Where Are You Now?


The first step in developing an action plan to achieve a dream is to understand the starting point. Clearly understanding and defining this ‘right now’ position does two things:

– It gives you a benchmark to ultimately recognize how far you have come;

– It helps define the road you need to travel to get from ‘here’ to ‘there.’

Write your thoughts down objectively, document them, so that you clarify the details exactly. Examine your relationships, job or career, physical/mental health, finances, spiritual situation, education/intellectual growth, etc.

1 – What things about yourself do you like? What are your strengths? We are not taught to celebrate our strengths. In fact, when we are in school, we are told that we need to concentrate on our weaknesses. If our penmanship is bad, we need to work harder on that. The danger here is, when we get really good at something, we often forget whether we really like it or not. But what are your strengths? What makes you unique?

2 – What things about yourself do you not like? Weaknesses? Being able to recognize your weaknesses give you the power to change them. If you want to.

3 – What things about your life do you like? What things about your life do you not like? Bad environment? Wrong job? Wrong career? Don’t condemn yourself for your situation. But also, don’t blame your situation for your failures. Doing that means you are giving control over your life to something outside of yourself. Be selfish. Keep the control by recognizing the situation, but refusing to let it color your life.

4 – What things about yourself would you like to change? Decide what you really want, not what someone else tells you should be on your list of things to want. If the latest technological gadget does nothing for you, why spend your energy getting (buying) it? Determine what you really want.

5 – What things about your life would you like to change? This is not necessarily the same as things you do not like. Maybe you like drinking, but you know it is going to hurt you in the long run and is not a self-affirming behavior.

6 – What things have you already changed? Lost that 20 pounds? Moved away from a bad situation? Left a peer group that was damaging? How did you do it?

7 – What things, through no action on your part, have changed?

8 – How did you deal with the change?

9 – How did you feel after the change?

It can be very empowering to write down the changes you have made, to realize how far you have come.

Identifying your starting point helps you find the direction you need to go.

Copyright © 2011 Sandra Kischuk and Living Beyond Limits. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sandra Kischuk and Living Beyond Limits with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Esteem


One of the strongest feelings human beings have is fear. Whether it is fear of falling, of open spaces, of strangers, of ridicule, or of failure, fear defines our existence. Through fear, we learn to adapt our behavior, avoiding whatever it is that causes that uncomfortable feeling. Unfortunately, for too many of us, we let fear dictate our lives.

Fear of failing and fear of admitting errors paralyze our actions as surely as a tightening cord can strangle. If we have the courage to fail, and to openly admit our failures, we also open the opportunity to succeed.

How much effort does it take for us to hide what we have done wrong?

When we minimize the effort it takes to hide our imperfections, when we eliminate the shame or embarrassment we assign to our inevitable screw-ups, we free ourselves to move forward, to succeed beyond our wildest dreams. Do you know people who are so afraid of stepping outside their conventional and narrow comfort zone that they never accomplish anything? Maybe you are one of them.
1) How do you approach a difficulty? Is it a challenge or a threat?
2) Are you persistent in pursuit of set goals?
3) Do you focus on what you are trying to achieve?
4) Can you freely and realistically recognize the source of a failure?
5) Can you do it without blaming yourself or someone else?
6) Do you meet challenges with renewed vigor instead of shying away from them?
7) Do you recover quickly from a failure?
Or,
1) Do you fear a challenge since you are not sure of success?
2) Do you only half-heartedly commit to a goal to minimize losses?
3) Do you bail out quickly when it looks like something is not going to succeed?
4) Do you constantly evaluate your individual performance rather than keeping your eye on the accomplishment of the goal?
5) Do you look for all the things that could go wrong? (Remember, you have a better chance of hitting a target if you aim at it. Are you targeting success or failure?)
6) Do you chastise yourself for inadequacies? (Negative self-talk is a common crippler long after the voices of our teachers and our parents have ceased. Are you still playing those voices? Are you still criticizing yourself because you do it better than anyone else? Or so that you can ‘be the first’ in cutting yourself down?)
7) Do you recover slowly from a failure?
8) Do you whine to yourself, “That’s the way it always happens?”

Our effectiveness is surely affected by how we feel about our ability to resolve a given challenge. If we tie our shoes for 20 years or more, we hardly give that problem a second thought. Or perhaps we study birds for so many years that the first time we see a species in real life, we recognize it. Sometimes we see someone else succeed at something and figure that, if they can do a task, there is no reason we can’t also do it. Or someone tells us convincingly that we can do something. Admittedly, if we are physically or emotionally tired or sick, our effectiveness is less than optimal.

Giving in to our fears decreases the size of our comfort zone, whether we determine that it is not safe to travel to another country, to speak in front of large audiences, to eat strange foods, or even in to go outside our own home. Admittedly, concern about a certain activity may be appropriate. Maybe a particular country is caught up in a civil war, or a tanker carrying ammonia overturned on a nearby freeway. But an ongoing, persistent fear, one that controls your life, may keep you from achieving your dreams.

Sometimes we just plunk ourselves in the middle of something, like a non-swimmer thrown into a pool, flailing to keep from drowning, and hoping, in the process, to learn to swim. Of course, the other option is that we drown, or someone else jumps in to save us. Many have a long-lasting fear of water because of a similar experience; well-meaning though it may have been. Rescue is seldom a positive affirmation.

What fears are holding you back?
Why do you let them?
How does that fear and your response affect how you feel about yourself?
How do you manage failure? Is it affecting how you see yourself?
Does fear limit your willingness to risk?

Copyright © 2011 Sandra Kischuk and Living Beyond Limits. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sandra Kischuk and Living Beyond Limits with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Ain’t It Awful


How many times do you hear some version of the “Ain’t it Awful” game? As long as we complain about a situation, as long as we recognize it, we feel as if our duty has been done. The “Ain’t it Awful Game” can be played forever because as long as it is being played, no resolution is formulated and no action taken. If the problem is fixed, the game can’t be played, because it ain’t awful anymore!

Stop for a second and really think about what was just said.

What in your life have you dismissed with “ain’t it awful”?

The mess in your linen closet? The pile of things by your back door?

The political status of your community?

The car that keeps breaking down at the most inopportune times?

Ain’t it awful?

Ask yourself how much energy you spend complaining about whatever it is, or hiding it, like the lady I knew who stored her dirty dishes in the oven so visitors would not see that she hadn’t washed them. For a long time.

If we really think about it, is this what we want? Is a fairy godmother poised beside the stage, ready to wave her magic wand and make events happen, things we don’t even have the courage to envision? We grow up being told there is a prince (or princess) coming to rescue us; that we might win the lottery and our problems will evaporate; that if we just stay good enough, long enough, our efforts will be rewarded. Too late, we realize the prince is never coming and those few who win the lottery don’t find monetary remuneration the solution to their unhappiness.

Are you using “Ain’t it Awful” as an easy way to avoid dealing with something?

What would happen if you took just one positive step toward changing that “awful” something?

Are you ready to do it?

Copyright © 2011 Sandra Kischuk and Living Beyond Limits. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sandra Kischuk and Living Beyond Limits with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Value of Redundancy


It’s nice that visionaries developed the new ways of animation that brought us from King Kong to Jurassic Park. Our lives would not be the same if someone had not developed the computer chip, and the idea of the personal computer had not become a pervasive reality. But only a few of us are Steven Spielberg or Steven Jobs or Bill Gates.

Repeatedly, I made the assumption that an idea had to be completely new and original to have validity. There was no merit in redundancy. Then, I rethought that idea. And this was marvelously freeing.

Training in an unrelated area taught me that no system should have a single point of failure; that is, incapacitating one component should not cause the whole system to fail. Extending that to any area implies that having a backup may mean the difference between failure and success. Just as repetition creates a pattern (without repetition of a component or a number of components, there is no pattern), restating an idea may make the difference between understanding a concept or having it remain an amorphous cloud.

Good teachers know that. Expressing a concept one way may mean nothing to a particular student. It may be only by the repetition of that idea in a number of different ways that an idea may be comprehended. Each person may require the message in a different format. Some hear the idea, some read it; others have to actually do something physically to learn it.

That was perhaps my gift. I could not be the next Edison, inventing a light bulb. Or Einstein developing his theory of relativity. Maybe I’m not Stephen Hawking, creating a theory of the universe spoken through a voice synthesizer.

What did these individuals have that I didn’t?
1) Perseverance? I could do that.
2) A willingness to believe in oneself despite perceived failure? In spite of what society wanted to tell me? I had to think beyond history and reframe my experience. Maybe failures just meant I hadn’t succeeded. . .yet.
3) Ability to look beyond any handicap and use the underlying human capability to think? I already did that…

In reality, we don’t think of Edison as a failure for all the filaments that failed. Likewise, we don’t think of him as a failure because he didn’t develop the theory of relativity. Einstein is a success, not because he did badly in school, but almost because of it and what he did afterward. We don’t perceive of him as a failure because he didn’t invent the phonograph. And this is critical!

Too often, we criticize ourselves for what we cannot do, instead of recognizing and celebrating ourselves for what we can do. By filling our minds with our failures, we limit the development of our own capabilities, what we can do. We think of ourselves as less than, burying ourselves in an approved mantle of guilt.

We do not even believe that we can achieve something. And if we do not believe it ourselves:
1) How can we ever achieve it?
2) Who do we expect will propel us into believing it?
3) Who do we expect to energize us to do it?

Perhaps it is easier to think we can do nothing about a given situation than to work at changing it. If we excel, we are out of the ordinary, discounted for our success. The term “overnight success” does not recognize the hours, or even years, of required practice, nor does it acknowledge the failures and rejections the individual had to overcome.

When I work with résumé clients, I tell them they have to believe they can do the job before they can convince the person they are interviewing.

In what way are your beliefs holding you back?

Copyright © 2011 Sandra Kischuk and Living Beyond Limits. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sandra Kischuk and Living Beyond Limits with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Loss of Purpose


“Isn’t that what Diane’s doing? I think she’s thinking about hanging out her shingle.”

Dreams spiraling down. An empty feeling in my stomach. Hopelessness. All the arguments I developed to support this unique dream, the illusion that what I offered was needed, and the plans of how to do it fell shattered, to an unforgiving earth. Was I to start over again? Build up something else, only to have that shot out from under me? I felt as useless as if I was trying to invent the wheel in a world used to automobiles. Did I have to keep failing over and over, believing I had nothing to offer?

The world would tell me that. It would say that what I wrote had already been written; that what I wanted to do had already been done. It would inform me I couldn’t be hired because I hadn’t learned a particular programming language or a certain software. There was no market for my abilities, unless I wanted to work for nothing, which was akin to saying that there was no value for anything I could do.

Each company in turn ground me down, telling me whatever education I had was not the right education. The world told me all the slots had been filled, that there was no room for somebody who was older, female, handicapped… the excuses to not do anything collided with the reality that, for psychological reasons as well as physical fact, something had to be done.

For me, the first resistance was when somebody told me a novel I wrote had already been written. I bristled. I based the novel on autobiographical events, on things people told me, and then I pushed it to make it an even better story. Instant deflation. I felt like I had been stabbed, totally invalidated.

Angry at this man’s lighthearted dismissal of something that took over nine months to produce, I responded back. Had Pygmalion been done again? My Fair Lady. And Romeo and Juliet? West Side Story. Were the rewrites any less successful because they paralleled other, older stories? If the authors had not dared to re-write new visions of old truths, the world would be far less rich.

And from that I had to ask, at what point is doing something again an ugly redundancy, and when is it something that makes all of us richer by restatement?

What are you not doing because someone has told you it has already been done?

Copyright © 2011 Sandra Kischuk and Living Beyond Limits. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sandra Kischuk and Living Beyond Limits with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Ramón’s Story


When I worked at the USF College of Engineering, I wrote articles about research that were published statewide and nationally and prepared the alumni newsletter. I also worked with students, helping both individuals and 26 student societies.

A student who worked in Dean’s office, Ramón, walked into my office one day to tell me he had been fired from his co-op job. Students did not get fired from co-op jobs.

Ramón told me he had seen pictures on someone’s desk at work and quickly identified specific places in Puerto Rico, where he had been born. What he didn’t realize was that the office manager, a woman who always bragged about how much she knew about Puerto Rico, had just dismissed the pictures a little earlier that day as, “Just some places in Puerto Rico.” Ramón’s identification exposed her lies, and within a week, he was dismissed.

“Don’t worry,” I assured him. “It was just political. It won’t affect the rest of your life.”

I was wrong.

Ramón got another co-op job, this time with Siemens, a German electronic controls manufacturer with a Bradenton, Florida branch. He fell in love with the company. One day, he told me he would really enjoy it if they had a foreign exchange student program.

“Ask them,” I told him. The next day, he was back in my office, telling me that Siemens had a foreign exchange student program, but it wasn’t open to people from the United States.

“Then, ask them to open it up,” I said.

A few days later, Ramón came back into my office. “They opened the program up and invited me to participate,” he told me. “But they told me it was going to cost $10,000 to $15,000.”

Ramón had been raised in the projects. His mother, sister, and mentally handicapped uncle lived in subsidized housing. His mother boxed shirts for Nutmeg Mills. She probably made ten to fifteen thousand a year, if that.

“Go back and tell them you’re going,” I told him. “Then, we’ll figure out how.”

Co-workers at USF chastised me. “How could you ever tell him he could go? He doesn’t have that kind of money. That’s irresponsible.”

“He’s going,” I told them.

For the next week we worked on his budget, trimming projected costs down to $5,500. “If you have to carry out buns in your pockets from the company-subsidized lunch for your dinner, you’ll do that,” I told him.

We applied for scholarships, loans, and grants, gathering money toward our goal. A week before Ramón was scheduled to go, we only had $5,200—$300 short of our no-wiggle-room minimum.

“Now what?” Ramón asked.

“Now we go to the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce.” A couple of phone calls later and we were scheduled to speak.

When we arrived, I was called to the front of the room. I told the audience of about fifty men what Ramón was trying to do. “This is the kid who’s done everything right,” I said.

Four minutes into my speech, a man in the back of the room started pumping his hand in the air.

“Sir, did you have a question?” I asked.

“You said Ramón needs $300 to be able to go?”

“Yes,” I said, confused.

“I’ll pay it,” he announced. The whole audience stood and applauded.

The next day, I picked up the man’s check and delivered it to Ramón. He cashed it, and the following day got on the plane to go to Germany. Ramón was Siemens’ ideal foreign exchange student. They paid for his senior year at USF. They were paying for him to pursue his Master’s degree until he got too busy for them selling postal equipment all through South and Central America.

But that’s not the end of the story.

Ramón’s uncle had started talking to the air conditioner, so his mother took him back to Puerto Rico so he could get help from someone who could understand Spanish. After she got back there, Ramón sent her money. She took the money and went to nursing school and had three job offers before she even graduated.

At one point, I asked Ramón whatever had given him the idea he could do what he did.

“A lot of the kids I grew up with, they’re either dead or in jail,” he told me. “My mom always told us we were different.”

Different enough to dream.

Are you willing to be different to achieve your goals?

Copyright © 2011 Sandra Kischuk and Living Beyond Limits. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sandra Kischuk and Living Beyond Limits with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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