Posts Tagged ‘encouragement’

How to Find Your Porpoise

February 4, 2016

jump porp

Anyone who has ever taught in a classroom has a plethora of funny anecdotes about things that students said, did or wrote. One of mine involves an eighth grade student who chose, as his English class theme subject, the philosophical topic of finding and pursuing one’s purpose in life. The finished product came to me with the title, How I Found My Porpoise.

At first, I thought that his purpose involved a porpoise and he intended to pursue his porpoise purpose. I was rather looking forward to learning about how he came up with that, but then I realized that he had obviously misspelled the word…probably because he had waited until the last minute and no doubt had hastily finished the paper that morning before class.

I had to give him credit for choosing such a complex topic, since most of us spend a lot of our time trying to figure out what we really want to do in life. Trying to find your purpose; why you are here on earth, and what you are meant to do, can be confusing and frustrating. Even though you may have a genetic predisposition for a specific talent, sometimes it isn’t always as easy as just writing a mission statement and carrying it out.

First of all, there is a big difference in having a purpose and living WITH purpose! Don’t get too caught up in the word “purpose.” The best any of us can do is to live life in the kindest, most compassionate, joyful way we can! Although some people claim that they have always known in their hearts what they were meant to do, most of us find meaning in many different life experiences along the way. The way I see it is if you are here on earth, you’re here for a reason and sometimes you may never really identify one particular purpose!

But if you ever get stuck and wonder what you are meant to do, here are some tips:

Use your emotional intelligence. Check your passion! Purpose and passion are related so if you are extremely passionate about something, your emotional intelligence is leading you to move toward fulfilling one of your life’s purposes. If you are meant to do it, you’ll find a way.

Review your patterns. If you look back on your life and think about the things you have always enjoyed and to which you find yourself gravitating, you will get a pretty good idea of the things you hold most important.

Your purpose doesn’t have to be your job. What if your purpose in life is to be kind…to others and to yourself? What if it is to forgive…others and yourself? What if your purpose is to encourage and to be a mentor? Don’t think that because you don’t get paid to do something, it isn’t your calling.

Listen to your gut. You are smart. You know what feels right and what you are meant to do! Don’t wait for other people or circumstances to make decisions for you. You have the power to make the rest of your life the best of your life!

Live life with an exclamation point! The worst feeling of all is to be wishy washy and never be able to lock into any goals. We all want to live with an exclamation point and not a question mark! You can’t feel jubilant about everything all of the time, but your moments of exhilaration, curiosity, and contentment should outnumber your moments of boredom, frustration, or despair. When you are living on purpose, you feel a sense of harmony, satisfaction, comfort, peace and hope. If you are living with a porpoise, you are probably in the ocean. Lucky you!

Linda Henley-Smith is a speaker and life-mapping coach. 

Boomerang Anger

September 18, 2015

Throwing boomerang with a blue sky in a background

It has recently occurred to me that much of the unkindness that rears its head in the world is the result of how people feel about themselves. I have come to believe that sometimes when we adamantly dislike someone, the person with whom we really have an issue is living in our own bodies! At the core of hatred are feelings of fear and insecurity.

Think about it. If you feel secure and confident about your own choices, beliefs and behavior, why would you really have any reason to angrily judge anyone else’s? With the exception of causing physical harm, another person’s ideas should not intimidate you. Also, there is no need for jealousy or animosity toward another if you have a healthy self-image. When we blatantly harbor prejudice or dislike for someone, that hatred could stem from a fear that somehow we are being threatened.

I have learned that when I find myself being critical of someone, I need to step back and wonder why. Usually, I find that I am judging someone for behavior that I, myself, exhibit or characteristics that I possess. And sometimes, I have to admit that another person’s success reminds me of a lack of fulfillment in myself. Almost always, it has to do with some kind of fear. My anger directed at someone else, usually comes right back to me! I call it Boomerang Anger.

We are human and therefore, flawed. We are full of self-doubt and insecurities which often color how we see other people. Our own fears and disappointments are the lens through which we see and therefore, judge. The way we treat others can be a reflection of how we feel about who we really are. I could write much more about this, but someone else has written a poem which describes what our personal fears can do. She writes about it so insightfully; when I first read her words, it took my breath away. The poet is my sixteen-year-old granddaughter and I am very proud of her depth and wisdom. She is one of my “sheroes!”

There is a girl I always see

Standing right in front of me

She has long hair and hazel eyes;

A color I have grown to despise

For a long time I didn’t know

That her huge smile was just a show

Behind the happy expression

Was a girl with frequent depression.

This girl always wore a mask

And I made it my personal task

To expose the little liar

In emotion hot as fire,

I quickly drew nearer

And ran into a mirror.

——Amanda Isabelle Phillips

Linda Henley-Smith is an author, speaker, coach and proud grandmother. Visit her website at


What I Learned While I Was Invisible

September 9, 2015

In the Broadway show Chicago, there is a song about feeling unimportant and invisible. A man sings that Mr. Cellophane should have been his name because people walk right by him, see right through him and never even know he’s there.

Although it sounds pitiful, I think that many of us have experienced that feeling at some point in life. You may have wondered if anyone really cared about what you thought or if anyone really even saw you. It can be a pretty lonely feeling, but it’s important to understand that feeling invisible comes from within you and not from other people.

Sometimes it happens when you have long defined yourself by your relationship with another person or perhaps by a job, and that role ends or becomes less prominent. Many people retire from longtime careers and suddenly feel as if they no longer have a purpose. I have known some who worried as they aged, that people would no longer look AT them, but would look THROUGH them. And sometimes people lack self-esteem and believe that whatever they have to say or offer is not worth anything. They convince themselves that nobody would care about their opinion. They feel invisible because rather than defining their own essence, they leave it up to other people! When you feel invisible to yourself, it’s no wonder that you feel invisible to others!

I know these things because I have felt invisible. It happened at a time when everything in my life fell apart and I was catapulted into a world of confusion. I felt lost, betrayed and rather non-existent. Fortunately, I finally realized that I was creating my own cloaking device and eventually worked through it. Here is what I learned during my self-imposed invisibility.

  • I realized that my feelings of invisibility were a result of me abandoning myself!
  • I had to believe that even though my life had drastically changed and I was no longer in the same position as before, I was still a person of worth. Things were different, but I still had a lot to offer.
  • I came to understand that there are those who will only acknowledge people when they need something from them. I chose not to be affected by those people because their opinions had nothing to do with who I really was.
  • I learned that I needed to love and be visible to myself rather than to worry about being adored and praised by anyone else. My feelings of self-worth needed to come from within me rather than to depend on outside validation.
  • I no longer defined myself by what I owned, who I knew, what position I held or how I looked.
  • I took time to reassess my life and my goals. I realized that my faith had to be greater than my fear.
  • I began to understand that other people’s feelings and opinions were not more valuable than mine and I learned that acknowledging my feelings is very important. If I ignore and discount them, others will not deem them important either. Feelings are a kind of inner guidance and they shouldn’t be ignored.
  • I stopped giving situations, circumstances and other people the power to define me. I started to create my own experiences by engaging with others and participating in life! I realized I didn’t have to wait for someone else to make the first move; I was capable of introducing myself and starting conversations!
  • I started to appreciate who I was and where I was at that time. I allowed myself to heal with the knowledge that my wounded self was carrying a sense of rejection which really didn’t really exist.

Now I know that people are only invisible if they allow themselves to be. Mr. Cellophane felt invisible because he apologized for his existence. No one should ever do that! Our lives are fluid and they will change…often many times. Sometimes we’ll be on the top and sometimes we won’t. There will be times when we may not measure up to someone else’s standard of beauty or intelligence or wit, but that doesn’t matter. We are all worthy, loveable and very visible beings. Just remember that visibility begins with the love you show yourself!

Linda Henley-Smith is no longer invisible. Visit her website at

Monkeys Don”t Keep Score

December 3, 2014

After reading the title of this article, I am sure that most of you are pleased to learn that if you are planning any activities or sporting events with primates, you need not worry about them cheating on their scores.

Researchers at a primate research center have apparently determined that monkeys are prosocial, which is defined as having the motivation to assist others regardless of benefits. In other words, the monkeys don’t seem to keep track of past favors. They respond to the needs of their companions, rather than responding to the rewards offered by their companions.

So, we can assume that monkeys could teach humans a thing or two about relationships. They may not have the social graces needed to dine in Five Star restaurants, but why would they want to do that anyway? They are pretty content to eat while swinging in trees. But it seems that the little hairy guys have it all over us when it comes to giving to others without expecting something in return. People tend to keep tabs on favors.

Keeping score can be exhausting and it is the opposite of giving with grace. When we expect reciprocity for our good deeds, they cease to be gifts and become IOUs that we expect the recipient of our favors to repay. The truth is that we are not always going to get back as much as we think we have given. And that’s OK because it is almost impossible to balance these things out. The healthiest mindset to adopt is one of finding joy in giving and not expecting anything in return, because only then is your gesture genuine.

There are times when we don’t help someone in need because we know they won’t repay us. Sometimes we pass up an opportunity to make a person’s life a little better because we don’t think they really deserve it. We tire of being asked to donate or to lend a hand because there is nothing in it for us and everyone should make their own way. We hang onto our tally sheets and we keep score.

During this Holiday Season, maybe we would all do well to emulate the monkeys.

Who Is Behind That Mask?

October 31, 2014

When the last firework popped on the Fourth of July, most stores had their Halloween displays up and running. For months, children have been planning what they are going to wear and who they are going to be. When they put on those costumes; in their minds, they actually become someone else. When I was teaching kindergarten, I had one little guy who dressed as a dog, barked his conversations and wouldn’t sit at his desk because as he said, “Dogs aren’t allowed on the furniture.” He took his costume seriously and I was just glad that he agreed to use the restroom instead of a tree!

Every now and then, it is fun to wear costumes and masks and become someone else. People do it all the time in theatrical productions and I have always found it to be rather freeing to leave myself behind and become someone more exciting, exotic, beautiful, fun, etc.

The trick is to remember when you are playing a part and when you are you. I once played a southern belle in a production and I loved her. For weeks after the play closed, I wanted to sew hoops in all of my skirts and sip mint juleps on the veranda. It didn’t work for me because it seems that in Phoenix, Arizona we don’t have verandas and people don’t appreciate hearing “Oh Fiddle Dee Dee, aren’t I just a silly goose?” as an excuse for cutting in front of them in a grocery checkout line.

We all wear masks occasionally; not the kind that we wear in plays or at Halloween, but the faces behind which we hide when we feel uneasy, unsure or frightened. We read a lot about the concept of authenticity, and being yourself. To me, that just means sticking to your core values and knowing which things in your life are non-negotiable. It means not spending too much time hiding behind masks which do not reflect who you really are. It means trying to be someone you’re not in order to please someone else. It means refusing to compromise your beliefs and values in order to fit in.

I am planning on wearing a mask on Halloween….or possibly I will just go without makeup because that is certainly a frightening sight! But I wish for all of us, the confidence to go through life being true to ourselves and saving the masks for special occasions.

What’s In It For Me?

September 29, 2014

This is a question that drives almost every decision that we make. Those words are subconscious messages from the naughty little voices that we sometimes hear chattering in the back of our minds. Sadly, they sometimes prevent us from doing the right thing because our egos stand in the way.

Most of us want to do the right thing, but life can get complicated and the world seems to be going at such a fast pace. It sometimes feels as if we can barely hang on and handle our own challenges without taking on someone else’s issues. And there are those situations which involve someone hurting our feelings or competing with us for something we want or need. Are we really supposed to step out of our own ego bubbles and defy our “I have to look out for number one” inclinations?

For instance, here are some possible scenarios: If someone hurts me, why should I forgive him? Sure…he may be off the hook for what he did, but what’s in it for me? Someone needs help; I really don’t have the time and it will be an inconvenience. Lending a hand would make life much easier for someone else, but what’s in it for me? After all, we all need to look out for ourselves, don’t we? Someone is being mistreated or bullied. I could intervene and stand up for him, but then I would have to get involved and if I do that…what’s in it for me?

Yikes! What a dilemma! Or is it? Speaking for myself and my own experiences, here is what I have found to be the answer to what’s in it for me:

• The phrase, “what goes around, comes around” is true most of the time. What we send out usually returns to us. Negativity and mean spiritedness usually come back to bite you in the booty; kindness returns to you tenfold. We reap what we sow.
• There is more peace in stepping out of yourself than there is in building walls around yourself. When you practice kindness for kindness’ sake, you find that the question of what you’re going to get out of it appears less frequently in your thoughts. There is a kind of contentment that comes with giving and forgiving without expecting acknowledgement or credit.
• There is a lot to be said for paying it forward. Attitude is like ripples in a pond when a stone has been thrown in. When you are kind to someone, you are increasing the likelihood of that person passing it on to others. It is the gift that keeps on giving. And it works in reverse; as well…snarkiness breeds snarkiness. Don’t be the one who starts the snarky cycle.

The world has a way of balancing things out. But if you are still having trouble doing the right thing because you’re not sure what’s in it for you, reward yourself with chocolate. It works for me! But…I’m easily bribed.

Nature (and my dog) Hates a Vacuum

June 16, 2014

At the risk of setting everyone off on a “Frozen” song, I am going to mention the words “Let it Go.” Now that the song is stuck in your head and you probably hate me for bringing it up, I shall continue on.

Anyone who has ever experienced heartache, confusion, fear, disappointment or upheaval knows that eventually you have to process what has happened, accept that you have been bumped out of your comfort zone and your life has probably been changed a bit.
And most of us have learned that if we are to continue to move ahead in life, we have to unstick our feet from the wastewater of worldly woe (don’t you love that?) and release any negativity that has resulted from a difficult situation. It is important to turn loose of the emotional baggage that is no longer serving us well. We have to face the negativity, stop hiding behind it, and be willing to let it go.

But there is another part of the puzzle and that is that nature abhors a vacuum. I think Aristotle said that. My dog also abhors vacuums and he hides from them under the bed, but he is not as famous as Aristotle. Obviously, Aristotle was not referring to a Hoover; what he meant was that when something goes away, the place it occupied needs to be filled with something else. In this case, when we release our negative thought patterns, they need to be replaced with some positive ones.

The first step is to introduce some new ideas and possibilities into your thoughts and get in the habit of practicing positive thought replacement. Rather than focusing on what you have lost, try to think of something positive that may have come from the situation. I recently talked with a woman who was trying to recover from a major financial crisis. She told me that until this happened; she never had realized or appreciated how many supportive friends she had. Her words were, “Believe it or not, I have reconnected with so many people who are willing and even happy to help me pick up the pieces and start again. Were it not for what I thought of as a disaster in my life, I would never have known just how blessed I really am!”

The next step is to train your brain to live in the present; not in the past. Your newer and more positive thought patterns will help to pave the way for healthier, productive emotions and attitudes. Whenever an old self-defeating thought or negative self-talk tries to make a comeback, immediately make a list of things for which you are grateful. An attitude of gratitude will get you farther than getting stuck in the mental mud.

Remember than negative thoughts have no power other than that which you give them. You can nurture them or take away their strength by simply capturing them the moment they come into your head and mentally eliminating them. I picture my negative thoughts as balloons and visualize myself popping them. That’s my positive replacement thought and it’s kind of fun.

Finally, understand that being positive is not ducking reality or thinking like a Pollyanna. It simply means that you realize that there are alternatives to sinking into a pit of despair!

If You Keep Doing What You’ve Always Done……

January 29, 2014

I recently had a very enlightening conversation with a young athlete. She is a runner who is working hard to improve her time. I am not an athlete; but as a motivational speaker, I gave her my thoughts on how she should just keep practicing and eventually she would break through the wall.

She listened politely and then stopped me in my tracks. “Actually,” she said, “I think I need to change something in my running style because just practicing doing what I have been doing doesn’t seem to be working.” Well, it hit me that my words of wisdom were about as helpful as a screen door on a submarine! I thought I was being supportive and encouraging this young woman, but I was just scratching the surface of her challenge. Sometimes “just keep trying” is a valid approach, but in some cases, it just sounds a little fluffy.

She started me thinking about how we should deal with problems realistically. If things aren’t working the way we planned, perhaps we do need to stop, reevaluate the situation and try something new. After we have examined the options, if we determine that we just need to work harder and keep at it, so be it! But there will be times when we might need to consider tweaking things a little and trying a different approach. After all, if we walk into a room, flip on the light switch, and nothing happens; how long should we stand there flipping the switch on and off before we consider that we may have a burned out light bulb?

We can expect to encounter difficulties and even failures every now and then, because that is part of moving forward…and perseverance is a good thing! But even when we are sure that we are on the right track, it doesn’t hurt to pause every now and then to take stock of what is happening on our journey. There is a lot to be said for “If at first you don’t succeed, try again,” but it needs to be tempered with “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you will keep getting what you’ve always gotten!”

What Is On Your Name Tag?

December 5, 2013

I get to wear a lot of name tags. Every time I speak at a conference, I get another one and that is a good thing; because as I get older, it is helpful to have a reminder of who I am. On these name tags is also written my title, which I have provided for the conference leaders. This is usually either “Speaker” or “Owner of For the Good Times Programs”. However; sometimes the meeting planners have labeled me in different ways. For instance, one group decided that since I was speaking about the healing power of humor, I should be billed as a Humor Therapist, but something went wrong in the spacing and when I picked up my tag, I was surprised to read “Linda Henley-Smith, Humor The rapist.” Hmmm. Another time, I was one of three women speakers who were to present on consecutive evenings. We were the only women at this conference and were known as “The Ladies.” On my appointed speaking night, my name tag designated me as “Lady of the Evening.”

So, that started me thinking about name tags and how, if we wrote our own, we would define ourselves. In one of my seminars, I gave each of the participants blank tags and asked them to write their names and a word or phrase which they felt would describe them. Some used words like Optimistic, Happy, Hopeful and Friendly. Then there were those who wrote Depressed, Angry, Fearful or other words with negative connotations. One woman sadly had printed the word LUPUS under her name. When she introduced herself, we learned that she had the disease well under control and her prognosis was excellent. Yet, she had allowed herself to let lupus override any other words that she might use to describe who she was.
It is dangerous to let fear or past failures or even an illness to dominate the other parts of us! I can be a person who is going through a tough time without thinking of myself as a tough time with a person attached!

Maybe we should all put on new name tags every morning, and label them with a word expressing an attitude that we want to have that day. Then, we might be more likely to try to live up to that description. Perhaps that is why I have a license plate which reads DIVA. Of course, that stands for Delighting In Victorious Attitude. Yeah…that’s what it means.

“Just Tell Yourself, Ducky…You’re Really Quite Lucky!”

September 13, 2013

I think that Dr. Seuss was one of the world’s finest philosophers. What he wrote for children actually serves grown-ups quite well! Take, for instance, the quote that I used as a title. It says a lot and packs a powerful punch when you think about how many of us are dissatisfied with what we have and always seem to want more.

I admit that I am sometimes guilty of saying things like, “I would really be satisfied if only……” Maybe you have those thoughts, as well. I think we all do, but we just have different wishes to fill in the blank after “if only.” The truth is that possibly, for most of us, what we have now is probably what we once wished for. But, when we achieve our “if only,” it somehow isn’t enough and we once again become discontented and unhappy with our lot in life. By doing this, we run the risk of spoiling what we do have by constantly desiring something more. We lose the little joys in life by searching for what we believe to be the ultimate happiness. If we spend most of our time focusing on what we think we lack, we will never feel that we have enough.

There is certainly nothing wrong with having aspirations and dreams; those are good things! And when we work toward a goal and finally reach it, we have reason to celebrate and enjoy the fruits of our labor. But I have found that if I am not content with what I have, chances are I wouldn’t be content with what I would like to have! Why? Because genuine joy comes not from things that we acquire or from any outside source; rather, it emerges from a sense of inner peace, rooted in the knowledge that we probably already possess everything that we need….maybe just not everything that we want. Striving to improve things is a positive action, but living in constant dissatisfaction with where you are in life, is a very frustrating way to spend your days here on earth!

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” —Lao Tzu