Holding Calling Captive: Top 4 Creativity Killers that Limit our Potential

The incredible architectural masterpiece of antoni Gaudi, la Sagrada Familia

The incredible architectural masterpiece of antoni Gaudi, la Sagrada Familia

Top 4 Creativity Assassins

We were created in the image of an incredible Creator - just look around. He gave every individual a distinct fingerprint of creativity. “We are God’s workmanship, his masterpiece work of art, (his Sistene Chapel or La Sagrada Familia), created anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us” (Eph 2:10). And yet somewhere, somehow we have limited the creative work potential existing inside all of us and written it off as something for the professional artists. What if instead, we saw every person, ourselves included, as making up a greater part of a creative whole! And with whatever role we have, we consider the possibilities of tapping into this creativity? What if we considered how a person in finance, in leadership, in construction might think outside the box and utilize his/her imagination for purposeful and life-giving work for the greater good? 

Creativity is so much more than art or artists. I frequently hear people say, I’m not the artist type! The potential to be inspired with awe and wonder is ingrained in every single human person’s unique design - that’s where creativity lives. I believe we are all born creative people. But not only that, our brains and particularly our prefrontal cortex, unlike those of other animals, gives us the capacity to tap into a wellspring of unlimited imagination and use our unique creativity for the good of others. It’s unlimited! Imagine that!!!

It is every individual’s responsibility to discover what exclusive design we were particularly created for. Just like every tool in your kitchen or garage has a unique purpose and designed for a specific task. We were each created to fulfill a distinct job on this earth.  What I create is different than what you create because my life experience and my skillset are uniquely me! And yet we do several things that are unhelpful to cultivate this creativity within us and in others.

Top 4 Creativity Killers 

1. Busyness

We live in a noisy world, even when no one is speaking. The clutter of our lives, whether material or conceptual, keep us from the joy, spontaneity and creativity found in artistic expression space. When we remove the excess in our lives we find free space enlivening and inspiring new ways of being. The clutter on the other hand, consumes both the literal space and mind space where artistic expression once lived.

Nancy Carlsson-Paige, a professor and early childhood advocate writes in, Taking Back Childhood. She says “kids benefit emotionally and cognitively from having long uninterrupted blocks of time to explore art materials such as paints, crayons, colored pencils, chalk, markers, clay, etc.” She writes how open-ended materials and time can can bring a child’s personal narrative to life! It's been proven that participating in art creation soothes the soul, provides inspiration, promoting mental and emotional well-being. In addition, adults, similar to children, need free, uninterrupted blocks of time to explore their artistic voices. It’s through pushing the boundaries of materials in long uninterrupted time, that our personal narratives can come to life! We limit our creative potential by leading overly-full lives. Boredom is creativity’s greatest fertilizer. It is the process that matters most in art, not the end product.

Boredom is creativity’s greatest fertilizer

2. Comparison

If boredom fertilizes the growth of creation, comparison is the weed killer. Comparison rears it’s ugly head in the form of self-limiting beliefs or other-limiting beliefs, limiting possibility and inspiration. “I’m not as good as____” or “You’re not the musician that she is.” These thoughts, regardless of how or if they’re verbalized, may keep you from experimenting with what the expression of how God-given creativity looks within you.

These limiting beliefs, similarly may keep you from encouraging development in others. For years, I compared myself to my husband. I would say, I’m not as creative as Jeff. And the truth is, I’m NOT Jeff! He’s different than I am. He has a completely different skillset than I do. But from the end product I see, through the eyes of jealousy a creative block inside me that can not sponsor his expressions. The way he upcycles and designs a table out of garbage is something I could never do. And although he IS naturally really good at a lot of things, he doesn’t create the same as me. For many years, I allowed the thought that “I’m not as creative as…” from allowing me to experiment with and discover my often ugly, messy, tasteless, sometimes beautiful, but irregardless, unique to me – meal, travel plan, or blog article. Comparison kills creativity. 

What I create is unique because my life experience and skillset are uniquely me

When our unique skill set, natural abilities, learned traits, and personality all line up and we use them in the unique way they were formed for, we know it. And so do others. This place of pleasurable work I believe brings delight to God, ourselves and others. Whether baking, dancing, welding, or doing complex computer technology. We can feel a life-giving, purpose-filled element of God’s design at work in and through us. It is also up to us to foster that, not stifle it in others. That is how it’s meant to be! And yet we must welcome that creative potential within us and discover where our unique fingerprint meets the world’s deepest need. We must harness the creative potential the season of transition offers us.   


3. Being the “Art” police

Likewise, we limit ourselves and other’s creativity in the language we use, or the judgment of others work. Take my recent interaction with my daughter, as an example. She’s 6 and unafraid to mix all media all the time! My acquired organizational skills go a bit mad when she gets in her zone! A few days ago I found her painting rocks. But she didn’t restrain herself there. She began using the paint to color sand, then mixed the multiple colors of sand (turned back to brown) with the painted shells, and finally added a bag full of chalk! A couple hours later, hands and clothes covered in paint and sand – wahlah! She had created her masterpiece! Where she saw a beautiful creative expression, I couldn’t help but see a mess to clean up. But did she see a beautiful creation? I didn’t ask her…I think in hindsight she was just really enjoying the process.

Simultaneously amazed and perplexed at the unlimited boundaries of her mind, I managed to contain my inner art police! I don’t intend to limit her or other people’s self expression. My censor lies in part in my own inhibited creative-self. My logical, well-developed left-brain trying to tell my artistic brain there is no logic in that.

Despite my desires to empower people through the arts, I must pay careful attention that my own blocks do not cause unnecessary limitations. Our limitations of both language and self-imposed boundaries of what art should look like keep us from exploring new ways to mixing media and pushing into new levels of untapped creativity – in both ourselves and others. 

4. Take the same comfortable approach.

We limit our own creativity when we fail to step into the new. . Creativity emerges when we get off the path of least resistance and try something new! (Think: Mac-n-cheese quesadillas, thin-mint brownies, batter-fried oreos! Creative food creations!) Our brains naturally default to what we've done in the past. The past is known, familiar and comfortable.

Getting off the familiar path and taking a new direction gives us a whole new set of possibilities. It is often scary, yes. Typically a new path is scary primarily because we are afraid to fail. We’re also afraid of the unknown and the possibility of the future being worse than the present. Ruth Haley Barton summarizes it powerfully in Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership saying, “When the fear of staying the same is greater than the fear of the unknown, we are ripe for change!” We must be motivated to consider that the future holds hope of discovering new possibilities. 

While thinking about things the way they've been thought about and doing things the way they’ve been done is comfortable, these ways can be broken. What brings people, and global workers in particular, to transition is a way of life that is not working. The realization that one or more aspects of life needs to change brings painful awareness – for the children who need a better education, for a sustainable financial structure, for aging parents, for the ability to not always be in a burn-out state! Doing things the way they’ve always been done; when these are no longer working, we have the opportunity to see this as a season of possibilities! For many of us, we must get to the point of desperation for change. To be desperate for something different you have to be willing to step out AND BE WRONG! We know that the most beautiful testimonies are lives risen above pain where beauty has been made from ashes. This is the redemptive and transformative work that we get to be about - being made in the mirror image of our Creator. 

Sky is the limit

Sky is the limit

Give yourself space to explore possibilities. Allow yourself to acknowledge what you are good at. Spend time intentionally noticing what others are good at. Be aware where Jealousy creeps in. And get the necessary support to take whatever necessary first step is in front of you. The work of creativity is up to all of us. We get the privilege of joining in the pleasure of creating new with our great Creator.

Question: How can we be facilitators of artistic expression in both ourselves and others?  

Practical Application. What if instead we…try to fit into my day and particularly within my work one of the following words: wonder, imagine, invent, design, create, express, I’m curious, what if? Kids are comfortable with this language!


Start a conversation with a child beginning with one of these words - imagine if…you could go anywhere right now, where would you go? What if…you could eat whatever you wanted for dinner – no limits! The potential responses are UNLIMITED and delightfully fun! What if you actually did it?!


as a coach, I might say to someone in major life transition - Imagine you had five other lives to lead, what might they look like? What would you do in each of them? This approach gives permission to dream and takes people out of their logical responses that can often fail in times of transition. Begin to imagine that which has yet to be created. 

When Change is Inevitable: Stepping into the Unknown for Survival Sake

In my own recent transition, I experienced a tremendous weight of confusion accompanied by paralyzing feelings of stuckness. I knew the place and position I was in needed to change for my own emotional well-being and growth. I was not thriving or utilizing my gifts to the fullest in my current role. When I was able to break out of my limited landscape and gain a bird’s eye view through the help of outsiders, I could see clearly I was developmentally in a growth lock-down! I began to see how restless and stuck I had felt for years. Was I really wiling to admit this? If I stayed where I was, I most certainly would feel the ongoing discontent and likely would stunt any potential growth. If I took a courageous step of faith to explore the unknown, the possibilities were unlimited, risky and uncertain. Change seemed inevitable. Scary. And hard. Yet I was the only one who had the power to shape the trajectory of my future. 

It has been said, that a person, similar to a company or an organization, needs to shift focus periodically in order to achieve healthy growth for the long haul. When organizations reach a certain size, they must rethink their strategy for overall effectiveness. When the strategy changes a different skillset in a leader may be required in order to guide the company where it needs to go. This is basic organizational growth knowledge. Yet when it comes to the change that individuals must make, the way forward feels shaky. The recognition of change and the aftermath to come that will most likely affect a greater community outside of ourselves often causes great caution and avoidance. 

Change and growth is a natural part of all of creation. I find it fascinating to consider that all living things have an innate measure of adaptation. Without this ability to adapt no species would survive! Yet we are hard-wired to fight it as we find great comfort in the familiar. Here we feel a sense of protection. Moving from the known to the unknown is what our animal instinct fears most. 

Moving from the known to the unknown is what our animal instinct fears most. 

While I’m drawn into nature and perplexed by the mystery of natural instinct of all living things, no one has ever described me as animal lover. (I say I have my favorites - but too many scar stories to love them all!) Oblige my tangent to offer as an example. During graduate school, I applied to work at the catering department at a zoo. During our first day of orientation a group of about 30 of us all sat around a circle to discuss next steps. I was aware all of us mostly in late 20’s and 30’s were just needing a paycheck. The majority of the work would be service-oriented in the gift shops, restaurants or small vending carts. In reality we all just needed money but the common denominator was really the love of animals - all except maybe me! I quickly learned many had hopes that this would be their big chance to get their foot in the door of animal care. As an ice-breaker we started with going around and answering: “What is your favorite animal at the zoo?” The answers and the speed of which they responded fascinated me. Animals I had never even heard of were mentioned. These were clearly people who loved animals more than me. When it came to my turn, I blurted out, “My favorite animals are people!” Everyone laughed. I was in a league all my own. And yes it was humorous, but truly I couldn’t think of a single animal I was excited to work with more than the humans I would interact with in large catering events! I still got the job - but was probably watched a little more closely as "the animal hater” in the group.

So why am I talking about animals as we discuss change? I find it fascinating to consider the entire animal kingdom’s response to change being more functional as a means to thriving. And quite honestly my love for all God’s creatures grows even just a little greater when I go down this road!

All animals we see have natural habitat needs. “If an animal’s enclosure is too sunny or too wet or too empty, if its perch is too high or too exposed, if the ground is too sandy, if there are too few branches to make a nest, if there is not enough mud to wallow in – then the animal will not be at peace.” In this lack of peace adaptation and the need to make a change is the hardwiring that allows for survival amongst animals. Peace and safety are the ultimate goals and are sought after with primal instinct. Peace is sought after even if it requires extreme risk and change.

As seen in animals that are forced out of their familiar habitat into a new one in the wild, escaping or migrating animals usually hide in the very first place they find that gives them a sense of security. These are considered our basic mammalian needs. Different for humans than for animals, we are given the unique opportunity to self-actualize and consider, to think about and live out our purpose here on earth. We are given a choice to decide our future.

In this lack of peace adaptation is the hardwiring that allows for survival amongst animals.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

The comparison of an adaptable animal to that of a human provides insight during periods of vocational shift.  As humans our particular “habit needs” are not simply finding a home and food. Although that may be a part of our safety. Our basic needs include physiological “habit needs” at the core. But they also include emotional care as demonstrated in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The most basic, at the bottom of the pyramid are the physiological needs of hunger and thirst, sickness, and fatigue.  We see firsthand when we are sick or in physical pain, our bodies require every ounce of attention to that particular part of our body and nearly nothing else matters in life at that point. When these needs are met we’re able to move into caring next about our safety.  

To expand the analogy further, Take a look at the example of animals in a zoo versus animals in the wild taken from the book, The Life of Pi .“One might argue that if an animal could choose with intelligence, it would opt for living in a zoo, since the major difference between a zoo and the wild is the absence of parasites and enemies and the abundance of food in the first, and their respective abundance and scarcity in the second…In the literature can be found legions of examples of animals that could escape but did not, or did and returned.” We are reminded from this example that safety is what all species seek as a very basic need before moving up the metaphorical pyramid of life. 

However, safety for humans compared to that of animals must include safety on the more emotional level than that of a primal physical safety. (Although our physical safety is likewise a mandatory minimum.) We were created for intimacy to connect with people on a heart and soul level. Relational connection is our greatest emotional need as humans. This basic knowledge once again leads us to the hierarchy of needs: Yet when unmet we are faced with feelings of isolation and of worthlessness. Might a connection void be a greater risk for us to live with than that of physical safety? People can and do endure great suffering if they know they are not alone. 

In the book, Safe People, Dr’s Cloud and Townsend discuss our needs for emotionally safe people. They state that the second greatest theme of relationship after connection is separateness. “Separateness is the ability to maintain spiritual and emotional property lines, called boundaries between you and others. Separate people take responsibility for what is theirs – and they don’t take ownership for what is not theirs”. The opposite of separateness is enmeshment where a person can be swallowed up in the needs of the other or the organization. For those in enmeshed relationships, teams or organizations, individuality provokes a feeling of threat and differences are discouraged.  One must ask, “Are my no and my yes respected here with this person, this team or this organization? Am I shamed or made to feel guilty for the decisions I make, especially if they are different or threatening to the overall structure? Or am I empowered to think differently or act with a conviction of integrity even though it may cause unrest?”

Self-differentiation is defined as “a setting apart of oneself as distinct from others (such as one's family or classmates).” The medical definition includes: “differentiation of a structure or tissue due to factors existent in itself and essentially independent of other parts of the developing organism.” It’s in this space of self-differentiation that cause strain, and at times even unhealthy sabotage of growth in relationships. 

Self-differentiation as seen between a parent and a teenager, we know as a potential shakey developmental period. The natural developmental cycle of a human would imply that every person will grow and change and need to think on his/her own in order to develop into a healthy adult. Yet the internal struggle persists for the one in authority, whether a parent, a mentor or a supervisor. The message comes mixed, “we want you to grow, but we would rather have you to change in the direction back to the way you were before you differentiated (self-actualized) and became different! We were comfortable with you the way you were before. Ultimately, we were comfortable with who we were.”This same tension seen between parent and child may look similar to a relationship between a worker and an organization when the need for developmental growth space is required. The underlying message: You changing means I also have to change and I am uncomfortable with the presenting need to change in me.

 You changing means I also have to change and I am uncomfortable with the presenting need to change in me.

Vocational restlessness includes an awareness of potential “habitat change” and the repercussions for all involved. The discontent comes in many forms as we become aware of our own unique needs, for example: being valued in our daily contributions; given space to create and make decisions on our own; individualization in our work or close collaboration with others. Although these “habitat needs” may be slight, the difference in peace will be great! Like animals, our habitat, or our working environment requires a basic makeup unique to our needs in order for us to thrive. 

In this growth cycle, exists the tension of both passion and excitement of possibilities joined together with doubts and feelings of personal insecurities. Does my past disqualify me? Is it true that I am just trying to go my own way, or is this really for my good? Do I really have what it takes to make this step? Here we all require faith to step into the unknown. We are unsure if we have the courage it takes to break out of a habitat that does not allow for us to thrive. It is here that confusion and a sense of stuckness persists if nothing shifts. 

 Yet if we step out, the peace we are seeking may be actualized. If we stay, most likely it won’t. Our inner voice of restlessness sounds the cry of our interior calling that we must pay attention to. Parker Palmer says it well, “Vocation does not come from a voice ‘out there’ calling me to become something I am not. It comes from a voice ‘in here’ calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original self-hood given me at birth by God”. Self-awareness alone is not enough. Many can not hear the voice of reason from within. A safe and supportive community of care supplements where the voices of insecurity compete.

What keeps us from taking the step required to find our deep peace, our unique habitat where we can thrive? The simple answer is that we, like animals, don’t want to leave a safe and familiar environment to move into one of unknown unless we are at risk. It is often the self-limiting insecurities which disempower us from making these changes. It is a risk to step into the unknown. But the risk has the potential to open a whole new environment not just to survive, but to thrive.

And while I’m still fascinated by humans more than animals, I find it remarkable to compare the great correlations all of creation shares in common.

Questions: What keeps you from taking the next step required to find a place where you can thrive? What change is on my horizon that I am struggling to make? What help do I need to process these changes? What can I envision the future on the other side of these changes to look like?

Resources: Merriam Webster online, Life of Pi, Parker Palmer, Safe People, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need

What do I do in the waiting? - Part 1


What do I do in the Waiting

The questions of complex transitions

As we were wrapping up an initial consultation, a potential client recently asked me, “So, what do I do now while I wait?” We had spent the previous 45 minutes talking about the difficult transition they were in & the lack of fit for the husband while the wife was thriving. I gathered a sense of expansive understanding to the openness of both time and untapped energy that permeated his question. I was invited to an internal pause. While I could answer with a quick appeasement something like, “Wait with intentionality!” I felt a deep sense that his question came from a different place than a child fighting off boredom while waiting for a guest to arrive. This question was likely a daily, hourly, nagging, question in his mind. And not just a question related to time but something so much more compelling. I imagined underlying the simple question of “What should I do in the waiting?” resonated a sound like a base drum - a deeper, harder to answer question about core identity and purpose.

I sensed that without purposeful response, this unwelcome intrusion of a question would not easily go away. I couldn’t help but empathize with intense sadness. I felt this conversation ignite in me a painful visceral, not-all-that-distant memory and response. I felt the question in my gut. I resonated with the desperate longing to be useful. To be noticed for one’s unique skillset. The natural inborn desire to be invited to a table to share a unique point of view. To be asked to show up with a voice that is welcomed. To contribute the expression of creation that only my unique fingerprints could create.

I couldn’t help but feel that this question daily nagged my transition companion. And yet like any coach might do, I turned his question into an opportunity to dig deeper. “What do you think you should do in the waiting? And secondly…what does your wife think you should do?

It wasn’t meant to be a cop-out. Coaches are often asked questions back; often the ones the client doesn’t want to answer. And yet on the flip side many coaches go into a coaching or care profession waiting for the moment to be asked his/her opinion. If we’re honest we’d rather be consultants and give quick answers and we’d rather share ideas and solutions! Yet here I sat together with my fellow sojourner, in the complexity of his painful transition without a lot of answers and certainty of what to do next. Yet I could respond with a presence of familiarity and a knowing it won’t last forever to validate and feel alongside him the deep pain in the not knowing and in the waiting in between. 

And now here as I write, I suppose I wear the hat of a consultant, not as much a coach. I share my ideas a little more openly at first with just my computer…not sure where they’ll land or who will read them or relate. My story not that unlike his - consisted of that redundant and not-always-answered question “God, what do you want me to do in the waiting?” For almost 2 full years (if not longer), it was for me a daily gnawing at my core identity question especially when the calendar was empty and the phone didn’t ring. I felt alone - people don’t really like to talk about that in-between place of isolation and the reality of what it actually looks like to be waiting. And yet, in hindsight, I recognize I often did hear a response. I heard an invitation to new disciplines. Over the course of many months and years, despite long days of silence, these are a few of the disciplines I was invited to discover in my time of long waiting:

7 playlists I created in 2017-2019 coinciding with each of the 6 transition themes. Find them on iTunes & Spotify “The Way Between - Limitations”

7 playlists I created in 2017-2019 coinciding with each of the 6 transition themes. Find them on iTunes & Spotify “The Way Between - Limitations”

 1.    Praise – Praise turns my heart on. I hear the mandate of scripture: “In all things give thanks”. “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Noticing the beauty in life, the good that I’ve been given, takes intentionality and discipline. And yet here my heart, like David’s in Psalms does not want to rejoice. I hear the voices of literary mentors say, “Thanks is what multiples joy and makes any life large”. I admit, it does not come natural for me. So I turn to those who’ve penned lyrics of pain and married them with the life-giving instruments of worship acknowledging a place of surrender. I listened, and listened some more to the hymns and to the modern day poets give their doubts and unmet longings to God in praise. Time after time as if this was my prescription - this posture of worship changed me. It calmed me like unlike anything else. It brought me to a place of holding open all that I could not control. It’s not all about me or my unmet longings. God is in the business of transforming my heart by giving me this grand pause. Can I see it as a gift and give it back to him in worship? He held me in it and he performed healing in places of my heart that really needed some deep surgery.

“Thanks is what multiples joy and makes any life large”-Ann Voskamp

2.    Play – I learned to embrace, like my children, the present. My propensity being a forward-facing and actively moving thought life, the future is where my mind and body naturally want to go. The present can often feel stifling & uncomfortable to me. Yet I recall my word for that year - excitable! Not a word anyone has ever used to describe me!! Yet when I think about a person who is excitable, I conjure up positive thoughts of people that I love being around! In hindsight, I recognize I was being invited into a practice of mindfulness. A call to notice and to enjoy the every moment. A call to attend to my inner child and just enjoy what or who was in front of me. This invitation was for me was a summoning to play! Turn life into a joyful game. Play encouraged me to stop to embrace the joy of just being and not focus on doing anything or becoming anything. Whether through an Uno game with my 5 year-old or a more adult game of strategy, drawing, wrestling, or just responding to enter a pool with a cannonball instead of a careful wade. I was (and am) continually implored to enjoy my life in the moment even with all its pain and uncertainty.

3.    Explore – be curious and remain open. As I began to write I just brain-dumped my thoughts on paper day after day. I wasn’t strict about it. And I didn’t intend for it to go anywhere. And yet as I kept writing I felt like my words gained some momentum. Maybe not worth sharing with others. But maybe. I surrounded myself with my spiritual and literary mentors; those who spoke eloquently and articulately with words on paper and poets of music like I mentioned before.

When I got stuck I would read. I read what inspired me to think differently, grander thoughts. I read people who played with words in a way I had not been comfortable doing. I explored new ways of adding color to thoughts that I felt only others knew how to do. In this I stumbled and I stuttered and it was clunky. But I persisted and I gained new life every time I did. I explored new creation through exercise and movement and I explored new ways of thinking. I took what I already knew and I expanded on that pushed boundaries of my imagination in a way that I had felt stifled in in the past. What was provoked in me was the designer side of me that had been dormant. In that creative, playful, exploratory space came the creation of what is now my primary work - The Art of Transition.

The period of waiting in transition has been such a long long season for me. I often felt like I did as a child in the endless snowy climate of Minnesota – will summer ever come? And like a bear moving out of hibernation, I’m ecstatic to see that spring is here for me and summer on the horizon! And for those in the waiting of in between: Though the winter is long, I believe your season will come.

—to be continued

 “If all I know of harvest is that it’s worth my patience. Then if you’re not done working, God I’m not done waiting”

 “Seasons” by Hillsong Worship


Like the frost on a rose 

Winter comes for us all

Oh how nature acquaints us 

With the nature of patience

Like a seed in the snow

I’ve been buried to grow

For your promise is loyal

From seed to sequoia

I know | Though the winter is long even richer | The harvest it brings | Though my waiting prolongs even greater | Your promise for me like a seed | I believe that my season will come


Lord I think of Your love

Like the low winter sun

As I gaze I am blinded 

In the light of Your brightness

Like a fire to the snow

I’m renewed in Your warmth

Melt the ice of this wild soul

Till the barren is beautiful

I know | Though the winter is long even richer | The harvest it brings | Though my waiting prolongs even greater | Your promise for me like a seed | I believe that my season will come


I can see the promise | I can see the future | You’re the God of seasons | I’m just in the winter | If all I know of harvest | Is that it’s worth my patience | Then if You’re not done working | God I’m not done waiting | You can see my promise | Even in the winter | Cause you’re the God of greatness | Even in a manger | All I know of seasons | Is that you take your time | You could have saved us in a second | Instead you sent a child

The barren is beautiful

The barren is beautiful

Though the winter is long even richer

The harvest it brings

Though my waiting prolongs even greater

Your promise for me like a seed

I believe that my season will come

And when I finally see my tree

Still I believe there’s a season to come

Like a seed You were sown

For the sake of us all

From Bethlehem’s soil

Grew Calvary’s sequoia

The Overwhelm of Decision-Making in Transition - Clarity exercise Part 2

See The Overwhelm of Decision-Making in Transition: Questions to ask - Part 1

When it comes to a vocational or career change, the possibilities appear unlimited. Our minds may take on a fight, flight or likely a freeze effect. The frontal lobe in our brain, acts like an overheated engine. It can’t take the myriad of options, so it begins to shut down…anxiety sets in. If we are able to employ a trusted friend or set of tools to gain perspective the ugly monster of overwhelm becomes a much more manageable companion.

We left off in the previous post (the overwhelm of decision-making part 1) with “together let’s approach the blocks that feel like an elephant and make them an eye - seeing them as an opportunity to explore, discover and create something new & life-giving! We can’t tackle the whole elephant right now, What feels most pressing? Although the options may still take on 100 different variations, the primary decision can be broken down into just a handful of categories or even just one. How does one get from overwhelm to decision? What decision appears most pressing?

Now before we go any further, there exists an assumption that a well-thought through discernment process of gaining information about one’s options, talking to trusted individuals and mentors and a concerted amount of prayer, has gone into the process up to this point. Decision-making happens most effectively after a long season of discernment.

Transition takes place over the course of many small decisions, month after month. Getting to this point in making a major life decision primarily consists of listening to one’s heart and attending to the desires and longings of the soul that have existed for many months if not years. This point in time is often just a finalizing piece to a greater series of decisions. This is not to minimize the importance and the complexity. But rather to validate that your gut, your spouse, your friends, and God have all been speaking to you up to this point.

Decision-making happens most effectively after a long season of discernment.

In this post exists an exercise, a tool called the decision-making grid, to utilize in times of complicated or overwhelming decision-making. It’s quite simple and chances are you’re already familiar with it. A few years ago when faced with a series of decisions that seemed fit with equal pros and cons, I asked my friend and coach for some perspective. When she suggested using a decision-making grid I couldn’t conceptualize how it was different than making a list of pros and cons - my typical style! She briefly walked me through it over the phone. The simplicity almost seemed elementary. Yet it worked! Maybe like myself, you never thought to utilize it in major life decision. Here’s how it works.

The simplifying of options and narrowing down of questions, brings greater clarity than remaining in a place of swimming in the ocean of unlimited possibilities. In my opinion the process of discerning a major career move, organization or vocational path includes focusing first on personal fit (often referred to as calling). When we approach personal fit through the lense of these limited possibilities the decision-making begins to take the shape of a just a handful of possibilities.

Here we are talking primarily about decisions around personal fit and calling:

The 7 categories to consider personal fit/calling: (from the previous post The Overwhelm of Decision-Making in Transition)

1.     Keep doing what I already do well but change the environment - Maybe you have outgrown the structure of the team or organization. Potentially staying in an environment, limits the opportunity for growth.

2.     Keep the work; reallocate or change the quantity - some may consider focusing their target audience to better match their passion. As well, changing the quantity allows for specialization, influence and impact.

3.     Change the work, but stay in the same environment - Within an organization maybe there is another set of possibilities. For example maybe you were hired on as an assistant but have outgrown the role where your gift mix would be better used.

4.     Turn an avocation into a new career - many look towards their voluntary service opportunities as what they would ultimately like to do for life-giving work. For example, during a transition season in my life I went to a local hospital and asked if I could volunteer doing play therapy in the children’s ward. Amazing to me now, is the passion I’ve always had for kinesthetic healing!

5.     Take on a parallel career For example, take your training role and look for another outlet like public speaking or book writing. This track is often pursued for the sake of funding, peer-mentoring, or influence.

6.     Get more training - maybe the way forward for you requires a complete shift and more specialized training in a specific field of interest. This option affords one more discernment time as he/she researches a specific field.

7.     Keep on doing the same thing - After a season of discernment and searching, you may have learned that what you have now is really a great fit and at this point nothing needs to change but something internally. Possibly it required an internal shift of gratitude or perspective to recognize the value of what you have and that every organization and team has faults. Answering, these are the ones I’m willing to live with!

I often recommend a sabbatical for a time of rest before major life decision-making. (See: “Overcoming the Top 3 Objections for taking a Sabbatical”) The need to clear one’s mind and gain perspective is invaluable in clarity gaining regardless of what decision may need to be made.

Where does one start in sorting through these 7 options and creating any semblance of a plan? Might I suggest as my mentor did, to utilize a decision-making grid?

When a decision-making grid is utilized, it allows one to see the options on paper and begin to compare them one against another not one to one million! Which is how it can often feel in your head. This process can help begin to make concrete the seemingly unlimited possibilities that can tend to have a swirling and overwhelming life of their own. 

Here’s how a decision-making grid works:

1.  Form the main question. Start by forming a question that you will use to evaluate all of the possibilities. Ask a question like: Which of these 7 options currently resonates most with me? If you are unable to get past this point, employ a friend or coach to help you form the question.    

2. Make a table to represent your top 4-5 choices for your futures (a 5x5 table for example). An equal number of horizontal and vertical boxes will be used. It isn’t necessary to compare all 7 options as not all of them may be possibilities. Limiting the options is the goal at this point, not expanding.

3. Assign a number and short identifier such as an abbreviated description of your top choices in the top row and far left column. The list will be the same on both the left row and top column. So for example if you’re utilizing the list from above, you would consider #’s 1-7. If they are all options than they all go on the horizontal and vertical lines.

Vocational Discernment Decision-Making Grid Example

Vocational Discernment Decision-Making Grid Example

4. Put X’s on the numbers that coincide such as 3 vs 3 as you won’t be comparing the same number against itself.

5. Go through each row. When you compare number 1 to number 2, ask the question that you have chosen:   “Which option more accurately aligns with my current longings? Or – Which option do I believe best allows for utilization of my personality & strengths?  Or “Given our current family needs, which possibility is the best future fit?”

Note: You’ve already done the hard work…Don’t over-analyze. Go with your gut at this point. 

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6. Write the number chosen between the two options in the box. You will be comparing the same things twice, for example 2 vs. 4 and 4 vs. 2 it’s okay to change your mind or have a split. Often this double comparison produces double confirmation. But do not be alarmed if it does not!

7.  After you’ve gone through the whole table, count up how many of each number you have: 1 - __, 2 - __, 3-__, 4-__, 5-__, 6-__

8. You should have a number with a higher total than the others.

9. At the end of this exercise, consider how the option with the top number of points sounds to you?

10. If all ends in a tie, consult a friend or sleep on it. Try on the different options wherever you land. If you’re truly at a place of being able to live into your decision, imaging your life in that change will provide you with new ideas for the future.

11. When all is done, run this decision by the same people that have helped you get to this point. Something like: Given what you know about where I’m at, does this sound like a good option for my future?  Is there something else that I’m not considering? Surprisingly to many who are in transition is that those closest to the decision-maker already had a pretty good idea and are NOT surprised with a big decision. Call it intuition or a good friend. I would also call it the gift of being outside a cluttered decision-making mind.

The sweet dog ended up with the name Tracker. Unfortunately he only lived into that name as a sick rescue puppy for another 3 weeks. Our family misses him.

The sweet dog ended up with the name Tracker. Unfortunately he only lived into that name as a sick rescue puppy for another 3 weeks. Our family misses him.

On a smaller scale our family recently used this method to decide on the name of our new dog. Not a perfect solution to over 30 ideas, but the process for four very different individuals created both a memorable exercise in decision-making and greater unity in the process. What became apparent was that there were many names not even worth considering. Similarly for you, many options not worth considering at this point for your future.

Utilizing a decision-making grid helps to shed light and gain clarity during complex decision-making times. The myriad of possibilities can now be broken down into only a handful or even just one. Concrete comparisons and intentional set-aside space allow for the ability to see the most important tree through the forrest of possibilities.

Don’t be surprised if this big decision catalyzes many decisions thereafter. Making a bold moves chart is a suggested next step. New blog post on “Now That You’ve Done a Decision-Making Grid, Bold Moves are Next” coming soon!

Questions to consider:

What do you learn from your created decision-making grid?

What is clearer after having done this exercise? Who do you need to share it with?

Fostering Emotional Health through Transition Coaching

Originally published on Jan 15, 2019 Shepherd Heart Consulting https://www.shepherdheartconsulting.com/2019/01/15/transition-coaching/

– by Sara Simons

According to architectural terminology, transition space is considered an in-between, connecting space between two confined spaces. An essential element of any structure.  One of the most important functions of transition space being sustainability of the building design. Whether a long hallway or a magnificent entrance, these spaces play important functional roles inviting others to linger and anticipate before entering into a new, often grander space. Temples and places of worship have historically been designed with this architectural transition space concept in mind. One who enters a holy space, having gone before through a transition space to get there, has been given the gift of preparation. There is an invitation to  intentionally prepare one’s head and heart for the encounter with a Holy one.  

It is safe to say, transition space is an invitation to a grand pause with an expanded capacity to enter into the next space with greater awareness and expectation. Not unlike architectural transition space, a season of major-life transition invites one to slow down, pause, and anticipate the next season. We know transition as the slow, internal, physiological response to change.  And change, the moment or moments in time typically sudden and unwelcome that lead us into a period of transition. Change may be the external factor that launches a transition. But transition is the often uncomfortable “in-between” season, not moment, meaning potentially long pause, that requires a recalibration. Even when change is expected, or positive, the reality that one is entering into a new normal requires attention in response and can still feel jolting with much to grieve. God uses transitions to shape life direction and further the discovery of one's unique contribution in the expansion of His Kingdom.

Well-known author William Bridges, in his book The Way of Transition states that "Transition is the process of letting go of the way things used to be and then take hold of the way they subsequently become. In between the letting go and the taking hold there is a chaotic but potentially creative ‘neutral zone.’" How then do we enter this neutral and often barren-feeling transition space? What an incredible gift of a space to meet another passerby in - in the midst of confusion, pain and grief! 

 My desire when working with people as a transition coach is multi-fold. 1. I hope to be a creative catalyst unblocking the God-given creativity in each person I’m with. Aiding them in places of stuckness, by providing tools and experiences that give hope and help lead them to their ultimate contribution. Thus in turn being able to exit confusion with lightness, centeredness and focus 2. My desire is also to equip people with the resources and tools for their current and future transitions. Simultaneously validating that the intensity of transition is not only normal, but an intentional design of the Creator pointing us back to Him in our pursuit of direction. Trusting that everyone seeking guidance and clarity is ultimately seeking intimacy with the one who masterfully designed them. And like a transition space in architectural terms, I feel called as a transition coach to be alongside others as they anticipate the potential greatness of what is to come!

Contact sara@thewaybetween.org for more information on transition coaching

The Powerful Art of Reconciliation - Part 2

Originally posted Feb 5, 2019

Read The Powerful Art of Reconciliation - Part 1

Forgiving ourselves

Often times the hardest area of forgiveness is to look in the mirror with love and grace, and say I forgive myself. Forgiving ourselves of actions (or inaction) requires acknowledgment to see that our choices have caused pain in ourselves and possibly someone else. It requires an admission and confession of pain. When we are able to gain perspective and acceptance, we can experience both freedom and responsibility simultaneously. Forgiving ourselves requires the difficult task of self-love.

The invitation of a cross on the Camino de Santiago

The invitation of a cross on the Camino de Santiago

Similar to others hurting us, we have the choice to use these learnings to reshape our future. If we can recognize that an event or events is not the totality of who we are, this liberating place of acceptance, holds power for ourselves and ALL of our relationships.

“What discipline is required for the future leader to overcome the temptation of individual heroism? I would like to propose the discipline of confession and forgiveness. Just as the future leaders must be mystics deeply steeped in contemplative prayer, so also must they be persons always willing to confess their own brokenness and ask for forgiveness from those to whom they minister.” (Nouwen 64)

This transformational work of the cross becomes that much more evident in times of transition. The encounters of the dark parts of our selves require attention – we either face them or stuff them away and become more calloused and bitter.

We all at some point in life will face that chaos. Many artists depict the pain and struggle of their soul in their creative work: Paintings are dark with shades of black and red, scenes of skeletons and war. Poetry is filled with words of hatred. Lyrics to songs blare with rage. The artist’s within each of us, are given a chance in seasons of transition to express ourselves, make amends and choose beauty instead from this pain. As we tap into those difficult and often dark places, a knowledge of a restorative God desiring to use our woundedness and pain for His glory persists. It’s here we have decisions to make.

Transformation usually includes a disconcerting reorientation. Change can either help people to find new meaning, or it can cause people to close down and turn bitter. The difference is determined by the quality of our inner life…Change initself just happens; spiritual transformation is an active process of letting goliving in the confusing dark space for a while.

Drawing by #EMYOArtwork

Drawing by #EMYOArtwork

God’s restoring plan is the patient work of spiritual transformation. It requires on our part a repeated yes to the Lord’s nudging us to go knock on the doors of ugliness inside each of us. The lasting transformation comes only through the active engagement with confession and forgiveness. The invitation for everyone is to release with the new that which is old, bitter, not working, worn out. The desire is for the cross to provide the freedom only it can. The wounds and the pain released rather than staying clung to us. The transformative peace can only be found here.  The great invitation remains: The opportunity transition provides for us to be self-reflective reconcilers, confessing and forgiving deep areas of incredible hurt and pain. To move into the new with great freedom.

In our challenges with others, can I actively thank God for the people that bring dissonance in my life? “To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll your tongue over the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor the last toothsome morsel of both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back – in many ways it is a feast for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you” Fredrick Buechner

For deeper reflection: 

Where do you feel deep emotional hurt? Where do you carry anger or bitterness in your heart towards yourself, your spouse, your parents, your organization, or your community with whom you’ve ministered? What is your invitation today as it relates to confession and forgiveness? What are the dark sides of your leadership that lie beneath the surface and need attending to in this period of in-between? 

Drawing by #artofhoping

Drawing by #artofhoping

Visual Prayer Exercise:

Draw a cross with as much or as little detail as you’d like. Consider someone with whom you are currently struggling. (i.e. Yourself, God, another person). As you draw, let the color express heaviness, negativity, ways you are hurt or have been wronged. As you think of words list them in relation to each party on either side of the arms of the cross. These might include thoughts or feelings, ways you’ve been hurt or wronged, things you dislike about the person, ways that you have done wrong. Let negative and angry thoughts be welcome but not take over.