The mind of a fool…

Does not trust what he can’t see…But trusts what he can see, even if it’s a LIE!

You claim you want freedom yet you choose your enslavement.

Stretch your mind. You are only using a fraction of its capabilities.

~Natasha

Copyright 2020. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

Do you understand this difference?

Prepare yourself for the tests. Learn the lesson, preferably on the first attempt, because who really likes taking tests over and over again? Get out of your head and get out of your way. There’s so much to see, do, experience, feel and explore in this vast world; we’re wasting time and precious moments re-taking tests!

~Natasha L. Foreman
P.S. Thank you Arleen for sharing this image with me this morning. As you can see, I’m paying it forward!

I love this quote from Hannah Whitall Smith. It is featured in the book, 100 Days of Grace for Women [published by Freeman-Smith].

I keep reading these words and visualizing my circumstances from the outside looking in.

Try doing this.

How many times did your mind wander from your visualization? Did you lose focus?

It requires the ability to be both patient and present, to tune out the clutter that normally distracts us, and tune in to what’s before us and in us.

In every spiritual text that we read we’re taught to be patient and to be present. We ignorantly avoid both instructions. They require stillness to not wander, faith to believe in better, strength to persevere, and courage to embrace the unknowns and face the fears that surface.

Yes, it’s difficult during trials and tribulations to stand in the presence of now, look around and see and feel the hurt and anguish that our present provides. But there’s no escaping it. All of the options of escape are not healthy and don’t allow us to live fully in our current bodies. We can attempt to run and hide, barely existing in a constant state of depression, a dark cloud surrounding us; we can try to escape through alcohol, drugs, and sex—all have temporary highs and long-lasting lows. The attempt of escape is wasted energy; it is futile; it is pure insanity. We will always be returned to our present, to the now, and faced with the reality of what is and isn’t. When we measure the pain of the trials and tribulations in comparison to the self-inflicted pain we bring upon ourselves through the constant acts of escapism, the wise can see that the latter is far more painful than the former—and oddly enough, the route of escapism takes much longer than had we just been patient in the present state of tribulation and waited for the gateway to be revealed to us so that we could walk from here to there without chaos. Our depression is caused by chaos from our past that was never resolved and healed. We’ve brought our past into our present, and if we don’t resolve it now we are destined to drag this bag of crap into our future—never escaping it, never being free, just allowing ourselves to be drained by it day after day until we take our last breath. Misery exemplified.

Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle teaches that our past is only a series of moments that were at that time the “now”. They are no longer. We mentally and emotionally dial in and access those records to connect with what used to be. An occasional reference point is fine, especially if we learned lessons from that time. An attempt to dwell in that space means that we are no longer present in the now, our backs are turned and our focus is on what was and most likely will never be again, which is a waste of energy—-and steps closer to our spiritual and physical death.

You probably just gasped when you read those last words, but let’s consider something. What happens to all batteries that are drained of energy? They die.

If they aren’t rechargeable batteries, we discard them. That’s most of our batteries. Used up and tossed out. A great number of our batteries die from our improper use; we leave them engaged inside objects that we rarely use and those objects simply drain the batteries day after day, sometimes even forcing the battery to leak acid (creating a mess for us to clean up).

We leave batteries in flashlights, toys, kitchen gadgets, and the like. We don’t think to remove the batteries after we use the item and before we put it back in a drawer, closet, or container. We know that the battery will die at some point, but we still waste its life, unnecessarily, by leaving the batteries inside and walking away. We move forward to leave those batteries behind us, in our past, as we now focus on our new present. But that doesn’t stop the batteries from using energy, even at a reduced rate. They are still connected to a source that is slowly draining the batteries of energy.

We are like those batteries. Energy continues to be drained from us when we’re still connected to things from our past. Those sources still engage us and day by day we lose more and more energy. Because of improper use we drain too soon and just like those batteries, we’re removed—no recharging, just removed and not reused in the future; unless you believe

in reincarnation, but even then, you aren’t coming back in the same body picking up where you left off with friends, family, work projects, and goals. That life is the past.

We choose which sources we want to engage with. We can also choose to disconnect and go elsewhere. We can learn how to properly use and recharge our batteries.

Tolle also teaches that trying to keep our heads in the future for too long, (usually because we’re dreading our present and hopeful that the future has all that we don’t have in the now) is also harmful, because the future is not possible (it will not one day become our ‘now’ if we aren’t dialed into and focused on the current now.

We can cast a dream of a better tomorrow, but don’t get consumed by and lost in the dream. Smile upon it for small moments and then return to your present experience.

Be present.

Be in the “now” as Tolle teaches.

Looking at what is taking place right now, at this very moment, and not fixated on the past—and how we got to the present—or obsessed with a future that we hope is better than our present; but instead, just taking in our present and seeing it for what it is—an IS—and navigating through this present state as an observant and alert captain; not over-processing what is seen, heard, or felt; not trying to rush the moments to get to the next days; just being in the here and now, and at some point realizing that this inconvenience, this trial, this discomfort may just be a necessity so that your learned lesson may open a doorway or window to something else—possibly better, more comfortable, less trying.

Maybe.

But it’s not about looking for the doorway or window. It’s about being present, observant, emotionally in tuned, mentally decluttered, and not distracted. It’s about finding, realizing, and knowing who you are as a spiritual being. It’s about knowing that you are the “I Am” and that your ability to see and embrace the blessings in your present moment, to be grateful for even the smallest things, means that you are (or almost) prepared for what lies beyond the gateway, the door, the window. Then they will not only appear but you will see them, you will know what to do and when to do it, and then you will do it. There won’t be doubt. And even if fear rises up to resist, you will walk through the opening anyway, because you are ready—and you know it. But it’s not possible if you have one foot in the past, one in the present, and trying to dangle your arm into the future. That’s like trying to be in three rooms at the same time. You’re going absolutely nowhere and accomplishing absolutely nothing, while learning, at most, that you’re good at being stuck.

Our feet must be planted and sturdy in the now, in today, in this very moment—controlling our minds, not being controlled by them, connecting to and channeling the positive energy that flows around and through us, and letting go of the excess that would prevent us from one day before forward effortlessly.

Take care of today, today, or tomorrow you will be struggling with juggling the now and the past, while desperate for the future. What an insane merry-go-round that we choose to ride. Get off of the ride. Choose internal peace. Choose joy. Choose health and healing. Choose to be present.

You never know what gateways, doors, and windows may open for you.

~Natasha

Thanks to my sis-in-love Arleen for sending this to me yesterday. Please take a moment to pause, read, reflect, and fully ingest this message:

Source: Unknown

This is a call to action.

Get up, get out, live fully and intentionally, do something positively different, heartfelt, encouraging and inspiring. What are you waiting for? Bye!

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

There’s a quote by an anonymous author that perfectly describes the relationship between fear and faith. It reads:

Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there“.

When we walk by faith, fear has no place near us let alone in us.

It’s like the deadbeat loser who rings your doorbell and sees through the window Mr./Ms. Awesome walking towards the door to answer. Deadbeat loser isn’t going to wait and be confronted by awesomeness. Deadbeat loser doesn’t want to be further embarrassed by the lack he/she possesses, so they quickly run away from the front door and they dive into the nearby bushes to avoid detection. The deadbeat loser is no match for Mr./Ms. Awesome.

Since I was a small child I’ve been reciting the famous quote, “fear is false evidence appearing real” and in many instances I’m able to face my fears and walk through a situation. There are some instances that involve creepy crawly bugs where I haven’t yet walked with faith to stare down those fears. But I’m getting there [*smile*].

There are times in my professional world as well as in my personal life where I’ve allowed fear to conquer and enslave me. I’ve been running from some major fears for the past few years and now they have grown so large, and I’ve been running for so long, that I’m tired of running. I wasn’t made to be a punk. I wasn’t raised to be a punk. So why am I acting and living like one? Fear is a punk yet I’m allowing it to have dominion over me, how idiotic is that?

Yesterday, I finally made the decision to stop running and to instead turn around and walk towards my fears. I’ve decided to face each and every one of these fears that have been chasing me.

What’s the worst possible outcome of my challenge? I know for a fact that none of my fear bullies come with a death penalty, so maybe I get a few bumps and bruises, or I fall down and get injured—all that I need to do is get back up, brush myself off, and keep on swinging (translation: “fighting”). I have enough faith to believe that I can at least do that. I’m not sure if I will be victorious but I’m willing to fight anyway. “…Faith of a mustard seed…” isn’t that the minimum of what Jesus said we need?

Fear is like kryptonite, it’s present and part of the environment that we occupy but if not managed and properly handled, it can destroy you.

When we walk with faith in our heart and mind we have a reinforced armor of hope, courage, and confidence. Fear can’t handle faith. Fear can’t penetrate that armor. The only way that fear can conquer us is if we take off the armor or never wear it.

So rather than continuing to run from our fears, why don’t we put on our armor and walk towards our fears! That my friends, was a statement not a question. Consider taking at least one step today and see if you can get a reaction from the deadbeat loser who’s standing at your door.

Have a super awesome day!

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

Since 10pm last night I’ve been fighting a huge tension knot in my back-shoulder blade region. I experienced this same irritant the other week.

It’s reared it’s ugly head again.

The more I chase the pain, more knots and aches surface. Stretching hasn’t resolved it. The back is an interesting place to carry stress, pain, sadness, worry, anger, and any other draining energy. I say this because unlike the limbs it is a region that is difficult to reach by oneself. You need help to cover this large space.

Thankfully I own a few myofascial rollers, one of which I’m using…right…now…as I chase this pain away.

I wish I could have a massage every single day. But my budget just laughs and says, “keep working and wishing girlfriend“.

Aches and pains remind me of my deferred maintenance. These knots make it clear that I’m not taking care of myself like I need to. My body will keep reminding me.

Our bodies do not remain silent. They tell us when they are tired of being ignored, overlooked, abused, overworked, and misused. Our bodies will always let us know when we aren’t doing enough to protect the very thing that we need to make our way through each day.

I’m painfully listening and complying….

I. Need. Release.

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha Foreman Bryant/Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

March 20, 2018 would have been Brandon’s 36th birthday. I can never forget my friend’s birthday. My iPhone calendar reminds me one week before and also on the day of. Also, his birthday is the day before my paternal grandmother’s.

This week I’ve spent each day reflecting over my memories of Brandon Clarke, aka “B Clarke”.

I couldn’t yet formulate the words by Tuesday, his birthday, but today they have settled and come together.

I watched Brandon grow and evolve into a man, accepting the ups and downs of love and life.

He started out as being a “youngster” with a crush on me, as we worked together promoting and helping our friend Kristian run a club night (“Club Wet”) at Bar 330 in Brea, California. Brandon was one of the promoters, along with my friend and his best friend Brandon Shelby (in the picture above), and Kristian’s brother Anthony. I was in charge of the door, paying the DJs, and overseeing the promoters and their guest lists. I also helped to serve as a liaison so that club goers, the security, the venue owner, and our club promotions team were all satisfied. Once we reached our “cut off” time at the door I would divide the money, give Kristian the splits, and then come inside the club and party with everyone.

The night always ended with our crew reflecting over the success of that night and then leaving together. At least one of the guys would walk me to my car. Once I left I almost always stopped at Carl’s Jr to grab a famous star with cheese combo, and stuff my face in the parking lot. Brandon and the guys would drive by in their cars honking and waving at me and laughing at my weekly routine.

Brandon would try his best each week to convince me that I should be with a younger man (7 years my junior)—that man in his opinion would be him—but I would spend those moments redirecting him towards women his age. I would give him dating advice and show him how to make his Side Kick passcodes stronger. He was dating a girl that was obsessed with trying to break his code. Brandon would say to me “I bet you can’t figure out my code” and in less than a minute I would hand it back, code broken, and watch his gaping mouth hang in disbelief.

Side note: Fellas, your birthdate, child’s date of birth, year you pledged a fraternity, year you graduated from high school or college, and jersey numbers are easy code breakers….

Brandon evolved from “youngster with a crush” into a dear friend and younger brother, in a way. I’m sure the crush was still there, but the respect and friendship weighed heavier and had greater value. He did give me a side eye when years later I started dating a guy 7-years my junior.

Brandon’s cancer diagnosis hit him hard and nearly destroyed his hope and faith. It caused those of us close to him to surround him and lift him up in prayer, and to counter every argument or gripe he had with an affirmation that he was and always would be in God’s hands.

He had been playing basketball at LA Fitness and he kept feeling a pain in his knee. This pain got worse and wouldn’t go away, and initially doctors were clueless as to what was causing the pain. I remember when he told me about it and we were tossing around what could be causing it. He loved playing ball and the pain was keeping him off the court.

Eventually it became clear what was attacking Brandon.

Initially for him the news meant life was over, his dreams were shattered, and those of us without cancer (or never had it at a young age and overcame it) couldn’t relate to his fears, pain, frustration, and anger.

We don’t know what it’s like to face the news of potential death, especially at such a young age. Until we get news that we too would rather forget.

I remember vividly going to the hospital center and rubbing lotion on his legs and feet, and teasing him about his “crusty feet”. I would rub the temples of his head and tell him to just breathe. We would sit and watch television, talk for hours, crack jokes and “trash talk”, until it was time for me to go, or the nurses needed to do something for him, or he fell asleep.

I used to have a Blackberry back then but now I have an iPhone (I converted in or around 2011) and what is amazing is that my address book in my phone still has Brandon’s name but the picture isn’t of him, it’s the one I chose years ago of his puppy that he loved so very much. He took the picture as soon as he got the puppy and he texted it to me. That’s what I used to identify him in my phone book.

I wonder how many people remember Brandon’s dog. I always called him his “Taco Bell dog” and we would laugh.

Below is the actual picture Brandon sent me of his puppy “Kanye”. He used to say I would find a girlfriend for Kanye. Sadly, I never did.

Brandon and I shared some precious moments together as he fought his cancer. He wanted so much out of life. He was just getting started, only the young age of 23, and life was clobbering him.

Brandon wanted a child—a namesake—someone to leave behind a legacy that could be lifted and magnified—someone who would look like him, always remember him, and always cause the rest of us to smile and reflect on the great boy who grew into a great man—who touched so many hearts and lives.

I remember partying with Brandon after his first rounds of treatment were over. It was so awesome seeing him smiling, dancing and laughing. We celebrated his birthday. He and Brandon Shelby came out to celebrate with me for my 31st birthday.

He even came to my going-away-party, November 2007. I was leaving California and heading to Georgia. Brandon looked stronger and hopeful. It gave me an added boost of hope.

Even when I relocated, Brandon and I would talk by phone and chat through text, and at that time we all were deep into MySpace. Our friendship wouldn’t wane because of distance. Whenever I came home to California for a visit I always made sure to spend quality time with Brandon. Our last time together was amazing. He took me and my sister to one of his favorite restaurants for lunch on the Newport Beach-Laguna Beach border. He wanted to talk about everything but his nemesis, cancer. So we did just that.

Whenever I go home and spend time in Orange County I try to have a meal there and stare out at the ocean waves, just like Brandon and I did that day. My sister still fondly recalls that day. It was bright, sunny, and beautiful. It was a perfect day.

I don’t think I will ever forget the day Brandon contacted me.

The cancer was back with a vengeance, it had rapidly spread, and he didn’t see the possibility of bouncing back. Matter of fact the doctors prognosis was clear that he wouldn’t.

Brandon was dealing with that news.

I wasn’t.

The first diagnosis, Brandon only told a select few of us and we were sworn to secrecy. Now he was telling me awful news again but this time he had waited to tell me. He knew something wasn’t right the last time we had spoken and even when he took me to lunch in California. He didn’t want me to worry. He said “I didn’t want to be a burden“.

I was crushed.

For me, the people that I love are never a burden. Family or friend, when I give you my word I keep it and there’s never a burden when you’re doing something out of love.

I had relocated over 2,000 miles away to Atlanta, Georgia and that day I stood in the home of my childhood friend, Ericka Sampson Smith (as I watched my Godson Kegdrick) and I quietly cried as Brandon and I communicated for what would be the last days. Unlike in the past I couldn’t just hop in my car and come over.

Brandon was trying to hold on but he was also saying “see you later“. He didn’t want to leave without reaching out to his loved ones. Brandon was letting go and I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t there. I told him I would look for a flight for the next day or two to come see him. He told me I didn’t have to but soon said “okay“. He knew it didn’t make sense to argue with me.

But also Brandon knew and accepted something that I couldn’t.

He said he was tired. He said he was okay and content with his reality. He had made peace with God. Oh it crushed me to process those words. My heart was so heavy. I wanted to be by his side as I had been in the past. I knew his family was there and our friend Brandon Shelby was there, but I wanted to also be there. I was the friend that wasn’t there that day. I had promised him that I always would be. I felt I had let him down and no matter how much he tried to convince me that I hadn’t my heart so heavy that I was convinced that I had.

We said “I love you” and then hung up the phone, and I immediately scrambled to look online for flights. I couldn’t afford the tickets and I wouldn’t get paid for another two weeks. But I kept looking.

Then I got the call that I dreaded the most.

It was May 13, 2009.

The person on the other end this time was our friend Brandon Shelby. He was letting me know that his best friend Brandon Clarke had passed, had transitioned.

I just burst out in tears.

Days later would be the funeral and I had reached out to my uncle Ricky to use his credit card to buy my ticket. By the time I went to purchase my ticket the prices had increased significantly. I was so stressed out and so sad that I didn’t know what to do. I remember contacting Brandon Shelby and he comforted me and reassured me, and told me that I had not failed our friend Brandon, but that I had been a true friend—-the type of friend that I wanted to be for him—the type of friend that he needed me to be.

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Brandon Clarke.

I see young men and I think about him. I hear someone’s laugh that sounds familiar and I can’t help but turn to look for him. I see a guy dressed as Brandon would and I smile. I sometimes have a student in one of my classes with the same first name and I tell them of my friend Brandon.

I know he’s smiling and pleased to see that his best friend Brandon Shelby got married and started a family, and has a blessed life. He would be pleased to see how I’ve handled the ups and downs of life, but remain hopeful for better and brighter. He would be pleased to see how his other close friends have gotten married, started families, grown in their careers, traveled and experienced many of the things they would daydream and talk about. He would be proud to see our growth and evolution.

I know he’s pleased. I know he’s proud. Because that’s Brandon.

As excited as he would be about his dreams and goals he would be excited about the dreams and goals his friends had. That was Brandon. That is Brandon.

So much life, light, courage, and love in and through one person. He left a beautiful imprint on my heart that I will always cherish.

I’ve learned and continue to learn from Brandon. I share his story with people who need added courage, who need motivation to fight, who need to know that they aren’t the only one to be blindsided by bad news—it’s what you do with that news that matters.

Brandon chose to live his life, spending time with loved ones, and sharing light with everyone who needed it. He chose to not waste precious moments with drama and drama-motivated people. He was intentional with the time he had left here.

It’s not how he planned his life but he made the most of it.

I’m grateful for my friend Brandon and our friendship. He went from being my “student” to unknowingly being my “teacher”.

I love you Brandon and I will never stop sharing your story, for what many would see as a shortened life you have left behind a strong legacy that those of us still here have a duty to ensure has a long and lasting reach. Continue resting in peace Brandon. I know you’re balling it up where you are!

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha Foreman Bryant/Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

Do you hear that? Listen closely.

That is the sound of a door to the past closing.

You have the options of locking it and storing the key or tossing it to never be reclaimed. You can also choose to keep it unlocked, knowing that every time that door to the past opens a flood of things you tried to leave behind come rolling out.

Now let’s be clear, this isn’t the door to fond and beautiful memories of your life and loved ones from years ago, no no no, this door represents the pain and shame, the let downs and setbacks, the hurt caused by others and even by you. This door represents the fear that kept you paralyzed from making forward progress; the doubt that told you that you weren’t good enough, smart enough, wealthy enough, attractive enough—that is what this door represents. It’s the past relationships, old lovers, friends turned foes. It’s everything that held you back and held you down. This door and what lies behind it represents everything that was keeping you from being the best you that you could and can be.

So the door is closed.

Did you hear the mechanism click into place as it found the groove of the threshold of the door jamb?

If not, check again.

Today you can close that door to your past then open the door to your future, and take a peek inside.

Breathe in the life, light, positivity, and possibilities.

Your present state is a hallway between two doors.

Do you begin your new chapter or do you keep torturing yourself to re-read old chapters over and over again? You can’t rewrite those old chapters. You can’t make them better. They are as they are.

Let me clarify something else that I know can be a sensitive spot for someone.

I’m not saying that your past is not a reference point for your present and continued healing.

It can be.

I’m not saying that it is not a reference point to guide and inspire others toward reconciliation and healing.

It can be.

I’m saying, don’t obsess over your past, don’t let your past blend with your present so that is becomes your present, and it slowly draws you farther away from that door to your future.

Your past can be so toxic that it can create a house of mirrors and doors that will keep you in a constant state of confusion and chaos, that you can’t find the right door to free yourself and get out.

The longer you spend dwelling on the past, focusing on the what-ifs, how-comes, and why-me’s, the more it drains the life out of you and the older you become; the longer you dwell behind that door the longer your journey to return to the present, and even longer journey to get to your future.

Yes, my friends we age rapidly when we are stuck in that past darkness, because there is no light and life to uplift us—we are stuck in a quicksand of misery and grief, and the longer that we stay there the more aged we become.

Have you ever seen someone who is or is around your age but they look 20-plus years older? We may silently make the comment “wow they’ve had a hard life!” and wouldn’t it be interesting to observe them to see how much time they spend in the past compared to the present? If I were a betting person I would say that most of their time is spent in the past, obsessed about what went wrong that could’ve gone right. Every woulda, coulda, shoulda has aged them by several years.

Our lack of faith keeps us from closing that door, locking it, breaking the key and tossing it. There is absolutely no reason to continue walking through that door except that you feel that you don’t deserve better than that pain and misery. You don’t believe that better is possible or that better is possible for you. Because if you truly believed in better (for you) and truly had faith that better is waiting for you through another door, you wouldn’t hesitate to look at your past, say goodbye, and walk boldly and confidently away.

I have big, bold dreams that God has placed in my heart and on my mind. I’m inspired and motivated by these dreams. I believe that they can come true. I have faith that as long as I stay in my lane and run my race, committed to doing my part, with my eyes focused straight ahead (and not behind me), that God will bless me with these things, people, and experiences.

I don’t know about you, but I know darn well that my past has no place in my present or my future. I know darn well that there is nothing that I can do to change my past for the better. I can learn from it and leverage that learning for better and greater. But hanging out behind that door would be the quick death of me, and my future is bright, long, and exciting.

My future is waiting for me and I know how it feels to be kept waiting. So I’m walking forward into my next chapter. I don’t need to open the door of my past to remember what’s behind it. My memory is sharp and when it fades, I have plenty of people around me who will be quick to remind me and turn me about-face.

Your future is waiting.

What choice will you make?

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha Foreman Bryant/Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

A few years ago I was cycling with a group of friends on the Silver Comet Trail in Georgia. Someone said to me that they admired that I wasn’t concerned with keeping up with the fastest, more experienced cyclists—that I always remained focused on riding at my pace. I told him, “I’m focused on me and my race. I run, in this case, ride, my race. I ‘stay in my lane’ so-to-speak. If I’m concerned with what other people are doing then I will lose focus on what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m not focused on who’s ahead, behind, or beside me—just me and my bike.”

I learned that lesson the hard way as a track and field sprinter. Every race that I focused on one or more other sprinters, I never finished the race as I desired. Either I got a slower time, had a bad hand-off in a relay, or came in a place other than first. When I focused on me and my personal race, my form was always strong and relaxed, my stride opened up, I felt good, and it showed. Even if I didn’t get the time or place that I desired, I knew that I ran a strong race. It’s about my self-improvement, my ability to challenge and push myself past my comfort zones, my ability to test my strength, power, and endurance. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to win every race that I ran, but as I matured I began to see that it wasn’t about the other sprinters—it was about and for ME!

That day on Silver Comet, I rode 15 miles faster than any of the more experienced cyclists expected me to do. I never cycled that far so I had no reference point. I told them that when they reached their resting points, not to wait for me to catch up, and if they reached the turnaround point and were passing me on the way back, then I would simply turn around and follow.

They thought I would slow down the rest of the group because I was new to cycling, and unlike the rest of them I didn’t have cycling shoes and clips. But what they didn’t know was that as I cycled my body felt like it did when I sprinted. Many of the same techniques and dynamics are at play, and the same muscles are utilized in the same way in both sports (it’s difficult to explain this concept at the moment, so just believe me when I say it’s true). They also didn’t know that these thunder thighs are powerful and strong, and that my core is stronger than even I know. That day, my pace was actually complementary to theirs, I was always only a few minutes behind them (so I always arrived at the rest stops moments after them) and their shock to see me rolling in strong put a smile on my face that remained all day.

The interesting thing is, all of them started cycling faster trying to keep me from catching up—because if the newbie could catch up then they were slower than they thought. Now they were riding my race. I was in their heads.

Imagine if I was obsessed with keeping up with them at their much faster pace. I would’ve ran out of energy; risked injury, falling, or both; and I wouldn’t have had a great day.

When we returned to our starting location the other cyclists were worn out. They were racing each other (the men mostly) and they all were racing me—whether they would ever admit it or not, you could tell by the looks in their eyes. If you have ever competed against someone, in anything, you know that look. I just smiled.

Being so obsessed with me even caused one couple to argue, which threw off their ride and messed up part of their day. When the group asked me my technique I simply said “I rode my race, at my pace and comfort level”.

After that day they looked forward to riding with me. Without trying, I pushed them, and with intention I focused on me and my ride—each time getting better and stronger.

This is my mindset and focus in all things. When I lift weights, drive race cars on a track, go cycling, or set my course on a path to achieve a career or life goal, I never do well if I’m focused on other people.

I am my biggest competition.

I am my biggest obstacle.

I am the one who either gives my all and leaves everything on that track, or the one who half-steps and gives the bare minimum. My race. Not theirs.

This translates into and transfers over to my personal and professional life.

Sure I can say aloud or think to myself about where I could or should be in my career, but what purpose does it serve? That only depresses me. For a long time. Which is counterproductive.

Looking at friends and associates who have soared to great heights in their career should serve as encouragement and inspiration—highlighting their testimony, and that we all have the ability to rise above and over life’s obstacles. It however should never lead to the utterance of words or the formulation of thoughts that say that I should strive to meet or exceed their accomplishments.

I’m not competing with my friends, associates, acquaintances, or even complete strangers. I’m not trying to be or outdo Oprah Winfrey, Joel Osteen, Tracey Edmonds, Mary Kay Ash, John Maxwell, Steve Jobs, Maya Angelou, Sheryl Sandberg, Magic Johnson, or Mark Zuckerberg, or anyone else.

I’m trying to be me.

The best me that I can be.

I’m running my race, at my pace, with my eyes focused ahead. I definitely need encouragement and to be challenged—especially and with great intensity when I slack off—but it’s never with a focus to get to where someone else is or to run past and edge them out.

I would always be behind someone (as they started out on their race years or even decades earlier) or I would be extremely exhausted and irritable if I did somehow catch up and surpass them. I’m risking my health and much more, trying to keep up with and pass by the Joneses.

If I’m focused on someone else then I’m distracted, and we all know what happens to many distracted drivers—they crash or they cause a crash. Crashes can be expensive. Recovery can be long and painful. Why risk it?

Every time I sat behind the wheel of a car on a race track, I wasn’t concerned about how fast or how experienced the other drivers were. I didn’t obsess with trying to outrace them. I was and always will be focused on me, my skills, the car that I’m driving, and the lessons that my instructors, coaches, and mentors taught me. My safety and survival depends on it. The goal is to have a great day, enjoy the ride, challenge myself, hit those apexes, and get back to the paddock safely. If I get great lap times and place well, that’s a huge bonus.

Don’t get me wrong, I love competing—but mostly against myself—against the fear and doubt that wants desperately to take root and form in my mind and heart. If I can conquer that each and every race, then I’m always the winner. If I do better than I thought I would, then I’m a winner.

In the pictures above and below you see me at the Ford Performance Racing School in Utah—racing Ford Mustangs (which runs through my familial veins for three generations). In both pictures I’m smiling brightly because I had an awesome day and it was filled with accomplishments. Everyone else on that track drove or had experience driving manual transmission cars. I didn’t. I was the only person who had little to no experience. A little back in the mid-90s but that’s all. My then-husband gave me two driving lessons before our trip to Utah. You don’t know how much I appreciated him for taking the time to really teach me.

His teachings and what the instructors taught us about the track and the school rules is what I focused on when I climbed behind the wheel. I didn’t focus on the other drivers and what they thought about me, or even about their skill level. I let drivers pass me on the track and there were times that I passed other drivers on the track. Sometimes I played “rabbit” for other drivers and at times when I needed to challenge myself I would find a “rabbit” to catch, so I could see how well the car handled and how well I handled the car.

But I won’t make moves based on someone else. I must focus on my race and adjust for conditions and strategic conservation of resources. But never because of the other competitor.

Imagine climbing up the side of a mountain. You have on all of your gear and the higher you climb the greater the risk that if you somehow fall, you will die.

So what would happen if you began to obsess about the climber ahead of you or next to you? What if you were so focused about reaching the top of the mountain first that you started spending less time securing yourself each step you climbed? What would happen if you stopped paying attention to your ropes and the surfaces of the mountain? What would happen if you weren’t paying attention to your equipment and supplies, the changes in altitude and oxygen, and weather conditions?

We all know what could and probably would happen, and it’s not a welcoming thought. But so many of us do these same things when we’re too focused on everyone and everything else but what we’re supposed to be focused on.

Earlier I mentioned Joel Osteen. Here’s an excerpt from his book “The Power of I Am: Two Words That Will Change Your Life Today“:

I decided that rather than typing that entire section, I would just share a snapshot for you to read, zoom in on, and focus for a moment. I hope you don’t mind. If you do, then please go purchase the book and enjoy reading it at your leisure. It’s available in many formats.

My aunt Valerie bought this book for me in October 2016. She bought my sister Alexandra one as well. My sister hasn’t embraced the love of reading books as I have, so her copy is at my home waiting for her. I truly believe that one day she will be inspired to read it. I’m positively speaking this into existence. Yes, it’s just that great of a book that I would love for her to read and reflect upon it. Hmmm does Joel have an audio version of this book? Maybe she can ingest this powerful message that way. Okay so I digressed. See what happens when we get distracted? Back to what I was saying….

This section in Joel Osteen’s book inspired me to write today’s message. Many of us feel like hamsters on wheels because we keep running in life like Joel did in his story, so focused on someone else that we miss our turn, opportunity, etc. I can always tell when I’ve lost focus, when I’m distracted—there’s uneasiness in my spirit, I don’t sleep well, I’m unsettled and anxious, and fear creeps in and drops off seeds of doubt—and then my eyes start looking around at what I lost, didn’t accomplish, let go, didn’t follow through on—and then my eyes focus on what others have, what they have accomplished, and where they get to go. It can be difficult to catch yourself from spiraling out of control. But it’s vital that you do.

Your life depends on you running your own race, staying in your lane, climbing your line, and making sure that you celebrate every achievement no matter how small and insignificant it may appear. It’s your achievement!

I wrap this message up with some final words from Joel Osteen’s book. Enjoy!

Celebrate you!

Thank you Mr. Osteen for sharing these moving and powerful, yet simple words. It’s amazing how simple can bring the boldest blessings.

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha Foreman Bryant/Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.
Joel Osteen excerpts are copyright protected by Joel Osteen 2015. FaithWords. Hachette Book Group.