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Start Today! Live Your Life with Purpose, on Purpose


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Don’t Consider Yourself Small

I’ve always been small in the literal sense. I’m five feet tall exactly and it’s been that way since middle school. Because of that, adults and peers alike would assume that I was insignificant and I allowed it in a lot of ways. I mastered the art of being invisible. I would be in a classroom full of kids and my teachers would forget that I was there. I was quiet. I kept to myself. I didn’t want to be seen. I didn’t want to bring attention to myself. As far back as I can recall, it’s been that way.

In middle school, I remember going through the lunch line on a particular day, as I did every day. At the register, the lunch lady asked me, “Who are you here to visit today?”

I looked around, confused. “I go here,” I told her, trying to straighten my shoulders a bit to look taller.

Her eyes widened and she laughed a hearty laugh, slapping her thigh. “Oh, I thought you were visiting your big brother or sister! You’re so cute.”

In high school, I felt wearing colors would make people notice me in the hallways, so I avoided them. I wore long sleeves most days, even in the summer I wore jackets or sweatshirts all day. I sat in the back of my classes and didn’t speak unless I was spoken to.

It wasn’t until I started to pack for college that I realized how sad of an existence I had made for myself. I opened an empty box and took several pairs of pants out of the closet and off of their hangers – five pairs of khaki pants in various shades, three pairs of jeans and six pairs of black pants. I didn’t have any shorts because I didn’t want people to look at my scrawny legs. For the same reason, I didn’t wear dresses or skirts. My wardrobe was a reflection of my attitude about life; there was no color and there was no excitement.

In college, I walked into a popular intimate apparel shop in the mall near my parent’s house. I was on break from school, bored and looking to kill some time on a free afternoon. I browsed for a few minutes before I was approached by a saleswoman.

“Where are your parents?” She asked, without offering an appropriate customer service greeting.

I didn’t understand the significance of her question at first. “They’re at home…?”

“They let you come to the mall all by yourself?”

“I’m older than I look,” I told her as she starred at me in disbelief. “I’m in college.”

I don’t remember her response after that, but I was so embarrassed that I left. I couldn’t even buy a pair of panties without judgment! It would be another three years before I mustered the courage to enter one of the stores again.

In my mid-twenties, I went to a pharmacy to pick up over-the-counter cold medicine. Due to the local law, it required a signature at purchase. The older male pharmacist looked past me and over my head at my husband who was standing off to the side and asked, “Are you the father?”

He laughed and shook his head, “No, this is my wife!”

The pharmacist looked at me for the first time and offered a weak apology, but no smile. He begrudgingly rung up the medicine as if he didn’t believe me.

—-

This has gone on for long enough. I accepted it at first because I considered myself small. I saw myself as a grain of sand in the world with little to contribute and nothing much to offer. I didn’t believe that behind my small stature and little voice there was a purpose. I didn’t believe anyone would want to hear what I had to say. I didn’t believe that what I had to say was of value. I was wrong!

Not only do I contribute to the world, but I have a beautiful family who love and depend on me. When I speak, people actually listen. I’ve had the responsibility and privilege to sow into the lives of so many people that I can’t count them all. I am a woman of faith, a teacher, motivator, an encourager, mentor and leader.

I am a person who matters in the world and so are you.

Don’t consider yourself small. Don’t allow the issues of life to knodont-consider-yourself-smallck you down and then just resolve to stay seated until it all blows over. The power of change is in your hands. You deserve to live a peaceful, happy and fulfilled life, but that requires your participation. My desire is to see you emerge from the shadows and corners of life and find the seat at the table that was made just for you.

It won’t happen all at once. It won’t happen overnight, but if you work at it, it will happen. And when it does, you’ll look back at the disappointing times in your life and laugh at how much has changed. I look back now at the little girl with puffy hair, wearing hand-me-down clothes two sizes too big, lugging around 10 pounds of books, concerned about being teased in the hallways and I wish I could share with her what I know now. I would tell her that it gets better and she shouldn’t take life so seriously at such a young age. I would tell her that she will impact the lives of millions. I would tell her to believe and not to lose faith in the goodness of life and the kindness in people, because it still exists.

I would tell her, like I am telling you – you are worth it! You matter. You have purpose and your life has meaning.

Stay encouraged. Don’t give up. Get to know the sleeping giant inside of you. You aren’t small. You are just beginning.

 

 

The Demise of the Comfort Zone

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Seeking a life with purpose will make you uncomfortable, vulnerable, at times miserable, but it’s necessary. Your growth is waiting for you on the other side of your comfort zone. In complete comfort we aren’t challenged. The comfort zone is where our dreams stagnate and eventually die. We all have t do it at some point. Push through!

Galatians 5:13

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 

There is safety in the Comfort Zone. This is the place where we know we know that our beautiful, steady boat stays exactly the way it is. Whether we are satisfied or not with this place is one thing; but we definitely know that this is where we have security, with no surprises or shocks. Our hearts are protected in this space. We may have been resting in this area with no one to challenge us out of it. We could also have been driven into the safe Comfort Zone by heart break, conflicting circumstances, gain and loss of love or trust, or fear of the unknown.

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Daring To Be Me: How I Cultivated Authentic Leadership

stephanie-godwin-chu

“If you have to tell people that you are the boss, then you are not the boss!”

The statement was simple, but I will never forget it. The day I heard it, I was sitting in a Bible class. The topic of the evening was leadership. I laughed out loud because of how simple and true the statement was. But as the week went on, I found myself replaying it in my mind over and over. It prompted me to make a decision. I didn’t want to be that person – the one so out of touch and insecure that I needed to throw my weight around and remind everyone constantly of how in charge I was.

I would say, looking back on it now, that statement resonating with me was the beginning of my purpose journey. I wasn’t even in a supervisory role at the time, but I knew that I didn’t want to do what I saw everyone else doing. I definitely didn’t want to repeat their failures. I was growing out of the people-pleasing phase of my life and wasn’t interested into conforming to someone else’s idea of leadership.

Was it possible to be someone’s boss, supervise their work, delegate to them, provide them with guidance and criticism when needed and also love and care for who they were as a person? I believed it was true and found that juggling all of those demands and expectations was my niche. I never had to dangle a carrot to get someone to run faster or work harder. I never threatened or belittled. I didn’t lie or keep secrets. I was just Stephanie all day, every day. I worked hard to ensure that I upheld my values personally and professionally so they were never at odds.

Side Note: It’s so much easier to be one person all of the time and not have to maintain separate versions of oneself.

I was transparent, firm, optimistic, kind and caring. I was the opposite of what many would expect a person in a high-stress leadership position to be. I was determined not to take out my stresses and shortcomings on my staff. I took a servant’s approach. They were there to serve the company and me as their supervisor, but I was also there to serve them. If their fundamental needs weren’t being met, then I looked at it as a failure on my part. What resulted was a powerful dynamic of trust and openness that I didn’t see anywhere else in the company. People would comment that my team was “different” and my team members “actually liked each other,” but what they didn’t know was how intentional it was.

While being purposeful in my pursuit of balanced and authentic leadership, I uncovered a purpose that was so intricately woven into the fabric of me, but it was at odds at times with the goals of my employer. I cared more about the individual than I did the often suffocating metrics that hung over my head daily. If someone wanted to quit, I encouraged them to go find the type of work that they were passionate about, even if it made me one person short during the busy season. If someone had a calendar full of appointments, but came to work devastated by the wreckage in their personal life, I sent them home and took on the burden, delegating what I could. When someone needed to cry, vent frustrations, get angry, cuss or ask for personal advice, I offered my office as a safe space.

I took a risk and it was worth it. I had challenges just like any boss does with hiring and firing staff, having tough conversations, dolling out the constructive criticism and not-so-favorable evaluations at times. I would question whether I was doing the right thing. With examples of the opposite before me, I started to feel like maybe I was too soft and cared too much. But I approached each person and each situation with a purpose and for that reason, I have no regrets. I’ve been able to build and maintain wonderful relationships over the years by doing things differently and choosing to connect rather than dictate.

When I had to call someone into the HR office first thing in the morning to tell them they were being let go, discuss severance, request their key and walk them out of the back door, I felt like a failure. But then, the unusual happened – I got a hug from them and a sincere “thank you,” followed by a genuine request to keep in touch. To me, it was triumph amidst the disappointment.

Today, I’m still not the type of person who can work a room full of strangers or walk into a crowd and demand attention. I’ve never had an iron fist. I’m a quiet observer. I have a fantastic photographic memory and an uncanny ability to learn and recall random facts about history, people and places. I come alive when I can talk about purpose and what I’m passionate about. I thrive when I can teach someone something new. I find confidence when I can authentically share my life experience and make someone else’s life better in the process.

My hope for you is that you find your own voice and your own leadership style that allows you to connect with people. It doesn’t matter if you are naturally loud and out front or a behind the scenes supporter. Everyone has a leader in them. The type of leader you desire to be may not be popular, but from my experience, that’s when magic happens.

Allow the leader you are to be an intimate part of you, not just a representative. Be real and be accountable to who you are and upfront about your expectations. Share with people and they will share with you. Learn about the people who look up to and rely on you. If you don’t know who they are, what drives them, their strengths, their limitations or worries you will never truly understand how to lead them effectively.

No, it won’t be easy.

But yes, I can say from experience that it’s worth it.


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Insulate Your Life So You Can Grow

When you are in a season of development and growth, it’s important that you take steps to protect yourself. Whether you are making preparations for family growth, a job transition, career change or relationship shift, it’s necessary to protect the investment you are making in yourself. Insulation is just for a time period – long enough to allow positive change to take place without interruption.

Think about a green house. In the winter, the plants are insulated and protected from the harsh winter cold and nighttime frost. Without the green house, the leaves, stems, fruit and vegetables would get frost bitten and eventually wither. However, once the weather turns warm again, the plants can be moved out into the open air where the atmosphere will encourage their growth.

Here are three areas to be purposeful about during your season of insulation:

Insulate Your Dreams and Plans: Unfortunately, everyone is not going to be able to listen to the great ideas you have and be supportive. There will be negative people and those who simply don’t get it. While you are bringing your vision to life, you may need to stay tight-lipped.

Insulate Your Relationships: Surround yourself with people who will be positive, but honest with you. These should be individuals who are like-minded in what they want out of life, with similar values and life priorities. They are the ones who can lift you up when you feel down and can also give you a push when you need to be held accountable.

Insulate Your Learning: Be careful about the type of information you ingest whether it be through reading, listening or watching. Information does not automatically equal wisdom. Surround yourself with credible information that feeds your purpose and gives life to the vision you are nurturing.

 


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Sandwich, Anyone?

 

I’m an introvert. I don’t like confrontation. Enough said.

However, I learned very quickly in my career life that confrontation is inevitable. Whether I was working with children, peers my age or peers older than me, I could count on the fact that we wouldn’t always agree. Additionally, I had to navigate conflicts in personal and family relationships. We all do. Situations repeatedly arose where I needed to set boundaries, speak up for myself and/or politely disagree. Through those awkward moments, I began to use a method that worked well to decrease the amount of anxiety I had going into those interactions.

I could be direct, to-the-point and decrease misunderstandings by using the sandwich approach. You may have heard of it and I admit, it doesn’t work for EVERYTHING, but it definitely works for most. It gives you the advantage of crafting your message in a clear and precise way, while adding in some positive feedback or encouragement to lessen the blow. Once you master this method of managing confrontation and delivering less-than-favorable news, it can make addressing issues that come up in the moment less frightening.

As women, we are often expected to be kind and polite, not to disagree too much and not make waves. Men are usually groomed from a young age to be firm, authoritative and decisive. These expectations from our upbringing carry over into our relationships with our significant others, our children and co-workers.

Delivering news that may be hard for someone to hear, doesn’t make me a b***h, but it does make me honest and human. In conquering the fear of delivering “bad news” without obsessing over the possibility of upsetting someone, I found my voice and I found freedom. This isn’t to say that crafting your words just right means that feelings don’t get hurt or someone won’t react negatively, but being okay with that as a potential outcome is part of the growth that comes with being open and finding your voice. It isn’t always about WHAT you say. The magic is in HOW you say it.

You can do it too! After all, practice makes perfect. Take advantage of this short tutorial on The Art of Sandwich Making.


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The Mommy Detour

37_godwin-chuLiterally overnight, I went from being in a corporate atmosphere every day to being a homemaker with a baby on the way. It was my decision, after all, to take a few months off to get things in order before the baby arrived. I was ecstatic and relieved to have some focus and not feel pulled in so many directions. For the first time in a long time, I felt a sense of defined purpose and allegiance to a duty greater than myself – motherhood.

That feeling lasted about a week.

The reality of how lonely I felt started to creep in. Everyone I would normally confide in was at work when I needed to talk. When I did get the chance to chat with a friend, I would grow tired of answering the same questions, “So what do you do all day?” and “What’s it like?” Not to mention how depressing daytime television can be! I felt like the girl in the bubble – everyone was watching to see what I would do in my new habitat. It was a strange type of isolation.

I was expecting my first child. I had a long list of to-dos that seemed impossible to complete. As I got bigger, climbing up and down the stairs with loads of laundry became nearly impossible. It took me an entire week just to assemble a child’s dresser I bought online simply because my growing belly was in the way. I got winded easily. Basic things seemed so much harder and harder things felt impossible.

Eventually, it got better and I settled into my new role with its glorious limitations and I found purpose in the possibilities that each day presented. I lowered my ridiculous standards, set smaller and more realistic daily goals and allowed myself to rest as often as I felt I needed to. I found a groove and I channeled my energy into taking good care of myself and my husband. I tried new recipes, baked, made green smoothies daily and read birthing books. Within those 3 months, I successfully prepped for the baby’s arrival, put the finishing touches on the nursery and settled into an emotional space of eager expectation.

In May 2015, we brought our daughter home from the hospital and there was a new learning curve began. My mother stayed with us for two weeks and my husband took off of work for three weeks. Those first few weeks were a blur of sleepless nights, unspeakable joy and overall exhaustion. I honestly don’t remember many of the details and I slowly fell into postpartum depression.

I had anxiety so bad once my husband went back to work that I would only leave the house for doctor’s appointments and the occasional rushed trip to the grocery store. I felt suddenly alone and once again, isolated. I had this little vulnerable person that depended on me and the weight of that fact was crushing.

What if we get in a car accident?

What if I forget to pack something important in the diaper bag?

What if she starts crying and I can’t get her to stop?

What if I have to nurse and we are out in public?

What if there’s nowhere to change her?

What if…?

These unrealistic worries kept me up at night. They robbed me of peace and sanity. I nursed on-demand around the clock. I didn’t eat well. I didn’t take good care of myself. I barely showered or brushed my teeth. I was so baby-minded that I forgot myself. I forgot the purpose of the whole experience. I forgot to breathe.

To be so strong-willed and feel like I was broken somehow held me back from chasing my purpose. I put it up on a shelf. I look at it occasionally and committed that I would one day take it up again. It wasn’t until I overcame my fears and came back to myself that I realized nothing had changed. I was still me.

I joined a local La Leche League group where I found commonality and normalcy with women I didn’t know, but who were a lot like me. The adult interaction was refreshing. I saw myself in their struggles, successes and moments of weakness. They were real and made me feel like I belonged in a special club of warriors who took on the daily battles that no one witnessed or celebrated. I also took up contractual work on a seasonal basis, which required me to visit the office a couple of times a week and helped me feel connected again.

I’ve learned over the last two years to be transparent. I’ve learned through countless personal conversations, articles, blogs and vlogs that I am not the only one. It happens almost weekly that I have an encounter with someone who reminds me of why I am on this planet. My daughter was about fourteen months old when I gathered enough courage to start again, pick up the pieces and move forward.

And I know now that it’s perfectly okay. I am doing it. I haven’t given up. I will not give up. I just needed some time to gather myself, shake off the dust and refocus. I took a mommy detour, but I still have work to do. I still have a passion to help others, but now I have a small audience. There is a beautiful, chocolate, brown-eyed little girl watching to see her own potential in me. She thinks I can do anything. I am starting to believe that too.

I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, entrepreneur, dreamer, life-changer, leader, encourager, counselor, confidant and writer. I am all of these things. I was made to be all of these things and my purpose dictates that I can do them all with excellence.

I stepped away, but now I’m back!