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How to Turn a Hot Mess Into a Powerful Message

How to Turn a Hot Mess Into a Powerful Message

Why are we all so freaked out about the mistakes, failures, and mess-ups in our lives? If we look around, we’ll see plenty of folks who have turned a hot mess into something redemptive.

Take a look at Oprah Winfrey; she is one of the most loved and successful women on the planet—and probably the most transparent. That’s why people love her. A week didn’t go by without her struggles, especially with food, being plastered all over TV, magazines and the Internet. People related to Oprah’s struggle because of their own; maybe not with weight, but with something, and that’s what connected them to her. That’s what connects us to each other, because in the telling of our stories, we see we’re all on the same playing field.

Oprah took turned her mess into a message by taking off her mask and getting real: through it she created something hugely redemptive.

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That’s what John Walsh from America’s Most Wanted did. After the abduction of his young son, he was determined to do something to help other families who went through the same horrific struggle. He started a television show, and through the 25 years it has run, he has helped capture over a thousand criminals.

How about Candice Lightner who started MADD after her 13 year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver? And even though Lance Armstrong blew it, he founded Live Strong to help survivors of cancer and their families. Each of these folks turned a hot mess into a powerful message. Each has done something redemptive for mankind, and each had a few things in common.

They all:

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  • Failed in some way
  • Made a mess out of something
  • Suffered pain and heartache
  • Persevered
  • Never quit
  • Had the courage to tell their stories

Here’s the point: we don’t have to be perfect to be influential or make a difference. What we have to do is be willing to use our stories and our pain to help encourage others.

Where do we begin? Consider this:

Consider telling your story

When bad things happen in our lives, we generally want to keep them under wraps. Why? Because we don’t want people to think poorly of us or reject us, especially if we’ve messed up. Shame causes us to hide, but hiding never helped anyone. Ask yourself if what you’ve been through could possibly help encourage someone else. If the answer is yes, step out and tell your story and let it be used to strengthen others and give them hope.

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Find your passion

What do Oprah, Walsh and Lightner all have in common? Passion. They were passionate about a cause, and they wanted to direct that passion toward helping others. You may not be passionate about much these days, especially if you’ve just gone through a difficult time, but somewhere percolating below the conscious surface, there is something you care about—maybe even enough to start a revolution!

Narrow your vision

Once you figure out what you’re passionate about, it’s time to narrow your focus. Walsh focused on catching criminals and Lightner focused on drunk drivers.  Find your niche and figure out how you can spread your message.

Don’t give up

Anything worth doing is going to take time and effort. You have to keep in mind why you’re doing what you’re doing. The cause will be your motivator. Keep your focus and press on. Much of what we become passionate about has to do with the personal struggles we’ve gone through. From there a desire is birthed to help others or change society.

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Think bigger picture

No matter what’s happened in your life, your story isn’t finished yet. There is still a lot of living to do. We all need time to heal from the messes of our lives, but after we’ve healed, we need to consider re-investing our hearts with a bigger plan and purpose in mind.

So where does that leave you? How can you learn from those that have gone before you?  How can you turn all those places in your life that you’ve wanted to hit the delete button on, into something profoundly redemptive? Start by being transparent, and see what will happen with your hot mess.

Back at you: Have you ever been in a hot mess? If so, how have you turned things around for the greater good?

More by this author

Rita Schulte LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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