Mind Over Matter: Pushing Through Failures to Accomplish Our Goals

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By Dawn Onley

I was supposed to run yesterday’s Marine Corps Marathon, but I didn’t. It wasn’t that I suffered an injury or that some type of emergency came up. I didn’t run it because I couldn’t get my mind right to train so I could run it.

I’m bummed out about it.

I’ve always said that running is more of a mental exercise than it is physical. It’s natural to concentrate on the physical aspects of running, conditioning the body, developing your stride, practicing breathing techniques, trying to avoid injuries, etc. But, it’s so much more than that.

First and foremost, running is about getting your mind right. The brain is boss, pushing the body to new endurance levels — or not. For distance running, it’s vitally important for a runner to master her thoughts. It is common for the body to want to quit, almost from jump, so it’s incumbent upon the mind to convince the body to keep going.

I failed to get the mind-body alignment working this year.

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There are undoubtedly people who absolutely love to run. There are people who would rather run than do just about anything. I know this because I’ve met a few of them. People who have just started running and found it to be a passion or those who have run for decades and can let you know all the particulars, the best shoes, gear, about running on various terrains, in various states, even countries.

I was never one of them.

Don’t get me wrong, I love how running makes me look and feel — after the fact — but the very act of running usually finds me hemming and hawing, from the start to the finish, until my mind forces my body to shut up and move. Starting is always the toughest part for me, but even after I’m out there, it’s quite the task to keep my mind focused and determined to not give in to the voices that are telling me to stop.

Every. Single. Time.

The key for me is to run so often that it becomes routine. When running is developed as a habit, it’s harder to break. I didn’t accomplish that this year. I failed to reach my goal. This is one vision on my Vision Board that I can’t cross off.

But I have run a marathon before. That gives me some solace. When I ran the New York City Marathon in 2011, I ran five days a week, rain or shine. I conditioned my mind to make my body my slave. I knew that if I gave in to my body’s request to sleep in or to take a break, I wouldn’t run that marathon.

The mental part cannot be underestimated. For running, but for so much more. Virtually anything that requires us to stretch our limits well beyond our comfort zones, requires a strong mental game.

  • To run a business.
  • To make healthier lifestyle choices.
  • To write a book.
  • To avoid getting distracted by small annoyances that threaten to get in the way of the big picture.
  • To become stronger. Wiser. Better.

Although my body temporarily won the battle this year, my mind will win the war.

You Got This

Here’s to you and I pushing past failures to accomplish a strong mental finish in 2017. In life.

Mind over matter.

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Sister Friends, Play Aunties and Big Mamas

By Samantha McKenzie

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I don’t know about you, but my sister friends, play aunties and big mamas (a term used only in an affectionate way) make my world go ’round, and ’round, and ’round!

These are women from all walks of life who may not be related to you by blood, but hold a distinct place in your life. They have been the shoulders I’ve cried on and the bosoms upon which I have laid my weary thoughts. These are those soul sisters who show up on your behalf at a moment’s notice…without hesitation. They are the sister girls who don’t necessarily need all the facts, they just know they heard your moaning and they respond.

eliminate-racismWe all have girlfriends who have our back, no matter what. They are prone to tell you the truth at a moment’s notice and will stand in place to catch you as you fall – almost always in the same breath. These are the soldiers who wear that mystical armor – the one that makes you stronger from the inside out.

I love my sister friends. After leaving my hometown during my college years, I’ve met a great many of them I now call friend. They have shared the most amazing moments of laughter with me and we hold many memories of joy. They have been comforters, survivors, healers and way makers. I know for a fact that I couldn’t be where I am today without their support.

This includes those play aunties and big mamas who’ve adopted me along the way too. Like Mrs. Murphy from the cultural arts center and Ms. Daphne from the college I used to work for. They bottled up their wisdom, served it with a piece of pie and sent me down the road.

 

These are those women who have traveled the road (more than once or twice) and have a little more to teach you. They are the elders in the community who give you free advice and some of that ole time relogion. They see what you don’t see and ain’t afraid to share it. I love my play aunties and big mamas. Every city I have ever lived in has provided me with a handful of wise women who have gladly taken me under their wing. I have drank from their cup willingly. To this day, if I enter a room where seasoned women are gathered, one will find me and leave me with a word.

Image result for women's wisdomIn their own way, each one of  these women have guided me, prevented me from falling, and pushed me further than I thought I could go.

I start this day, Friday, October 20, 2017, honoring their presence in my life and in the lives of my children.

How else can we thank you dear sisters? And the voice inside me whispered back, “Return the favor to those in need.”

Thank you sister friends, play aunties and big mamas. YOU make our world go ’round.

Anticipation Does a Heart Good

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By Dawn Onley

Nothing beats the joy of sweet anticipation.

My 4-year-old has already peeped this as evidenced when he asks me to buy him a specific toy or to fix him a specific meal or to read him a specific book or allow him to watch his favorite movie or to take him to a specific place. When I tell him the things he has to do as a condition for me to think about acquiescing to his whims, he repeats the conditions, claps and then sets out to try and keep up his end of the deal. Even if the reward promised won’t come until his birthday or Christmas (for example the huge, hulking Maui figure he spotted at the toy store and now begs me for daily) he is anticipating his reward and knows that he has to be good first and foremost if there is any chance in him getting it.

The thrill of anticipation never leaves him – it’s in the brightness of his eyes, his smile and in his rehashing of our deal over and over and over again, usually at bedtime.

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I can’t fault the kid. I’m thrilled by anticipation too. I’m a dreamer and I get dizzy with excitement when I plan my next vacation, for example. I usually start by narrowing it down to several possibilities, after which I conduct research to see which spot works best at any given moment. This could include time of year, weather, costs, hotel and food options (don’t judge), and a list of all the things to do.

It’s so darn exciting! There are so many places to go, things to do, people to meet and sights to see that if we spend the time engaging the things that bring us the most joy, honestly, I don’t see how anyone could ever get bored.

I anticipate books the same way. I literally have a list of about 20 books to buy/check out at the library at any given time, so I go through the process of reading book reviews, reading articles about lesser known authors, determining what genre of book I’m in the mood to read, which book I can get my hands on the quickest, etc. So many great options. Such glorious anticipation.

Today, I will do some planning and anticipating. It does my heart good.

 

 

Aging Happily

By Samantha McKenzie

Let’s face it. We live in a world that shames us for getting older. By the time we’re old enough to figure out how to use a remote control, we’re bombarded with every type of advertisement that’s telling us we should look younger, feel younger, be younger. We’re a society consumed with protecting our youthfulness at every turn.

Even in our homes.

At the office.

As we walk down the street and when we’re hanging out at the local bar.

There’s no place to really hide. Forty is not the new 25. Forty is forty and it’s just damn good for some of us.

We all want to drink from the illusive fountain of youth, because, well, that’s what we’ve been taught to believe.

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I’m guilty of it too. The first time I saw a gray hair pop in, I immediately plucked it out. Later, when more grew, I elicited my children to help me destroy them all. I continued these self-loathing habits as the years progressed (while I didn’t). As I aged out of my 20s, I detested buying new clothes because I no longer wore that “perfect size.”

During my 30s, I refused to wear a bathing suit because I didn’t want my stretch marks to show or those cellulite dimples that had begun to form around my thighs. At this stage, I was sure it was all down hill for me. By the time I hit 40, I learned about concealer. I have purchased every product known to man to cover up the dark circles around my eyes and perfect my imperfect skin. On the outside, I was confident and self-assured, but on the inside, I was doing everything in my power to look 20 again.

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I was stuck in a pitiful place, a place that nurtured the belief that there was this perfect look and if I captured it, I’d be forever happy.

I’ve since learned that I had to get out and get out fast (it was a different type of sunken place).

These days, I no longer chase after my youth. I absolutely love being 49. I can say this with conviction: I love each and every day of getting older because I only see myself getting better. I eat healthier and get more exercise because I know it’s good for me and I feel better when I take care of myself. There’s less to put on and much less to cover up on this side of beauty.

I’ve learned to detach from the idea that aging is a bad thing. I’ve had to learn to disregard the images that tell me otherwise. Instead, I see age as the most beautiful part of life. It has afforded me the opportunity to focus on more important things, like creating stronger friendships, and paying attention to my mental and spiritual diet. I have learned to respect the changes my body has gone through and see it as a natural evolution.

Those stretch marks now remind me that my oldest son is now a new financial adviser and is living a productive (and might I add, independent) life. They also remind me that my middle daughter is graduating college in May and just took the law school entrance exam. Those marks tell the story of sacrifice, of expansion, of progress…and they are deeply divine.

My gray hairs tell the world that I’ve been here long enough to have seen a few things. It says, “She’s wiser. She’s stronger. She’s able.”Image result for aging gracefully

Aging has given me the space to create my own happiness. It’s made me find greatness in other things, like the ocean or a very meaningful conversation – both things that urge me to shift my understanding of life.

What if we became that generation that embraced aging? What if we gave ourselves permission to get older and be happy while it’s taking place?

I challenge you to accept your entire self this week. Look in the mirror and love the skin that you are in. Eliminate any criticism of your physical features (the ones you say out loud and the ones you say in your head). If you are feeling less than pretty, remember to smile. Think back on the stories that got you to this point and celebrate each and every experience.

Age has done me no wrong. In fact, it’s made me more beautiful than ever.

 

Take the Risk

“Dare to dream! If you did not have the capability to make your wildest wishes come true, your mind would not have the capacity to conjure such ideas in the first place. There is no limitation on what you can potentially achieve, except for the limitation you choose to impose on your own imagination. What you believe to be possible will always come to pass – to the extent that you deem it possible. It really is as simple as that.” – Anthon St. Maarten

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By Dawn Onley

Sometimes, the sheer power and awesomeness of our dreams can cause us to hesitate.

We can get insanely excited about our dreams that it seems counterintuitive to hesitate and not run at full force toward the realization of our heart’s desire, but this is what we often do.

It’s not that we don’t believe that we deserve the beauty and freedom of our dreams, it’s just easy for us to tuck our longings away in a drawer for safekeeping, for a more ideal time, like when the mortgage is paid off and the kids are out of school. This is largely the function of our practical minds – particularly for middle aged people like myself. It becomes second-nature for us to put duty and responsibility and comfort above our dreams and happiness. This is even understandable, albeit somewhat sad when one realizes that all we really have is this moment.

This is the real world, we tell ourselves. We can do what brings us joy on the weekends, or after our work is done, or once we retire, or once the kids are grown, or some other future time that isn’t promised.

This works for a while until it doesn’t. The thing about dreams is they never really go away. If we are pulled, we must eventually answer. What is life without passion? A mundane existence.

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We must write the book. We must launch the business. We must learn to ballroom dance. We must travel to distant lands to learn ancient secrets. We must do the thing that scares us the most. We must. There will come a day and a time when our dreams can no longer stay in the drawer. We will be forced to make room for them.

Consider that day a blessing, even if it comes with uncertainty. It most certainly will come with uncertainty. Even if we are nudged into it. Sometimes we need an extra push. Keep in mind that everything changes eventually. Nothing remains the same.

Spring gives way to summer and summer gives way to fall. The seeds we planted in the spring are now mature and ready to harvest. The hard work we have sown, we will surely reap.

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Fear of success is every bit as real as fear of failure. For the sake of our dreams, however, we must work our way through the doubt and uncertainty. We must take the risk. Anything in life worth anything requires risk. Love is the greatest risk of all.

Dare to dream. And then act. It’s the only way to truly live.

The Memory of Touch

By Samantha McKenzie

Have you been touched today? There’s a scientific reason why most people like to be hugged, touched and cuddled. Nestled in the base of our brain lies the posterior pituitary gland which produces a hormone called oxytocin. Known more commonly as the “cuddle hormone,” this miracle peptide is released when people come in contact with doses of warm hugs, loving gazes, or hand holding.Image result for african american couple huggingThis hormone is also released in women during and after pregnancy, extends to nursing mothers and is credited for increasing the bond between moms and their newborns.

The so-called miracle drug is responsible for making us feel incredibly affectionate in our new or existing relationships. It’s no surprise that when the skin is caressed, massaged or simply glided over, we get goose bumps, chills and ultimately experience bursts of joy.

Experts recommend couples cuddle for at least 10 minutes after they get home from work. No talking, no looking at your cell phones. Put aside dinner and just hold each other. Hold on to each other. The practice, they say, releases surges of the hormone that helps reduce stress, deepens your relationship and increases your bond.

Image result for couple huggingTouch is also one of the five senses that doesn’t diminish as you age.

The hormone is said to boost your immune system, lower your risk of heart disease, relieve pain and reduce social anxiety. People who are greeted at the door with a hug when they arrive at a party tend to have a more optimistic and pleasant experience. That hug induces the proverbial exhale and lessens nervousness.

couple-holding-hands-sunset150685331pcDon’t underestimate the power of touch. Next time your child is sick and you snuggle them up in your arms, know that you are helping them release a hormone that makes them feel better and relieving some of their pain. Next time your spouse has a rough day at work, try offering a soft touch to the temples. You’ll be helping them release the stress and promote good feelings.

So go ahead and cuddle up for the most important reason of all. It just feels good.

 

Go and Be Great!

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By Dawn Onley

It’s quite possible that we cannot fully realize our potential until we exercise faith. In love. In the pursuit of our passions. In our vocations. In healing. In life.

Repeatedly we are instructed on the importance of faith, from a spiritual context:

“Faith can move mountains.” – Matthew 17:20

“Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.” – Martin Luther

“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” – Saint Augustine

And we have also been reminded of how faith works in a secular context through popular self-help speakers and in motivational books. One of my favorite quotes about faith comes from educator and civil rights activist, Mary McLeod Bethune: “Without faith, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible.”

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I learned of this quote nearly 11 years ago, when I was mulling a job offer in public relations. At the time, I was editor of a niche magazine that covered military information technology and was unsure whether I wanted to leave a career in journalism to pursue a chance to learn a related but new career field. To help you understand the difficulty of my decision, and to avoid getting too inside baseball, you should understand from a journalist’s perspective, joining the ranks of PR flacks has long been likened to going over to the “dark side.”

Ultimately, I love a challenge and I love learning new stuff (and I always kind of had a thing for Darth Vader), so I decided to step out on faith to take the position, assuring myself that if I hated it, I could always go back to doing what I loved.

I ended up mostly liking PR and grateful for the opportunity to expand my skill set. Here’s where I’m headed with this: Because of that one decision to step out on faith and try something new, I am now walking into a new season of my life starting my own communications firm that marries the things I honed in journalism with what I liked most about PR.

Exercising our faith is key to unleashing our potential. It’s what made the difference in me ultimately deciding to steer my own ship rather than pursue another full-time job with a company. It took faith to start me on this journey.

Believe in your Dreams

If fear is keeping you from making a decision, I want to encourage you to give faith a chance. It’s best when we work through our fears of the unknown, even if we have to take baby steps at first. The worst that can happen is never as bad as we work up in our minds. We owe it to ourselves to be present and courageous and to begin laying the groundwork to go after our best work lives and personal lives.

I can’t tell you how happy and blessed and absolutely thrilled I am to be in this moment! Sure, I’m scared too, but fear will not hold me captive. No way will fear win. I’ve got work to do and a business to build!

When my son heads out for school each morning, this is what I tell him: “Go and Be Great!”

Now it’s time for me to take my own advice.

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