Category Archives: Mind and Spirit

“In Spite Of”

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Last weekend I didn’t publish a blog post, as I had the privilege of being a presenter/facilitator at the Faculty Women of Color in the Academy (FWCA) National Conference at my two-time Alma Mater – The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Because the conference committee had experienced more than a few challenges while organizing the event, the accomplished, yet humble, powerhouse event Chair opened the conference with a very fitting theme – “In Spite Of.” Dr. Menah Pratt-Clark, Associate Chancellor at the University of Illinois, Associate Professor, and fellow graduate of Leadership Illinois, recalled a few of the difficulties the committee had faced but quickly followed with her “In Spite Of” theme acknowledging that in the face of complications more than three hundred registrants had indeed gathered to share experiences, learn, and develop bonds with others who are faculty and/or administrators at institutions of higher learning from across this country – “In Spite Of.”

When Dr. Pratt-Clark opened the Conference, what she did not know is that I had experienced my own set of challenges prior to arriving in Champaign to lead my afternoon sessions on Values Driven Leadership. Indeed I had done my homework and prepared for this conference, of which I was so proud to be a part. But truthfully, the night before I did not know for certain if I would make it to Champaign.  In fact, I had been up the entire night with an emergency at my home as a result of the torrential rains and high winds we had experienced that day. The maintenance person from the one company I could find to show up in the middle of the night didn’t leave my home until 6:00 am.  I had not packed one thing and for certain (or so I thought) was not ready to stand on my feet for hours leading workshops for which I knew the participants had previously paid and more than likely carried high expectations. Needless to say, I was more than exhausted and running on empty. Just thinking about it again reminds me of how life will throw you a curve ball and then provide what you need to turn that curve ball on its head – and just when you need it. My very, very dear friend and colleague who was accompanying me to the conference relieved a bit of the burden when she volunteered to do the driving to and from Champaign. What an on time blessing and the first of many for this weekend. I could at least get an hour or so of sleep – even if it was sitting upright in a car.

In Spite Of

Because of our delay in getting on the road, we arrived at the conference only minutes before the scheduled opening plenary.  But when Dr. Pratt-Clark approached the podium and began to recite how the committee had overcome every obstacle to get us to the opening session I was energized by her very thought – “In Spite Of.” It made me think of not just the night before, but also the many times in my life where I showed up to do a job – In Spite Of. In spite of challenges, setbacks, naysayers, and doubters and even sometimes with doubts of my own, I was, am, and have been an overcomer. And I write today to inspire and encourage you to stay in the game of your life – In Spite Of. If you have a dream, goal, desire, wish, or challenge for that matter, now is a great time to make up in your mind that In Spite Of the challenges, or whatever, you might face you can achieve exactly what you set out to accomplish – if you persevere and stay in the game. All of us have experienced moments of despite, however, but, spite, and although.  In Spite Of those moments, however, you have the ability to overcome, which reminds me of a post I wrote not so long ago on adversity and resilience.

In that post, I wrote that adversity is necessary, as learning, growth and progress are its offspring.   And there is no requirement that adversity be the enemy many of us were taught it to be.   Adversity is opportunity wrapped in different packaging.  It is teacher, and classroom all rolled into one.  What I like most about adversity is given the chance it can become the precursor to resilience.  Adversity is like a force that presses against you to hold you down or push you back.   But my friends in the world of psychotherapy have taught me that resilience is the ability to be knocked down but get back up again knowing in the cycle of life adversity is sure to come.

There is no doubt in my mind that I was knocked down for a brief moment this past week. But as a woman of faith who had done the work necessary to be my best me at the FWCA Conference – In Spite Of – the night before (and life’s challenges in general) I was able “to get up” and One More Time be an overcomer and “deliver” to the point of making a difference in the lives of others. (And that’s really all that counts.) The kindness and generosity of the conference organizers and my friend made a difference. Moreover, I was humbled by the extraordinarily positive responses and feedback of conference participants. I knew then without doubt that a force much greater than me had once again taken me beyond me. Whatever you might be experiencing in your life as you travel on the road toward fulfilling your dreams, remember – you too can be an overcomer (and perhaps you already are) In Spite Of.

williams_geneace09_v3    Until Next Week, Best Wishes on the Journey, Dr. G

Copyright 2015 Geneace Williams

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Just Say No!

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The popular three-line statement after which this Blog is named was born out of former first lady Nancy Reagan’s passion for discouraging children from experimenting with drugs. Since then, however, “Just Say No” has taken on considerable popularity in an untold number of venues. From credit cards to relationships to the foods we eat, “Just Say No” is a household term that has gained and maintained significant notoriety around the power and importance of saying no. Just googling this simple phrase led me to a website of the same name that is self-described as the “No Community across social platforms.” In short, wherever you find strung together these three one syllable words they are meant to encourage you to say no – where and when appropriate for you.

In reality, however, it is not as easy as it sounds. As I look around the world, I am constantly baffled at how difficult it is for some (including me at times) to say no while others find NO something they deliver with ease. I was reminded of this fact during a conversation with a friend this week wherein she said, “I am amazed at how it is so easy for me to say No to me and yet so difficult to say No to others.” Of course, her statement got me to thinking about the reality of how difficult it is for many to say no – even when it is in their best interest to do so. Whether it is saying no to a family member, friend, employer or client; an organization whose cause we love, or a solicitor who sends an email promising the world in exchange for little or nothing, saying no is a healthy essential in life that allows us to maintain balance and boundaries. It is often said – saying no is easier for men than women; but I dare not tackle that subject in this short blog. My goal is to encourage ALL of us around the growth that is achieved when we learn to give and receive the necessary – No.

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This thought provoking conversation with my friend prompted me to think about how the inability to say no is often associated with an “addiction.” And here I use the term loosely as I am aware the word addicted has its own set of issues and can trigger all types of responses. But hear me out before you hit close and stop reading. I suggest it is possible many have trouble saying no because perhaps we have become a world that is addicted to saying yes. While addicted often points to substance abuse, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary and other sources I referenced, addiction is “to devote or surrender to something habitually,” or as another source recorded – “enthusiastically devoted to a particular thing or activity.” The truth is, we find it difficult to say no for a variety of reasons including guilt, pressure from others, co-dependency (a term used by my psychologist friends), threats both perceived and real, and of course our habitual “friend” – fear. And fear, I argue is what keeps us addicted to saying yes. That is, we are often afraid of the outcome if we do not say yes.

But consider the following: In life, we must find balance where we are able to say no to some things so that we can partake in self-care, self-development, and yes self-actualization. If you always say yes to everyone else and what everyone else needs, it is almost a surety you are saying no to yourself on matters that really matter and particularly matters that make you better for achieving what you were born to accomplish. So today, I encourage you to learn the art of saying No, as it is often in the best interest of not only you, but also the person to which you are struggling to say no. If it is a “thing” to which you cannot say no like too much stress or eating too much of the wrong things, you would be surprised the sense of freedom you feel after just the first time of saying No.

So I offer you this “Call to Action.” In the upcoming week, take courage to confront fear by saying No to something you have struggled to say No to and experience a new sense of freedom. Take that newly found freedom and allow it to help you begin to establish healthy boundaries for when you say yes and when it is absolutely OK (in your best interest) to “Just Say No.”

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Until next week, Best Wishes on the Journey – Dr. G

Copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams