“Surely they must be talking about someone else!”
As the masters of ceremonies recited the attributes of a very special woman who had contributed so much to the community by her involvement over the years, Mary had no idea he was talking about her. Sitting in the large auditorium at the Appreciation Day presentations she wondered who this exceptional woman could be. She marvelled that a woman could be so dedicated and faithful to the causes she supported. The number of years of involvement and the glowing terms about faithful service, her ready wit and engaging smile painted a visual picture of someone pretty special.
Hearing her own name resound over the speakers caused the muscles in her body to go rigid and the sparks to fly in her brain.
“Me? Have they been talking about me?”
The applause startled her. The gentle hands of her companions urged her to move.
“Oh God, they want me to go up on the stage in front of everyone!”
Like a small flicker of fire deep in her breast, she stepped at first tentatively, then with a more confident stride, as the glow of appreciation grew. Her cheeks felt hot and her smile widened and she knew that what she had done for the love of being involved, helping others and being part of her community was being recognized. The inner glow was burning with a passion that what she had sometimes doubted, was in fact of value to others.
The hush of expectancy filled the room and her voice, at first faint and wavering, gathered force as she tried to explain that all she ever wanted to do was make herself useful and to do the work that needed to be done. She recounted stories about her years of dedication and work and finished with two simple phrases.
“I did what needed to be done. I now understand it was important.”
The applause erupted and people rose to their feet. Tears filled her eyes and she knew at that moment that she had reached beyond her wildest dreams and become a successful woman, something she thought was beyond her.
Success is reaching our own goals. No matter how much we get the praise of others if we have not reached the goals we set for ourselves we cannot feel we have been truly a success. Never setting a goal is sure to result in never reaching one.
Goals are created from our wildest dreams and deepest longings. They come like a whisper from a guiding angel, a bolt of lightening of divine intervention or a steady drip of an idea constantly tickling our minds. Setting personal goals is something that can assist us in changing not only our own life but the lives of others.
I remember when I was told as a child that my brother was the smart one and I was mommy’s best little helper. I tried to be smarter and achieve at school but my success wasn’t encouraged and rewarded. I received praise for domestic chores not academic accomplishments. Needless to say I did poorly in school and while I did do well at the tasks I set my mind to, I felt the praise for baking and sewing were somehow less important than what my brother did.
Many times I faced a sense of failure, lost faith in my own value and wanted to stop being the person I felt would please others. I felt trapped in the responsible woman role and angry at the constant demands of domestic chores. I watched my brother succeed and later my husband, while I played the enabler role in the background.
I listened to praise and appreciation from friends and family yet somehow felt hollow inside. I tried to hide my feelings, thinking I was expecting too much.
Gradually, I met first one then another woman who shared my feelings that there were dreams we had not yet chased and challenges we longed to face. For some it was cooking dishes their family would never eat, or perhaps documenting family history, or leading a cause that was frowned on by some. For others it was telling their story to people who would really listen. For me it was teaching what I had learned about the real challenges that face us in our lives. I want to use the lessons of life that I have learned in ways that help others live their life with purpose and intent.
The road can be long and winding and just when we feel we are about to achieve in an area we have strived to accomplish, our world can come crashing down. Illness, accident, marital problems and family obligations can take our time and energy and change the course of our lives. Our dreams seem dashed and a sense of disappointment can feel as if it will swallow all those efforts and preparations.
How we view ourselves can be the most important part of determining whether and if we can find our path again and in spite of a detour, return to the way of our dreams. Hope is the most important ingredient that we can hold onto when all seems lost. By holding onto our dreams and creating new goals out of the old we can again set our feet on the path to accomplish whatever it is that someday we can say:
“I am the woman I always wanted to become.” or “I am doing what I dreamed of doing. I know this is the authentic Me.”
Excellence in life is doing whatever we choose as well as we can do it. Comparing ourselves to others, like I compared myself to my brother, is a dead end trail. For I am the only one who can be Me. I have unique God given gifts to use and develop. Each of us has our own path and our own challenges. We must all face the dark night of the soul and the joyous moments when we know we have done the very best we are capable of doing given the circumstances with which we have to deal.
Sometimes, when I feel hope slipping away, that the challenges are too great and the skills to do the job evade me, I have found that letting go of my wants and expectations, my ideas about what is needed and turning the situation over to the Higher Power of the universe, that a gift of vision, an intuitive suggestion or an inner voice guides me through the confusion. It is as if my Self needs to get out of the way and let Divine Guidance lead me.
While the applause and trophies are rewarding, there is nothing quite like a sense of knowing that I have reached my goals, made my dreams come true and I can now again face the awesome task of dreaming new dreams and setting new goals.
The first time I realized I had achieved one of my life goals, I had an anxiety attack. I hadn’t yet learned that I could set new goals and that someday when those were achieved I would again stew in the anxious soup of facing the future without a destination. The process of personal growth is now a familiar one and one I have guided many clients through.
Making dreams become our reality is possible for all of us who are daring enough to set the goals, struggle through the disappointments and failures, regroup and return to the path that leads us to being the best of our Self. For me this is what it means to be a woman of excellence.