Personal Development

Making Change Happen

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark

We know what we’re supposed to do yet we don’t do it.

The solutions seem simple and trite.

Surely the people who are more successful have more complex routines and productivity secrets.

Surely profound life change doesn’t really come from small habits that add up like compound interest.

Write things down, set goals, carve out time in your schedule solely to sit and think, eat breakfast, drink enough water, stretch and move more, reply to emails quickly, send handwritten thank you notes. It’s all just a little too obvious.

The magic is in the obvious.

Originally published May 2014

The Best Way To Use The Enneagram

When it comes to personality tests, I love them. I love figuring out what makes people tick, why they do the things they do. This, of course, comes more from deep listening and the stories that thread a person’s life together than it does a tidy combination of letters and numbers produced after taking a quiz. 

Still, personality tests can add value and can help lead to deeper understanding by giving clues as to what questions can be asked to better reveal the stories that shaped us. 

They can also bring to the surface areas of our character which may need to change. It’s a myth that people can’t change, and it’s a myth that was busted by neuroscience. 

The truth in Maya Angelou’s famous quote, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time” rests more in its call to discernment and becoming a good judge of character so that we’re able to effectively spot wolves in sheep's clothing than it does as a mantra to never allow for the possibility of someone becoming a better person.

Can people change? Yes. I believe in redemption, and I believe that redemption does not play out as a magical switch that turns someone into a new person overnight, but rather through neuroplasticity, which is, in very simplistic terms, the brain's ability to rewire itself, which can allow us to make healthier choices.

As for personality tests, Myers-Briggs can be helpful, but shouldn’t be taken as canon (especially since it is not scientifically valid). The Enneagram can be helpful (of which the Riso-Hudson model (RHETI) is considered scientifically valid and reliable, the others aren’t), and is best used as a tool for self-awareness, not a means to put someone in a box – including yourself. 

Change begins with self-awareness. As for how to become more self-aware, personality tests can be a great place to start. One way to use these tools to increase self-awareness is to consider the questions in the quiz portion rather than racing through to the results. Often, considering the questions themselves can lead to lightbulb moments:

Oh! I am like that!
Ugh. I am like that. 

If you don’t like something that a personality test brings to light, you have the ability to change it.

A personality test doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility to be a decent human who cares about the well-being of other people. It doesn’t give you license to hurt others under the excuse, “That’s just the way I am, my Enneagram says so.”

Personality tests are simply tools and can be extremely useful. They are not your identity. They may describe aspects of yourself, but they are not who you are, at your core. They do not add or subtract value to your worth as a human being. You are already valuable and worthy, regardless of whatever combination of numbers the Enneagram gives you. 

Originally published June 2017

Birthday Reflections + 63 Life Lessons Learned

artist: Anthony Burrill

artist: Anthony Burrill

Today's my birthday, and every year around this time I update a list on lessons I've learned – some while growing up and reinforced as time goes on, and some new. We all have stories and lessons learned from personal experience and I feel very strongly that we should not take them for granted nor forget. Here are 63 lessons I've learned, in no particular order:

1. If you're lucky enough to choose who you work with, opt for people who are intentionally kind rather than superficially nice.

2. There's always a deeper story. Ask better questions.

3. What people don't tell you about dreaming big is that dreams take time to fully articulate themselves. Keep pressing in. Clarity will come.

4. Being a critical thinker and having a critical spirit are two different things. The first requires an open mind, the second refuses one.

5. Bad things happen to good people. It's not always because of some moral failing or attracting it into your life because of emitting negative energy into the universe. Believing that you can control everything that happens to you is a philosophy of bondage, not freedom.

6. If people are really concerned about you, they will pick up the phone to call. The ones who don't call aren't really concerned. 

7. Your mental health is important. We all have issues, some that we don't even know exist. See a licensed therapist if necessary.

8. Life is not so much about being fearless, it's about moving forward despite our fears.

9. Good shoes make a huge difference and the money spent on quality is an investment, not a splurge.

10. You can't be responsible for other people's demons. 

11. When making purchases, support the original artists whenever possible.

12. Asking, "why me?" is the same as asking, "why not someone else?"

13. Rocking the boat is not the same as throwing someone under the bus.

14. Jaded is not a healthy lifestyle.

15. Learning how to take a compliment and accept forgiveness are just as important as giving both generously.

16. Comparing everything in your life to your "glory days" or a previous season will get you nowhere.

17. If you've "arrived," you've settled.  There's always more to learn, more to explore.

18. Being "too busy" is a myth. We make time for the people and things that are important to us.

19. Trials make you bitter or better. How you respond is up to you.

20. Being authentic doesn't mean laying all your cards face up on the table.

21. The healthiest people have more boundaries, not less.

22. True humility doesn't hide its gifts.

23. Choose the option with the story.

24. Your children and grandchildren will care more about your jewelry than you do. Buy less, choose well.

25. If you can't give up something for 30 days, you're addicted.

26. The right words at the wrong time are the wrong words.

27. The books you read as a child can spark lifelong passions. Encourage the children in your life to read.

28. People have a right to live fully, not just merely.

29. Don't expect people to fight fair. More importantly, don't allow that to make you cynical.

30. The quickest way to turn a good habit into legalism is to insist that everyone else do it as well.

31. Consistent acts of kindness trump random acts of kindness. Habits always win.

32. "Buy all this stuff to simplify your life!" is the new face of materialism.

33. Erase the phrase "Oh, they would never do that" from your vocabulary. People will surprise you – for better and for worse.

34. Your values aren't really your values until they impact your wallet and your time.

35. When in doubt, give people the opportunity to save face. When not in doubt, give people the opportunity to save face. Dignity transforms.

36. Expecting people to be perfect is an exhausting way to live. The people you love and respect will disappoint you. Love them anyway.

37. Blind spots are called that for a reason: YOU can't see them.

38. Social media doesn't make a person better or worse, it amplifies who they already are.

39. If design didn't matter in the grand scheme of things, snowflakes would be ugly.

40. Fresh flowers bring a room to life and are worth including in your weekly budget.

41. Surrounding yourself with passionate people means having to work harder on your relationships. This requires less assuming and deeper listening. It is worth it.

42. People are not projects.

43. Mondays represent a clean slate and fresh start. Going through life hating them is a waste. TGIM.

44. God doesn't need a consultant.

45. Looking for the good doesn't erase the bad. Looking for the good simply allows the bad to be viewed in the appropriate context: as a part, not the whole, and often as something that can be restored or given a second chance.

46. Generous people change the world, not because of what or how much they give, but because they are doers and see possibility where others don't.

47. "It's okay to be average" is one of the most poisonous and destructive lies you can choose to believe. You have untapped potential and the only person who can use it is you. What an endless, amazing gift.

48. If your dreams do not add good to the lives of others, you are dreaming too small.

49. There is power in creating something of your own, even if no one else ever sees it.

50. If you catch yourself randomly thinking something nice about someone you haven't spoken to in a while, send a quick note to tell them so. It will make both of you feel good.

51. Love without hope is sentimental, powerless mush. Transformation can only truly occur when hope is present and encouraged.

52. Gifts celebrate a spirit of generosity. The very nature of giving a gift requires thinking of other people before ourselves.

53. Happiness and joy are not the same thing. Happiness is circumstantial. Joy can sustain you through every curveball life throws your way.

54. The true legacy of books is in the ideas they nurture and spread, not in the packaging.

55. Optimism is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets.

56. It is impossible to have an open mind and a closed fist.

57. If a woman living on $2 a day in a developing country could not accomplish what you have through her hard work alone, there is some amount of privilege in your life.

58. Open doors for people who will open doors for people.

59. People can change. If we couldn’t, then the concepts of growth and redemption are fraudulent.

60. People who won’t show up for the tough days aren’t people you need in your inner circle, no matter how “positive” they or their brand may be.

61. Authentic always means "real." It does not always mean "good."

62. It's okay to question everything: your faith, your career path, your political views, your choice of friends. In fact, it's dangerous if you don't.

63. Giving a damn brings true joy, apathy kills the soul.

The original version of this post was published October 2009