Logic vs. Emotion

I swear, our logic and our feelings are like two siblings that like to constantly fight and bicker with one another. I remember fighting one of my older brothers when I was a little girl. He would pick on me or make a smart comment, I would cry, and then sometimes we would fight. I would try to rub his face deep into the carpet, but ultimately his strength and age would always overpower me! Darn you brother.

One time he pissed me off so much that I swore. “F*%&$ you!,” I boldly proclaimed! My emotions clearly overruled the logic — that I would get in huge trouble — and I said it again: “F*%&$ you!” This time, however, no brawl ensued. He simply said, “Oh, so you want to swear now?” Calmly, he walked out of the room in what I thought was defeat and I proudly proceeded to watch my afternoon cartoons. Next thing I know the phone rang for me, twice. First it was my mother calling from work and then it was the pastor’s wife! That little sneak left the room to call them… not to cry as I initially thought!  Let’s just say I got in BIG trouble when my mother got home, cried many tears that night, and the next Sunday had to go up and ask Jesus to come into my heart for the 5th time in my young life!

The annoying feeling of bickering with a sibling is what the tension between logic and emotion feels like — to me at least. Life happens, questions arise, doubt raises its ugly little head, and we have to determine which we are going to rely on to move forward — logic or emotions.

Hurdles are an excellent example of logic versus emotions. I remember having to do the hurdles during track and field tryouts in high school. It was interesting to say the least. You are running full speed ahead, see the hurdle right in front of you, and need to make a decision to jump over it. An experienced hurdler knows that proper execution relies very little on emotion but rather on three factors: (1) accurately counting the steps in between hurdles, (2) powering over the hurdle through the use of speed and momentum, and (3) proper running form in between and over hurdles.

Ready, set, go: 1-2-3-4-5 OVER…1-2-3 OVER…1-2-3 OVER…1-2-3 OVER… The hurdles race requires the runner to focus on their steps and technique rather than on trying to anticipate jumping over the hurdle. I am sure that with more training I would have become a very good hurdler. However, during the first auditions in practice I stutter-stepped before each hurdle and jumped over it each one with flailed arms and wild legs. Let’s just say that the hurdles never became by main event; I was better at sticking to sprinting without the hurdles being there to slow me down.

Sometimes my logic dominates my emotions, and in other cases my emotions overrule my logic. In general, I cannot say one way is better than the other without considering the situation. In some cases, logic should overrule emotions and in other instances we should be more emotional. The key to life is knowing which one should dominate in any given situation and then being able to listen to the appropriate one.

Logic versus emotions may play out in the following ways:

  • Sometimes you may have to trust your experience and logic, and in other times you may have to let your experience go and step out on the limb.
  • Other times, you may have to overcome your initial emotional responses and rely on systematic logic.
  • In other cases, you may have to completely throw away logic and pray that your gut emotional response is worth trusting.
  • From time to time, you might have to rely on both logic and emotions in order to navigate a situation.
  • And in certain cases, trusting any ounce of either logic or emotions will seem impossible — in which case I personally rely on the spiritual.

Logic and emotions like to fight and bicker within us. Unlike my fights with my brother, it is not always clear which side will win. I always lost, but in real life logic and emotions don’t always win or lose. Thankfully, as I got older the fighting with my brother decreased and we became siblings that have each others’ back when necessary. This is how we need to train our emotions/logic to interact– more like partners in crime than like warring children. A great partnership between both logic and emotions can make us unstoppable even in the face of the tallest hurdles.

Logic versus emotions will never be a black and white dilemma. One thing is for sure: Whether the situation requires more logic or more emotion, it is important to not slow down as we approach the hurdles of life. Momentum, momentum, momentum! Trusting our ability to generate enough power to make it over the hurdle(s) is just as important as trusting that we will be able to decide whether to use our emotions or our logic in any given situation. In reality, we need a little of both: enough logic to conclude that our experience and technique, if well executed, with not fail us and enough emotion to feel and use the power we possess to overcome any hurdle that lies ahead of us.

Photo Credit: G. Jereczek

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Having Faith in Yourself.

“Faith is the bird that feels the light even when the dawn is still dark.”

As defined, faith is a strong belief in someone or something. That concepts seems very vague, somewhat intangible, and also requires a significant level of trust. If I trust a person or object, I believe in their/its ability to be who or what I know them to be. Subsequently, I have faith in them or it. For example, I trust that the ladder will support me as I climb to reach the top shelf because I believe it was designed correctly. Therefore, I can say I have faith in the ladder. If a person has proven to be trustworthy in their character and actions over time, you might say you have faith that they will be there for you when you need them.

In general it is easy to have faith in other people or objects. But what about having faith in ourselves? What makes it so difficult to believe in our own ability as confidently as we believe in others’ abilities? Is it because we cannot see ourselves as clearly as we can see others? Or, is it because our defense mechanisms and doubts blur our ability to see all the great qualities that exist within us? In my opinion, it is probably the latter. It is great to have faith in other people, but it should not outweigh the faith we have in our own capabilities.

Over the past two years, I have wondered even more about what I would do if I had no fears or doubts. I started praying that God would (1) allow me to continue to discover everything I am supposed to accomplish in this lifetime and (2) to have the patience, willingness, and courage to complete it. After a while, it was no longer a new prayer. My confidence to explore my interests increased, yet I was still doubtful and fearful. I knew some of my interests and goals were/are destined and ordained, but I was still hesitant to move forward without more reassurance from God.

Me: “God, I just want to know that you will be with me if I journey down this path. I know that if you destined this path for me then everything will ultimately work out in my best interest. I trust you God.”

God: “Yes, this is path I ordained for you. I am with you and will always be with you”

Me: “Thank you God, but I just need to know that you will be there for me…”

Repeat this dialogue every day about the same goals and paths and that’s how ridiculous I sounded asking the same questions over and over again. Unfortunately, having repeated reassurance didn’t result in me running full steam ahead down the path. Something was wrong and it wasn’t God.

I started to recognize a contradiction in the overall situation. I felt God signalling, encouraging, and supporting me to move down certain paths, yet I still kept asking for sign after sign that I would be successful. In some way I was looking for confirmation that my strengths and abilities were enough to protect me from failure — very unrealistic. If I had faith in God, then why would I doubt him so much? Why did I need to keep asking for reassurance? I finally realized that the problem was tangled somewhere within my fears, doubts, and insecurities. The problem wasn’t God; the problem was me.

With this realization I started praying instead for God to help me believe everything he already believed about me. He made me strong and intelligent (I believe), so I just needed to have faith that he knew what he was doing when he created me. I was not a fluke creation, but rather a destined life on earth. Ultimately, the goal now was for me to learn to believe the greatness he created in me and still sees in me.

Think of it like a parent-child, teacher-student, or coach-athlete dynamic:

Parent: “You are so capable, strong, and loved. I believe in you and I want you to reach for the stars. Just know that I will always have your back every step of the way. You will never be alone because I support you.”

Child: “I know. I know. But, I am still scared and afraid that things will not work out. I know you love me and believe in me, but I just can’t do it.”

Parent: “Trust me! You CAN do it and I am in your corner! Haven’t I always been there for you? Listen, I am very proud of you and I will continue to be proud of you even if you fail.”

Child: “Yes, you have always been there for me, but I don’t know what will happen if I fail. I don’t think I have enough in me to do this. I love you too, but I just can do it.”

I don’t know about you, but to me that is a sad dialogue. If I am ever having that conversation with my future children, I will wonder why my inspiration and encouragement doesn’t seem to garner even a little bit of faith that his/her goal is worth trying. I will wonder if my child trust that I will be there to catch them if they fall.

Coach:“You have so much talent and ability. If you are committed to the training, you will go very far. You can do it.”

(Athlete goes through weeks of training, is committed to the process, and begins seeing improvement in practice. )

Fast forward to game day

Coach: “You ready? Let’s do this! You are prepared. Now all you have to do is execute what we practiced, Go get ’em!”

(Athlete gets out there, observes the competition, and begins to doubt him/herself and the coach’s words).)

Fast forward to after the performance/match…

Coach: “What in the hell happened out there? You are better than that performance today.”

Athlete: I felt (insert lame injury or excuse here)… and when the referee (insert lame scapegoat excuse here) it threw me off!

(Or maybe the athlete will be more reflective and say…) “I felt great today coach. I don’t know what happened.”

Well, I will tell you what happen dear athlete: Doubt made you question you preparedness. You questioned whether your coach was just pumping you up because that’s his/her job and you froze! You didn’t have faith in yourself, your abilities, or your coaches words.

A few weeks ago I reached out to an old friend to touch base about a new project I am working on. For the most part I was super excited and confident that I was going to do a great job on this project, but of course my insecurities, doubts, and fears needed confirmation that my strengths were indeed strong enough to outweigh my weaknesses. To make a long story short, after chatting with this person for a while, I realized that although they had many great suggestions and resources to offer me none of the information outweigh the preparation and lessons I learned along the journey.

In essence, in that moment I realized that everything I went through — both the good and bad — had prepared me for exactly where I was/am. I didn’t need reassurance or more resources, what I really needed was to have faith that (1) God would not give me this path if he/she/it (whatever you what to think God is) knew I was not prepared for it and (2) that even if I hadn’t learned the lessons along the journey (as I was supposed to) that God would be there to support me when I fall. Therefore, success seemed to lie in whether I not only had faith in myself but also in his plan for me.

I have many weaknesses, but the good news is that I have many, many more strengths. Most of what we need to take those first steps toward our scariest goals are already inside of us; it is just a matter of whether we start believing the idea that (1) we are strong and (2) that God and the universe — already knowing our weaknesses — still thinks we have enough strength inside of us to positively impact the world around us. Maybe in the end embracing our weaknesses as much as we embrace our strengths is what makes us unstoppable.

Photo Credit: Zhao

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Fine Print

Sometimes one thing holding us back from doing what we want and need to do is the fact that we spend so much time getting back up from falls that could have been prevented if we paid more attention to details.

Chasing a dream can feel wonderful and turn out very wonderful having few detrimental hiccups along the way. When this happens, consider yourself blessed. I enjoy focusing on the big picture while I chase my goals; it keeps me optimistic, hopeful, and focused on charging forward. While this is a good practice, I have learned that God gave us two eyes and two ears for a reason — to figuratively keep one on the big picture and one on the details and fine print OR to enable us to focus more efficiently on one at a time.

I really dislike when the fine print and details — that I didn’t pay close enough attention to — throws me a curve ball that I wasn’t expecting. In most cases I could have been prepared for it, but I missed it because I was focusing on the wrong thing at the wrong time. It is important to discern when it is time to focus on the big picture and when it is time to focus on the details. Paying attention to the fine print and details takes time and patience, so it is no surprise that we usually want to rush through things. However, within the fine print typically lies the keys to avoiding unnecessary pitfalls. In a way, paying attention to both the big picture and the details is like running straight ahead while making sure to check the ground beneath you for rocky surfaces and ditches!

Personally, I like looking at both the big picture and the details. However, I have found that I am less motivated to pay attention to the details when I become fatigued mentally, emotionally, or physically. When life hits, I allow certain things to slip through the cracks. It is kind of pitifully funny to think about it because sometimes I see the matter walking toward the crack and I tell myself “it will not fall through that crack because I have sealed it enough to prevent it from fitting through there!” Then boom, through the cracks it goes! In other cases, I don’t even see the matter moving toward the crack because I am too distracted or tired to take the time to inspect the area for cracks.

Over the past months I have learned that fine print and details come in many different forms; yet, in most cases they are to be paid close attention to. From my experiences, these are the types of fine prints and details to pay more attention to — both literally and figuratively:

Written and explicit: There are certain things that are spelled out quite thoroughly and clearly. Whether we choose to pay attention to those details is another story. From contracts, directions, warranties, and signs to health, relationships, work, money, or business, there are rules and guidelines that are to be followed and adhered to. It is not hard in this case to understand that failure to comply usually results in a clearly stated reaction or result. Typically, when I let something fall through the cracks in this area I feel that I deserve little sympathy. I should have read or paid attention to the details, right? Thankful I have learned this lesson before, but every now and then it comes back to bite me in the hind parts!

Is there obvious and accessible information in your life that you are simply not taking the time to pay attention to?

Written and implicit: I think this combination confuses me the most! This is the area in which the fine print and details exist within a gray area that is only implemented when and if the people that created them feel like utilizing them. A small scale example would be store return policies: the enforcement depends on the store and the sales associate. On a larger scale, there are other areas in our lives when people have the option of deciding whether they want to uphold the rules of the fine print or whether they want to let things slide and/or override them. I love it when someone overrides something or pays less attention to the fine print on my behalf; but, I also get annoyed when I know they have made exceptions for other people, yet chose to say “no” in my case. The truth of the matter is that it is usually my fault for being in a situation in which I have to rely on someone overlooking/overriding the fine prints. The only person to be upset with in that situation is me. For the most part, erring of the side of caution and paying attention to our own details puts us less at the mercy of other people’s discretion. And if those people are not fond of you for any reason, you are screwed (which is a whole other story)!

Are you often relying on other people to get you out of situations because you failed to pay attention to details?

Unwritten and implicit/explicit: There are instances in life when the rules are not written, but people in the know or with experience accept and follow them. These are the most challenging details to detect and keep up with — in my opinion. This area gets a little tricky when it comes to people, politics, institutions, and society. In general, these made-up rules will only be applicable depending on the emotions, moods, characteristics, classes, or even demographics of the people involved. These dynamics are harder to trace, but I have found that it is still important to pay attention in order to minimize being caught in the gray area. When in Rome, you may not do exactly as the Romans, but you might find it important to know the unspoken rules the Romans live by.

In other cases, sometimes things have been done a certain way for so long that they can appear to most people as actual law. You may know that it is not written anywhere, but in that context it doesn’t matter since everyone else believes it to be an unwritten rule. You might choose to shed light on their ignorance, but it will inevitably cost you energy and stress that you may or may not be willing to deal with at that time. For example, in certain professional settings male facial hair is frowned upon. It is not written but it is understood by the players in that arena. It is also polite to hold the door for the person entering behind you, but where is that written? Sadly, these rules and practices are not written but you will be judged by them.

What unwritten rules or behaviors do you need to pay more attention to?

Fortunately enough, things falling through the cracks may not ruin the end goal. However, in other times failing to pay attention to the fine print and details can be detrimental. It can cost you time, money, resources, energy, or even your life. In our personal matters, goals, relationships, jobs, and associations, we had better start paying more attention to the writing on the wall, the fine print, details, or whatever you want to call it.

We will make mistakes, but making mistakes that are the least damaging for us is the ultimate goal. When are you paying least attention to the fine print and details of life? — when you are tired, having fun, around certain people, etc. What areas do you need to go back and pay a little more attention to? Whatever you missed, take the time to pay attention to it now.

Photo Credit: Phil Roeder

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Worrying Less About What People Think About You

“Stop caring about what people think about you,” he said.

I replied, “it is easier said than done.”

It is not always easy to analyze the causes of our fears, but it is usually very necessary. In my personal fear analyses, I found that too many of my fears centered around what other people — friends, parents, coworkers, associates, strangers, haters — were going to think about me. I asked myself, “if they are not God, why the heck do I even care so much about what they think?” I didn’t always have the answer, but I knew something needed to change if I wanted to live a full life.

I have never been a person that completely bends over backwards to ensure that people love me, but as a normal human being I do have a certain preference for people liking rather than hating me. The truth is that fear, comparison, competition, doubt, and insecurity in some ways center around us caring about what other people think about us. In general, overcoming the concern about what others are thinking is a major factor and hurdle for and in our success.

Whether we care to admit it or not, other people’s standards and expectations sadly become a factor in our decision making. I believe that people who are more successful — and I would argue happier as well — have found a way to overcome the “what will people think”  syndrome. Sometimes we miss out on the greatest adventures, opportunities, people, and experiences because we are overly concerned with what people will think about us and our decisions. 

Although it is easier said than done, these are some of the conclusions that allow me to move beyond worrying about what people think of me:

Sometimes what you think they think is not even accurate. 

While working at a very prestigious university some time ago, I was doing a good job but still felt slightly inadequate compared to what I thought were the geniuses I worked with. There were a number of opportunities to take more risks — some I did and others I did not — but I kept wondering what others would think about me if I stepped out in front, failed at a task, or took things in a new direction. To make a long story short, I was worried about them thinking I wasn’t qualified enough but the entire time they were thinking (I later learned) that I was doing great work, was very capable, and had a lot of potential to go even further. If you have ever experienced a time when you were certain you knew what someone else was thinking but ending up being wrong, then you have evidence that sometimes our worries are not always accurate. We cannot read minds so it makes little sense to be preoccupied and hindered by thoughts we may never know for sure.

Unfortunately, things are not always that positive; sometimes people are thinking negatively about us. In those cases, I use the following to help me move past the fear…

People are going to talk about you even if you are perfect.

From work to friendship circles to acquaintance gatherings, I cannot count the number of times in which we were all talking about how we love or like a person, place, or thing only to have one Negative Nancy (an expression, not a real person) chime in to share how much they do not like them or it. When asked for reasons why he/she did not like that person, place, or thing, they had absolutely no evidence to support their feelings! I can discuss the many reasons I think this happens, but it will never change the fact that people will have something to say about everything and everyone! God bless celebrities because we have never met most of them, yet we judge them like we own them! From these many experiences, I concluded that human beings are too complicated for me to ever prevent people from having an opinion about my life. I have been in situations were I felt I did everything right and someone still had something to say about it.

Sometimes people’s negative opinions about you are really just reflections of issues they have within themselves.

As you might have learned in a psychology course, sometimes people project their issues onto you. Sometimes people are thinking negatively about you simply because you remind them of what they are not or what they do not have. I remember when an old friend went on a rant about how I thought my boyfriend was the greatest guy on the planet. It was a very odd occurrence because I rarely talked about how deeply I was in love with him or ever mentioned much of any of the amazing things he did for me to her. She personally had a lot of issues going on in her life at the time, so I was quickly able to recognize that her comments stemmed from something else. Another instance came at work in which one woman tried to downplay the success of my work. She had a lot of social anxiety and insecurity (her own words) so I just assumed something about me reminded her of something she wasn’t happy about within herself. I have had my fair share of realizing that I don’t like someone simply because they have something I wish I did; so, I can speak with certainty when I say that you will never be able to control everyone liking, approving, or thinking positively about you. Sometimes the issues lie within the other person and out of your control.

The moral of the story: we should not allow our concern about what other people think of us to hinder us from taking opportunities, risks, or from striving for greater success. Since people are going to have an opinion no matter what you do, you would be crazy to wait around until everyone liked or agreed with you to make your move. It is probably impossible to completely stop caring about what people think of you, but you can work on getting to the point were the fear of opinions doesn’t prevent you from making a decision, taking a risk, or trying something new.

Photo Credit: Jenny Downing

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Relationship Timelines: Dating, Marriage, Babies…

Is it just me or does it seem like when you are in a relationship and (1) get to a certain age (between age 25-30, at least) or (2) have been dating someone for 3 or more years (past age 21), people seem to ask the same basic questions regarding your relationship?

“How long have you guys been dating?”

“When are you guys getting engaged? Have you discussed it?”

“When are you guys getting married?” 

“When are you guys planning to have kids?”

And then after one child, “When are you guys planning on having more?”

As annoying as these questions can become, I am guilty of asking my friends these questions as well.

Let’s assume these are natural questions to ask (although I am not certain of that). The problem I have is when the questioner doesn’t think my answers are sufficient and proceeds to ask more questions. This ultimately ends with me feeling like I need to defend my timeline and the strength of my relationship. “Sufficient” answers in this context is hilarious to me because sometimes we really believe we know how another person should live their life; but most times, we barely even know how to live our own.

Listen, if you are in a great relationship, you need to feel that with certainty and not allow yourself to be swayed by other people’s decisions for your life. Yes, I have a great relationship, but that doesn’t mean my timeline choices make it any less wonderful! Usually people don’t even know the reasons why you make certain timeline decisions, yet they jump to conclusions and dole out timeline suggestions that you probably never asked for.

People can be in very different places relationship-wise– some single, some in new or long-term relationships, some newly engaged, engaged for a long time, newly married, married for a few years, not interested in marriage, in positions where they cannot have children, or with someone that is not interested in marriage or children. As I talk to friends about relationships, I find myself living by and sharing the same piece of advice: “The best thing you can do for your relationship is to stop comparing the relationship and timelines to other couples.” 

Disclaimer: With that said, do not use this statement as an excuse or justification for staying in a jacked up or abusive relationship! Every couple’s relationship dynamic and timeline might be different, but love is clearly identifiable and distinguishable. Disrespect, cheating, abuse, degradation, and selfishness are not characteristics of love. While you should not compare your relationship to others in aspects of timeline and dynamic, you should look to great relationships for positive traits of love. There is no ” thin line between love and hate” in a relationship. If you feel that you love and hate a person at the same time, then it is probably a sign you need to re-evaluate that relationship– fix it or end it. Trust me, I have been there and done the love/dislike thing and my conclusion is that a relationship like that is full of cracks!

For the most part, comparing your relationship and timelines to other couples’ is not a good idea! If you have found a great life partner– which should be the ultimate goal and requires more than chemistry [I wrote a post about this]– chances are you are destined to have a life journey unique to you as a couple. I believe that’s God’s ideal plan. So, chasing another couples’ timeline/journey means that you have stepped off your path onto theirs and at some point you will either (1) discover that your shoes weren’t built to last on their road or (2) that you missed out on the many blessings your road held because you were so interested in traveling on another couple’s path. In general, people need to live according to the timelines that work for their life.

Many years ago I started witnessing couples I adored (and swore had a strong relationship) go through divorce. In most cases, everyone loved the couples together. On the outside they were the perfect couples… or so we thought! After years of marriage (ranging from 1-15 years), we all were shocked by the news that they were getting divorced. From celebrities to people we know, we all have witnessed relationships we covet fall apart. Feeling hopeless and scared for my own relationship future, I decided that I would learn from other people’s relationship successes and failures, but that in the end I would do what works best for my relationship. Here I was comparing my relationship to ones that looked great on the outside but was suffering internally. However, all the while my relationship was working for me, my life, my journey, my purpose, and my happiness. I learned that if I am going to compare my relationship to others, it might be beneficial to know the details of what is really going on behind closed doors. 

I am not a relationship or a statistics expert, but based on what I have observed throughout my life, I know that having a successful long-term relationship requires more than simply checking something off on a timeline or list (engagement, marriage, babies, house, etc.). It seems more important to work toward things that will make my relationship last long-term versus working on a timeline or checklist.

Personally, I think couples’ timelines vary based on a few factors. So, before we go judging, questioning, or pushing someone into a particular timeline, we should consider some factors:

  1. the mental/emotional readiness, finances, health, and career trajectories varies from person to person and couple to couple making it difficult to force someone into a timeline and
  2. meshing two personalities, two families, two different careers, two different sets of life experiences, and two different life purposes in order to yield a strong relationship that is built to last is not something that should be rushed or taken lightly.

Photo Credit: Jurgen Appelo

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