When opportunity knocks

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

When opportunity knocks at your door, what do you do? One friend said the answer to this question is obvious: “You open the damn door!”

As a woman who has spent much of her life talking herself out of practically everything, opening the door has not been so obvious or easy. I will say that I don’t actually believe that opportunities are chance happenings that fall out of the sky into our laps.

The choices we make and the actions we take move us towards our future. Indeed, what we choose today has an effect on what happens tomorrow. And our attitude, my friends, has everything to do with our decisions and consequently what opportunities are created.

I’ve been saying “yes” to many “opportunities” this year. And my typical answer when someone asks me why I said “yes,” is brief and simple — “Why not?” You have to understand that me saying “yes” has involved a big attitude adjustment. Remember, I’m the girl who has too often over analyzed and said, “I’m not sure I can, or I don’t think I should.”

Throughout my life, there have been many doors that I could have opened but didn’t.

For me, the decision to travel internationally for the first time ever earlier this year — without my husband — has impacted my life in numerous unforeseen ways. Largely, this has included me getting out of my comfort zone to being open to whatever is new and different in just about every way imaginable — even trying new foods and recipes.

It took me a couple of months to accept an invitation to travel to Italy with a friend and stay in a new friend’s villa on Lake Garda. In other words, no hotel bills! During my indecisiveness, whenever I mentioned my opportunity to anyone, the response was, “How can you even consider letting such an opportunity slip through your fingers?”

Since returning from that trip, I’ve pondered and written about the many insights and revelations that resulted from taking my Italian opportunity by its horns and going for it.

Keep in mind that opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. I’m not talking only about travel ones! Sometimes what makes a new opportunity difficult to grapple with is just that — its newness. Perhaps the opportunity is something you’ve never done before or never imagined doing. It can seem scary or too difficult to try something new and not feasible to venture into the unknown or unfamiliar.

Let’s say you’ve been saving sky miles for years for the trips you may someday take. Why not use some of those sky miles now?

Perhaps you’ve assumed hotel cost is more than you can afford. But have you ever done the research to confirm this assumption?

Or maybe you’ve saved money for years for your retirement. Why not spend some of it today instead of saving it all for a tomorrow that may not be there?

The point is it may just be that there are more opportunities that are attainable and within your reach than you believe. Don’t let unfounded assumptions and uninformed fears tell you differently.

I have discovered approaching my life with an “anything is possible” attitude often results in the proof that it indeed is. There are many reasons for expanding your horizons from your tried and true habits and routine.

My willingness to travel beyond the boundaries of my beloved country has broadened my outlook on life and the possibilities for the rest of my life. Being middle aged is no longer stopping me from attempting to learn and experience new things. I have a fresh appreciation of life and new meaning in life. I’ve discovered increased purpose with a hunger and desire to live life to its fullest that I never felt before.

My trip to Italy opened a door that has remained open. And now I’m preparing for another international adventure with the same friend as we plan to explore cities in Switzerland, Austria and the Czech Republic in route to visit her daughter in Germany. I even have a trip to the west coast of Mexico on the horizon two weeks after I return! And yes, I’m finally using some of my saved up sky miles!

So if you’re waiting around for opportunities to knock on your door, my advice is to stop waiting and start making them happen. Opportunities begin with a “yes” attitude, which opens doors and keeps them open, making us ready for anything. And when we’re ready for anything, the possibilities and the opportunities become surprisingly endless.



Give it all you got

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

Perhaps we’ve all heard the catch phrase, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.” Olympic athletes understand what this means. To do your best even if you don’t win a medal is something to celebrate.

For some, just competing is a victory. Every Olympics is filled with stories of courage and dignity — athletes who had to overcome extreme adversity just to be able to compete. These examples of never giving up and persevering against all odds give hope to us all.

This may be why the Olympics matter to me. No matter their gender, age, nationality or sport, each athlete exudes a spirit of endeavor that inspires me to keep reaching for my own dreams and goals. And I want to cheer them on as they reach for theirs!

While watching one of the events yesterday, I was struck by the commentator’s remarks. He admitted the athlete had given it all he had. He acknowledged the athlete had in fact broken his own personal record. And then he put forward what he called the “big question.” He asked, “More importantly, will it be enough for gold?”

No doubt the athlete would love to win gold or even silver or bronze. But I don’t think that whether he won or didn’t win a medal was the most important point.

What was most important was that the athlete had done his best, given his all and surpassed his own record. If that results in also winning gold — great, awesome, cool. But in my opinion, his accomplishment isn’t diminished or enhanced by winning or not winning gold. He did a great job and he can and should be proud of that.

The U.S. had its first gold medal winner with Hannah Kearney. She wasn’t expected to win in women’s moguls this Olympics, but she did. Interestingly enough, she was expected to win in the Torino Olympics but she stumbled for a 22nd-place finish. I love that she didn’t let her disappointment in Torino diminish her hopes and expectation for excellence in Vancouver.

In watching all of the Olympic athletes, I often think to myself how any one of these men and women, striving to do their best, could be a gold, silver or bronze medal winner. And many times, we witness an unexpected victory.

My husband commented last night how much he loves to see that happen — the athlete that exceeds the expectations of others. I agreed and admit that is another reason the Olympics matter so much to me.

The can-do spirit of all of the athletes is truly awe-inspiring, especially when you also take into account their determination to excel. What was good enough for them last year becomes their goal to beat this year. These athletes seem to believe their best is indeed always yet to be. They never settle for last year’s job well done. So there is a commitment and expectancy for even more progress, growth and excellence.

Olympic athletes illustrate to us that the drive for success, happiness and fulfillment comes from within. In fact, that drive is God-given and God-ordained! We must not allow our own preconceptions or timidity to stop us from seeing the infinite possibilities within our reach or from utilizing and maximizing our God-given abilities and talents.

So my friends, whatever dream you are striving to attain, you can do your best. And playing the best game you can and giving it all you’ve got is good enough — at this moment in time anyway. Then come tomorrow, next month or next year, you can give it all you’ve got again.

We can all keep endeavoring to reach the perfection that God sees in each of us!

Making a comeback

by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

Every football season I’m inspired by the number of teams who trail by thirty points or more for most of a game and then make a comeback and win.

What does it take to make that kind of recovery?

I can’t help but be reminded of Yogi Berra’s words, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over!” Some say the spirit of his famous exclamation emphasizes that one should not assume the outcome until the conclusion has actually been reached.

When I look at the faces of the football players as they make their winning comeback, I see confidence and determination as well as persistence and a firm resolve to not give up. Their regained momentum and ultimate success seems grounded in their faith that they can overcome any deficit and triumph.

I can also look at the faces of the losing team members and see disappointment, dismay and defeat — and they haven’t even lost the game yet.

Through the years, many entertainers, politicians and athletes have been given the distinction of “comeback kid.” This title has generally been granted to the person who is said to have clawed his or her way back to success, who overcomes a fall from grace, who makes an unlikely comeback. Some people think of former President Bill Clinton and Robert Downey Jr. as a couple of comeback kids, for example.

There may be many Biblical characters that come to your mind that could receive such a title, but for me none seems more deserving than Joseph.

During the course of perhaps twenty years of his life, Joseph was robbed, despised, betrayed, sold into slavery, accused falsely and imprisoned. But he went from prison to palace as second only to Pharaoh in one day.

Joseph’s comeback was not the end of a long struggle to regain status and respect. He didn’t fight his way back to the top.

What impresses me most about Joseph during what some might think of as his years of injustice and misfortune, was his attitude and spirit. He never seemed defeated or depressed. He didn’t express resentment or hatred toward those who abused or maligned him. Regardless of his difficulties or circumstances, he was determined to be the best he could be. And so he was.

During his years of servitude, he became the most willing and best servant he could. When he became overseer of his master’s house, he managed the house well. When he was wrongfully imprisoned, he didn’t complain or become bitter but rather tried to be a useful prisoner and was soon put in charge of other prisoners.

It was his spiritual wisdom and unwavering faith in God’s goodness that gained his eventual freedom and success. (His story is found in the book of Genesis, chapters 37 through 47.)

I’m quite certain that Joseph knew God had a purpose for his life at every moment of his life. And I love how he didn’t let anything thwart him from fulfilling whatever that purpose might be. And in so doing, he found purpose in every circumstance he lived through, and many were blessed by his actions.

It was as if these words of Christ Jesus lived in his heart, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) He never forgot that his Father — God — loved him and was caring for him at every moment. He didn’t wait or fight to receive the “kingdom” at some future time. Throughout his life, Joseph lived and expressed the goodness of God and was rewarded again and again in small and grand ways — even when he was in prison.

Many of us today are waiting for recovery of lost savings and jobs. ‘Tis the season for comebacks, my friends! Keep your faith strong that any deficit can be overcome. And in the meantime — as you live each day — be a “Joseph” and look for purpose in every situation. Make each moment the best it can be. And I suspect you will find the best each moment has to offer.

So no matter what kind of comeback is sought — whether it is by football team or an individual — triumph is God’s promise to his beloved children.

Let the shoe fit!

by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “If the shoe fits, wear it.” This idiom is generally used in a derogatory way, suggesting that if something applies to you, then you should accept it or own up to it.

But maybe it can also be used positively.

I’ve been thinking about the way Kris Allen reacted to the news that he won the American Idol title. His face showed genuine shock and surprise, not only because he seemed to believe Adam Lambert more deserving, but even more because he didn’t believe himself worthy enough.

I want to say to Kris, “Let the shoe fit.” The shoe is rightfully yours. You got the most votes. You won. And yes, I voted for you. So believe it, dog!

What is it that makes us doubt, question or disbelieve our talents, abilities and worthiness?

I can still remember all too well my surprise when a certain someone called me (back in my college days) to ask me out on a date. Who, me? Really? I can’t believe it!

And I still recall attending an award ceremony and listening to honors being read about the next award recipient before my name was called. What? He was talking about me? No way!

I also remember being interviewed among many for a job that I really wanted and how completely and utterly shocked I was when I got it.

Self-confidence is important in almost every aspect of our lives and is one that many people struggle to find. We need to be self-assured in our personal judgment and abilities in order to make wise decisions, strive for goals and become successful.

Self-confidence involves doing what we believe to be right, being willing to take action, admitting mistakes and learning from them, waiting for others to congratulate accomplishments and accepting compliments graciously.

Star-quality confidence is well-deserved by both Kris and Adam!

Humility is an admirable quality — one of strength and purpose — and it should not be mistaken for weakness. Humility is the perfect companion to self-confidence.

A modest estimate of one’s own worth is a good thing, as it means we’re always ready to learn more and become even more successful.

We don’t have to toot our own horn. It’s good to let others discover our talents without us having to boast about them. Humility keeps us assertive in the pursuit of achievement without arrogance.

Perhaps my favorite Biblical character that illustrates the perfect blending of self-confidence and humility is Moses.

Remember how Moses responded when the Lord told him to go to Pharaoh and free the children of Israel. He said, “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh…” (Exodus 3:11) For every question Moses had, the Lord had an answer. But Moses had a harsh estimate of his own communication skills and said, “O, my Lord, I am not eloquent…I am slow of speech.” (Exodus 4:10) And God said, “I will be with your mouth. I will teach you what to say and do.” (Exodus 4:15)

Although Moses was modest in his opinion of himself, he was confident that his actions were right, and he grew in his confidence and trust in God each step of the way. As his confidence in God grew, his self-confidence also became stronger. But I love that no matter how strong he became as a leader, his humility kept him teachable, flexible and ready to learn a new and better approach to his leadership.

So when opportunity knocks or accolades come our way, let the shoe fit, my friends. No need for surprise or hesitation. God is also with you, giving you everything you need for a successful and happy life. And this includes talents and abilities that are uniquely yours. Believe it!

Go for the gold!

by Annette Bridges. ©2008. All rights reserved.

Looking for a gold medal day? Or perhaps you’re looking for that gold medal year when everything turns out perfect? Or that gold medal job that you’ve always dreamed of? Or that gold medal grade that keeps your GPA high? For me, a day feels golden when I’ve accomplished my best and have completed everything I need to!The Olympics this year have been filled with examples of athletes achieving success beyond expectation. Many of the athletes have surpassed age limitations, overcome physical disabilities and surmounted injuries to reach their dream.

As I strive to master various goals, I’ve been inspired to believe that I can accomplish my own gold medal, if I have enough “ganas” like the Olympian medalists — or for that matter like all Olympic athletes. I was first introduced to the idea of “ganas” in the 1988 movie, “Stand and Deliver,” starring Edward James Olmos.

The movie is based on a true story about math teacher, Jaime Escalante, who inspired drop-out prone high school students with poor academic history to learn calculus and pass the AP Calculus exam in their senior year.

He told his students that if they had the “ganas” or “desire to succeed” they could accomplish whatever they strived for. In helping them accomplish their goal — against all odds and in spite of predictions of failure by many around them — he taught them a life lesson they would remember the rest of their lives — to let nothing stop or hinder them from going for their dreams.

We should not be fooled into believing that gold medal accomplishments are won by a long shot. So many times gold medalists just barely pull out the win by the slimmest of margins. These examples have taught me to give my all and give my best, and since it’s not over till it’s over — I should never give up.

But how do I succeed, or even begin to go for the gold, when I’m filled with self-doubt and a lack of confidence?

We’ve probably all had times in our lives when we’ve questioned our worthiness and deservedness — being our own worst critic. Self-doubt can actually become a bad habit that destroys confidence and causes procrastination or lack of effort. The bottom line is no benefit will ever come from doubting yourself and questioning yourself to the point of not pursuing your dreams. You can’t succeed or fail if you never even try.

And gold medalists would remind us how many times they “failed” before they won the gold medals they now wear around their necks. Fear of failure is no reason not to go for the gold.

I’ve found it wise to remember that our past does not dictate our future. I’ve also found we do well to remember that every failure or mistake teaches a lesson. So, if we learn our lessons well, we’ll do well in the future. Or at least I know if I’ve learned a lesson well enough, I don’t repeat the same mistake!

God has created each of us with unique talents, abilities and potential. These are very good reasons to appreciate who we are — our talents and every experience we’ve had. We each have a unique purpose to fulfill. And we have the God-given ability to live our purpose to its fullest possibility.

So believe in yourselves, my friends. Your purpose is uniquely yours, and no one else can fulfill it for you or take it away from you. Stay on your course. Be patient. Pursue, persevere and expect success. You can’t help but be whatever God has created you to be. And with God, truly all things are possible for each one of us. A gold medal is within your grasp!