Encouraging words from our Founder,
Shawn Alex Nemeth

June 2023

“There are two primary choices in life: Accept conditions as they exist or accept responsibility for changing them.” – Denis Waitley

Dear Reader,

Accepting responsibility for our current condition in life involves a gut-level honesty and the courage to take ownership. Regardless of the circumstances that brought us to where we are today, we have to “own” where we are in order to move forward. Let’s examine this. We generally find ourselves where we currently are in life because of three possible variables: things we did or didn’t do, things another person did or didn’t do, or things that just happened to us.

  1. Something WE did or didn’t do
    When Arturo gradually stopped taking care of himself because life got busy, he never dreamed he’d end up here: at twice his healthy weight, unable to go mountain-climbing anymore (once his favorite hobby), and now, diabetic. He knew he could have made better choices—in fact, many of his climbing buddies had reached out, but he said “Next time” so often that they eventually stopped calling. “Next time” turned into “never.” Because of what he did and didn’t do, Enrico now faced some scary medical decisions.
  2. Something someone ELSE did or didn’t do
    Nadia sat frozen in her car. She couldn’t make herself leave the driveway, even though she knew waiting this long would make her late to her new job. Physically abused as a child, she found it hard to function as an adult; unpredictable situations and new people could send her into a tailspin of fear and anxiety. Because of what someone else did or didn’t do, Nadia lived in a nearly-constant state of dread that affected every area of her life.
  3. Something that JUST HAPPENED to us
    Sophie had worked hard to get to where she was. The youngest-ever partner at her firm in a field dominated by men, she appeared to have it all until the day her world came crashing down. An unsavory accusation followed by ugly headlines and a police investigation brought the firm to its knees. Though completely unaware of the incident, Sophie found herself dragged into scandal. Over time, her name was cleared, but at great expense: her career, home, and savings were all gone.

Arturo, Nadia, and Sophie—three different people with different circumstances and different lives, yet all have one thing in common: they’re all at a crossroads. They can stay “stuck” and blame other people or stay angry or procrastinate or numb out with unhealthy coping mechanisms (you can probably name a few!), or they can make a choice to move forward.

So how do they move forward? FORGIVE.

Enrico can forgive himself for what he did and didn’t do. Nadia can forgive her parents for what they did and didn’t do. Sophie can forgive the circumstances that contributed to her situation. Learning to practice forgiveness—even when circumstances weren’t our fault or were outside our control—is the practical way we let go. And letting go is often the key to taking responsibility for our life so we can move forward.

Does forgiving mean we will forget? No, it doesn’t.

Does forgiveness change the past? Unfortunately not.

Does forgiveness mean it was okay that someone hurt you? Nope.
But you probably have heard the adage: “Holding onto resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

Of course, forgiving usually isn’t a one-and-done decision if the hurt runs deep. I think of it as having a “practice” of forgiveness. Some people couple their practice with meditation or prayer or a gratitude journal or therapy or contemplative walking. And of course, being consistent will be more helpful than “once in a while”.

Forgiveness might not be easy, but as a child trauma survivor, I can say with absolute certainty that forgiveness does help heal the pain and dissolve the anger.

By forgiving, we empower ourselves with the courage to change.

April 2023

Dear Reader,

The first 12 years of my professional life were in ministry work. I served in several leadership positions, including pastor, college instructor, and director of a traveling band and vocal group. This group was fortunate to attract some very gifted talent: a great asset on our national and international tours. As its director, one of my primary responsibilities was to find the talent and to develop it. Our primary platform with this process was to periodically hold open auditions. Without fail, I consistently encountered the unfortunate blinded hearts that did not possess enough self-awareness around their strengths and weaknesses.

We seem to live in a time when it is common to find those with exaggerated opinions of themselves and their abilities. Instead of being comfortable with who they are and thankful for what they have been given, they often want what others have. The danger in this kind of thinking and self deception is that it can draw our attention away from acknowledging and developing the areas in which we are truly talented. As a result, many are living discouraged and frustrated lives, consistently setting themselves up for failure. The flip side to this thinking is to greatly underestimate our talent and abilities. Both kinds of thinking can be hazardous and counterproductive to our personal development.

How do we avoid this confused misinterpretation of ourselves? We do so by gaining the invaluable gift of self-awareness through the process of self-evaluation. Self-evaluation can be very challenging for us because it requires us to take an honest and realistic look within; that that can feel very threatening. But like Jean Vainer so insightfully recognized, “It’s when we start to accept our own weakness that true growth begins.”

How It’s Done

Because self-evaluation can appear to be so overwhelming, I want us to look at four key words that will simplify and support us through this eye-opening process.

  1. Listen: What are others saying? I’m talking about the people we respect and trust; those who have our best interest at heart and who have nothing to gain. If we listen, what things do we hear repeated? If our hearts are open and we are listening, we generally don’t have to wonder where we are gifted, where we need to grow, or what our strengths and weaknesses are. People will tell us. The real challenge comes with being humble enough to hear.
  2. Silence: Just saying the word can make some of us feel uncomfortable. Silence can feel uncomfortable because there is a price to pay for this lost spiritual discipline. We have to be alone, turn off the TV, the iPod, the computer, the cell phone, all the busyness of life –and just sit. Sit alone with our thoughts; sit with our conscience instead of outwardly listening to all the other voices, learning and practicing the art of listening to the voice within. I truly believe that the reason many of us inundate our lives with constant activity and busyness is the deep, hidden fear of meeting ourselves face to face in silence.Mother Teresa expressed, “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature –trees, flowers, grass–grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” I would add that we need silence to get in touch with our own souls.
  3. Read: We need to expose ourselves to insightful reading materials: literary works that compel us to grow, to learn, and to reflect. Take the time to dive into books on personal growth development, character development, and changing your behavior. Written words can be incredibly powerful, and when given the opportunity, can become a looking glass into our soul. Have you ever read something so impacting, so revealing, that it was as though the author had penned those words specifically for you? You somehow knew it about yourself, but never fully understood it until you read it. It’s powerful when that happens!
  4. Journal: There is nothing more frustrating and discouraging than to lose all the rich information and golden insights we’ve gained because of neglecting to write them down. Capture the moment; journal it. As a life coach, I highly encourage all of my clients to get a notebook or journal that is used only to collect this profitable endowment of self-awareness. I have discovered that writing it down is usually just the beginning of the discovery process. The deeper enlightenments take root as we meditate and pray over our newly found revelations.

Make It Fun!

Self-evaluation is a vital and necessary part of personal growth development. We will never reach our full potential without it. We do our selves a great disservice when we approach opportunities for growth as something to avoid or begrudgingly make it through. The key is to make the learning fun and exciting, a process of discovery and continued advancement in this amazing journey of life.


March 2023

Dear Reader,

One topic that is often overlooked is how often those working in the area of trauma can experience their own secondary trauma. The National traumatic Stress Network defines secondary trauma as the cumulative effect of working with survivors of traumatic life events as part of their everyday work.  During our recent TraumaTALKS Conference, I was pleased to co-present with Dr. Anne Friedman a session entitled “An Introspective Look at Trauma and the Need for Self-Care“. Our session included active exercises to give attendees tools for stress response using mindfulness, movement and breathing.

Health professionals define trauma as “resulting from an event, a series of events or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and as lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning, physical, social, emotional or spiritual wellbeing .”  —  SAMSHA

Secondary Trauma Risks can be caused by the following:

  1. Repeated exposure to trauma stores
  2. Emotionally empathetic engagement
  3. Measuring self-worth by how much you help others
  4. Unrealistic expectations of yourself
  5. Working in large bureaucracies
  6. Your own trauma history
  7. Juggling work with family responsibilities
  8. Little self-care

“Self-care ultimately comes down to the active and intentional process of nurturing ourselves, while mindfully focusing on our thoughts, environment, habits, stressors and triggers. Taking time to invest in ourselves enables us to positively influence our well-being while improving our social, mental, and physical health.”  Dr. Friedman and I are currently working on an expanded presentation which we will debut this fall in a live, virtual, and ON DEMAND format.

Look for details coming soon and, in the meantime, continue to care for yourself, so that you can care for others.

February 2023

Dear Reader,

PAIN gets our attention; physical, emotional, big or small, we don’t like it. We live in a society that hates to FEEL the pain. We avoid it at all costs and attempt to numb it with anything in reach:  pain killers, alcohol, excessive busyness, unhealthy relationships, and food. Pain is viewed as the enemy.  But is it?

Pain is the warning signal of the mind and body that something is amiss, but is all pain bad? What would happen if we did allow our self to FEEL the pain? Maybe we would join a gym to lose the weight; forgive another to restore a broken relationship; hire a life coach to work on better decision making; go back to college to start a new career; see a marriage counselor to begin the road to healing; work through a twelve-step program to deal with our addiction.

Could it be that in our hurried quest to shut out all the pain, we fail to realize that we shut out so much more?  It’s amazing how the depth and insight of self-awareness and spiritual teaching becomes so much clearer when we allow our self to FEEL the pain.

Much more than our victories, PAIN makes us who we are.

Best to you in your healing journey.

January 2023

Dear Reader,

As we start a new year, many of us look to leave behind negative memories of the past and attempt to start a new year with positivity and hope. But instead our twisted crowd of child-hood hurts and painful experiences, allow our self-editor to step forward to take center stage in our lives. Constructive words to help us grow and move us forward are suddenly left out of our vocabulary. The negative driven words and phrases such as; “You’re too fat, you’re too ugly, you’ll never be as talented as you sister, you can’t write; smart, you are not!” are like a voice recorder stuck in play mode; critical words woven in sarcasm and comparisons, relentlessly slash away at the core of who we are. The most detrimental part of it? –we often believe it.

Reprograming our thinking is the only way to turn off this deprecating voice in our head and silence our self-editor. We are a product of our environment, whether we choose to accept it or not; WE WILL BECOME like those who encircle us. If we want healthier thinking, we have to find healthier thinkers to surround ourselves. If we want to increase our emotional stability, we have to fill our inner circle with those who are emotionally stable.

Healthy breeds healthy.

We also attract WHAT WE ARE. If we’ve been struggling with negativity and boundaries for some time, it is very likely those closest to us are negative and lack boundaries. Quite often, in order to make the needed shift, we have to search for a healthier tribe. What do we look for? We look for others that are–WHAT WE WANT TO BECOME.

Realistically, our annoying self-editor may never completely be shut off for some of us; but by surrounding our self with a healthy and uplifting environment, his paralyzing voice will be significantly muted enough to lose its power over us.

All the best for you in 2023.