Energy Wasters

Ready To Go Green?

Several years ago, when I was working in the schools, I stopped by a friend’s classroom at the end of the day to catch up. As we were chatting, he was moving around the room cleaning up. At one point, he stopped, picked up a spoon and said, “This is an energy waster. Out it goes.” and dropped it in the trash. I about fell over. It was a real spoon. Why would he throw it away? And what was an energy waster??

I asked. He answered. “An energy waster is that thing that every time you see it you think, ‘I need to do something about that’, but you never do. So it just uses your mental and emotional energy over and over again.” Hmmm. Quite a concept.

Can you think of things in your life that continue to use your energy with no payoff? For my friend, he had been looking at that spoon for weeks, always thinking that he needed to return it to it’s rightful location – which was not his classroom. And after all that time, he decided that spoon wasn’t worth the energy he was spending thinking about it OR the energy it would take to return it and so into the trash it went.

This concept has revolutionized my life. There is great freedom to be found when you can see something as a waste of energy and then eliminate it. That paintbrush that’s been sitting on the counter for weeks. The one screw that needs to be put away. The shirt that just needs the button sewed on. The broken vase that actually won’t be easy to fix. The email flooding your inbox. When the light bulb goes off and you can call a spade a spade, you are able to commit to get it done! Whatever it might be. #maybeaspoonSilver spoon over white.

It’s definitely hard for me sometimes, don’t be fooled. I grew up with a deeply bred value of not wasting anything. So throwing away something that could actually be repaired or repurposed feels wasteful. The irony is that in trying NOT to be wasteful, I’ve been wasting MY OWN ENERGY. Sheesh! Time to end the cycle, don’t you think?

In the meantime, I have come to accept that some things really are trash. So, out they go!! Hurray!! And allowed others to be donated to someone who does want to spend the energy doing the refurbish. The best part is that all the keepers – those little things that sit out waiting to be put away or the tasks that just need a little finishing – get done a lot faster now. Energy efficiency at its finest.

I was able to share the energy waster concept with a client recently. She had a broken picture frame to be returned to the store. It had been sitting on her table for weeks. And every time she saw it she felt stressed, annoyed and ashamed. “I really need to exchange that. What a pain. I should have returned it weeks ago.” What a waste of good energy!

Mountain Top HurrayFor her, this was equally freeing. In fact, she immediately announced, “I don’t need to hear anything else today. This is a game changer!” I could see the wheels turning as she thought about all the things in her life that were energy wasters. Her excitement to eliminate unnecessary output was contagious. Score!

Game changer indeed. Each time I recognize those little zappers, I’m thankful for the wisdom of my friend. 🙂

What are the energy wasting spoons in your life? What other bits of wisdom have you been given that have been your game changers?

What Does It Mean to Be An Encourager?

Five Ways to Champion Your People

A man helping another up the mountain

Sometime in my twenties, I started thinking about encouragement. My guess is that it was the result of a bible study I was part of. Regardless, I remember a time when I did not think about encouragement and a time when I began to. I think the question that started it all was something like this, “who encourages you?” or maybe, “where do you find encouragement?” or even, “how do you encourage others?”

The question has remained with me for the last 20 years. #cough #iliketothinkilookyounger As a result of my pondering, I came to the realization that 1. I am not a particularly encouraging person and 2. I have friends who are natural born encouragers. Discovering that about myself and recognizing the characteristic in others was a pivotal moment in my life. I recognized just how meaningful this gift was when I was the recipient and determined that I could learn how to do it better.

As a school counselor, I would teach my students about the importance of encouragement. I would say, “to encourage others means to fill them with courage, so that they can do what it is they might fear.” This resonates with children. They want to love each other and they certainly understand fear. And for me. To just say those words creates an energy in me that is in itself uplifting. Because things scare me. And I need help to be brave.

To encourage others means to fill them with courage, so that they can do what it is they fear. Share on X

In writing this post, I decided to see what the dictionary has to say about encouragement. Here are some of the synonyms I found: hearten, cheer, buoy up, uplift, inspire, motivate, spur on, fire up, stimulate, invigorate, vitalize, embolden, fortify, rally, support, help, champion, promote, further, foster, nurture, cultivate, strengthen, boost, fuel, persuade, coax, urge, influence. Don’t you just love those words!?! Do they fire you up like they do me?

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”                          ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11

I don’t think one person would disagree that to encourage others is a necessary and good thing. So, if you are like me, and you have to learn how to do this better, where do you start?

It seems as if encouragement often shows up as the friend who knows you are going through a hard time and calls to check on you, the sibling who answers your midnight phone call and talks you down off the proverbial ledge, the colleague who notices the effort that went into your presentation and commends you for it, the parent who recognizes how much you improved even if you didn’t win, or maybe the sweetheart who reminds you of why they chose you when rejection looms. Do any of these sound familiar? Are you thinking of a thousand more examples?

Although I can and do do these kinds of things for others, I realized that a true encourager does them without effort. There is a giving of their heart that seems to focus only on the pain you are suffering or joy you feel and not their own agenda. The hurdle I strive to overcome is that of realist, or fixer. I find that I get distracted by looking forward instead of staying in the present. In counseling or parenting or relationship building we call that attunement. To be attuned to the feelings and affect of others gives us opportunity to connect on a deep level, to offer comfort, to love well.

Think for a minute about the people in your life. Who do you turn to when the world goes topsy-turvy? Who would you ask to be with you in a crisis? What is it about them that is so comforting? Are they an encourager? What qualities do they have that we can practice?

Here are five things my own encourager role models do that we can all learn.

1. Listen well. Encouragers listen to discover what it is their friend is experiencing. Then they speak to that feeling or experience, hurt or need.
2. Focus on your friend. People who are encouraging have learned how to set aside their own agenda. They stay in the moment, attuning to the person with whom they want to connect and hearten. #lovethatword
3. Notice people. Encouragers have a special knack for noticing people. But this is something we can all learn. It is about paying attention and making a point to remember things about others so that we can speak to who they are. Encouragers have a way of saying “I see you!” This is powerful!! Here are a few more ideas on noticing.
4. Be intentional. Making a decision to communicate hope and courage to others is a wonderful first step in encouraging. Commit to find one person every day who can be encouraged by your words and attention to them.
5. Don’t discriminate. Encouragement isn’t just for people who are struggling. Remember to offer words and gestures that inspire, spur on, embolden, fortify, champion and nurture people when they are up, down or somewhere in the middle. Fill them with the courage they need to continue down the path.

If you have been blessed by encouraging friends and family, or maybe you have experienced a lack of encouragement in hard times, how has that impacted you? What have you been told was an encouragement to someone else? What is one example of how you have been encouraged by another? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how this plays out in your own life.


The Conspiracy of Kindness…

Kindness Quote by Aesop

Close to 20 years ago, I read a book entitled, Conspiracy of Kindness, by Steve Sjogren. It has stayed with me ever since. The author’s premise is that we share the love of Christ and evangelize the world through our intentional kindness to others.

Kindness. Why does it stand out? What makes it different from general niceness? The dictionary defines kind as: mild, benign, gentle, tender, compassionate. Kind, gracious, kindhearted, kindly imply a sympathetic attitude toward others, and a willingness to do good or give pleasure. Kind implies a deep-seated characteristic shown either habitually or on occasion by considerate behavior.

Toby Mac, the Christian singer/songwriter, says, “We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another.” There is so much power and beauty in that statement.

Think about the people you are most drawn to. Are they kind? Do they have a generosity and graciousness about them that puts others first? A sincerity that is deeply felt? A deep-seated characteristic of compassion? Many years ago, I came to understand that this is what kindness looks like. As to man, kindness draws others to God. And thus, Steve Sjogren’s book invaded my heart and mind, caught hold and never let go.

I wish I could say that I am always kind. That Sjogren’s words and those of the gospel have made me perfect in this regard. What is true is that I deeply hold to the value of and mission to be kind to others, but I also deeply hold to my own agenda – self preservation. And thus the two are in constant battle.

However, there are moments when my heart is at rest and I am willing to hear the voice of the Author of kindness call me forth to take up His agenda.

TrafficMuch of the time this battle rages in my car. As I am in a perpetual rush to get from point A to point B, fighting traffic and wondering if driver’s licenses are mail-order only, my agenda is in full force. Overdrive, if you will. And yet, it is in my car that I find myself face to face with humanity. And people who need kindness.

Every street corner in the city is home to someone begging for enough something to get through the day. Although I know that many of these people are there because of their choices and remain so because of more choices, my heart continually goes out to them. I think, this is what they have become? This is the only option? What is it that happened in their life to bring them here? How hard must that reality be. And I seek to be kind. What can I offer that will make a lasting difference? What can I do to point them to the One who can redeem them in this hard life?

Recently, I had a new encounter. A new opportunity to wonder about what kindness looks like.

I was driving to work, making my way through traffic and around potholes, excitedly heading for the green light. For some reason, the cars in front of me were backed up into the intersection. They seemed to be going around something in the crosswalk. I could see a man standing on the corner and assumed it was a new sinkhole in the street they were avoiding. Both lanes of traffic were stopped to accommodate the cars in front of me that were changing lanes. As the car directly in front of me cleared the intersection, I saw what it was they were driving around.

Green Walk SignalThe man I had thought was standing on the corner, was in fact, in the middle of the crosswalk. My perspective from down the street had been wrong. Why was he in the crosswalk? Was he drunk? Crazy? Uncaring? People with all of those reasons often walk in front of traffic here. No. One look at this man, and it was apparent – he must have been in his late 70’s, although life could have aged a much younger man to look as old. The left side of his body was clearly affected by a severe stroke, as evidenced by his twisted left hand, the cane in his right and his painstakingly slow shuffles across the street. This man was in the crosswalk because he was not physically able to cross the street in the time allowed by the lights. And the people in front of me? Instead of waiting, they perpetuated the problem by driving in front of him to get to work on time. He was stuck.

Oh. Kindness. What does it look like? Here I was, idling in the middle of the intersection. In the medical center. Where emergency vehicles often race lights and sirens to get to the ERs. But how could I not let that man cross? If I would wait and give him the go-ahead to walk just a few more steps, he would be in front of the vehicle waiting next to me and I could clear the street. This was no skin off my nose. In my opinion, it was the only choice. My heart had broken to find him here, in this dangerous predicament, with others who would not wait.

As I made my way down the street, I wondered at his story. Why was he there? What was around for him to be making his way? This was not a common crossing area at such a busy intersection during rush-hour traffic. And it hit me. He was wearing a veterans baseball cap. And making his way to the VA across the street! Where he came from I do not know, but I now knew where he was heading.

I often pass people in need that I would love to pick up and take someplace safe, but I do not. I have to consider the risks. This time I weighed them, turned my car around and drove back to the intersection. I reasoned that this man, elderly and disabled, crossing to the VA at 8:30 on a busy Wednesday morning would be worth the risk of offering him a ride. As I pulled up to the red light, he was stopped in the middle of the median, too far for me to speak to without yelling. So I called to him. I asked where he was going. He pointed to the VA. I asked if he wanted a ride. He shook his head no. And I went on my way.

I left him, wondering if I had done the right thing. If there was something more I should have done. But I knew that I had done all that I could in that moment. That I hadn’t let the opportunity pass me by, as I have so many times before.

Today, I heard a former Muslim speak at church. Nabeel Qureshi was raised a devout believer of Islam. Today, as a believer in Christ, he recounted the story of a time when a high school peer shared the gospel with him. Although the encounter did not result in his conversion, it impacted him greatly. Betsy shared her faith with him and he refuted it. But it was the dozens of other Christians who were silent that left him pause. He said, “if it is true that Christians believe the only way to heaven is by Jesus Christ and anyone who does not know Him will go to hell, why would they not tell others about him? I concluded it must be one of two reasons 1. they do not really believe that it is true or 2. they do not care if I go to hell.”

Holding HandsIf I believe that Jesus Christ is the only answer to a hurting and dying world, why do I not share the gospel with others? If I really believe Matthew 22:39, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, how do I do that? I have come to know that when I offer kindness to others, I do that very thing. I am grateful for the times I hear the Voice and am willing to respond. I wish I could say those stars aligned more frequently.

I am always looking for new ways to be kind. I need to have ideas on hand for those unexpected opportunities. What kind things do you do for others? Would you have done something differently for the man in the street? What have others done for you that has made a lasting impression? How do you share the love and kindness of Christ with friends and strangers alike?


Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (New York: Random House, Inc., 2012)

Guest Book Review: by Colleen Robison @

Back in February 2015, I had the opportunity to attend a week-long Caribbean cruise with a business group of close to 90 people, making up a small portion of the close to 2,000 total people on the ship. Unfortunately, halfway through the wonderful time that I was having I began to feel trapped, uncomfortable in my own skin and on the verge of a full body panic attack. The beautiful scenery, the wonderful people and the delicious (and abundant) food were not able to soothe my soul.

I am an introvert. A quiet, thoughtful introvert. An introvert who dislikes crowds, strangers, and small talk. An introvert who had willingly and excitedly signed up for a week long vacation of crowds, strangers and small talk.

Thankfully, I was also surrounded by understanding strangers, one of whom recommended the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

In a world that is loud, crazy and of the opinion that you too must be loud and crazy to succeed, Cain shows proof through her storytelling that there is a place and a need for the quiet, thoughtful, introverts of the world. She weaves fact and research through stories of introverts like Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Moses, Rosa Parks, Theodor Geisel a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, Charles Darwin, Einstein and Gandhi, just to name a few. She helps guide the introvert living in the extrovert world. She explains why you might struggle and stutter and flub an impromptu presentation, but if given a little time to prepare, you will rock the audiences’ socks off. She gives tips on how to get through a dinner party with your sanity intact and maybe even leave the party having made a new connection instead of having spent the whole time hiding in the bathroom (if you even got out of your car at all). Quiet explains the differences between the extroverts and introverts and provides proof that the world needs both.

I began reading Quiet as soon as I set foot off the cruise ship. By the end, I walked away with a deeper understanding of who I am and an acceptance that it’s okay to be who I am. I also walked away with skills to adopt an extrovert mask when necessary without being deceitful of my true, quiet self.

P.S. I salvaged that last half of the cruise by taking a little quiet time to myself everyday to recharge and had the most wonderful time! Just in case you were wondering!

“’Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling’, said Jung, ‘extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough.’” – Susan Cain

“Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.” – Susan Cain

Powerful Words

Powerful Words (Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Press, 2015)

My good friend and colleague, Dr. Clark Gaither knocks it out of the park with his inaugural book launch! Powerful Words is an inspiring and powerful read that testifies to the ability we each have in choosing the direction of our lives. Clark’s vulnerability in sharing his own story, struggles and triumphs is powerful in itself. I laughed, cried and mused my way through his manuscript. Not only, did Clark provide clear examples and moving testimonies to make his points, but he also, offers opportunities at the end of each chapter to give thoughtful application to the information just consumed by the reader. He does a wonderful job encouraging the reader to take up hope and move forward to the life he truly wants to have. Encouragement, exhortation and genuine care for others pours forth from the pages like the Powerful Words they are!

Hidden Food Allergies

Hidden Food Allergies (Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications, Inc., 2006)

Several years ago, I was introduced to the idea of food allergies and intolerances. Not really understanding that foods could create symptoms in our bodies beyond those causing anaphylactic shock, I was to embark on a journey that would ultimately change my health and my life.

I had been living with various physical symptoms that I never thought could have a common cause or be healed until I read this book. Many of which I wasn’t even aware of until they were gone!

The authors have done a wonderful job explaining what food allergies and intolerances are. They clarify how an allergen creates inflammation in the body that causes symptoms like asthma, headaches, skin disorders, GI tract difficulties, fatigue and difficulty losing weight, to name a few. Finally, they complete the book by providing practical and necessary ways to promote permanent healing in the body.

I wish I had found this information many years ago and that I had read the book in its entirety when I started eating to heal. This book will remain a resource in my library and on my recommendation list for years to come.

What’s In A Name?

Seven Ways to Help You Remember Them

Hello Name Tag

When I was about 15 years old, I went to the hardware store with my father. As we were checking out, I took note of my dad’s farewell, “Thank you Joe. Have a great day!” As we walked away, I asked, “Dad, do you know him?” “No.” “Then how do you know his name?” I asked the question with the annoyance of the teenager who thinks everything her father does is another attempt to embarrass her personally. And my dad spoke to EVERYONE. BY NAME. ALL THE TIME. ARG! I had had enough. He needed to know how ridiculous and unnecessary his behavior was. It was my turn to school him.

My dad’s answer to my question? “It was on his name tag. And it feels good to be called by name. Like we really matter.” Bam! Pivotal life moment.

I realized that my dad was right. Being called by our name holds more power than we can explain. In the past 30 years I have experienced it’s power over and over again: from the high school counselor who regularly announced my name at awards programs as ERN, to the doctor who had his nurse rewrite my chart because he noticed I had spelled it differently. I have a hard name. People have been mispronouncing and misspelling it my entire life. Erin is not well known as a girl’s name and therefore difficult to pronounce, spell and identify gender. And Robison really does people in. Even when someone recognizes it doesn’t have an “n” in the middle, they can’t seem to wrap their head around correct pronunciation. So the person who gets it right, wins major points with me.

That day in the hardware store, my father’s words hit a nerve. Not the annoyed “nobody ever gets my name right” kind of nerve, but the, “hey, that really is true” kind. It was the spark that would eventually change the way I interact with people.

Fast forward to college. At a school of 45,000 students, involvement is what keeps you from being just a number. So making my first student organization one with over 300 members was an exciting but daunting experience. However, when Greg Flynn greeted me by name, I fully grasped the power of his words. Greg was a name guy. He met hundreds of people every month and knew their names forever. It is what made him like-able, approachable and kind. I can close my eyes and experience that moment like it was yesterday. “Hey Erin! So glad you are here!” My intimidating new world just got a lot smaller. And when he continued to do the same for EVERY member he encountered, I remembered, and most importantly, experienced my dad’s words. And their power.

The third, and ultimately life changing, event happened a year later. Our application for Orientation Leaders included a recent picture. I don’t remember if we were interviewed or not. But when I was accepted and attended the first mixer to meet the other members, every Exec welcomed me by name. I discovered later that they had spent the semester memorizing our names and faces using those pictures. All 350 of us. That was the lynch pin for me.

I have carried each of those experiences with me for the past 25+ years. But more than that, I have incorporated the lesson into the way I live my life. In doing so, I have continued to see first hand the power of being called by name. The number of times a cashier has looked at me with surprise and curiosity, when greeted by name, is too many to count. And the looks of pleasure and affirmation that replaced the surprise are equally numerous.

I have discovered that to call someone by their name creates a connection in a unique way. The customer service representative who changes their tone and goes the extra mile, simply because I humanized them and made them feel important. The child who is amazed that I can remember their name out of 800, when I all I did was surreptitiously read the tag hanging from their shirt. The homeless man on the corner whose eyes light up when I, probably the first person in hundreds, ask his name. These people are forever changed by such a simple thing. I know because I have experienced it. By my own right and in their presence.

Shakespeare says, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, suggesting it matters not that Romeo is a Montague and Juliet a Capulet. While that may be true for his purposes of star-crossed love, I think that names are of the utmost importance.

Roses with Isaiah 43:1The scriptures say, “I have called you by name. You are mine.” ~ Isaiah 43:1 The Redeemer of Israel, the One who created us, who knew us before the world was made, knows our name. He calls it. We are His children.

When I was working in the schools, I would say to my students, “If I call you “kid” or “student”, how does that feel?” You can imagine the giggling responses. “Ms. Robison, you wouldn’t do that!” Taking the time to learn and remember someone’s name is one of the greatest kindnesses we can pay.

So, I’m a name guy, er, gal. I am blessed with a good memory, but I have also learned how to do this well. What about someone who has a hard time remembering names? Notice, I didn’t say can’t. That word doesn’t apply. We can and do things that matter. Just because it is important to me and I teach it and I have a pretty good memory doesn’t mean I am perfect. But I have found ways to help, because I think it makes a difference.

1. Visualize their name when they say it. I’m a visual learner. And I find that if I know how to spell a name, I am much more likely to remember it. “But what if his name is John?” Hello, we live in a world FULL of creative spellings. So, said with genuine interest, the following always works: “How do you spell your name? Oh, the traditional way! (insert chuckle) Does anyone ever spell it wrong or just me? You never know anymore with so many creative parents out there….” See how such a simple question turns into a fun conversation? That alone will help you the next time you see John. By the way, I know someone named Mykl (Michael). #creative

2. Write it down. If you know you will run into this person later, take a minute to write down their name. With a smart phone at hand, you don’t even have to carry a pen. I have a list inside my kitchen cupboard with all the apartment numbers in my stairwell. When I meet a new neighbor, I simply write their name next to their number. And periodically I reference my list. Its amazing how quickly you can break through barriers by greeting your neighbor by name.

Pigs in a barn3. Associate. My little nephew thought Ms. Peggy said “oink, oink”. No, IP, not Ms. Piggy. But you can guarantee my sister will never forget Ms. Peggy’s name! Or, Lisa Marie, “thank you! thank you very much!” Elvis never goes out of style. Create associations for names you need to remember.

4. Use the alphabet. Remember the spelling visualization tip I mentioned? When I’m having trouble remembering a name, I simply focus and work through the alphabet. This is a fool proof trick. You have to concentrate on each letter and allow your brain to tell you if that letter feels right or not. If I get to the right letter and can’t remember the name, I start thinking of names that begin with that letter. You can train your brain to do this. “A? B? C?…”

What about those dreaded moments when you can’t remember the name of someone you have already met? Try these tips.

1. Introduce yourself, again. Chances are they don’t remember your name either. “Hey, my name’s Erin, by the way. I know it’s hard to remember everyone you meet.” Nine times out of 10, you will see a relieved expression and they will tell you their name again, too. And if they don’t, just graciously ask. Don’t be the guy on the 6th floor calling Chandler “Toby” for three years because you were too embarrassed to get the facts straight. That never ends well. #alwaysarelevantFRIENDSreference

2. Enlist your wingman. If you forget the guy’s name, introduce your friend first. “Hi! This is my friend, Emily.” Sometimes there will be an awkward pause before said guy will then follow suit and introduce himself. If that’s the case, you apologize for being so rude, “Oh goodness, I’m so sorry! Where are my manners?!” But usually they will swiftly make the introduction and you have covered your own forgetfulness.

3. Create a plan beforehand. My friends with whom I wander about town have been instructed that if I don’t introduce them to a new person, that ALWAYS means I’ve forgotten their name. This is their cue to introduce themselves and let me take the fall for being so gauche. “I’m sorry, I thought you knew each other” or “Good grief, what is the matter with me?!” Which is another point – ALWAYS introduce people to each other. Don’t assume they have met OR they remember each others names. Miss Manners wrote the book on this necessary and oft forgotten social grace.

Years ago I knew a guy. I hung out with him at work events and through a close mutual friend, over the course of several years. After not having seen him for a few years we ran into each other again. “Hey Jeff! How are you? What have you been up to?” At the end of the conversation he said, “I’m sorry. What’s your name again?” Not cool, dude. This is when you wait and ask the mutual friend, who happens to be standing nearby, what my name is. I would have done better never knowing he had forgotten my name. What it communicated to me was that I wasn’t important. I’m sure that’s not what he intended, but nevertheless, that was the result.

We do what is important. We make time for things we value. None of us is perfect. But we all have the capacity to learn new things and treat others with kindness.

What little ways have you been impacted by others, as I have by names? What habit have you adopted because you see how much it blesses other people? When did someone remember you name and it has stayed with you since?