Deb Sofield

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Be sure you put your feet in the right place

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You know, it is a fact of life that sometimes you fall–you just hope that you don’t fall in water on a leadership training excursion.

A few years ago I was with some friends, and we were doing the typical leadership adventures of bonding with the other team members. Now, something you need to know about me is, although I enjoy the outdoors, I have never liked the said “team-building programs.” It’s never been my ambition to fall backwards in trust and hope (and prayer) that my teammates will catch me. I don’t have faith or fun on a zip line, nor do I relish the option of being dropped off in the woods and, with clues, find my way back to the mess hall. My idea of team-building is to go to the beach with friends and eat lunch, talk and look for shells.

In this leadership adventure that I found myself in, my guide was a new friend, and the obstacle course was through the woods and over a stream blindfolded, using only his voice to guide me. Well, we did pretty well, until I had to walk over the slippery moss covered stones on a swiftly moving stream. Luckily, I didn’t fall into the water, but wet sneakers are about as miserable as being soaking wet…and not nearly as much fun. The good news is that we did complete the course in good time, and as we stood on the hallowed tree stump to collect our medal of Survival of the Course, it occurred to me that standing in water, or on a stump, or on a stage is about the best feeling you can have, when you know you beat the odds and through it all were strong enough to stand firm and be unbroken.

Since my last two messages have been a bit hard-hitting, I wanted to see if I could find a leveling between the tough choices I have been encouraging you to make–“Givers Need to Set Limits, Because Takers Never Do” and “Let Go or Be Dragged”–to today’s message of Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.

Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm, because the outcome, if you’ll stand firm in your resolve to set your limits or let go, will most likely be that you will create a safe space for your hopes and dreams to thrive.

Abraham Lincoln is credited with my quote for today, and in thinking of his life story I am sure there were many times when he, as the president, had to stand firm in the decisions he made with regard to the direction of the country, in spite of the criticism he endured from others. Leadership is like that sometimes. It is not easy doing what you believe is right, but once your decision is made to stand…ah, friend, stand firm.

I know that sometimes, due to the strain of carrying it all and the energy that it takes to bear the load, it doesn’t seem worth the hassle to make the decision to stand firm, because you will be pushed and jostled and belittled into believing that there will be no harm in giving a little bit here and there to make life easier. And if you’ll give in, most likely nothing dire will happen, at least that is what the lie of conventional wisdom would say to you.

But unless you’ve been down that slippery slope of giving in, and giving in and giving in, it is hard to believe just how quickly the day will come when you wake up and wonder how you ended up here, at the bottom again or in the trouble you promised yourself you’d stay away from.

I am saddened when I see and hear of so many good-hearted people who are lulled into believing that they can withstand the immense pressure of the tears of a business partner, a loved one or an ex-loved one when they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are being played…again. And don’t be fooled into thinking that by giving in you can keep the peace. Peace doesn’t survive on shifting sand; it has to have a solid foundation.

I know that some reading or listening today are going to think I just don’t understand your situation (that’s a universal response), and you would be correct in a sense, but I would counter that, if you stood strong to those who are using you, they would have to a make a choice of changing (which is unlikely) or finding someone else to steal from.

And, yes, I am strong in my choice of the word “steal,” because that is what it is. Stealing your time (which is limited), in some cases stealing your money (because of course they can’t pay the rent, the bills the fill-in-the-blank, and no doubt it is important and needed stuff, but you don’t need to pay) or they are clever enough to steal the last few fragments of your broken heart because you opened the door and they walked in and made themselves at home…again. And, be aware, they figured out that, by keeping you on shifting sand, you’ll never find the stability to hold firm to your resolve.

So, what will it take for you to put your feet on the right place and stand firm? If you remember (from last week) you can’t just think you can wing it and push through–it is never that easy–so, remember, wise action takes pre-planning, or this resolve will blow up, leaving a greater mess than when you started.

Putting your feet in the right place and standing firm is not about being mean or unkind or uncaring, it is about being strong in your resolve to: 1. Love from afar; 2. Protect yourself with boundaries; and 3. Acknowledge that the relationship has changed. That’s it!

For many who find themselves in these tough positions, I’d venture to guess there was a time when, by your own actions, you limped along on shifting sand, and because of that, there may be some fault on your part. Yes, of course you could have done things differently in the beginning, but that was a long time ago, and the place where you find yourself standing today is miles from where and how it all began.

Imagine what would have happened if you had planted your feet and stood firm. You might have survived the struggles of marriage, the hardships of business and pressures of life, especially when dealing with your kids who are adamant about sowing their wild oats. My message is focused more towards the mature relationships of those who know better and still act like they’re twelve. These are the ones you need to draw a line in the sand with and stand firm if you want to live in peace.

I have come to believe that what makes this so hard is that we live in a society that doesn’t like boundaries and many times refuses to acknowledge them. This generation’s favorite word is, “Why?” and if you can’t answer with a substantial reason to settle their curiosity, then they will do what they want.

It’s a lot like when we grew up. Think about it–from a young age many of us were told the sky’s the limit, and we were encouraged to explore the wide open road and we were given limitless refills of what life had to offer. So, now, when you put up a boundary that is firm and doesn’t shift with the wind, you’ll be asked, “How could you? Don’t you care about me? What happened to my freedom?” Well, what happened is that, more often than not, they abused the gift that was given in love for their well-being. Nothing more; nothing less. And the way you settle it is by putting your feet in the right place and standing firm through the storms of life.

Decisions made early to plant your feet and stand firm will protect you and your reputation in the end. Think about the associate who wants to cut corners to save a few dollars, never thinking it will matter or that they will ever be caught, or a vendor who delivers 96% of the product and keeps a bit back because, it’s just business and no one will notice. Or the leader who, due to lack of integrity, takes more than is really allotted, since they have the corner office, or the spouse who flirts for attention, until they find themselves in a compromising situation… I’ve got stories, and you’ve got stories of good people who started out well but ended badly because they didn’t give much thought to standing firm, thinking they could outsmart the situation, until one day they couldn’t, and it all caught up with them, so then we all read about it in the news and watch their tearful confession continuously stream online. It gets old.

It is surprising to note that many in this day and age see that being forthright, honest, honorable and having integrity is considered to be a nice idea but not always the norm, and if you’ll listen, you’ll hear all sorts of reasons as to why people push against the limiting, stifling and restrictive proverbial line in the sand when it comes to getting their entitlement.

But no matter what reasons people choose to make up to move the ancient boundary line so they can maneuver around the stated system of protocol, a person of moral code and conduct should strive to live above the low bar set by others who are limping along on shifting sand.

A person of integrity will walk through oceans of water to find a firm footing on the shore of respect and honesty. If we all did our part by putting our feet in the right place and standing firm, we’d be strong enough to reach out to those who are in danger of being caught in the shifting sand and falling in the water. You can only help if you have a firm foothold to pull them to safety and help them cross to the other side so they can set a new foundation to rebuild their broken businesses and lives and family. It is the only way to have a lasting impact to reach them, and that will only happen when you put your feet in the right place…and then stand firm.

Deb Sofield

Deb Sofield is a Keynote Speaker, Author of the book, Speak without Fear – Rock Star Presentation Skills to get People to Hear What You Say and Encouragement For Your Life ~ Tough Love Memos to Help You Fight Your Battles and Change the World, Radio Talk Show Host in the Salem Network, Podcaster and President of her own Executive Speech Coaching Co., which trains women and men for success in speaking, crisis communications, presentation skills, media and message development in the U.S. and abroad.

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