The Assignment: Getting Started
Whatta ya know? Happiness is a habit. Newsflash: Turns out unhappiness is a habit, too. It took working The Assignment for me to realize just how unhappy I had become . . .
“Taking action polishes our will.” DawnSeeker
How “The Assignment” Began
It started out simple enough. I had made a new friend who was going through difficult times.
Cancer survival. Family issues. Hit by a truck (literally). Money problems. Not sure of her purpose or direction in life.
Yet she was a woman of amazing faith. A prayer warrior.
And though she’d been praying for and helping everybody else, she had become entrenched in her own deep personal funk.
What stood out the most were the negative statements about herself that she would repeat:
“I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Seemed to me she needed some sort of focused direction, some simple strategy to help get back on track.
We’ve all experienced this — someone we love who does so much good. But they just can’t seem to get past a certain pattern of negativity that cripples their lives.
Good grief, to varying degrees, we’ve all done it!
We just can’t see ourselves as clearly as we see someone else!
I’ve got a consulting background, a fix-it attitude. So talking with her on the phone one day, I heard the repeated negative pattern and came up with a plan.
(I decided I, too, would join in the experiment. Otherwise, where would my credibility be?)
It was a simple three-point, go-to strategy that I figured might actually help. I referred to it as our “Assignment”.
“Let’s try this.” I said. “The moment we realize that we’re saying, being, or thinking something negative, let’s STOP, and shift into our Assignment. Let’s work with it over the weekend, and check in Monday with a progress report. Fair enough?”
Little did I know that day the impact on my life this random Assignment, now and forever referred to as “The Assignment”, would produce.
The Assignment: Steps 1- 2 -3
Whenever you notice yourself saying, being, or thinking something negative (or down): Stop and do the following three steps:
Step 1) Face Lift
* Lift your face into a smile, bring the energy up.
* At the same time, stand or sit up straight to tune and align the harpstrings of your spine.
Wipe that scowl right off your face
Learn to live in a different place
All around birds chirp and sing
They don’t care about dumb little things — Enjoy!
Happiness is a habit. Glum is a habit, too. Work this little step and you’ll discover which habit is hardest to break!
Like my daughter’s harp, the spine is our instrument, and when our strings are out of tune our music can never be beautiful.
This also allows more flow of oxygen, more flow of Life.
I had just read about facial expressions and how they alter our moods. How we can overcome depression by putting on an expression of happiness.
Most of the time we have it wrong.
We wait to feel good before we smile.
But our body, our physiology, it turns out, determines much of how we feel.
It came from the book, Blink, The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell.
According to Blink, research shows that the face doesn’t just reflect our moods.
It dictates them.
A sour look affects the autonomic nervous system and makes the body — the heart rate, blood pressure, hormones-released — sour.
A happy one shifts us into bliss.
So when we find ourselves with negative thoughts, moods, actions, and statements, we can turn them around.
Whenever we notice ourselves depressed or negative: Stop! Put a smile on our face, stand tall, and work The Assignment, instead.
Step 2) Give Thanks!
* In all things give thanks!
“You must thank God for all things, the good and the bad! Because all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.”
This is one of my favorite Biblical principles. (See My Yoda Story, below.)
This is BIG! This means to thank God first — rather than curse. To stop, look up, and trust Him to work out all the things in our lives for ultimate good.
Car repairs, finances, politics, unemployment. Even death.
I’m not completely sure, but I think this means to stop complaining, too. : ~)
This is where faith comes in. And gratitude is the beginning of faith.
I have worked with this concept for many years now. In fact, it is because of this aspect of The Assignment that I work in both California and Hawaii.
Think of that! Just by thanking God for every circumstance, including the bad ones, my life shifted to include fulfilling my desire to return to tropical Hawaii — every six weeks to work with horses — for the past ten years!
I learned this out of a circumstance that began with something bad. But God turned it into something good.
How I Met My Own Personal “Yoda”
One day, years ago, I locked horns with my then-teenage daughter in an agonizing, emotion-charged rift. I remember the day vividly, and always shall. This was one of those great turning points in my life.
I had to go to work, and left the house in tears, wondering where I’d gone wrong?
I felt like the worst mother in the world.
While driving across the desert near where I lived, I sobbed. I remember looking out on the snow-capped peaks of the Tehachapi Mountains, and I prayed.
I asked God to heal the rift with my daughter. I asked for calm. I asked for wisdom, too.
But I felt nothing back from my prayers.
It was like God was silent.
So I prayed the Lord’s prayer out loud, line by line, waiting for the calm God always sends me.
But still, I felt awful.
No help. No answer.
I asked, “Jesus, why aren’t you answering me?”
And then I remembered: Sometimes we can’t tackle things by ourselves. Sometimes we need to pray with someone else.
“But who else can I pray with, Lord?”
And then it came to me. On the way to my work — I’ve passed it countless times — that Korean camp, the sign reads in English and Korean squiggles: Los Angeles Prayer Mountain — tucked away in the pines.
“OK, God. I’ll stop in and pray with someone there, even if it’s just the gardener,” I resolved.
From that moment I felt God’s calm. I was still crying and upset, but the depth of my pain had lifted.
(In this way, I knew that it was His desire for me to go to the camp. Because when I resolved to go, the pain let up.)
I drove several more miles, and turned onto the dirt road to the camp, asking God to show me where to go.
I parked, and there was the caretaker/gardener standing nearby. I asked if anybody was home.
“They’re in the house,” he replied.
The rest of the memory is frozen in time:
I walk to the doorway, under the eaves, onto the porch, and there I am greeted by a familiar sight: On the stoop, a tidy row of slippers and shoes line-up against the wall, like in Hawaii.
I knock on the wooden door. It swings open and the tiny figure of a woman appears. Dark hair, soft face, perhaps in her late sixties. To this day, I still think of her as Yoda.
“Come in!” she says with a warm smile, and gestures me inside.
Her name is Michelle, a Korean American. The pastor and his wife are out buying groceries, she says. She is here by herself.
Yoda perceives my arrival at her doorstep as Divine. She seems almost to be expecting me.
I sob to her about my pain, about the trouble with my daughter, that I need prayer. She listens, she smiles, and she tells me to thank God for my troubles.
She recites from scripture in lilting voice and with hand gestures, adding her own embellishment:
“You must thank God for all things, the good and the bad! Because all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” (from Romans 8:28)
What strange advice?
Thank God for my troubles?
For the teenage mother/daughter rift?
Can it be that easy?
For maybe half an hour, we talk and pray. She offers me water. I drink. I’m calm now, the tears are dry.
My Yoda tells me that she’s been here praying for her sons, for their Salvation. She’s on the last day of a five-day prayer retreat. Her own personal retreat, it seems.
And she smiles, as if she knows why God sent me.
As if my arrival was orchestrated by the Divine Answerer of Prayer, Himself.
In leaving, she tells me of a book by Merlin Carothers, Prison to Praise. She asks for my address. (A few weeks later I get a sweet note and a copy of the book in the mail.)
This is the book she was given, years ago, directing her to thank God for all things — this is the book from which she received the wisdom she gives to me today.
We hug goodbye.
I walk back to my car. Amazed at all that happened.
What were the chances of meeting her? Of receiving her sage advice?
As I drove away, I felt quiet. Peaceful. Uplifted.
I did what she said. I began thanking God.
For my daughter, for my work, for all that He has given me.
Later that night, I called home and heard my daughter’s laughter. The angst had passed from her, too.
But the very next day there was a hearing at the courthouse regarding the ranch where I kept my horses and gave riding lessons. No problem, I’d been told, no need for me to show up.
Just a routine hearing regarding a neighbor’s complaint about dust, and a Conditional Use Permit.
But it seems that things didn’t go so well.
The judge declared there would be no riding lessons at that ranch.
In the swift fall of his gavel, my primary income source was dashed.
When I first heard the news, just two days after meeting my Yoda sage, I was tempted to fume, to curse.
My mind raced: It’s not fair!
How could they?
The neighbor complained? The new one who moved here from the city! Trying to make the country into a city, again!
But after meeting Yoda, how could I even go there? Into the emotions of anger and despair?
Not now. Not after God answered my prayers and sent me to meet her.
So instead of cursing, I looked up and thanked God for . . . losing the lessons. Losing the income.
I thanked Him for the still-viable hoofcare arm of my business, and for the new doors and income that He would be opening for me.
Did I feel it? NO!
Was I really sure it would all work out? Not at all!
But you see, this isn’t about feelings. This is about exercising the wisdom, the GIFT, I received.
God opened a door for me (yes, literally!) — who was I to refuse it!
So I thanked Him.
Over and over and over.
And I made my body chill, not upset. I breathed and radiated love from out of my heart, and every time I felt fearful I repeated my thanks to Him for the good He would make of all this!
Turns out, with the riding lessons gone, I had time, precious time, previously not available.
I always wanted to return to Hawaii, after living there in the 80s. But how would that be possible?
Through thanking instead of cursing, doors opened.
I got a call from a woman horse trainer who asked if I’d learn a new Natural Barefoot style hoof trim and use that to maintain her horse’s hooves. Why not?
The free time allowed me to attend some clinics, and to sort through the new techniques.
Turns out this new trim contained elements that changed my own horses for the better, as well as the other horses in my horseshoeing and hoofcare clientele.
Exactly one year later, I returned to Hawaii and started a hoofcare practice there. And now I go between California and Hawaii, working with horses in both places.
A miracle in itself!
And now I know: Sometimes, we need to pray with someone else!
Sometimes the things that upset us are positioned to move us from one perspective to another, as long as we listen and obey.
I’m forever grateful for my Yoda. And I know beyond a doubt that God loves me, and answers my prayers!
Step 3) Take Action!
This is where the rubber meets the road. Where faith stops being talk. And it’s lived.
* DO SOMETHING!
* Take action!
Any small little silly action. A smile, a hello, reach out to someone. Scrub, mop, dust.
Anything to get the energy moving outward . . . (see my Depression Emergency Kit)
Action is King. I’ve known this for years.
Yet by our very human nature we cease to act.
There are so many fine excuses: Too old. Too young. Too tired. Not enough time. Too much stress. Too much work. Not enough money. I’m not good enough. I don’t know enough . . .
Yet we are in charge of our actions by our own free will.
And taking action polishes our will.
Working The Assignment
So now, back to my friend in the funk, on the telephone.
After listening to my ideas, my friend agreed to work The Assignment over the weekend. Mother’s Day weekend.
And I agreed to work it, too. And I told her I’d check in on Monday to see how we’d both done.
So I’m giving you The Assignment now!
And I’m back working it again. Refreshed and renewed after writing this Post.
So the moment we realize that we’re saying, being, or thinking something negative, let’s STOP, and shift into The Assignment. Let’s work it.
And let’s check in next Post and I’ll share my insights of how it worked for me — and I hope you’ll share your insights of how it worked for you.
Can’t wait! : ~ )
Working The Assignment: Welcome Failure : ~ )
“When we attempt to change our ways, we meet resistance.” DawnSeeker
OK — the first thing that occurred while working The Assignment recently was: “FAILURE!” I heard it in my head over and over again. (See previous post: The Assignment: Guide to Greater Happiness.)
To be expected, really. For when we attempt to change our ways, we meet resistance. So here is my journal entry to process those nagging thoughts:
Failure is a term that looms up often in my mind . . .
Only problem, my mind has the term backwards. Dyslexic. Plain wrong!
What I interpret as Failure is merely LIFE — Life working itself out. My Life!
Perfectly normal, really . . .
For with every effort there is Failure! But we just don’t STOP there!
We keep going.
Like the proverbial Rocket Ship to the Moon.
All the while our Rocket Ship alters course. Every moment changing heading in some slight little way that makes Failure turn back into Success.
Because Failure and Success are intricately related! Intertwined. Inseparable!
It’s just our limited-scope perception that blurs the picture. And makes Failure into a death sentence of sorts.
Years ago, Buckminster Fuller wrote an essay called Mistake Mystique. I’ve got a dog-eared copy from the early 1980s, when Bucky was still alive. Still uplifting civilization with his brilliant problem-solving-for-all-humanity.
(I got to walk up on stage with him, and clip the microphone on him every day for the week we spent video taping him in 1981. Afterwards, he scrawled in my book: “Thank you for wiring me into Eternity.”)
Bucky says we’ve got it all wrong. Mistakes — we shun them. What a horrible thing, making Mistakes in our society!
But we’ve got it all backwards!
Mistakes are , in fact, how we learn. Mistakes push us forward into better and better lives.
Failure — same thing.
So I have a new little dance I’m trying out.
Correcting my mental dyslexia, and re-wiring “Failure” into “Success”.
Because the only true Failure is stopping there. Not correcting. Not persevering.
You can do it, Dawnie!
You can turn Failure into Success.
So did it work? Still working! But only if I keep working it!
That’s the thing about Life, The breath comes in, and must go out . . . We must constantly be moving, adjusting, adapting.
Like the Rocket Ship.
Working The Assignment: Step 3 — Take Action!
My brother and I — “horse jumping” in Grandfather’s back yard. : ~ ))
Action ~ Inaction
Two little poems from my Journal, paired with Grandfather’s vintage photographs — 1950′s -1960′s.
How tempting is inaction
Beguiling us to waste
Lovely, precious moments —
Lulled by fear and haste
It really doesn’t help us
Fix what’s wrong or heal,
This lack of faith entraps us
On a downward spinning wheel
So wake up from your stupor!
Look up, breathe deep, and stand!
Put a smile upon your face
Reach out and help your fellow man!
Inaction’s completely selfish
Now you must see it so —
In order to overcome its grip
Get up, and make a go!
Action is the pendulum
Of life’s swift-ticking clock.
Jump onto it, swing into gear
Or opportunities shall be lost.
It’s fine to wait and ponder
When time for that is due.
But soon the clock requires of you —
Get up and play it through.
Step out from on the sidelines
Procrastinate no more!
Begin with little tasks at hand
And soon they lead to more.
The energy increases
With each new task achieved
Don’t listen to that voice
Of lazy self-defeat!
And if at last you’re weary,
Then lay your tasks to rest.
Take a breather, take a nap,
Tackle it later — when you’re fresh!
Like what you’ve read here? Visit Dawn’s sister blog: Soul Horse Ride
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