Quarterbacks with poise!

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

I love football season even though my team isn’t winning. There are many life lessons that can be learned from watching this game.

One example was illustrated to me yesterday by an opposing team’s quarterback.

Imagine a quarterback who gets a bad snap. In fact, imagine a football rolling by this quarterback’s feet instead of landing in his hands. Then imagine how this quarterback responded in that moment.

Did he start yelling at his center for his obvious mistake?

Did he throw his hands up in the air and stomp off to the sideline in frustration and despair?

Did he scramble frantically for the football only to knock it further away from him?

Or did he calmly stop the rolling ball, pick it up and make a great play — a play that resulted in a touchdown for his team moments later?

You guessed it. Unfortunately for my team, the quarterback demonstrated great poise!

I couldn’t help but be impressed by his poise under extreme pressure. Even in the midst of what could have been a catastrophic mistake for his team — on the ten yard line no less — his poise is what enabled him to make the best out of a bad situation.

I couldn’t help but recall many times when a mistake made by someone else was costly to me. And I recalled how easy it was to point fingers and blame them as the excuse for my problem.

I also recalled other times when I gave up in my own exasperation. This is even easier to do when there is someone else to point to as the cause for your troubles.

And furthermore, I could also recall times of over-anxiousness and hysteria when I tried in vain to figure out a solution. These were times when I aimlessly did everything possible but the right thing.

Of course, no problems were solved in these times!

Oh the power that is discovered when we are poised to discover it!

Maintaining our poise is about maintaining our balance, confidence, composure. Our steadiness, stability, self-assurance, grace and polish keeps us ready to respond to whatever the hour demands of us.

It is our poise that enables us to problem-solve and to problem-solve quickly if needed. Our coolness and composure is what helps us know what to do and when and how to do it.

We can’t be poised and panic at the same time! And I can speak from experience that panic — also known as irrational behavior — generally makes it impossible to see beyond the end of your nose! In fact, panic tends to blur vision, stupefy reason and confound judgment.

And no good quarterback can make game-saving plays if he is unable to think clearly — if he is astonished or shocked by mistakes, dumbfounded, baffled, stumped or perplexed by the inadequacies of his teammates or calls by referees or even his coaches.

Nope, a good quarterback is able to make the best out of every play even if it means running the ball himself to get the first down. And a good quarterback never lets one bad play or a series of bad plays lower his expectations or dampen his determination to win the game. Even if the scoreboard says his team is losing, a good quarterback maintains his poise and does whatever it takes to win the game. He never gives up or throws passes frantically down the field hoping that one of his teammates will catch the ball.

A poised quarterback will make the best out of each play. And when one play doesn’t do the job, then he knows the next play can. And no matter how many games his team loses, a poised quarterback is certain the next game can be won.

Yes, I think much can be learned from watching football. I just hope my team’s quarterback is poised to win the next game. And I hope to be equally ready for any challenges and difficulties I have to face in my life. A quarterback has taught me that with poise, any problem can be overcome, endured and surpassed.


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.



Stop putting off!

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

If you’re like me, to stop procrastinating is easier said than done. I was born in Georgia, after all, so Scarlett’s words, “Tomorrow is another day,” run deep in my blood. My mother never threatened, “No dessert until you eat your veggies,” so I’ve had to work hard to come up with incentives to do whatever it is that I’m avoiding.

Procrastination has its roots in Latin, meaning “in favor of tomorrow.” The fact is, most of the time, it’s not really a matter of me wanting to wait until tomorrow — or next week or next year — to do whatever it is. Usually when I put something off, I regret that I did.

In college, I was one of those students who pulled “all-nighters” to write my papers. Sometimes — miraculously — they turned out pretty good. But then there were other times when I’m sure I could have done a better job if I had not been so rushed. In either case, I never enjoyed the stress and pressure I put myself under.

It’s been many years since my college days, and I still seem to be repeating the same old pattern of putting off. Indeed, I can come up with some elaborate reasons about how “now just isn’t a good time.”

I think there are many reasons why I put off until tomorrow what I could do today. Who doesn’t want to avoid unpleasant tasks? Or perhaps some things just feel too difficult? Sometimes I admit I put off long enough to make it impossible to do a good job. Then I have my handy excuse for failure since I just didn’t have enough time.

The two things I avoid most of all are laundry and doing our income tax. I know they need to be done. I know I have to do them. But surely tomorrow will be a better day!

There are many more things, however, that I hate putting off. And yet, still I do.

I will put off calling old friends when I mean to. Then it ends up never happening. Sadly, days, months, years pass until friendships become only memories.

There are other things I wish I would stop putting off, such as exercising, going for a walk, reading a new book, having lunch with a friend and finishing a project — to name a few. And there are always trips that are waiting to be taken — one of these days — or the diet to begin. However, I have recently begun my diet!

The truth is I often spend more time feeling bad about avoiding a task or project than it would have taken to complete it. And I am getting tired of promising myself that I won’t wait until the last minute next time.

I guess one reason this topic has come to my mind so strongly this week is because I have a new friend I’ve not gotten to know as well as I would like yet. And now this friend may be moving away soon. I’m realizing how lost opportunities come about when we don’t live more in the moment and make the most of each moment. Tomorrow isn’t always a possibility.

I have an old friend who moved away a few years ago. We’ve seen each other on occasion since. But for years we’ve talked about going on a trip together — just us girls. Needless to say, that hasn’t happened.

Well, my friends, that is about to change! I’m putting a stop to putting it off! Sometime in March you’ll undoubtedly be reading about my trip to Italy with my friend. I’m also going to start actually doing the things on my to-do lists. I’m breaking larger tasks into smaller ones, and I’m setting deadlines for myself, accompanied by a reward for getting each one done.

So my message to you today is the same message I’m saying to myself: Stop putting off! No more regrets! There is no better time than the present to be with our friends and family. And why add needless stress to our lives by putting “everything” off until tomorrow? Today is a good day, too!

Who says you can’t go back?

by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

I’ve always been told you can’t go back. Things can never be exactly the way they were. This is because the nature of life is always moving forward — is always changing. Nothing stays the same.

But what if I understand that things today are different from things yesterday? What if I know going back would be a very different experience? And what if I realize that I am a different person today than I was twenty years ago? Why can’t I go back and begin again?

Today I visited the church I attended as a child. I’ve attended there occasionally through the years, but it’s been over thirty years since I was a member. Yet I have to say that every time I go back and walk those familiar pathways and enter familiar rooms, I feel like I’m home.

I find myself asking, “Why couldn’t I go back to this church?” And I can’t help but feel that I could. I know my experiences today would be very different from my youth, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be equally meaningful.

A couple of days ago I was at a party and became reacquainted with an old friend. She was the mother of one of my daughter’s kindergarten classmates. We used to spend hours and hours together eating breakfast, talking, laughing and shopping. After her daughter was killed in a horrible accident a few short years later, we lost touch with each other. I’ve missed our friendship, and I’ve harbored much regret and guilt for not trying harder to stay friends. I’ve longed to tell her this and finally seized the opportunity at this party.

I can’t help but wonder what it will be like for us to rekindle our friendship. I know it will be different and perhaps not easy. But surely it would be better to renew our friendship than to just leave it to the past.

And do I really need a good reason to go back to school? I’ve often said my college days are some of my fondest memories. And I know that college would be a different experience today than it was thirty years ago.

The desire to go back doesn’t mean I expect or want things to be the same. But there is comfort in going back to what is familiar.

Again and again, I go back to the same restaurants, to the same hair and nail salon and even the same vacation spots. It feels very natural to go back to what I know best, to what has been consistent and good, to what has gained my confidence, to what has always brought me happiness. Going back to that which I trust can’t be a wrong thing.

Jesus often spoke of his ministry as seeking and saving that which was lost. (Luke 19:10) He told a parable about a man who had a hundred sheep. He questioned that if this man lost one of his sheep, wouldn’t he leave his ninety-nine sheep to go find the one that was missing? (Luke 15:4) Of course he would! Wouldn’t you?

So if the purpose to go back is to find and restore lost hope, peace, confidence, joy or to find and reestablish a dear friendship, surely this is a good and right thing to do.

If someone is telling you not to go back — that you can’t — go back, examine your motive. When the desire to return is to regain, recover and resurrect, you can’t be wrong.


What to do when you can’t decide

by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

This was the question my daughter recently asked on her online journal. For her, the indecision was about which field of study to select for her next Master’s degree.

I suspect we’ve all been faced with indecision at various points in our life.

My mamma told me long ago that if I’m questioning a decision or choice, then is the time to step back and sleep on it before moving forward. Of course when she shared this bit of wisdom with me, she was hoping it would stop me from making wrong choices as a teenager. And it did work pretty well I must say — when I listened to my intuition. When we have a strong instinct that we should not do something, we probably should not do it.

There isn’t a perfect formula that will assure we will always make the best decision. But a good ‘ole pros and cons list is always a good thing to do.

It’s rarely — probably never actually — true that there is only one course of action to take. So when considering a decision, list your options — any and all alternatives that come to mind. Don’t take the time to evaluate while you’re doing this kind of possibility thinking.

Since it’s often helpful to approach a decision from as many perspectives as possible, don’t just ask friends and family members for their ideas — ask strangers as well.

The goal is to choose a course of action that is the most reasonable and balanced. So be sure to weigh the possible outcomes. Visualize the result you hope for. You want to feel comfortable with your decision. You want to feel what is right. Don’t question what feels right with logic.

I have an example of this. We were trying to select fabric to have our living room furniture upholstered. I loved a certain fabric — its color, pattern, the way it felt. But logic kept telling me I should select a different fabric that was probably more durable and potentially longer-lasting. I did. And I never liked my decision. Unfortunately, I was stuck with that furniture for a few more years and was so happy when I was finally able to buy new. When I did, I bought exactly what I wanted without analyzing its practicality.

What we don’t want to do is get stuck wavering between two possible courses of action and remain unable to decide, move or act. Hesitating, wavering and waffling are often seedlings of fear that can become habit-forming. Indecision is a decision to do nothing — not the decision we want to make.

Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Each individual must fill his own niche in time and eternity.” I love the word — must — in this statement of promise. I love the assurance that there must be a right decision, a right place, a right choice for each of us at all times. That includes right now — at this very moment.

Perhaps sometimes we get so focused on trying to make decisions for tomorrow, we neglect today. Maybe we need to begin our decisions today — making the most of the present moment, our present situation, our present job, our present home and so forth.

Sometimes, too, we can get so busy analyzing all of our options and possible outcomes, that we don’t ask God what His will for us is. He most certainly has a perfect divine plan for all of His creation. The problem is that we don’t always ask, listen or follow His direction.

Remember the story of Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt. We read that “the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:” (Exodus 13:21) It took them a long time to reach their Promised Land because they relented many times to fears and doubts and stopped trusting in God’s guidance.

I feel certain that God is leading each of us each day. And we can each reach our divine heights as we follow and trust His lead. But we must ask and listen first — moment by moment, step by step.

Yoda, the most powerful Jedi Master of the Star Wars universe, assured a young Luke Skywalker — and it works for us, too: “The answers are within you.” And so they are. God places the right answers in our heart. Trust your heart. God will enable you to feel what the best decision is.