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A Conversation With My Middle School Self

Never idealize others. They will never live up to your expectations.
— Leo Buscaglia

Leave it to Throwback Thursday, aka #tbt, to get me thinking about middle school.

Yes, that painful 3 years where we should have cocoons for the changes we go through, but there we stand, exposed to the world while we morph physically and mentally.

A time where it seems social pressure and standards are thrown into hyperdrive. Judgement, cliques and paths of association are formed. Gone are the playful days of coloring and recess and here are the days of locker combinations, passing periods and pressure. 

Immense pressure.

Now, for those of you reading this thinking "What? Middle school was easy. None of this was part of it," I envy you in a lot of ways. 

As I was posting a picture for #tbt on Instagram (seen above), I paused and looked at it for a bit. To the eye, you see a 6th grade boy, posing for his youth basketball picture with a hesitant, uncomfortable smirk. Now, to say that I was a bit heavy is stating the obvious. From 3rd grade on, I gradually gained weight and became what you see in the photo and with that weight, especially due to the timing in life, caused an onset of insecurity and depression.

The one thing you want to do during this time is fit in and I just felt that I struggled in doing so. I got caught up in the idea of being popular and quickly realized that that was going to be an uphill battle. This compounded the problem in many ways, causing a downward spiral mentally and emotionally for me.

It's odd to say that in 6th grade, I experienced one of my personal lowest points, but every day was a battle. I had some great friends and I truly appreciate those around me, but inside I always felt like I was the "pity friend." The one that you invited because you felt bad. Now, I'm still friends with a lot of people I went to middle school and high school with who are probably reading this thinking that this concept is absurd. Well, it's also part of the facade of what I had to do those days. 

It was in this picture, in hindsight, that I can see myself carrying the weight of not feeling good enough. Battling everyday to love myself and be happy with my life. Something I would carry for more than a decade after. 

Fast forward about 10 years after this picture and I'm sitting in my counselor's office in Des Moines, talking through the after effects of a horrible relationship where I was subjected to verbal abuse on a daily basis. After uncovering my underlying pain of self imposed inadequacy, my counselor asked me to bring in a picture of myself from my childhood where I can clearly remember pain. This was the picture.

He asked me what I'd say to that child in the picture if I could sit down and talk with him. What words would I share if I could have that movie moment where you travel back in time and sit next to yourself. With tears in my eyes, I struggled to say "You're going to be ok." Struggled because I didn't want to fall apart in his office, not because I didn't feel it. It was in that moment that life turned north for me.

Over time, I've continually seen this picture as a reminder. A reminder not to be so hard on myself. Not to judge or put all of my emotions in one basket. A reminder that that bottom of my emotions is a hell of a long way from where I am now. A reminder to always check in with myself as much as I check in with others. I don't regret one moment of the pain I went through or overcome. It allowed me to focus on my personality, my heart, my sense of humor and my ability to connect with others. Without that pain, without the growth, without having to battle and dispatch the demons of depression, I wouldn't be the man I am today. I thank God every day for the struggle.

While I'm the first to say focus on the future and keep driving towards your goals, it's moments like this that make me realize the emotional benefit of appreciating where you've come from. The phrase "honor yourself," has a ton of meaning for me because of this. 

I've come a long way in life, I've experienced opportunities that some can only dream of, I've connected and touched thousands of lives since that day in Des Moines, and even back to that picture. The one thing that my self doubt created was the emergence of my God given gift of caring for others and being able to connect to them through emotion and energy. It's formed who I've become today as a motivator and leader. It's one of the main things that has kept me alive and has provided my path in life.

So, if you're ever struggling, trying to find that new level of energy where you're at, or just need a jolt of perspective, get out an old picture. Maybe a time that you felt awkward or lonely, It's in that time that you need to realize that you're 100% successful at living your life since then. That you've successfully gotten up every morning and pushed on in life. 

Be proud of who you are, love who you are for all that makes you uniquely you and mostly....

Honor yourself always.

The love you have for yourself will allow you to be the best version of you possible for you and those around you.

What would you say to your middle school self? Comment below!

You Are Already "Perfect"

You Are Already "Perfect"

What if I were to tell you that the endless pursuit of perfection could be simplified by sitting down to make a list? Learn how my own pursuit of perfection created problems and how you can find the happiness that I did years ago.

Participation Award Parents (Video Blog)

Participation Award Parents (Video Blog)

I'm excited to share my first video blog with you based on a recent experience my family had with what I've termed "Participation Award Parents." These are parents who are too tired or too busy to realize that their kids need them. They need their time, attention, love, nurturing and they need to be taught and guided right from wrong. Keeping your children alive isn't enough, we need to do more as parents and we need to support those parents who aren't sure what they're doing.

Please share this with all of your parenting friends and groups so that someone may have the opportunity to stand up and ask for help.

My Why

“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it." - Simon Sinek

A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to meet the author of a transformational book called Start With Why. Simon Sinek was a very unassuming, down to earth nice guy who was on fire. He took the one thing that we should all be doing but most times forget to do: have a "Why" and act on it.

It comes back to the core of why you do what you do. It got me thinking about the path I had started to take at the time to create positive messages and posts. To hopefully inspire, lift and celebrate those who were fighting, struggling and praying for something good to grasp onto.

As this journey has taken shape (and who knows where it'll go) it's always came back to wanting to be that spark in someone's day to help push them over that hump and get back on the right track. I was getting amazing feedback, I built my pages and started to really feel engaged in this approach.

Then I got an email from a very VERY honest friend.

"Cut the crap. You can't be positive like that ALL the time. Quit blowing sunshine."

I smiled when I read it (mostly for who it came from; I adore her, but she frightens me sometimes) but it also made me think: is that how I come off? Mr. All-Day Sunshine?

So I decided to pull back the curtain for you all. To shed a little light on the core of "My Why."

99% of the time, I need to hear the message I'm putting out there. Publicizing it holds me accountable. I can't post something positive and then spend my day acting like a sulky jackass.

I encourage because I wasn't always encouraged. I was talked down to, bullied at times. I've also seen and heard hundreds of stories of negativity and abuse. You can either use your words as support or acid.

My messages contain strong elements of confidence, never cockiness. I wasn't always confident and still struggle with it like anyone else does.

I post pictures of my running and workouts a lot. Not for vanity's sake, but more to show that anyone can do it. Anyone who knows me knows I lost over 100 lbs and have kept it off for over 15 years now. Most of the time you see a picture of me doing it, you didn't see me groaning about getting started. I just put one foot in front of the other and kept myself accountable. I do this in the hopes that I'm encouraging someone else to take that journey that I did. It's the most rewarding thing I've ever done for myself.

I've learned through my life that surrounding yourself with positivity always brings a great energy to your day. It's the energy suckers, the ones that will always take more than they give, that leave you drained. I've dealt with my fair share of them.

I've seen the dark of the dark, it's awful. I choose not to look in that direction anymore and by posting/owning positivity, I ensure myself of a one way ticket in the other direction.

I could go on and on, but this will give you a bit of insight into the fact that I'm not always Mr. Sunshine and things aren't always perfect.

That's why I do what I do. 

I was blessed with an abundance of love, positive energy, insight, and empathy. I can't explain it, but it's been with me since I was a kid.

I would be cheating myself and would be selfish to others if I didn't share and do all I could to EnRich the days of others.

Cheers to not blowing sunshine!

Motivational Mondays - 8.3.15 - Overcoming "Filters"

Motivational Mondays - 8.3.15 - Overcoming "Filters"

There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not fascinated by the power of the mind. You hear stories of personal triumph, overcoming the odds, and achieving goals. The power of the mind to pull someone through adversity is astounding and there are countless stories that you can draw from to prove that.

It’s all in what we tell ourselves everyday and how we choose to go through the day believing in ourselves.

Here We Go!

 

"You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take."
-  Michael Jordan

This quote is where I start this new journey for EnRich Your Soul.

You see, all my life I’ve been a predominantly positive person. The one people go to with problems, concerns, or when they need an ear or a shoulder. I was a peer counselor in high school for 4 years; literally my only formal training to this point. I’ve just always had the desire and God given ability to help people. Whether it’s been something conversational like advice, how to get out of a rut, or just getting over the hump of negativity.

As I mentioned, a lot of the source of how I help people comes from a 2nd nature ability to have people to open up to me. I’ve been told countless times how anyone from a stranger to my best friends feel completely at ease talking with me about the most personal of details in their lives. A lot of who I am is molded from my own personal struggles: weight, depression, insecurity, and low self-esteem. I’ve seen the darkest of times in myself, only to find the strength and faith to climb out of it.

Through thousands of conversations and thousands of hours of building my own character from times of shambles, I’ve come out on the other side a strong person than I’ve ever been. I understand and respect my past, but only as teaching tools on how to approach my present and future

I’ve been asked over and over again, “Why didn’t you go into psychology/counseling? You’re so good at listening and helping people!” Truth is, at the time of deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up at 18, psychology seemed like too long of a schooling path and I didn’t have the patience at the time to go that route; something I’ve always regretted in the back of my mind. So now, I simply consider myself the best counselor that doesn’t have a wall o’ certificates. By no stretch of the imagination do I consider myself a trained professional nor would I ever consider my goal to assist people who truly need professional help. Who am I then? Well, I’m simply the most positive person you know and someone who will shoot you straight, who will be a massive cheerleader for you and a source of turning your mind around and going in the right direction.

Over the past 2 years I’ve had this page on Facebook for EnRich Your Soul. It just started as a place to post some positive words, thoughts, or memes to encourage people. I started this page after seeing various social media outlets doing similar things and at the encouragement of friends and family who wanted me to continue exercising my natural gifts of communication and help.

It’s simply remained as a basic, no frills Facebook page….until this year.

Candidly, I’ve been terrified of this day for the last year. When I heard the words, “You really should make this ‘EnRich Your Soul’ thing bigger,” from a friend, I knew they were right. It made my heart happy thinking of reaching out to as many people as possible, speaking to large groups, motivating the masses to a more positive life. Seizing the uplifting energy around me while ridding myself of the negative past that held me down so many times. Parallel to that excitement was fear. The fear that comes with truly putting yourself out there, shining the spotlight on what you believe, chasing your dream with the fervor and passion that most could only want in their daily lives.

What if I sucked? What if people didn’t buy into it? What if I never made it past a few blog posts and a video or two?

I go back to the quote and to all of the conversations I’ve ever had. It’s all about trying it. If I would have been scared of investing my time and emotion in people, I wouldn’t be in the position I am today. I’ve brought people out of depression, helped them chase their dreams, find love in themselves and have even talked a few out of ending their lives.

I have to try and make this bigger and reach more people. I was given this ability to communicate and I would be selfish in not sharing it with as many people as I can. I encourage you to do the same this year. What have you been putting off? What have you talked yourself out of? No matter if it’s singing in a karaoke bar, reconciling with a relative or starting your own business, make it happen and #starttoday!

Just know that I believe in you and I want you to believe in yourself.

So, off we go into 2015, taking shots, succeeding, failing and learning…..together.

Daily Choices

 

Throughout life, we all have those moments in time where we are presented with a decision or a crossroads that we must choose a direction. What most of us lose focus on is that it's literally happening every single day. We tend to think back on the massive, life altering decisions like changing jobs or relationships and we don't think about the small decisions that we face. What words are you choosing? Do you constantly complain? Could you have let that person into traffic ahead of you? 

Now, I'm not saying that we should all be sunshiny every single moment of every single day; we're not wired to behave like that. But if you look at your life and think of it in percentage buckets of chosen behavior, what would be your biggest? You're going to have moments where elements outside of your control are going to affect your mood and behavior, so why wouldn't you maximize the time that you have complete control over and use them for positive thoughts?

There are always opportunities to decide to do the right thing, to take the high road, to do what's best for you and those around you. 

I hope that this blog and my overall theory on choosing your path helps you in some way. Whether it's realizing a continued pattern of behavior that isn't bringing you the best result or a one time instance where you aren't sure what to do; I'm going to do my best to give you some friendly guidance to improve your days and EnRich Your Soul.

-Rich