your desire is attached to a compelling why that incites a sense of purpose and passion within you, you’ll begin to stir up the gifts within you by initiating bold moves towards what you want to experience. And these bold moves will enable you to step into your authentic power.
Cultivate a Growth Mindset. Unless you do something beyond what you have already mastered you will never grow. In her book, Mindset, Carol Dweck, Ph.D. explains that individuals with a growth mindset approach life with a curiosity to learn. They believe their intelligence and talents are dynamic and adaptable. Whereas, individuals with a fixed mindset approach life wanting to look smart. They believe their intelligence and talents are static. Adopting a growth mindset which nurtures you to believe that you can learn more, be more, and do more, and experie ce more in life enlarges your capacity to become the person that can manifest your desired reality.
Develop Resilient Relationships. Robert Brooks Ph.D. and Sam Goldstein Ph.D., co-authors of The Power of Resilience write, “Regardless of our age or how secure and confident we feel, if we are to strengthen and maintain our optimism and resilience, it is essential that we interact with people who accept us and from whom we gather strength.” They go on to say, “If we are to nurture and maintain meaningful, emotionally satisfying connections and lead a resilient lifestyle, it is equally important for us to serve and be in the company of …someone we gather strength from on an ongoing basis.” The people we spend the most time with influence our capacity to be resilient and a sense of belonging. Resilient relationships involve mutual give and take, high levels of trust, caring and openness, and a sense of security and safety.
Embrace Gratitude. Mihaly Csikszentimihaly states, “People who learn how to control their inner experiences will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us of can come to being happy.” When you’re going through a difficulty, you need all the emotional energy you can summon to take steps towards creating the change you desire. Your energy follows your thoughts. Develop the practice of gratitude by making it a priority on a daily basis to acknowledge at least three things that went well during the day. This practice helps to prevent you from allowing a temporary condition to overshadow all that is good in your life. In the midst of difficulty, use the energy of gratitude to anchor your emotions and focus your attention and energy towards executing your next steps to move forward.
Be a Person of Excellence. Nothing speaks more about what you believe than the quality of the actions you exhibit on a daily basis toward the change you desire. Being a person of excellence is not about striving for perfection. It is a commitment on your part to show up on a consistent basis exhibiting your A-game in the arena. It’s stretching yourself beyond preconceived limits. It’s increasing your knowledge and sharpening your skills and talents so that you put forth your personal best.
Step 5: Embrace Fear As A Gift.
You can learn how to embrace fear with courageous confidence and become a fear-tamer.
Becoming a fear-tamer consists of:
Acknowledging your fear.
Deciding you want what you want, more than you fear your fear.
Disrupting your disempowering perceptions about fear.
Identifying a compelling WHY you ‘must’ take action, now.
I am using the word fear-tamer intentionally. Because, as long as we live, most of us will have the sensory ability to feel frightened, scared, worried, anxious, apprehensive, etc. We will feel fear. But, that doesn’t mean we cannot learn how to manage our relationship with fear so that it no longer boxes our life into a small replica of what it could be.
Fear tamers do not subscribe to the notion of denying and suppressing their feelings and emotions. They know from experience that what’s in the way is the way to the freedom their soul craves. They prefer to process their thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a healthy manner to maintain an open heart and experience more joy, love, passion, creativity, and success.
The first strategy you need to apply toward taming fear is the insight that everything you do is motivated by how you want to feel. For example, if you want to lose weight, it probably has something to do with your desie to feel more attractive, strong, and healthy. Why do you want to be in a relationship? To feel loved and connected to someone special. Why do you want to build a successful career/business? To feel you are accomplished and in control of your destiny. Every aspiration you have is a means of achieving a desired feeling state.
Think about a goal that is important to you. How do you want to feel as a result of achieving it? When you have a burning desire towards the achievement of anything, it will fire up your intrinsic motivation towards the achievement of it. Ask yourself, what do you want to feel instead of fear in your situation? What will be the pleasure you gain from this emotion versus fear? How will this desired feeling and emotion inspire you to take positive action toward a new possibility in your life? You have to get yourself to the point where you want what you want more than you fear what you fear can happen. No one can do this for you.
The second strategy that’s crucial to helping you tame fear is: what you link pain to and what you link pleasure to influences which actions you are willing or not willing to take towards the positive change you desire. According to Tony Robbins, this is the most important lesson to learn in life.
Think about this: whatever emotional association (meaning) you link to any experience influences your perception and the actions you initiate toward it. Consider something you’ve always told yourself you were too afraid to do. What is the pain you’ve associated with doing it? Is it possible that other people take pleasure in doing it? In most cases, the answer is yes.
There are people who are willing to do things you fear because they’ve associated pleasure with the act itself. Whereas, there are people who aren’t willing to do things that you do because they’ve associated pain with the action. Are you grasping how whatever actions you have linked to pleasure and pain are shaping your destiny?
Although I wasn’t conscious of this earlier in my adult life, each time I faced a fear head-on, I was creating neuro-associations that linked facing fear to growth, expansion, and pleasure. This was in part due to linking learning in kindergarten with pleasure. Most of the fears experienced in my life have been gifts that when faced head-on presented me with opportunities to learn, grow, and expand in some aspect of my life.
No one likes unexpected challenges. We prefer our life to be predictable because of our need for security. So, it's okay to not feel okay. If you've been feeling not so okay for an extended period of time, I encourage you to schedule a visit with a mental health professional.
Although the challenge you face may have you feeling as if you are in the eye of a storm, I encourage you to believe in the strength residing in your spirit. You are full of “can do” power. Remember to remember your strong moments as they are a reminder of what you have overcome and what you’re capable of.
You are in the right place at the right time to learn the lessons necessary for your spiritual, emotional, and psychological development. The wisdom and insights gained from this experience will help you to cultivate mental, emotional, and spiritual fortitude and character traits that will serve you now, and in the future.
The thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, and assumptions that make up the stories you tell yourself about how smart and strong you are and what you’re capable of handling in life and what you’re worthy of experiencing have a huge impact on the course of your life. In Find Your Courage Margie Warrell writes, “Given that our actions are based on the realities we define regarding whom we are and what we are capable of achieving, our lives are either limited or expanded by the stories we have devised.”
You’ve no doubt heard the saying, “If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you have been getting.” The challenge that you face cannot be solved by telling yourself disempowering stories that diminish your hope, faith, and courage. As you demonstrate self-acceptance, practice radical self-love and transform limiting beliefs about what’s possible in your circumstance, you will begin to develop a fresh perspective towards yourself and your situation, and be more apt to initiate the actions necessary to bring about the change you desire.
Understand this, any time you initiate actions that challenge the status quo, you will experience resistance within yourself and from those accustomed to you being a certain way. Expect it. Do not get upset about it. It is a normal part of any transition process.
It's important to manage your thoughts and emotions so that you will remain committed to taking action every day towards what you desire. Before lending your agreement to any belief, ask yourself, “Will this belief add to my well-being?” Be mindful of the agreements you make that develops your belief system. Get in agreement with beliefs that inspire you to improve the quality of your life. They will help fuel your consistent execution of purpose-driven actions necessary for manifesting a new possibility.
Be aware of how your emotional armor can inhibit you from living wholeheartedly. In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown writes, “As children, we found ways to protect ourselves from vulnerability, from being hurt, diminished and disappointed. We put on armor, we used our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors as weapons; and we learned how to make ourselves scarce, even to disappear. Now as adults, we realize that to live with courage, purpose, and connection – to be the person whom we long to be- we must again be vulnerable. We must take off the armor, put down the weapon, show up, and let ourselves be seen.”
Daring to be brave requires you to embrace vulnerability. Although it may be a scary thought, the reality is, as long as you live, you will always be vulnerable. It’s not a matter of whether you are vulnerable. It’s a matter of whether you will be proactive and be vulnerable in ways that expand your capacity to express your authentic power!
About the Author
Jackie Capers-Brown is the CEO of Slay Your Greatness Academy. She’s an author, speaker, trainer, personal growth teacher and and leadership growth strategist.
She’s the creator of The D.R.I.V.E. Method Advantage,™ host of the Level Up Your Life podcast and founder of the Level Up HER Leadership Initiative for Women of Color. She’s the author of Lead to Succeed, Get Unstuck Now and Find Your Brave.
This guide is an excerpt from Jackie Capers-Brown’s books Find Your Brave and Get Unstuck Now. Both of these books are available at Amazon.com.
When you are ready to say YES to the training, coaching and support to reach your next level, Jackie can support your growth and the ability to flourish in the following ways:
Unleash Your Greatness - Jackie’s signature personal development program that she presents virtually on weekends. For details and registration, visit here.
BraveHeart Women Leaders Success Alliance is a member’s only mastermind for ambitious women who desire to have the consistency of support, training, coaching and accountability necessary to achieve next level professional success. For details and registration visit here.
Level Up HER Leadership Program - Jackie's signature four month leadership cohort for women of color working in corporate workplaces. For details and registration, visit here.