How to Create Lightbulb Moments with Espen Klausen, Ph.D.

Episode 01 Podcast & Transcript

We’re here! It’s the very first episode of the Voice of Influence podcast! You can listen to the podcast and read the transcript here. But if you want to help a girl out, head on over to iTunes and Subscribe, Rate and Review the Voice of Influence. It would be so helpful! Thank you!

You can find Espen Klausen at his website http://www.espenklausen.com.

Transcript

Hey, hey! This is Andrea Wenburg and you are listening to the Voice of Influence podcast and this is episode 01. That’s right, this is the very first interview that I’m publishing on this podcast. A
nd Espen is the perfect person to start us off. Espen is excellent at communicating and connecting with his clients and people that he cares about in his relationships, his work life and as a speaker. I think you’re going to find that this interview is something you’re going to want to come back to over and over again. I’ve already listened to it a couple of times and I’ve thought, “I have got to write some of this down, because this is good!” Let’s get to it with Espen.

Espen Klausen, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and speaker based in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. His work in public community mental health includes individuals, couples, and family therapy with clients of all ages and he conducts psychological assessments. He is the lead psychologist for several County programs. He consults for Social Services. As a speaker, he runs seminars on a wide range of subjects for professionals groups, company wellness programs, ministries, County departments, and community groups.

Andrea: Espen Klausen, it is so good to have you with us.

Espen: Thank you. I’m very happy to be with you.

Andrea: This is of course very fun for me because Espen happens to be married to one of my bestfriends from high school, so I’ve known Espen for quite a long time. And through my work in ministry or just in trying to help other people on a one-on-one kind of basis, Espen has often served as somebody that I could come to with questions about different things and sort of like a consultant. I’ve really appreciated your help through the years, not only for attempting to help, but for myself as well, Espen.

Espen: Ah yeah. I believe I show up as a cameo in your book.

Andrea: You do, you do and very important one too because I was really struggling at that time, and I appreciated you and Chris and the way that you guys came around me. I really appreciate that. Anyway, I’m so glad to have you here to talk about Voice of Influence with the Influencers that are listening. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about what you do?

Espen: Wow, what do I do?

Andrea: Right. I know, your bio kind of indicates that you do everything.

Espen: Yeah, and being in community mental health, you have to be ready to do everything. You have to be a generalist. You don’t want to go working for the county and be “Oh, I’m only working with trauma,” because we want to help everyone and you don’t know who’s going to walk through that door and we cover crisis and then certainly you don’t know who’s going to show up and need the help right there. You’d be willing to do everything and work with everyone. That’s also been the training I’ve pursued.

So a lot of general public mental health which is what I wanted in seeking this line is working with a lot of people that underprivileged, underserved people with multiple mental health problems, medical problems, poverty, difficult life situations; and the hardest of cases to deal with where they have few outside resources.

Andrea: Yeah, that sounds like really important work. It occurred to me that the listeners are probably hearing your accent and wondering where you from. And also, how did you get from there to where you’re at right now? Maybe a little overview of why you are doing what you’re doing, how you got this point?

Espen: Yeah, and I know you’re very intrigue with how people are finding the voice and it’s kind of the same story. Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to help people. And as a result from early on, I’ve pursued becoming a medical doctor. In Norway, that’s where my accent is from, you know, I often joked I got it for $1.99 on eBay because nobody else would bid for it, but I got it from Norway that’s where I was born and raised.

So I was pursuing medical school. The way we do things in Norway is in Norway, you start medical schools straight out of high school. There’s no premed college or something like that. Once out from high school, you go for medicine that’s one long education. I studied hard in high school. Got the insane grades that’s needed in Norway to get into medical school, but as it turned out, I didn’t get into the medical school I wanted.

So I decided to wait a year and collect some… we call them “study points,” which would make more qualified to potentially get into medical school I wanted to. So I decided to take the dare to study abroad. And when I said study abroad, that has two meanings – my girlfriend at the time, now my wife, who you know well, was going to college and was an American. So I decided to study at her college for that year.

But then what happened was – I took a psychology course just a few weeks and I’m like “Why in the world am I pursuing medicine?” Yes, helping others is a part of my voice, but my voice is multifaceted and has certainly other elements than that. It is part of that meeting people where they’re at, helping people on a very personal level. And I quickly fell in love with psychology and the opportunities that it had. It was a possible self that until this point I have never even considered.

I actually think that’s one of things that lead to us, having too few mental health workers and people in psychology and related fields is most people just don’t even think about it as a career choice until they happen to take a psychology class. And I just recognized “Wow, yeah this is where my voice is.” Since then, I continue education in psychology, three years of college, graduate school, and now having been a professional in psychology over the last 9 or 10 years.

Just every year, I discover more, more of my voice and refining it within that field. So how I got to America of course then is loving education. And once here, just discovering psychology and choosing to finish my career here and of course, I got married to my wonderful wife too and got established here.

Andrea: So when did you begin speaking then?

Espen: Well, I was probably around 2 years old when I started speaking but okay…

Andrea: You’re very funny.

Espen: Yeah, yeah okay. I usually joke way too much and say “Hey, waited this long to have a joke,” that’s kind of unusual.

Andrea: I was going to say … I think that was part of your voice. This is part of who you are is you’re funny and you’re witty.

Espen: It is. Sometimes people are…oh I sometimes come to a talk because I get to have fun and I might learn something at the same time. You want to keep people entertained particularly in this day and age. Yeah, I guess early start would be in my graduate training. It was research-focused. You’re expected to become a scientist. You’re expected to do research and you’re expected to disseminate research, which means you’re going to do presentations.

Through my research, I was lucky enough to get a lot of opportunities for it. And that picked up interests, which means I was interviewed by radio shows and that was the early beginning to it. But I never thought of that as much of a career or as a society career. Starting to work for the county, people started liking what I was saying; social services, social workers there, and other people started coming to me for advice. They wanted to learn and they like what I had to say and people started asking me to training or “Can you do this talk?”

And the more and more I was doing that, I started recognizing that I had the ability to meet people where they’re at in more than a one-on-one situation or more than a family or a group. I could do it with a bigger audience and that people appreciated what I had to say. I also found that one of the things in the world that I found the most rewarding is seeing people have a light bulb moment. And that also flavored the way I speak, the way I talk, or the way set up main points are in ways that give people light-bulb moments. I speak in such a way that by the time I give them their main points and take-home message, is exactly the same time that their brain is making the same main points.

Andrea: How do you know that that’s what happening? Is it intuition or is it just kind of an observation?

Espen: No. It is observation. And for most people, this is akin to having a baby where you show them something new. They may be looking all around or bubbling or whatever but you show them something new and exciting they’ve never seen before and you just see the face changed. And you knew they were interested. It’s just the sudden change, the sudden dawning on their face.

And for most people when they have a light-bulb moment, actually the face looks much light bulb. And my understanding is, it is probably because it is the same face. It is the same reflex. It’s the brain that’s recognizing something new.

Actually, one of the rewarding things for a person is when we make new sign-ups connections. When our brain makes new connections, it is pleasurable for most people. But it’s pleasurable when their brain is making those connections, not when they’re just being fed information. Or if just being fed information is work that your brain has to focus on and make itself concentrate to put it in the storage banks.

And when our brain can make its own a new connections when…I like to call it, when we can learn when our brain is just putting two and two things together and go like “Ah so that’s how that works.” Or sometimes it create a light-bulb moment where I present things in a way where I just know that what I’m saying is going to connect to their own experiences, where they’re be interpreting what they did experience before. And that’s when I know things they’re thinking in and that’s when I know how things are going to be remembered and put into actions.

It’s one of the reasons I work educating people who have children with certain mental health issues, particularly something like autism or ADHD where very often parents who are new to the diagnosis don’t understand how it works. Now, I can understand certain principles and suddenly there are dozens of life experiences with their child that just in a few flash seconds are getting re-interpreted in seeing in a totally different life. They report this “Oh, there’s so many things that suddenly makes sense now.” And when people have that experience, it’s one of the most rewarding things there is for me.

Andrea: So do you think that you’ve always been pretty good at leading people to these light-bulb moments in a sort of way by allowing them to connect to their own experiences, allowing them to come to their own conclusions. It kind of sounded like you’re saying, you’re sort of putting the two pieces in front of them and letting them add them up. Have you always been good at this or is it something you’ve developed overtime?

Espen: That certainly something I’ve developed overtime. This sharing knowledge, sharing, understanding, it’s something…I have memories of doing this when 5, 6 years old. I was probably labeled as precocious and…

Andrea: Probably huh?

Espen: Yeah, probably. But that was just sharing information and probably whether the person was really interested or not. It was probably the information that was relevant to that person, or now I’m a know-it-all or certainly I was that way in high school in class “Ah there goes Espen, he is raising his hand again.” So that’s something I developed overtime. Certainly something that has been important is a lot of my training in psychology is understanding people psychology, understand how people’s past affect the way they look at things certainly has helped me tuned in to that.

But that really boiled down to…has been my philosophy that has developed over the last decade and a half which is that meeting people where they’re at. And part of this is too much training and acceptance to commitment therapy or other which sometimes called Third Wave CBT. It does look very little like…it might be very different in what people…I’m unfamiliar with first and second wave CBT is, but it goes down to their values and what’ s important for them.

Andrea: Okay so CBT. I don’t know what that…

Espen: Yeah, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Andrea: Thank you.

Espen: I’m going to make an example of meeting people where they’re at and I how your values don’t matter. I guess this is a perfect example where I was at the other end of things. Many years ago, my health was bad. I was 45 pounds heavier than I am now. My cholesterol and triglycerides were really bad. I lost three weeks of work staying home with…we couldn’t figure out what’s going on and we realized, it was bad asthma. Certainly my obesity at the time didn’t help.

So I went out to testing with my pulmonologist. My lungs were tested. My heart was tested and the doctor told me…I have a hard time doing this without going to his heavy accent, which I know coming from me but the doctor said “Dr. Klausen.” “Yes.” “You wanna be healthy, right?” “Fit right?” “Yeah, I do want to. Yeah. Sure, I agree with those values.” And then “Okay, you have to go exercise one hour, five days a week.” “Okay, okay. Yes, I need to do that.” And so I really realized that that was really important. So I went home and I did not do that.

The thing is, like most people, I agree with health and I agree with fitness. But they’re not my core values. A couple of years later, I had a conversation with my daughter. It was more like her having a monologue and she was talking about her life, about she’s going to graduate high school, graduate college…

Andrea: How old was she?

Espen: She must have been 4 years old.

Andrea: And she was talking about graduating.

Espen: Right, you know.

Andrea: Okay, go on. I just want to get some context here.

Espen: Yeah. And okay, one day she’s going to get her masters and she graduated on her PhD. And I said, “If you wanna stop with a masters, it’s okay, but a PhD is fine.” And she said you know, “Okay and getting married.” She was just spluttering on about her coming life. And in the middle of that conversation, I had this realization as I was picturing it that the way my health was going, I might not be there to see that. Now, my daughter matters to me but beyond this, what are my core values?

And one of the things that’s rewarding to me is being a witness to other people’s lives. That’s one of the privileges I had been being a therapist. People share their lives with me and I get to be a witness to their life. And I realized that to the most important person in my life, I might not be there to be a witness to her life. And my diet changed. My exercise changed and I did what my doctor told me. It had to relate back to my core values.

If we speak to someone, if we teach someone, if we try to get people to change or tell them what they should change, it’s irrelevant and it’s not going to do anything unless it meets them where they’re at and it relates to their core values.

Andrea: Such an incredible point, so important. And I love this idea and I certainly want to do that. That’s something I always want to do, but I think it’s kind of hard to figure that out. But what I’m hearing you say is that what we need to do is almost to listen first to understand where their core values are, and what they do care about so that we can get to that point where we can speak to those instead of just throwing information at somebody and expecting it to stick.

Espen: Yeah. Even in Evangelism or spiritual direction, you have to start with what you believe. Or in life and change in general, what’s important to you or what you want in life or what are you missing in life and that’s the starting point. And even if you have this goal mind for them that’s different, the goals you want them to pursue has to be related back to where they’re at and what they want.

Andrea: Ah, that makes a lot of sense.

Espen: It relates to a flipside of this, that relates to that that’s very actionable thing I’ve learned overtime that it both related to my growth but also my relationship for the people I work with. And I do this whenever I do speaking engagements for a company in learning about that company. I do this in a group level, the company level, but I do this in individual therapy level but also with friends.

But a big principle for me is, learn something from every single or every single organization. So every client I have, I learn something from. Every client I meet is on the inside of something, whether it’s how something is actually done on what that requires or what does it entails to actually be doing tattoos. What it’s like to have autism? What it’s like on the inside? What it’s like to actually being social worker removing children from a home when it’s necessary? What it’s like to be a police officer and the various levels of that? What’s the experience of actually being incarcerated?

In every client I see have their own inside experiences which something, and I can learn from that, from someone being on the inside. And that in turn how I can relate to future clients and get a lot of credibility but then I also learned from them. We often feel like we’re in this in a lot of positions in life, particularly one word – the professional, we feel like we have to be the one that knows everything and the other person is the person that has to learn. But people get so much more open to learning when they feel like they taught you something. It’s now two-way street.

Andrea: I’m sitting here like raising my hands going “Yay!” I hear yeah, I do. This is great! This is so true! I mean, I feel like people want to be known and they want to be respected in some way and they don’t want to just be written off. They want their voice to matter. So when their voice matters to you, when you’re able to communicate, you actually care what they’re saying and where they’re at then they can come back with being more open to maybe what you have to offer them as well. And it’s not that sort of top down teaching that you’re talking about, it’s a dialogue which is significant.

Espen: Absolutely, absolutely! And the more educated we are, we will have a tendency to focus on logical thinking and logical arguments, but that definitely has its limits. Our brains have many different learning centers. But two primary areas of our brain are roughly dividing, up here is our outer cortex and it’s our midbrain. Now, the midbrain is a part of the brain that we share with most animals. The outer cortex of the brain is fairly unique to us humans. Dolphins and dogs, they have a little bit of it but nothing like humans.

Now, the outer cortex, it can learn from reading. It can learn from talking. It’s the part of the brain that can put two into together and learn things that technically nobody ever taught you. It’s the intellectual part of the brain and is very deliberate and that part of the brain can adjust quickly. You learn something and then learn you’re wrong and you learn something else and say “Okay.” It adjusts quickly. “Hey, Obama is the President.” “Well, Donald Trump got elected.” “Okay, now my knowledge changes about who’s the current President.” That’s the outer cortex.

Very often when we talk to people and the more we’re academically trained, we tend to do this and that’s the part of the brain we’re talking with, except even more powerfully is our midbrain.

Our midbrain is where our instinctual understanding is. It’s where our emotional understanding is, and it’s where a lot of our automatic thoughts come from. The thoughts we don’t have any control over. You see chocolates and you have a good or negative experience to that – I’m imagining most of your listeners have a good experience to that, good reaction. And my reaction is “Yuck!” I don’t know, I just laughed the credibility of your whole audience but I apologize for that.

But the midbrain only learns from experience. You could talk all you want, it only learns from experience. And that means that for people to learn on that level, you have to give them an experience and you also going to be so much more effective if you can talk about things in ways that it speak with their experience or utilizes their experience; otherwise, you’re only working to change one part of their brain.

Another aspect of that is when things get busy, things get stressful, or things get overwhelmed, our outer cortex tend to shutdown or tends to get overwhelmed and then we tend to leave our decisions to our midbrain. This is one of the reasons why people that are stressed tend to eat unhealthy. So if you’re very busy and your brain, your outer cortex is filled and overwhelmed with all of these other things you have think about and now we have to make a choice about what to eat. With outer cortex is busy, they just going to go with your experience of what taste good and that’s usually not a healthy stuff, so deep change requires experience.

Andrea: Okay, so is that why story is so important? I mean, I hear a lot about telling stories and how important stories and all that. Is this the reason why stories are so important?

Espen: That is a big part of it. And in a way, that’s the strength of a book like yours. There are personally that books I kind of like to read tends to be very academic because I, myself is, kind of an outer cortex person. But if I wanted to influence my life, if I wanted to influence my instincts and my emotions and how I react to things then I probably should have a book that tells us story and a story that gives me an experience where I can feel like I’m in that person’s life. And going through as I’m reading some of what they’re experiencing, that’s kind of has more transformative power on the midbrain level.

Andrea: Because you’re kind of experiencing with them sort of like empathy and so because of empathy you’re able to – it’s feeling like you are also having the experience in the sense?

Espen: Right, you’re providing the person with an experience. A parallel is, sometimes we use Jaws as an example, so most people are afraid of sharks. Intellectually, I can teach a person that out of more than 200 species of sharks, there’s only five that will ever attack a human being and even then they will only attack a human being if they don’t have any better options.

So if you’re in an open water and you see a shark coming your way, you’ll probably still say – and I can give them all education about a shark and they may even agree with me “Okay, I realized now these sharks are safe.” But if they’re down in the water and they see a shark coming their way, they still feel scared because their experiences with sharks still the sharks are dangerous.

And they may tell me “But I’ve never had experiences with sharks.” “Well, have you seen Jaws?” “Well, yes.” “Well then you’ve had experiences with shark.” It may not been real in person but you have that experience. When we read stories or we watched movies, we had the experiences. It’s how they’re set up and that is affecting our emotional reactions through things.

Andrea: Yeah. Okay, so what do we do when we encounter something a story or an emotional experience that is negative or that kind of leads us to make conclusions that might be incorrect or how do we deal with that?

Espen: Yeah, that relates to something that – I think these days there’s actually a problem with American culture. I’m not just picking America. We have at least as big of a problem with this back where I grew up in Norway. There’s a tendency these days to think about “Hey, if I did this or watch this and nobody got hurt then there’s no repercussions of that.” But that’s not true because our midbrain learn from our experiences. Our whole brain learns from our experiences and the automatic thoughts and the feelings we’re going to have in the future are going to be based on the experiences we’re having.

So one example I often use when I speak on this is, if someone watches pornography and we could go into the whole exploitation things of whoever’s involved in pornography. But if we set that aside, the person is “Okay, I’m done watching pornography, nobody was hurt. I had a good time and I will move on and nobody knew about it, so it had no consequences.” Well, that’s not true. It does mean that the person had exposed their midbrain to this experience and the more likely to have sexualized thoughts in the future. It does have effects.

There are plenty of clients I’ve worked with where their brain tends to think too violently. And I have to confront them about “Hey, you need to stop watching violent movies.” I’m not a big prude when it comes to violence and say “Hey, if you don’t have a problem with watching violent movies, but if you’re already having a problem with having too many violent thoughts to begin with, don’t create more.” But it can be negative thinking if someone already has a sense that the work is really dangerous.

Maybe their early life experiences or more recent experiences in a relationships or something like that have a lot of negative experience that people are dangerous, that people are bad, or that only bad things happen in life then they should not be seeking out more experiences through TV, through movies that give them more of that experience.

The midbrain had already had – I was about to say incorrect experiences. They’re not incorrect, they were their experiences but they’re not indicative about the way the world is in general.

Andrea: Uh-huh. How do people know that though? I think of people who might even watched news and almost feels their own anxiety about the world and they continue to go back to it. And even maybe leave it on and it gets sort of keeps fueling that negativity, how do they even know that that’s not wise? We just need to tell them?

Espen: That’s get difficult and that’s getting almost…and this gotten more difficult over the last decade because our news world now tends to be so over saturated. We have news channels; they’re on 24/7. And if someone sees a terrorist attack, if they keep the news channel on, they’re maybe hearing about that terrorist attack for 24 hours. And you don’t hear the stories about the wonderful things that are happening in the world or every town in the world where there was nothing happening.

A big thing that comes to all of these things is being connected, talking with people, and being a witness to other people’s lives. The more our lives get limited, the more our experiences also get biased. It’s usually good for people that have a wide-range of I call it the purviews of someone’s life. If someone’s life is work and home and either work or home starts having difficulties, then half of the world is having difficulties.

Andrea: Right.

Espen: The more activities we have, the more people’s lives were involved with, the more settings, the bigger the purview of our life, the more chance there is of their being stressed in life. That’s one of the reasons some people end up starting to shrink their life because the smaller your life is, the less life there is for them being stressed. However, when they’re now stressed for difficulties then that suddenly fills a huge portion of your life and you may not have safe places in life to go to to deal with the stress.

That it’s why in marital counseling…I’m all for married couples need to have a lot of shared interests and activities. But they do need to have some things in their life that are separate, because any relationship is going to have difficulties. And there are times where they need to step out of their own life or times when they have to step back just so we can recognize when we’re thinking incorrectly or when we’re getting too stuck on things.

But if we have nowhere to step out to to do then we’re not able to get that step back so that we can come back in and having a constructive conversation. It’s not just related to what you’re involved in in your life, but it is also where you find your stress relief. If all your ways of dealing with stress is backed up in your partner then the moment there’s stress in the relationship with that partner, you have no way of dealing with that stress. That means you have no way of getting to a point in a spot where you can calm down with your partner and have those good conversations.

Andrea: Yeah that’s great! I think of actually young moms who have young kids at home maybe and maybe they’re not working. I’m thinking of myself you know a few years ago and how limited my world view was at that point just because I didn’t have connection outside of, you know, just few people around me. And that was because mostly because my time was taken up with little children. I think that definitely set me up for was to, you know, when you’re only with other moms with little kids, they’re also having the same struggles. So it does sort of feed that, I think. So it makes a lot of sense.

Espen: Wait, wait, wait…little kids can be stressful?

Andrea: I know right.

Espen: Huh, okay huh.

Andrea: You know when they wake up at 4 o’clock every morning and you’re getting five hours of sleep every night. You kind of have a limited worldview.

Espen: Yeah, exactly. It’s hard to step away from that.

Andrea: Yeah. I think that’s one of the things that I’ve really appreciated about you know, once my kids did get into school, I kind of sorted to take more long lines of writing and finding a place for my voice. But I think that what you’re saying sounds to me like, it’s wise to find a place for your voice outside of just your own immediate family at times because you kind of need that bigger perspective. And to be tapped into something other than just what’s right here in front of you all the time because that can be awfully stressful.

Espen: Yeah, and a mistake sometimes people make is…it’s nice if that things stepping out is relaxing and fun that’s nice. But people for this day and age have the notion that it has to be. But very often the things that are most useful and helping us to distress or take that step back or get different perspectives, they may not be fun or they may not relaxing.

For some people, getting their husbands or their wives to watch the kids for a couple of hours so they can go on and sit down and write, it may feel like work and it may not be distressing. But it might actually reduce their stress for the rest of the week because their mind was able to go to something else and they also make it easy for them because the brain was able to go to something else. It’s easier to step back into the stressful part of life with a different perspective on it, where were not so stuck in our head and stuck in the stress.

Andrea: Oh man! This has been great, Espen! So many value bombs here. I feel like whoever is listening – the influencer who’s listening is definitely going to go back and listen again and take note if they haven’t already. And I’m pretty sure we’re going to have you back on again sometimes to talk about some other things. But this has been really, really helpful and I love this idea that you know, you’re telling us how we can sort lead people to this light-bulb moments instead of just telling people what to think, because it’s not as effective as when they’re able to put those two and two together and have their own experience of understanding something.

That’s so significant for anybody wanting to have a voice with somebody else. And not only that, you also mentioned this idea of being a witness to somebody else’s life, learning from them, letting that be a dialogue instead of a top down kind of teaching time. Which I think has always for me been the most significant interactions and the most significant learning that I’ve had. So I can certainly attest to that as somebody on that side but then also, I’ve seen it myself as well.

One of the reasons why the book ended up what it was from my book because it was going to be something where I just taught. And then as time went on and as I kept working through it and everything, I felt more and more led to just share my story in a way that would also give people that experience but then allow them to learn something at the same time. And I’m so glad because I do think you’re right. I think all these things are just really important. They’re so valuable to the Influencer that’s listening.

So thank you so much for everything, Espen! Do you have any parting words of wisdom for us?

Espen: When we’re in the presence of someone else, we share one environment. But everyone exists in two environments at the same time. We have an external environment that we share. We may sit in the same room or maybe in the same coffee shop. We may even order the same coffee prepared to Starbucks’ perfectness of consistency, same drink and we share an external environment.

But each of us also exists in a second environment and that’s our internal environment. They have an environment of emotions, of physical states, and of automatic thoughts, that’s a combination of our past experiences running headlong into the external environment that’s around us right now. The result of that is whenever we meet with someone else; we’re not in the same place only in the same external environment, but we’re interacting not just with that person but with their internal environment.

And that internal environment we don’t know unless we listen to them. And they may not even say what an internal environment is. Few people do unless they specifically say “Hey, I feel sad and right now, I’m having this thought popped up.” But it’s not usually how people talk or sometimes we can get to that level. But you hear it on how they talk and what directions they go. How they react through things and that’s the real reality that we are interacting with. It’s also where healing takes place. It’s where pain takes place, but it’s also where close relationships are really being formed. It’s in the interactions between your internal environment and their internal environment and that’s a very precious place.

Andrea: Indeed! Thank you so much, Espen!

Espen: Thank you, Andrea!

 

 

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Your Voice Matters, But You Can Make It Matter More

I nearly floated out onto the stage as the crowd put their hands together in an audible wave of anticipation. “This is where I belong. On stage, moving the audience with my voice,” I thought.

But then as I glanced at the red curtain and the dimly lit auditorium, I had a strange sense that I’d been here before. My stomach began to make its way to my feet. Music played and I took a breath. Just as the first note began to roll out my lips, I realized I didn’t know the song at all. Attempting a professional moment of pulling it together, I looked down and then realized in horror: I was completely naked!

A cold shriek came out instead of the first note of the song and shame ran me off the stage where I grabbed the curtain to shield myself from view. Moments later I opened my eyes find myself sitting up in bed, wrapped in blankets, breaths coming in rapid succession. I had indeed been here before, in this recurring nightmare.

That’s when the weight of the moment hit me: I might have a voice that can get me in front of an audience, but it is insignificant and even wasted if I don’t do the work to prepare.

Your voice matters, but you can make it matter more.

I know I have what it takes to move an audience with my voice, but when I overestimate my innate ability and experience, I end up spending an insufficient amount of time and effort in preparation to use my voice effectively. My voice matters, but I can make it matter more if I take the time to develop it and learn the song in my heart – the right song for my voice.

The same is true for you.

You may be or want to be someone who influences others with what you do and say, but trust me. It doesn’t just happen. And the truth is that many people think they are making a difference when all they’re really doing is exposing themselves and pulling out a reaction rather than truly moving their audience. If you want your voice to carry the weight of significance, you need to develop your voice, your message and the way you deliver it.

Your voice matters inherently because you are a human being. However, your voice can matter more when you take time to prepare and develop your style, your message and your strategy. You make a bigger impact on every stage in life when you carry with you a Voice of Influence.

Your Voice of Influence

In April I’ll be launching a new podcast entitled “Voice of Influence.” It’s been a year in the making and the name of it changed recently when I had a massive breakthrough about the message and focus of the show. The podcast (previously “Brand Revelations”) will feature interviews with experts and leaders who share the story of their own voice of influence, as well as practical advice based on their area of expertise. I will also have short segments where I bring you into my “voice studio” and share actionable insights that you can apply, one at a time, to make your voice matter more.

This podcast is for men and women creative leaders who care about the people they serve at home, work and in the world and want to make their voice matter more. I will be publishing the podcast audio and transcripts here on the blog and you’ll be able to subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, etc.

In order to be sure I show up on this podcast stage prepared and focused, I have been quiet on my blog and social media in 2017. I’m ironing out the look, sound and feel of the show with the help of a little team. The goal is to spread this message far and wide, so the strategy is to invite as many downloads, ratings and reviews on iTunes as possible when we launch in April.

The Voice of Influence Podcast art is in development – this is just something I created.

I am already booking incredible interviews with New York Times Bestselling authors, Internet marketing gurus, leadership experts, entrepreneurs, speakers, psychologists, etc. But these amazing interviews won’t see the light of day without your help. If you’re interested in helping, there are three levels of involvement, outlined below. I’m taking this very seriously, so I’m offering a thank you package to the launch team level (LIMIT of 25 PEOPLE) that includes a big bonus!

3 Levels of Involvement

I’m guessing you already feel some kind of nudge to help out if you’ve read this far. Take a look at these options and identify which one fits you. Then share in the comments below or on the Facebook post.

  1. The “Interesting, I’ll have to check it out,” option. Follow me on social media or subscribe to this blog so you know when you can listen to the podcast. Thanks for the interest!
  2. The “I want to support you” option. Simply promise to subscribe and leave an honest rating and review on iTunes in April. I will explain exactly what it takes to do this so it takes very little effort on your part.
  3. The “I want to be a part of making this podcast a huge success” option. This is the Voice of Influence podcast launch team. I’m offering rewards for participation in the launch team, but it requires filling out an application by March 21st and will be closed when we reach 25 committed members. PODCAST LAUNCH TEAM APPLICATION

Voice of Influence Launch Team Member Thank You Package

(Value: $250 – Limited to the first 25 Accepted Applicants)

  • Insider knowledge when I book and record interviews with celebrities, leaders and experts. 
    • I already have some amazing people lined up and as soon as you’re in the launch team, I’ll let you know who!
  • Insider knowledge about the process of starting and executing a high-quality podcast, including a cheat-sheet of my podcast process from start to finish.
  • A Fascinate® Advantage personality assessment that gives your primary and secondary communication advantages and your archetype.
  • A high-quality, special training video from me (a Fascinate® Certified Advisor), explaining how the assessment works and how your results can transform the way you communicate at home, work and in the world.
    • If you know me, you know I’m OBSESSED with personality assessments. Well, this is my favorite assessment to help identify and develop your voice, so I promise, you’re getting something amazing.
  • I will create HIGH quality, individual coaching videos for each person who completes the requirements for the launch team between March 31st and April 28th. This will take your Fascinate® results to a very practical and personal level, addressing your individual communication struggles and potential. You must apply for the launch team by March 21st to be considered for the launch team and receive these rewards.
    • I will be discussing this assessment some on the podcast and I have a coaching package in my business for this, so it’s truly exciting to offer this as a thank you!

Launch Team Requirements (March 21 – April 28th):

  • Fill out an application by March 21st here: PODCAST LAUNCH TEAM APPLICATION
  • Subscribe, rate and review the podcast on iTunes the first week of April.
  • Share your enthusiasm about the podcast with your connections on social media a handful of times though April and May.
    • If you’re on or willing to get on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram during the launch period, that’s even better.
    • This could mean anything from re-tweeting/reposting my podcast posts to sharing an insight you gained from an episode you loved.
    • I will have certain requests in the month of April, but they will be related to sharing things on social media.
  • Join and participate in the Voice of Influence Launch Team Facebook group
  • Recruit/encourage others to subscribe, rate and review the podcast on iTunes in April.

I’m so excited to share these amazing podcast interviews and actionable insights to empower you to know what you want to say and how you want to say it in relationships and in your creative contribution to the world!

Thank you for all you do to amplify my voice so I can help others. I am sincerely humbled and grateful.

Your Frozen Heart is Worth It

“I wasn’t depressed anymore, but I wasn’t happy either. I wasn’t sure what I was.”

Unfrozen prologue (read it by clicking –> here<–)

I can tell you one thing I was. I was cold. It didn’t come out all of the time. Of course, I shared as much warmth as I could with the outside world by engaging with people in heart to heart conversations and mustering up as much kindness as possible. But when I was warm to the outside world, it was like I depleted my resources so when I got home I had very little warmth to give my family. It made sense, in a way. They asked more from me than anyone else. When I was around them I felt like a failure because they needed things from me I wasn’t sure I could give. So every request for me to meet their needs felt like a neon sign flashing “FAILURE! FAILURE! FAILURE!” I knew I shouldn’t resent my family for highlighting my weaknesses, but that knowledge only made me feel shame for the fact that I often did. It was a spiral of self-centered self-hatred and bitterness.

*Don’t miss out on the contest at the bottom of this post!!!*

IMG_7422What does it really mean to be frozen, anyway?

When H2O is in it’s liquid form, it can flow freely, in and out of the spaces open to its movement. But when it freezes, it’s stuck. It might clunk around from place to place, but it doesn’t move freely and it keeps it’s goodness to itself.

The life-blood of our hearts is like that. When our hearts are hard, it’s difficult or even impossible to give or receive love.

When I think of that frozen kind of feeling, I think of a coldness of heart. I think of a heart that is so scared of being further wounded that it hunkers down or runs away from the threat of pressure or shame. The frozen heart feels paralyzed, isolated or trapped.

And when I feel trapped, I feel like there’s no way out.

But there is away out.

Wherever you are right now, you are not stuck. You may have given up on the idea of being open to giving and receiving love. You may feel you have no choice but to hunker down or run away. But you do have a choice. The beauty of the image of a frozen heart is that all it needs is warmth to get back to the free-flow of love. And that warmth can come with a gradual change in temperature or it can come in instant waves of heat.

One of the first things that has helped me in the thawing of my own heart is to come out of isolation and bring my heart into the light. But that was the last thing I wanted to do. I didn’t want to admit how fragile I was and then be vulnerable to the possibility of being broken. I didn’t want to admit how ugly I felt inside and then be vulnerable to judgment and shame.

I wanted to watch NCIS and Castle and eat away my longing. Sometimes I still do.

But that’s not the answer. We need a safe haven for our hearts. An environment where we can lift our eyes to see one another – to come out of hiding and gently begin to share the truth of what we think and feel.

You must decide that your heart is worth it.Your frozen heart is worth mining.

The very first image of Disney’s Frozen is the image of huge saws ripping through a thick layer of ice and a chorus of men singing about the dangers of a frozen heart. Then they claim that the frozen heart is worth mining.

Your heart is worth mining. Your heart is invaluable and you have an immeasurable amount of love to offer others. But you have to take the first step.

You have to decide that your heart is worth mining. 
I long to see your heart thaw so you can give and receive love freely. I long to keep mine soft and open. I long for my daughter to have a foundation for understanding that she doesn’t have to hide in the cold and become paralyzed by the fear that once trapped me.
That’s why I wrote Unfrozen: Stop Holding Back and Release the Real You. I wrote it to:

  • bring my own life and heart out into the light to prove to myself that my heart is indestructible.
  • offer my life (our life) as an example of some of the struggles we all face in our relationships so you know you’re not alone.
  • begin a relationship with you, that you might find the space I offer to be a space where you can be free to mine your frozen heart.

Unfrozen Video Discussion Guide

I also want to offer you the opportunity to create your own safe space to vulnerably share and connect with others. That’s why I’m creating a free video discussion guide based on imagery from the movie and personal stories. You can use it with or without the book but it is a great companion to the book.  The features of this special video discussion guide are:Book_whitebg

  1. 6 Lessons for you and 1-3 other people to view together either once a week for 6 weeks or in any time-frame you choose.
  2. 2-4 videos in each lesson. The 3-5 minute long videos use illustrations from the movie, the book and other stories to set up questions you can use for discussion. It’s simple. Play a video, then have a conversation.
  3. PDF Downloads with the questions and room for you to journal your responses, if you so choose.
  4. PDF Downloads with biblical references to lay a foundation for how these lessons relate to your faith, if you desire to explore that.
  5. Access to a private Facebook group where we can interact and support one another on the journey. I will be available at least once a week to answer questions and offer ideas for you as you do the heart-mining work with your child, friend or spouse.

If you would like to check out the Unfrozen Video Discussion Guide, sign up Start Here to receive notification when it’s available and access into the private Unfrozen Community group next week. Only people who sign up through this link or enrolled in the video discussion guide will be able to enter the group.

Enter to win one of 3  packages (including the Unfrozen audiobook & audio of Unfrozen keynote speech, etc. – a $27 value) by doing the following by Monday, August 30th:

  1. Share this post on Facebook and/or Twitter and tell your friends why you’re sharing it. Each post is one entry, so count them and let me know in step 3.
  2. Sign up for email notification of the Unfrozen Video Discussion Guide release here —>Start Here.
  3. Comment BELOW this post (not on Facebook) and tell me you did steps 1 & 2. Please let me know what email you used when you signed up so I can contact you if you win! I MUST have your email address if you want to win because that’s the only way I know I can get ahold of you. Check back here and on my Facebook page, just in case!

**Previous winners are allowed to enter into this new drawing.***

How To Lead a Drama-Free Team

Aaron called us the A-Team when we started dating and now we think of our family as a team. What kinds of teams are you on? Whether your team is a family, friends or a team of professionals, you’re a vital member of the group. And whether you are the team leader or you lead by example, you are uniquely equipped with your strengths, personality and experience to empower every other person on your team.

But do you know what gets in the way of teams unifying and empowering one another?

“Drama, drama, drama!”

Does your team struggle with any of the following?

  • Overwhelm
  • Communication
  • Stress of team transitions
  • Anxiety
  • Emotional pain

Do you wish your team could…

  • Get more done
  • Unify so you can tackle the real problems and change lives
  • Be happy
  • Offer the best of who they are to their students and teammates
  • Be drama-free

Drama FreeTeams-3

Drama-Free Team Leadership

Leadership can be a lonely road filled with tedious distractions, especially when your group is overwhelmed or hurting. No matter how much you care about your team, the fact is that you have too many other things to think about to expend time and energy on keeping everyone feeling happy and fulfilled.

It’s easy for people to become hyper-focused on everything that’s not going well when they feel overwhelmed and under-appreciated. But the truth is that no bucket will ever be full as long as there’s a hole in the bottom. You will never be able to fill the needs of your team as long as they are dependent on others to make them feel valuable. They need inspiration and training that will empower them from within so they can turn around and use their gifts to empower others.

Give others the benefit of the doubt and the best of who you are.The Plan

  1. Empower your team instead of rescuing them. You might care deeply for others and have the skills needed to solve difficult problems, but refrain from always doing that for your team. If you want a drama-free team that tackles the real problems with the best of who they are, they need to grow their problem-solving muscle. Empower them by standing with them and offering suggestions without trying to rescue them.
  2. Demonstrate relational and emotional health. How? Be honest without over-sharing. Work on your own self-awareness and ability to take your own concerns to God or someone you trust so you don’t inadvertently spread your burden to the entire team. Go to counseling, spiritual direction or see a relationship/emotion coach to help you process the more difficult issues you face.
  3. Defuse instead of escalate emotionally charged discussions. Recognize when you start to feel pulled into emotionally charged discussions. Take a breath and then ask calm questions that might help the other person think about what they are saying. You can put out fires by simply remaining respectfully calm when others feel intense emotion.
  4. Offer a fresh voice. You can’t do it all and sometimes people need to hear a fresh voice to offer a fresh perspective. Bring someone in to talk to your team and help them see the beauty of what they have to offer, and how they can offer it with a calm confidence. They will begin to realize the freedom and peace that awaits them and the team will strengthen exponentially.

You aren’t in this alone. If you want to know more about how to empower others to improve their emotional, spiritual and relational health, I’m here to help. Subscribe below this post (mobile) or on the side of this post (desktop) for weekly encouragement, strategy and tips.

Are you looking for more?

Andrea Joy Wenburg, B.A. Music Education, M.A. Counseling Ministries

I would be honored to have the opportunity guide your team into a fresh awareness of their own value and purpose so they can give others the benefit of the doubt and the best of who they are. They will find new strength and confidence as they act on behalf of others.

My experience as a Kindergarten – 12th grade music teacher, retreat planner, blogger, college ministry leader and leader of small groups allows me to customize this message for religious and secular audiences of all ages.

I can help in a variety of formats from a single speaking engagement up to a 9 month team-support program. Talk to me. We’ll figure out what would be best for you and your team.

You can’t do it for them. But you can empower them to do it for themselves.

Contact me for more information. (Click Here)

What others are saying…

“Andrea was great to work with. She was pleasant in communication and prompt in providing information and graphics needed during the planning process. Andrea’s presentation had great content and her follow-up guide was an excellent tool to assist attendees in processing the message on a deeper level. I definitely recommend utilizing her gifts and talent for future events!” ~Susan Hageman, Event Chair

IMG_7476“Andrea really listened to what I had to say prior to the presentation and it was evident in the information she presented to us. Topics, advice, suggestions, and encouragement that was customized for us! Andrea is using her gifts of compassion, listening, and leading to empower others to be the best versions of themselves.” ~Amber Larson, Early Childhood Education Team Leader and Retreat Planner

“I appreciate Andrea inviting us to think about what we do well; and then how we can use that to empower others. I sure hope to hear her again in the future!” ~Sue Sheneman, Retreat Participant

“Andrea’s presentations are both amusing and poignant. Her love for Jesus and her compassion for people are evident in every word she speaks. She will encourage your heart, but also challenge you to see what God is up to in your own life. Andrea is passionate about helping people move past roadblocks, so they can participate fully in the unique ways God desires to work through them.” ~Sam Elliott, Speaker

“Andrea is an amazing listener. She listens with purpose. I’ve been so impressed with her insight and ability to recognize the ideas and topics that not only inspire me, but motivate me to do more. Speaking with Andrea has been such an encouragement. I felt very understood and known. She helped me see that my voice and perspective mattered. She gave me concrete strategies to help me put my abstract ideas into action. Andrea has a gift, and she will help you discover yours.” ~Jessica Samuelson, Educator

Book Andrea Here <—Click

How to Say “No” When You’re Expected to Say “Yes”

We were new to town with a new baby and a new home. Every step into all of the new was a little scary and a lot overwhelming. I joined an organized mom’s group to have a place to go where I could meet other women and face the fact that my life had forever changed.

At one of my first meetings the kind leaders announced that a woman from the group just had a baby.

IMG_7002Well…that’s really nice, I managed to think as I looked down at my baby who was fussy (as usual). I anxiously bounced and hushed and pacified her so I could focus enough to engage in the moment. While I was scrambling around in the diaper bag, another kind woman in my group handed me a paper.

“When do you want to take a meal to this new mom? Our small group is responsible for eight of them.”

Tears immediately welled up in my eyes as I stared at the list of open dates.

I can hardly put a meal on my own table – how will I put one on hers? I don’t even know her. I can’t believe they are making me do this!

I don’t remember if I actually took a meal to the young family or not. And now I am confident most of the moms there would not have thought poorly of me if I explained and passed the opportunity. But in that moment, I felt trapped. Overwhelm escalated to internal outrage and a strong desire to rebel against this external expectation. Inside, I beat on the walls that were pressing in on me.

Under Pressure

There are all kinds of expectations and assumptions we deal with on a daily basis. Our jobs pulling for us to do this. Friends pressuring us to do that. Sometimes we know exactly what they want. Sometimes we make guesses and play mind games, trying to figure people out. In our heads we hear them say:

Don’t let us down.
Don’t question the status quo.
Work your way into the group.
Earn your keep.
You’re a bad person if you don’t.

Of course, I can’t lie and say people never think those things. We will always live with the expectations of others. They may be communicated explicitly or they may be implied. Sometimes they may just be in our head. But the important thing to remember when you feel trapped in expectation is…

You always have a choice.You choose to say Yes or no.The decision you make has conseq

No one can make you do something you do not want to do.* You are a valuable and valued human being who gets to make choices – choices with consequences. When you and I act like we do not have a choice, we believe we are victims and we may become bitter toward those who seem to be holding us under their power. But we give others that power when we accept the pressure placed on us and lock ourselves in their cage of expectation.

You choose to stay or leave.

You choose to say no or yes.

The decision you make has consequences, so choose wisely. Choose intentionally. Put the pressure aside and think hard about what you most want to offer – what you most want to protect. And then own your decision.

You will build more robust relationships when you build them one honest and intentional decision at a time.

So if I bring you a meal, rest easy and know this: I choose to bring you a meal because I want to do it.

*If you really are trapped and do not feel you are able to make choices for yourself, I encourage you to seek guidance from a professional. Tell a friend or someone you trust. You are valuable human being and your voice matters.

Originally published at Her View From Home.

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Stepping Out of Self-Shame: Part 2

It happened again. I messed it all up. I let down some of the people I care about most last week by not paying attention to the details. It wasn’t that I intentionally blew my husband or my friend off, but I didn’t execute tasks with the kind of precision they required and I ended up putting more stress on people I care about. Ugh. I don’t want that. I don’t want to be the wife and friend you can’t count on.

Man, it’s tempting to let the old self-shaming talk drive me into a hole.

sun hat

“He would have been better off with a woman who wouldn’t screw up like this!”

“Why would she want me around if I keep letting her down?”

I’ve said these things before. But as soon as those thoughts started to enter my mind this time, I shook my head and said, “NO! I am exactly the wife Aaron needs. And I am a good friend in other ways. I’m not going to shame myself into hiding and resentment. No. I’m going to keep engaging with them because I care about them.”

The first goal when stepping out of self-shame is to step into the light of love and see the situation for what it is as I described in Part 1 (Click here)  but what do we do next?

2. Take responsibility for your short-comings. Ask forgiveness when forgiveness is needed and help when help is needed.

Do I need to ask for forgiveness or do I need to ask for help in a situation like this? Honestly, I’ve studied and analyzed this stuff for years and I’m still not completely sure. Some people pay great attention to details and they follow through with intense commitment. I put my intensity in other places – like working through relational and theological issues and being incredibly present with people in their pain. Do others need forgiveness when they aren’t there for me in these ways that are important to me?

Maybe we all need to be more free with our apologies, less offended by others and lavish grace on each other even when we don’t deserve it.

My struggle with the lack of discipline when I am distracted feels like a never-ending battle.

I can’t promise I’ll do better next time, but what can I do?

I need to help my future self. I can’t just assume I’ll do better next time because as leadership and strengths coach Laurie Hock says, “You’ve got to have a plan. You can’t just say you’ll respond differently because it’s unlikely you will without a plan of an alternative positive action.” So how can I take responsibility in a proactive way so I really am less likely to put undue stress on others next time? I can think of two important points:

  1. Live within my limitations. We all have limits to our time and energy and I am no exception. I am not able to do everything I want to do or think I should do. I should offer to do only what I am willing to invest my time and energy in doing. Saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else. What will I say yes to?
  1. Manage my weaknesses. We all have responsibilities and we don’t want to write them off by saying “I’m not good at this, so I can’t do it.” After I get specific about what I will and will not commit to doing, I need to figure out how to manage my weaknesses. When I choose to take on a responsibility, I need to own it. Then I can plan ahead and figure out what safeguards I can put in place to try to head off the mistakes I made last time.

IMG_4775This time I decided I needed to apologize to both people. And in the future, I need to be more aware when I feel distracted while discussing details. If I’m distracted I need to choose which thing to think about in the moment and figure out when I will give my attention to the other thing. I simply cannot multi-task my thoughts because then I end up multi-tasking people. And that is not acceptable.

I am so grateful for the people who allow me into their lives. And I am grateful that we can have hard conversations when I need to take responsibility for my wrong-doing and my mistakes. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – relationships are messy! Life is messy. I am messy.

But I am loved. I have a lot to offer the people I love and I’m going to keep offering it, even when I mess up. More on that next time…

How do you know when to ask for forgiveness and when to ask for help? What safeguards do you put in place around your weaknesses? Answer in the comments below or on Facebook.

Self-Shame Series:

The Prerequisite to Empowering Others

Stepping Out of Self-Shame: Part 1

The Day I Realized I Was Hurting Myself (Part 3)

Thank you for subscribing and sharing this post on social media. Let’s help each other out of self-shame and into a life of love.

Buckle Up, Buttercup: A Sneak Peek

Have you ever wondered what in the world you’re signing up for when you enter your email address in my website? Well, let’s just lift the curtain and take a little peek, shall we?!

  1. You will NOT get spammed. I do not give your email to ANYONE else. When you give me your email address, I treat you like a friend. And I do not spam my friends or sell my friends for money!
  2. You will get an email from me every week on Wednesdays (consistency is my new goal, but don’t fire me if I miss my deadline, please!).
  3. Why include your name and not an initial when you sign up? Because I use a form that helps me address each email individually to the NAMES that sign up. I save time that way and still keep it personal. I promise – I’m the only one who sees the names.
  4. Why do I ask you for your email address every time you request a free download? So I can send it to you and add you to my list if you’re not on it. 🙂 That’s it.
  5. In that email I will be sharing things I only share with those who want to go deeper than the blog allows. It is more causal, but also more personal. It’s also a great opportunity for us to dialogue. You can ALWAYS reply to the emails I send and I will email you back asap. I absolutely love to hear from you. Seriously. Email me.
  6. I will try to send you the best stuff via email. I’ll let you know about the coolest resources, most inspiring things I find to inspire and empower you to live into the fullness of who you are for the sake of others.
  7. I’m not one to say I have a “best friend,” but I do make distinctions of proximity. Just so you know, I LOVE my Facebook followers, but my email subscribers are in the inner circle when it comes to what I offer through my online presence. I would love to have you join me there!

Subscribe Here and then add andrea@andreajoywenburg.com to your address book. If my emails don’t show up right away in your inbox, check your junk folder or your promotions folder, then MOVE that baby over to your inbox!

Here is the sneak peek into what an email from me looks like.

 

Buckle up, Buttercup.What do you do?

Andrea,

I used to hate this question. I didn’t know how to answer it. Do I say that I’m a mom? Do I tell people I work behind the scenes for my husband’s physical therapy clinic? Do I tell them I used to teach music, went to seminary, led college ministry and small groups? I didn’t know what to say, so I usually said, “I’m a writer and a speaker.” And the conversation would end there.

I didn’t want my job or what I do to define me. I felt I was so much more on the inside than what I could express by what I “do” on the outside. It irritated me to think that I would be valued for what I do and not who I am.

But today I have a completely different perspective on that question. If you’ve heard me rant on it in the past, you’re going to shake your head and roll your eyes now because now I LOVE that question!

Why? Because I don’t care if you know who I am on the inside anymore! I’m happy to share it, but it’s not my focus like it used to be. I am more concerned about how I can serve you with all I am, inside and out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about meeting all of your needs. I’m no fool! I’m talking about coming to you in the fullness of who I am so I can bring all I am to meet you where you are.

Today if you ask me what I do, my answer will be this:

I help people clarify their central message and strategize an action plan that utilizes the unique fullness of who they are to empower others.

You may be a mom, a dad, a team manager, a teacher, a writer or a friend. You may have a life verse or a certain message you feel called to share with others. But if you are searching for clarity in how to communicate your heart or if you are trying to figure out what the next step is for you in your “what do you do” journey, buckle up, Buttercup. It’s going to be a wild ride!

Check out www.andreajoywenburg.com for the latest articles about what you need to do to empower others more effectively.

You’ve got something to say. It’s time to say it.

Reply to this email and tell me what you’re up to! How do you feel about the question “what do you do?” I am a real person on the other end and I am serious when I say I would LOVE to hear from you!

Check out my thoughts on a fabulous book to deepen friendships on Her View From Home: (Click Here).

Thank you for sharing my Facebook page, website and articles with others!

Andrea Joy

 

Subscribe Now.

please. 😉

 

Stepping Out Of Self-Shame: Part 1

A week ago I shared a few reflections on my own experience with self-shame in The Prerequisite To Empowering Others (<—click to read the article before you read this one) so I will only share a snippet of it here.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that the answer is that we need to be kind to ourselves and stop feeling so bad for when we mess up. But I believe the process is incomplete if we ignore or deny the impact we have on others. When we mess up without acknowledging those we have hurt, we diminish the influence we have with them. If you want to love well and offer your gifts to others, it’s time to stop putting yourself down. It’s time to stop the self-shaming internal dialogue and start believing in something more true.

I went on to list 4 steps that brought me out of self-shame and toward a humility that carries with it the power to love. Today I’m beginning a series entitled “Stepping Out Of Self-Shame” to take a closer look at each of those 4 steps, one by one.

Step 1: Step into the light that exposes.light-bulb-498289_1920

Have you ever gotten ready in the dark? How do you know if your shoes match your belt or if your shirt is on backwards?

When I talk about being in the metaphorical dark, I’m talking about being unaware or hiding what is true about yourself. Today I’m not speaking of your identity, though that is an exciting topic, itself. Rather today I’m talking specifically about weaknesses and wrong-doing. I’m lumping these two things together because I think we often get them confused.

Let’s start by identifying the differences between our weaknesses and wrong-doing.

Weaknesses are your human limitations. They are a result of the fact that you are, what I believe to be a creature, not the Creator. You need things like sleep, food, water and love to survive. You have hormones, a nervous system, etc. that can increase or decrease your ability to function fully. You are strong in some ways and weak in others. Weaknesses need to be honored and they often require that we ask for or accept help from others.

Wrong-doing is an ethical or moral breach. Sometimes we intentionally do things that we know feel wrong or we believe to be wrong. But oftentimes we hurt others unintentionally and even indirectly without knowing it because of wrong-doing in another area of life. Sometimes we cover up, hide or blame others for our weaknesses because we are worried about what others think of us. My heart sinks just thinking of it. Wrong-doing needs to be recognized and it often means we need to change our ways and ask for forgiveness from others.

How do we confuse them?

IMG_6592For example, one strength of mine is that I can think deeply and about life and have amazing conversations with others. But I’m weak on the flip side of that coin. I struggle to keep up with the day-to-day responsibilities of running a family. Shame tells me to beat myself up for not remembering to make sure Amelia has her glasses on before she gets to school. But that doesn’t help me remember next time, nor does it make me loving toward her when she comes home. I believe that’s wrong and hurtful toward my child. Humility tells me to be honest about my struggle to remember and ask for help or come up with a creative solution with Amelia to help her become more responsible for remembering her glasses. I believe that’s honest and a healthy way to empower her. I don’t believe I am wrong when my weakness show up. I believe I’m wrong when my anxious reaction about my weaknesses hurts the situation (my daughter) rather than helps it.

The dark can be scary

The unknown is often scary. And anxiety can turn me into a frenzied, defensive and unpleasant person very quickly. I don’t want to let my fear have control over me. I’d much rather be fueled by love. That’s why I want to step into the light where I can face my fears directly and see my weaknesses and wrong-doing for what they are. I don’t want to pretend I’m perfect because pretending like that is a lot of work! It is exhausting and anxiety-filled and it makes it really hard for me to love and empower others.

If I let my own anxiety about trying to be a good mom overtake me, I will transfer that anxiety onto those around me. I don’t want to do that. So I want to be honest with myself and ask…

What are you so afraid of, Andrea?

Are you afraid that your daughter might struggle in school? Or are you afraid that you will feel embarrassed if your child struggles in school?

Are you afraid that your daughter won’t learn to be responsible for herself? Or are you afraid that you will feel like a failure if your daughter isn’t perfectly responsible for herself?

A lot of times for me it is both. I am both concerned about my daughter and about how I will look. But if I want to empower my daughter to become all she can be, I can’t let my own anxiety that I will look bad get in the way of how I help her solve the problem.IMG_6609

The Light of Love

What are you so afriad of, friend? Do you have weaknesses that make you embarrassed? It’s time to face your fears and be honest. To the children of the world, let us be an example of grace and forgiveness, not self-condemnation and shame.

I believe God loves you and doesn’t look down on you when you are weak and He forgives you when you do wrong. But how will you know until you step into the light and take an honest look at yourself? Ask for help where you need help and forgiveness where you need forgiveness. Love is there to greet you.

But more on that next time…

Stepping Out of Self-Shame: Part 2

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The Story Behind My Top 10 Articles of 2015

Did you know it’s sling-shot week? That’s what I heard from author Jon Acuff yesterday. The week after Christmas and before New Years is the time in which we have to review the past and look forward to the future. I love that picture. This week I’ve been pulling back the sling, analyzing the past year and strategizing where to aim for next year. Taking aim and firing is necessary – even if it lands me on a completely different target.

Pulling Back

Grandparent Magic Border

The most popular Facebook image of 2015

Do you have any year-end rituals? Do you create a picture book or even look through the ones on your phone? Do you run that year-in-review app on Facebook or go through your Instagram feed? The year-in-review I’m facinated with this time is the one that shares my website statistics. It’s interesting to look back at the posts of my first full year of blogging. Each post is a little piece of my heart and I remember something special about each one. Here is the story of my 10 most popular posts of the year (in no particular order).

To read an article, click on the title 

I sat trembling in the old Da Buzz coffee shop on the little couch by the electric fire while writing Behind Closed Doors. I was scared out of my mind and just wrote the truest thing that would flow through my fingertips. The morning of the first day of school for Grant, I went to the patio in our backyard to write  The 1 Thing I Hope Our Son Remembers About Our Fairy Tale, tears streaming down my cheeks. I am particularly proud of Your New SuperpowerIt represents a struggle Amelia and I have while demonstrating a moment of compassionate clarity. I don’t recall where I was when I wrote When It’s Not The End Of The World, After All, the story about our dog getting hit by a car, but I remember constantly refreshing the statistics page and laughing as the post was shared and viewed by more and more people. Aaron was concerned that I was becoming obsessed with the stats.

I wrote a couple of highly popular posts about my experience at Walmart: When The Walls Close In and Why I Wear Sunglasses In Walmart And Perhpas You Should Too. I do not hate the store, but shopping there brings out my struggles with sensory sensitivity. It is an issue that effects at least 20% of the population, yet very few of us have any idea of what we or our kids/loved ones are facing.

Be More Of Who You Are was a labor of love. I worked hard on that piece, the first one where I highlighted other people. It’s one of my favorites. I waited a long time to post Book Impact: Schema of a Soul because I love the author and wanted to get it right. I look forward to sharing about more special books that have an impact on me in the future.

I found out I needed to submit my trial article for Her View From Home the week my last living Grandparent died. This Too Shall Pass will forever be one of my favorites. Gospel singer and my childhood idol Sandi Patty announced her last tour and a few days later I shared An Open Letter To Sandi Patty, which she apparently read because she re-tweeted my tweet about it on Twitter. (Can I say tweet and Twitter any more in a sentence?!) It is my most-viewed article of the year and it reminded me of the power and accessibility of the Internet and that my voice matters.

Taking Aim

Where do I go from here? I do not write for myself. If I did, I would keep a journal instead of sending the message out. This is my job, and I take it very seriously. You have the potential of playing an intregal role in helping me know where to aim my offerings for 2016. My analysis is based on statistics (popularity of posts) and direct feedback. I’ve been paying attention to what you say in comments here and on Facebook and in person and I’ve noticed a few things.

WMe & Belleould you agree with the overall messages I’ve heard from readers this year?

  1. Stories of real-life and my internal response to it are the most interesting to you. They often give words to your own feelings.
  2. The idea of sensitivity is intriguing and you’re curious about it on some level.
  3. You really aren’t all that interested in my thoughts about my experience with writing (though you may read it because you want to support me.) 😉
  4. You aren’t looking for advice as much as you want to know you aren’t alone.

What would you add or change about those points? How can I best serve you in 2016? Please comment honestly here on this post, on Facebook, or send an email to me at awenburg@gmail.com. 

May your sling-shot week end with a clear target and may you fire with confidence into 2016!

Deeply,

Andrea

Christmas photo 2015

You Can Do Hard Things

She walked across the street, brow pursed as she stared at the ground. Our once exuberant 6-year-old threw irritable glances at her brother as soon as she got into the car. I couldn’t figure it out. What was going on at school that made her so upset? She loved kindergarten and the first half of first grade, but as she got into the second semester, her after-school outlook dimmed.

A year later her 2nd grade teacher informed us that she was beginning to lose ground in reading and comprehension. As words got smaller and closer together, she struggled more. Her self-confidence and love for school diminished. That’s when Aaron decided it was time for a more thorough eye exam. IMG_6963We found out that our daughter could see 20/20 when tested, but her eye muscles were working so hard that she easily became fatigued and words began to float on the page. We tried special glasses for a year. Amelia struggled to keep them on and I struggled to remind her. Then last week we went back to the eye doctor and decided it was time for eye therapy: computer-led exercises 20 minutes a day and therapy with the doctor once every 3 weeks.

Do I have what it takes?

My enthusiasm for helping our daughter turned into anxiety as we hit the road for our two hour trip home. How could I possibly motivate her to do exercises that cause her discomfort every day? I haven’t even been able to keep track of her reading log for school or help her stick to a routine for practicing piano. I’m horrid at keeping routines and the kids know it. The dark sky around us loomed as I asked the kids if they had any ideas for how we would fit eye therapy into our day. They seemed as lost and defeated as I felt.

But as we turned onto the interstate, I turned a corner in my mind. I was preparing to speak the next morning about how what we say to ourselves about ourselves is important. I know what it’s like to beat myself down for my lack of a detailed routine and focus. And I know that beating myself down never makes me perform better. Instead, with self-shame I become self-focused and I lose my ability to offer myself to my family. I wanted to search deep for words that are more true than, “I’ll never be able to do this. Other moms would do a better job at providing what my kids need.”

Truer Words

As I searched for truer words, I recalled a phrase I learned from a friend of mine who knows about walking through life, confronting hard things as a mother. I took a deep breath and with Kimberlye Berg’s words in my mind I said, “You know what, kids? We are going to figure this out. We are smart. We are creative. And we can do hard things. We’re going to come up with a plan to fit it all in and we are going to stick to it, even when it gets hard.”

You can do hard things.Something about saying those words changed my perspective. I felt like a grown up. I felt like a mom who refuses to be tossed around by expectations and chooses to serve her family with purpose. And I knew that in order to accomplish our goals for the next few months, our whole family would need to be more intentional about our routine. That which changes one of us must change us all.

The next night I outlined our weekly schedule and determined how to fit in the things we want to accomplish, as well as the things we want to enjoy. It requires me to get up and go to bed much earlier than I prefer. It requires Aaron and I to be more intentional about planning out our work time and family time when we usually prefer to do whatever feels right day-to-day. But you know what? I believe that we can do it. Because we can do hard things when we decide the benefits are worth the sacrifice. We can do hard things for one another.

This morning I woke up at 5:30 and desperately wanted to roll over and go back to sleep. But my determination to lead our kids by example propelled me to the gym so I could come back and start the day with our kids. Even if Amelia doesn’t gain ground in reading, I’m hopeful that she will gain confidence in the next few months and retain an important lesson: “I can do hard things.”

You can too.

What hard things are you facing that you can do? 

Read more about replacing self-shaming words with powerful words in my article for Her View From Home this week: How I Lost and Found My Dignity

Read more about Kimberlye Berg in Book Impact: Schema Of A Soul

Read more about: Vision Therapy