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Dreaming Big

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Do you have a goal you've been working on, but you've haven't made progress in a while? Or maybe it's not a goal, but you feel stuck where you are in life.

Over the past couple of years, as I work with coaching clients, I've discovered that many times, excuses are what is holding my client back.

For example, several months ago, I met with a client and she shared a goal she'd been working on for years. But every time the opportunity became available to move forward, something tragic always happened, or so she made it sound that way.  

As I listened, I realized, one of two things, either she didn't want her dream as bad as she said she did or two, she created excuses so if she did take a step forward, she didn't have to face the possibility of rejection.  

The latter is quite common.  

We don't even show up, for if we show up, we may fail. But if we don't show up, there is no disappointment and we can, in fact, continue to lie to ourselves, about why we aren't progressing like we think we should.

One powerful way to move forward is to be brave enough to step over an excuse. But how do we do that?

First, we must be real with ourselves.  I'll give you an example. I'm training for a Disney running challenge. In February, in three days, I'll compete in a 5k, 10k and marathon.  If I want to enjoy the races, I need to train.

I have a training schedule printed and so far, I have been sticking to the plan. But on Saturday, excuses started to bubble up to the surface, to skip my training run.  

Excuse #1: I spent longer at the post office than I intended. My run would have to be shortened from thirty to twenty minutes. Since I can't run the amount of time I wanted to run, I should just go home. EXCUSE!

Identifying the excuse is the half the battle. If we don't recognize when we are making excuses, we can't move forward on our goal or becoming unstuck.  Ask yourself, is what I'm telling myself an excuse or is it a fact?

I knew questioning the time was an excuse. Twenty minutes is better than zero minutes.  Move forward.

I drove to the park and when I got out of the car, the wind sliced through my long-sleeved shirt.  It's not that cold out here I told myself and I started to run. I didn't even give the wind time to make an internal debate, I just got moving.

But guess what happened? Moving didn't help. As I ran, I pulled up the weather app on my phone and the temperature felt like 37 degrees and the winds were 20 mph.  I thought, "I should go back to the car, it's too cold out here." Excuse #2!

Yes, it was cold, and the wind gusted around me, but I was already out on the trail, and I've ran in colder weather.  I talked myself into continuing my run. All I had to do was make it another ten minutes. I'd survived the first ten minutes, I could survive the last. 

Do you know what happened, it got windier and I just kept plugging along? And I didn't just run twenty minutes, I ran thirty minutes, completed my original workout and when I got home, was still able to stay on the schedule I had planned for the remainder of the day.

Guess how I felt when I returned home? FABULOUS!!!

Guess how I would have felt if I would have gone home after my trip to the post office? Guilty, disappointed, a little overwhelmed that I was off my training schedule, and dinner out wouldn't have been as enjoyable as now I wasn't too concern about the mash potatoes I consumed.

Do you know what else battling through excuses helps use accomplish? Our mindset starts to change, and our confidence grows. You see, the next time it's thirty-seven degrees outside, and not windy, I can tell myself, "Stephanie remember the day you ran thirty minutes, in the same temperature, but the wind was blowing 20 mph? This run will be a walk in the park."

Also, identifying and working through our excuses gets us one step closer to accomplishing our goal or becoming unstuck. The more running workouts I accomplish, the easier running the 5k, 10k, and half marathon are going to be.

What's the excuse you've been using that is stopping you from living the life you were meant to live? Take the power step to move past your excuse and get to tackling the goal you've wanted to pursue.

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of "The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life"


Do you get overwhelmed thinking about all you have to do in the upcoming week, month, or even the remainder of the year? I know I do.

I wear myself out scrolling through my calendar and looking at all my upcoming travel, events, and projects. And in the past, this is where I'd shut down. Instead of spending my time wisely and take actions to ensure I'm prepared and meet deadlines, I'd plop my butt in a chair and veg out–numbing my feelings with sugar. 

Repeatedly, I've seen people give up on amazing opportunities because looking at the end, and then thinking about all the work it would take to get there seemed like an impossible mountain to climb.

Speaking of mountains, have you ever climbed one? Several years ago, my mom and I skidded down Sleeping Bear Dunes in the sand, only to get to the bottom, and look and up and be nearly paralyzed at the climb ahead.

Sleeping Bear Dunes, is in the top ten for number of rescues at a National Park, and at the top, there's a sign that states, "Enjoy the view from here. Don't risk injury and rescue fees by going down-or the two hours it may take to climb back up!"

Why do so many people quit, when just moments earlier they were excited to climb the mammoth dune? 

Because anytime we discover something new and shiny, we get a burst of energy that gets us started. But as we start to climb, muscles ache and it's painful. What we originally thought was going to be fun, has been littered with hurdles one didn't expect.

That's how the dune was for me. Instead of looking up at all I had to climb, I put my head down and took one step at a time. And in under thirty minutes, I'd reached the top.

If you are looking at the week, month, or year ahead, and you are wondering, how will I ever get everything done?

Take these steps:

  1. Make a list of all you must do. 
  2. Prioritize what needs to get done today. 
  3. Remove frivolous time wasters. 
  4. And start on one item, completing that task and moving on to the next.  
  5. Once that day is over, start all over. 

I've lived by this method for years and it's how I work a full time job, write books, speak around the country, coach clients, and yes, take time for myself to have a little fun!

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of "The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life"

Years ago, my husband told me his dream was to see a game at the Big House, where Michigan plays football.

I remember the day I surprised him with the tickets. I think I was more excited than he was…hello I love giving gifts!

I'd never really had an interest in college football, but since it was something he loved, I thought I would try to watch and go to a game.

And guess what?

I L❤️VE going to the games! 

Over the years, we've seen numerous games at the Big House, including a night game and watching a game from the sidelines. An experience we never thought was possible.

Do you know what's on your spouse's dream list? If not, ask. 

If you do, what steps can you take to make their dream a reality?

I keep my husband's list on my phone and am always trying to help him accomplish his dreams. 

Go Blue!

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of “The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life”

Each year the local high school National Honors society members, the Boys Scouts, and even your local letter carrier, go door to door and collect food for the local food pantry. I love the idea of communities coming together, one home at a time, to feed those in need and fill the bellies of their neighbors.
I'm grateful that at a moment's notice I can fill a couple of bags of non-perishable foods, as I always stock up on canned goods at either Costco or when the grocery store is having a sale.


You can help your local food pantry in four easy steps:

  1. Locate your community food pantry.
  2. Make a list of most needed items.
  3. Either clean out your pantry or pick up items the next time you are at the store. Give what you can afford. Even if it's one canned good, that item, compounded with the donations of others makes a big impact.
  4. Drop off the items!

I love this giving challenge because it's simple and doesn't take much time. Also, if you want to make a bigger impact, add a few items every time you go to the grocery store. Could you imagine the effect of making a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly donation to our food pantry would have on our communities? ‘


What items will you donate?


Happy Giving,
Stephanie


P.S. If you choose to donate foods from your pantry, please don't donate expired food. I know this seems like common sense, but every time I volunteer at a food drive or pantry, I'm amazed at how many people donate expired food.

Day 13 Giving Challenge: Donate nonperishable items to your local food pantry.

Did you know... 15 million households in the United States suffer from food insecurity, which means the people who live in these households are often hungry.

Chat with your Children: There may be children in your child's classroom that doesn't have enough food. Chat with your child on how you can feed children in need in their school. Maybe it's paying for a child's lunch, adding extra snacks to their book bag, or even sharing their lunch. The children who often go hungry, may also be the children who need a friend to sit with at lunch.  If your child sees another child sitting alone, teach them ways to befriend someone sitting alone at lunch, whether it's joining a lonely child, or asking them to sit at their table. These acts of kindness can change the course of a child's life. 

Bonus Story: Giving Gal is doing her part to feed the hungry. We partner with Rice Bowls, to feed children in orphanages. For every copy of The Giving Challenge sold, we donate three meals to a child in need. In two years, with a generous corporate match, we've provided over 24,000 meals to children in need. I've started handing out rice bowls at my speaking engagements, so the audience can get involved in giving their change. Want a rice bowl? You can order one here.

Have you heard of the Between Me and You Journals?  They are fabulous hard back journals created by my friend Winston.  He and I met on my giving journey and we've been meeting for breakfast since 2011!  Boy how times flies.

Years ago, I bought the "mother" journal and gave it to my mom to fill out.  There is a page in the book that asks, "If you felt the need to offer some advice to me, what would it be?”

Instead of advice, my mom wrote her favorite quotes and Bible verses. I view the list as a simple gift she gave me, that I can pass along to you, to them pass along to others.

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13

“If you want to increase the power of God in your life-see how many times a day you can give.” – Joyce Meyer

“Lord- how do you want me to live this day? What is it you want me to do with this one day you have given me? What is the work you want me to accomplish today?”

“It is better to be kind than right.”

“When God tugs at your heart, that’s the moment to act.”

"So don’t worry, because I am with you. Don’t be afraid because I am your God. I will make you strong and will help you; I will support you with my right hand that saves you." -Isaiah 41:10

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

“Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.” -Joel A. Barker

“It's kind of fun to do the impossible.” -Walt Disney

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” -Gandhi

“If it weren’t for running, I’d go crazy.” -Martin-lead guitarist for Jethro Tull

“Hills are speed work in disguise.” – Frank Shorter- 1972 Olympic Marathon Champion

“Pray hard. Work hard. And leave the rest to God.” – Florence Griffith Joyner “Flo Jo” 

"Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19

“Instead of thinking about all the reasons that I couldn’t do it, I started thinking about all the reasons that I could do it.  I encouraged myself and allowed the word of God to empower me.” – Victoria Osteen

"The Lord will hear when I call to Him." Psalm 4:3

I don't know about you, but if someone gives me a compliment, text me a positive quote or post an uplifting video on social media it gives me a little boost and pep in my step. Kind words make us happy.  

As we go through the second half of the summer giving challenge, and beyond, let's, as a group, think about the words we speak to others, find ways to fill people up with kindness, instead of tearing them down, and post only positivity on social media. You up for the challenge?!

But think about the opposite of kind words.  What happens if someone puts you down? How do you feel?  If you read a negative post or rant on social media, do you get angry, sad, anxious, maybe even a little depressed?

Happy Giving,

Stephanie

Day 8 Giving Challenge: Give compliments, speak words of kindness and post a positive story or quote on social media. 

Did you know... John Gottman, a researcher, conducted a study on predicting if a couple would get divorced or stay together based on the words they spoke to each other. Couples who spoke five positive comments to every one negative comment were more likely to stay together vs couples who divorced, which had an average of four negative comments to three positive comments. The take away, whether it's your friends, coworkers, spouse, and children, the higher ratio of positive comments with a lower number of negative comments, will improve those relationships.

Chat with your Children: The old saying, "Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." really isn't true.  Words hurt. Usually children who are hurting, many times will use their words to hurt others. Our children need to know and understand that many children don't mean the words they say.  Often, the hurting children who hurt others, home life is difficult, they aren't being treated well, and they want attention, and acting out is a way to do that. I'm saddened every time in the news when I hear a child has committed suicide due to being bullied. I've recently seen a child, as young as eight years old, take his life, due to kids bullying him. Think about that. Because of someone's words, another child takes their life.  This is a difficult conversation and must be had with an age appropriate child. With that said, children need to understand there can be devastating consequences, to our actions. 

Bonus Story: We never know how our words are going to impact those around us, even when we don't realize they are paying attention and listening. Kindness Matters!

Boarding a flight from Chicago to Boise, I stopped in my tracks before I could even walk down the aisle to my seat. 

A sea of black hats peaked above each seat. 

I immediately recognized the hats because my husband has one on his dresser, it was his grandfathers. The hat signifies what war a soldier may have fought in, if they are a veteran and sometimes what branch they served. 

Emotions flooded through my body. I wanted to snap a picture of the beautiful sight, but I chose not to, as I didn't want to offend any of the veterans or invade their privacy.

Unbeknownst to me until boarding the flight, I had the privilege to fly on an honor flight with World War II Veterans who were flying back from Washington D.C. The trip provided, a first-time experience for many, to see the World War II Memorial.

When we arrived in Boise, the veterans were the last to exit the plane. Many passengers, including myself, waited at the gate to welcome the veteran's home, a Hero's Welcome they never received after the war.  One by one they passed by the tunnel of grateful Americas. With tears welling up, I clapped and smiled, knowing I'd never forget the moment.  

Indy Honor Flight is a non-profit organization created solely to honor Indiana's veterans for all their sacrifices. There are similar organizations throughout the country with the same mission: to transport America’s Veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit those memorials dedicated to honor their sacrifices. Currently, the top priority is given to the senior veterans-World War II survivors, along with those veterans who may be terminally ill. 

Why am I sharing my experience on the honor flight? Well, there is a way for you to get involved and participate with an honor flight. 

Every veteran will receive ten or more pieces of mail. The emotions that "mail call" raises are a testimony to the character of these men and women and how much these small acts of kindness mean to them.  

My colleague, Vic, accompanied his uncle on an Honor Flight trip years ago and stated, "During the war, mail call was a great day! It was a day that raised their spirits.  Mail call during the honor flight is a total surprise and they were humbled and very grateful for all of the letters. The veterans are humbled by the outpouring of support that is shown to them by friends, family and strangers."
If you are reading this post, it's because of the freedoms that were fought for by the men in World War II and other wars.  

Please take a couple of minutes of your time to write a letter to say, THANK YOU!

Please address your letter to: Dear Veteran
Do not date your letter
Example signatures: (first name), Mrs./Mr. (last name), or simply A Grateful American

Please mail cards and letters to:
Indy Honor Flight
P.O. Box 10
Plainfield, IN 46168

 "We can't all be heroes, some of us need to stand on the curb and clap as they go by" -Will Rogers

Happy Giving, 
Stephanie L. Jones

P.S. Thank you to Vic and the Indy Honor Flight for pictures and information on the Indy Honor Flight experience. To learn more about Indy Honor Flight check out their website at www.indyhonorflights.org.

Day 6 Giving Challenge: Write a thank you letter to a veteran.
Did you know... 16 million Americans served in the armed forces in World War II and less than 500,000 are alive today. It is estimated 348 WWII veterans die per day and soon, we'll loose a generation we owe so much to. 

Chat with your Children: Grab some construction or copy paper, markers and get your children involved and have them make cards for the veterans. This is a great opportunity to talk to children about the purpose of our military, our men and women serving domestic and abroad, our veterans, the wars that have been fought, and most importantly the sacrifices these men and women make for the freedoms we often take for granted. 

Bonus Story: My friend and fellow author, Michelle Medlock Adams, wrote a fabulous children's book, What is America? Here's a little of what some of my fellow givers believe America means to them. Enjoy! 

20 years. It's been twenty years since I graduated from college. Insane. I don't feel old enough to have been out of college or in the real world, working full-time, for twenty years.

I loved the four years I spent at Taylor University, but if I think about the people that really impacted my life, I can rattle off a laundry list of teachers I had from elementary to high school.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to speak at a Mother's Day event and honor one of my former teachers. What an honor to be able to share, in front of an audience, the impact this teacher made in my life.

But then there are others, I've never shared my gratitude. Several years ago, I submitted a story to a Chicken Soup for the Soul book about a teacher that changed the course of my life. Debbie Jett. I was a manager of a track team, and at a meet she made me jump in and run a race. I HATED running. But that one race, and her belief in me, lead to a lifetime of running. Running is how I got into college. Running is how I survived the police academy. Running has been a part of some of my biggest dream list items. Besides this paragraph, I've never shared all of this with her. I need to mail her the story I wrote.

I've given you a little insight into a teacher that made a difference in my life. What teacher made a difference in your life? How did they make a difference in your life? Take a moment to go back to the good old days and remember and be thankful for the teachers in our lives.

Day 4 Giving Challenge: Write a note to a teacher that has made a difference in your life. Be specific in telling them how they made a difference in your life. If the teacher you thought of is no longer living, write one of their family members. I know it will mean more to them than you can imagine.

Did you know... there are over 3.6 million teachers in the United States. WOW!

Chat with your Children: Talk to your child about their teacher, past or present. What did they like about their teacher? How did their teacher help them? Have them write a note to their teacher they had last year and give it to their teacher at the start of the new year. The note will give their teacher a little encouragement to start the new year, but may also brighten their day when everything isn't going so well.

Bonus Story: On June 17th the small community, where I grew up, lost a legendary teacher. I'm not sure, besides her husband, there's been another teacher that has made such an impact. Here's a post I wrote to honor her memory.

Blessings,
Stephanie L. Jones

Several weeks ago, my mom sent me a text asking if I'd ever heard of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the upper peninsula of Michigan.  

I chuckled as I'd just chatted with a gal about doing a kayak trip up there. The pictures I'd seen were beautiful.

I responded, "Yes! I want to kayak up there"

"I think your dad would love that too. The pics look amazing." She replied.

Without hesitation I replied, "Lets plan it!"

I didn't think about the cost, or how long of a drive it would be. If I even had the ability to do a kayaking trip.  

Often when an opportunity presents itself we immediately think about the reasons why we can't do something, and then we miss out on, what may have been a cool experience, or even a new career. 

Over the past couple of years, I've strived, if it's a trip or work opportunity that piques my interests, to say yes, to respond, "How can I make this happen?"

And then I start walking through the open doors. I take one step. I don't focus on the thousand steps ahead, I just focus on one. I keep going until a door closes. I'm amazed of how many times adventures come to fruition, just by focusing on making them happen.

I'm often scared. I get anxiety. But I keep moving forward. 

I do want to note, I don't say yes to everything. I know my priorities and realized if I say yes to one opportunity, I have to say no to one that I may really want to pursue. 

The next time you are presented with an opportunity that gets you excited, aligns to your priorities and passion...go make it happen!

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of

"The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life"


Today could be a sad day for me. A reminder of my biggest failure.

The day where, nineteen years ago, I sat in the audience and watched my fellow classmates get their badges pinned and take the oath to serve in protect.

But my dream to become an Indiana State Trooper died when I failed firearms.

A couple years later, I'd marry a fellow recruit, making me realize that God always has a plan. It may not be what I prayed for but what I needed.

So today, instead of living with the what-if's, I'm grateful for the failure. 

Without that failure, I wouldn't be where I am today, writing and speaking, meeting incredible people who want to make a difference and live their big dreams.

Today, I celebrate my husband and all that graduated from the 59th recruit class. 

For the past nineteen years, my husband has committed himself to serving the citizens of Indiana.

The sacrifices have been many, most no one will ever see.

Each and every day, I'm so proud to call myself a police wife, and stand by my husband as he and his classmates defend and protect the thin blue line.

This year, 59 officers have been killed in the line of duty, with June being the deadliest month, with twelve officers killed.

Please keep my husband and all of his fellow brothers and sisters in blue in your prayers. I appreciate it and I know he does also.

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of

"The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life"

I saw courage in action this past week, and even though we'd just met the night before, I sat in my chair, cheering Lisa on, soaking in her success.

I wanted to remember the moment. I wanted her to remember the moment, so I snapped a picture.

It was the last day of the Write-to-Publish Conference. I'd taken the children's book writer's track with award-winning author Michelle Medlock Adams. She's written over 90 books, which have sold over four million copies. 

We as writer's can have those in the industry review and critique our manuscripts. Lisa submitted a children's book to Michelle to review. As we walked into the classroom, Michelle shared with Lisa how much she loved her book. It needed to be shortened, but it was fabulous!

I snapped a picture of Michelle giving Lisa the feedback, as I wanted Lisa to have the moment documented. It was a little gift I gave her. I said, "Lisa, when you get home, you print out this picture and you put it where you can see it. If you ever doubt your writing, if you want to give up and quit, you look at this picture and be reminded of the moment Michelle raved about your book."

At the end of the class, Lisa read her book to us. OH...MY...WORD!!! You know someone is a good children's writer when they are reading, and you can envision the pictures that will go with the story. I flipped through the book in my mind. And I can't wait for her book to be published and for me to share it with all of you.

It took courage for Lisa to share her manuscript. When we share our gifts with the world, we open ourselves up to criticism and critiques. Sometimes we keep our talents hidden for the fear of being rejected. I talked about this last week, how I'd stepped out and took a risk, but got scared hours before I was to share my gift with an audience of women. But friends, if we never step out in faith, into uncomfortable waters, we'll never know what it feels like to receive praise, to take our dream to the next level and maybe, just maybe, change someone's life.

Is there a book, a poem, a painting, or a craft project you've been hiding from the world? If so, I challenge you to share it. And if you get rejected, that's okay. Why? Because then you will know, you don't have to spin the what if in your head. And then you can decide, just like writers, do I get back and work on the feedback provided, or do I hit delete and start over? The choice is yours.

What would you like to share with the world? If you aren't ready for the big time, share it with me. I'll encourage you and cheer you on until you are ready. 

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of

"The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life"