Category Archives: adolescents and young adults

Looking for Our Silver Bullet — Grow With Discipline

In high school, I grew seven inches between the start of my sophomore year and completion of my junior year. Seven. I went from one of the shortest girls on my softball team to one of the tallest. I was suddenly thrown from a wing player to a post player on my 1-19 sophomore basketball team. I had arms for days. (Still do) My shirt sleeves fit poorly. (Still do) My jeans were never near worn out before needing to purchase new ones. And as one friend later told me, I was “so lanky and awkward.”

Most growth, like physical growth, is often uncomfortable and cumbersome. It requires us to adjust our actions, attitudes, and abilities. It stretches us. It exhausts us. It excites us. Growth doesn’t allow us to stay put and stay the same. It has the potential to satisfy us, free us, and improve us. And for the most part, we all agree that growth is good.

So what’s this bit about growing with discipline? And why start here.

In his book, Onward, Howard Schultz discusses the seemingly reckless abandon with which Starbucks grew in the United States. It was fast and furious, similar to my abrupt 7-inch height change in high school. And for both Starbucks and myself, it was painful. Schultz continues in the book to describe the lessons in leadership he has taken from this growth. It changed him as a leader and it changed him as a person.

Amid many options, Merriam-Webster primarily defines discipline in the following way.

1a : control gained by enforcing obedience or order , b : orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior, c : self-control; 2: punishment; 3: training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.

I don’t presume to speak for Shultz and so inferring here, let’s agree that he might be referring to both the “self-control” and “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character,” definitions. Upon further look, self-control is further defined as, “restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires.” And this seems to really hit the mark.

Growth must be accompanied by training and molding towards and in-line with moral character, because simply put, growth without restraint, especially as exercised over one’s impulses, emotions, or desires, is reckless. To allow impulse to lead growth can result in reckless irrationality. To allow emotions to navigate growth can result in reckless reactivity. To allow desires to dictate growth can result in reckless regret.

While some impulses are helpful and based on the need for survival, impulses when in relation to growth are often unhelpful. Impulses fail to take into account the logical and calculated, the long-term goals and associated necessary actions. Rather, they strive to keep the status quo and stay comfortable. They may dream and promise big with little ability to follow through. Impulses are exactly that, impulsive. The hard practice of disciple is essential to advantageous and upward growth. Quite possibly, the forfeiting of restraint over impulses, emotions, and desires quickly compromises the very growth one is hoping to gain.

So as you look toward growth, be it physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, or otherwise, I encourage you to first look at the how of what you hope to do. Come up with a plan, a discipline, that will align you with the goals and values you desire to live by. Plan ahead regarding how you will overcome the temptations to sidestep that discipline. Stick with that discipline regardless of momentary discomfort. And enjoy the fruits of growing with discipline.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

To further this conversation on growth, contact me today for a free phone consult!

Do Unto Others

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The Golden Rule; it is plastered around elementary schools and rooted into our psyche with the hope of encouraging interactions with one another that honor, respect, and serve. Ideally, if we can just think about how we would like others to view and treat us, then maybe we will do the same to them. It’s a win for everyone and serves as a subtle reminder of general behavior expectations for children, adolescents, and adults.

Yet what if the Golden Rule is also for ourselves and not just how we treat others?

It’s fair to say that a great deal of us want others to give us the benefit of the doubt, encourage us, allow for our mistakes and do-overs, and genuinely think the best of us. We’d like others to be kind to us, to assume we are trying our hardest, and that our intentions are pure. A lot of us fight for this in friendships, workplaces, and marriages and we may eve debate leaving them if we don’t get this sort of treatment. In short, perhaps we want others to treat us the way we wished we treated ourselves.

So what if we did? What if we gave ourselves the grace that is the essence and driving force of the Golden Rule?

I invite you to examine the ways in which you are treating yourself and if they are anything like the ways in which you treat others? Would you say the things to friends that you say to yourself when you make mistakes? Would you call your spouse the name you call yourself when you are disappointed in your abilities? Would you tell your co-workers the things you tell yourself about your work and production?

If your answer is no, never, or no way, that’s a great starting place. Think of the mercy you freely extend to those you love and care for. How can you extend this to yourself? Maybe it’s creating a postcard to reminding you to love and accept yourself. It might be journaling an affirmation a day about something positive you embody. Or, perhaps it is finding just one of your sticky negative self-talk statements and becoming intentional about challenging and changing it over the coming weeks.

And as I offer up this invitation, I am also fully aware that some of us will answer with an emphatic yes. Yes, I would treat others the way I treat myself. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not, either way, the heart of the matter is still important. If treating them kindly, then I applaud you and the way you treat yourself and others. If less so, consider asking yourself the following: Are you ok with treating others in ways that you have experienced? Are these interactions with self and others wounding, discouraging, and hurtful or uplifting, encouraging, and merciful? Does it serve you to be demanding of yourself or others? Is it the kind of man or woman you want to be?

Do unto others and do unto yourself.

And so if you desire to treat yourself and/or others differently, I encourage you to start by learning to let go of judgment. Let go of labels and ineffective interpretations and make way for more factual information. Sticking with the facts of what we observe, both inside and outside of ourselves, helps us to see what we are working with and on—in this moment, regarding this situation, and with these circumstances.

It is here, in the light of what is actually happening, be it a success or failure, an accomplishment or mistake, that we can choose how to treat ourselves. You can let go of being this or that and allow yourself to merely experience it instead. You can allow yourself to either separate from your latest performance or become enslaved by it. It is here, in the reatlity of an individual situation, that you can choose to be kind in your thoughts, be gracious in your feelings, and be encouraging in your actions—both to yourself and to others.

Go forth. Do unto others as you’d want to be done to you. And make sure both are in line with the values you hold to and the person you want to be.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

Curious about how to live this way? Contact me!

Finding Your Filters

It’s rare that any of us have escaped growing up without picking up outside messages about ourselves. From infancy, the world around us and the people around us are speaking into what kind of person we are. Some folks are fortunate to hear outright messages of strength, courage, and beauty. They are given space to explore and fail, always with parents or support systems in place to help separate the kind of kids that they are and will become from the kind of mistakes they make.

Others receive messages less encouraging and are told directly or indirectly that they are weak, incompetent, and destined to fail. It may be in a parental disregard for ones feelings or a well-meaning sibling stepping in and overshadowing. Or perhaps a teacher’s criticism or coach’s critiques echo louder than comments of personal self worth. We are told of our weaknesses and become one with them.

All of us have these messages that start to take root.

As we grow into adolescents and adults, both the subtle and overt messages we absorb become our core beliefs. The world around us and the people around us now are filtered through our belief system, similar to the work of an air filter. However, in lieu of removing the dirt and toxicity, we pick it up. A compliment, request, comment, or question is transformed in our reverse filter, passing through our negative core beliefs, and left to simply reinforce what the world and others have told us in the past.

It all begs the question, can we change the filters? And how?

The quick answer is, kind of and it takes work. A great deal of work. No one escapes  filters because no one is raised by perfect people in a perfect environment. Even those that receive the most encouraging and empowering childhood pick up filters. Because these beliefs are formed so early, we spend a good deal of life living with them in place. Some of your beliefs might be easily recognized and addressed, while others are working overtime and will take trusted relationships for you to find, clean, and possibly change.

And so it’s not out of defeat that we discuss the effort it may require to engage our filters, but from a place of empowerment and invitation to fresh air. You can begin to recognize the filters in your life and notice the beliefs that feel so absolutely true about you that they can’t possibly be challenged. I invite you to become more aware of the messages about yourself that you return to over and again. Look for labels that you stick on yourself like I’m a failure or I’m not worthy. And let’s begin to dream about how you would feel if life didn’t pass through and pick up the dirt of these filters.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

If you feel encouraged to take action on the filters in your life, lets talk!

Can We Really Do Whatever We Want?

“If you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything, you can be anything! Do what you want so that you’re happy.” I overheard a thirty something telling a college student this in casual conversation the other day. It got my attention as I pondered all that the future held for this college gal. I loved the encouraging words yet, I took pause at the idea of doing what you want so that you’re happy.

Can we really do anything we want? And furthermore, are we meant to aim only for happiness?

There is a popular belief that a lack of happiness is to be dreaded above all. Struggle, strife, and unhappiness cheat us from all life is supposed to be. We leave jobs, spouses, families, teams, and commitments that don’t make us happy. The message is we are meant to be happy and it is the worlds job to ensure this end. You must keep looking until you find happiness. When did happy become the goal?

In the book Amusing Ourselves To Death, author Neil Postman describes societal downfalls as a culmination of the pursuit of pleasure, specifically as related to demanding entertainment in the political and news realms. RJ Snell writes in Acedia and Its Discontents of the idea that the desire for freedom to do what we want is actually not freedom at all. These two authors bear witness to our inability to understand what makes us happy and how counterintuitive chasing pleasure is to our experiencing it. Contrary to popular belief, it seems as though we stumble upon happiness when we pursue what we were created for instead of grasping at what we want—more pleasure,  less responsibility, a feeling, or a freedom.

Happiness is an elusive end-goal that is better experienced as a by-product of a balanced and intentional life. When we begin to pursue values and live as the men and women we want to be, we find happiness because we are living aligned. We are created to work. We are created for relationship. We are created to play. We are created for responsibility. We are created for balance.

And to this end, we answer the question of can we really do whatever we want as “yes, and…” Yes, you are meant for choice, and true choice never comes without boundaries and limits. Yes, you have the freedom to pursue what you want, and also the knowledge and ability to choose what’s best. Yes, you can puruse happiness, and the way to experience it may not be simply chasing it.

Writen by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

To learn more about what does and doesn’t help you experience happiness, contact me today!