Here's what's been going on at the ranch this week.  Sorry no horse photos!  It's been hot and I've been riding in the evening after it cools down but not the best lighting for photos.
What determines your success or failure, and whether you direct your life’s change or feel like a victim of it, comes down to CHOICE. You can choose to continue on with your life as you currently are living it, letting the external world and your past dictate what you experience, or you can choose to create your life to be everything that you have ever dreamed it could be.

Even if your excited about transforming your life, there is an important obstacle you need to address in order to be successful. That we are often our own worst enemies!  We let our own negative thoughts and actions keep us from living the life of our dreams.  We limit ourselves, which is why we seek personal growth, to be free of the pain we cause ourselves, to make better choices, to feel better about who we are becoming, to give ourselves permission to be our unique, powerful, authentic selves.

We all have changes we want to make in our lives and goals we want to reach, but often get stuck repeating the same “change cycle” over and over again. We experience this process of inspiration and resistance when we face a decision to change. 

Change Cycle
1.  Discontent--You grow increasingly unhappy and discontent with an area of your life. You “hang in there,” tolerate, ignore, repress, or otherwise deal with the circumstance because it is comfortable and familiar, and you fear change. 

2. Breaking Point—Eventually your level of discontent builds high enough that you cannot take it anymore. You reach a “breaking point,” either through exhaustion or due to a dramatic event occurring that triggers the break. 

3. Decision—You decide you’re ready to change and declare that you will no longer tolerate the undesirable situation. You take the first step toward change, giving you a short-lived sense of hope. 

4. Fear—Usually, shortly (or immediately) after your feelings of empowerment, you encounter your fear. You become uncomfortable and anxious about the idea of changing. You doubt your decision. Both options look bleak. You feel helpless, empty. 

5. Amnesia—The fear of change grows strong enough that it makes the original situation look much better than you originally thought. You perceive the original situation as less anxiety-producing than the change. You’re used to it; it’s comfortable; it’s familiar. Plus, it has become part of your identity, so you resist letting it go. You temporarily forget why you wanted to change it so badly. 

6. Backtracking—Most people choose to go back to or stick with the item they wished to change. You essentially talk yourself out of changing. 

Inevitably, you soon will find yourself unhappy and discontent once again. Your level of pain will continue to increase until you reach another breaking point, this time even more extreme and more painful. This cycle will continue until one of two things happen: 

Extreme Pain: You have a breaking point that is severe enough to push through the change cycle. For many people, unfortunately, it takes an extreme circumstance to push them to evolve, such as major financial loss, job loss, loss of a loved one, the ending of a relationship, a severe accident, or a nervous breakdown. 

Your True Self knows what you truly want and will lead you to it. If you resist changing long enough, something will happen in your life that will put you in a position where you have NO CHOICE but to change. 

Self-Honesty: You have the humbling experience of realizing that there’s a part of you that doesn’t really want to change. You are comfortable with your habits, with what you know. You have a lot of fear that holds you back. You have many self-limiting beliefs. You receive some sort of benefit from staying where you are. You are unhappy because you want to be unhappy. You are addicted to the situation. You believe your pain is you; it’s your story. You can see your resistance to letting it go. Only after reaching this level of self-honesty can you truly choose to change.

Personal power is directly related to personal responsibility.

Can you see how this change cycle has impacted your life? Are you ready for it to stop? Have you experienced change amnesia before? If so, you know that the more you move toward the changes you want the stronger your fear and resistance will become. Are you ready to take full responsibility of your life, even if it is hard, because you are tired of being dissatisfied? Are you ready to take responsibility for your life and create the life you dream of having? Are you at the point where you will accept nothing less than what you truly want? 

Consider the following reasons you may have been allowing yourself to fall victim to this cycle: 

You don’t want to change. You don’t really want the thing you think you want. You may be trying to convince yourself to change to appease others or conform to what you believe you “should” do. If you don’t want to change, accept it. This is very common with people who say they want to quit smoking. They don’t really want to quit, they simply think they should quit. It never works. You have to want it. 

You don’t know what you want. You don’t know what you really want or you’re not allowing yourself to think about what you really want because you don’t think you can have it. So, you end up thinking you want things that aren’t what you TRULY want, and your True Self knows it. You’ll never feel inspired enough to follow through on change if it isn’t even what you want. Try imagining what you would want if time, money, and people did not limit you. 

Your dream isn’t big enough. The reward isn’t big enough. You aren’t excited. Happiness is excitement. Passion is what makes you willing to endure to attain a goal. What would you do anything to attain? 

You’re letting your fear be bigger than you. You don’t believe you can do it. You don’t trust yourself. You put everyone else before yourself. You’d rather tolerate severe pain than face temporary discomfort. Are you really willing to settle? Isn’t the fear of being stuck in a life you don’t want and missing out on your dreams more painful than the temporary experience of changing? 

You are attached to your problem. Your ego and identity are wrapped up in your problem, and you fear that if you let go of your problem you’ll have nothing to talk about. Who would you be? Would it be better? 

You’re benefiting from your problem. The benefit you’re receiving from not changing is bigger than your perceived benefit from changing. It gives you an excuse and something to talk about. It allows you to hide deeper issues from yourself and others. 

What are you holding onto? How does it benefit you to not change? Failure no longer has to be an option. Neither does doing nothing and staying stuck where you are. If you’re facing a potential change that’s nagging at you to be made, take some time in self reflection and be brutally honest with yourself. Is your desire for more, for fulfillment, for happiness finally strong enough that you are willing to encounter the obstacles and endure the fear? If so, congratulations, you will succeed—you are ready to break through!

If you have signed up for this blog you received with it a change worksheet. If you would like to receive these worksheets please sign up for this blog and they will be sent to you. 

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Bernice Walsh McLaughlin won the Canadian Rodeo Champion High Jump contest in 1911, setting a new record. According to the book, Buried Treasures: Famous and Unusual Gravesites in New Mexico History, she cleared 6’2” on a borrowed cowpony named Smokey.

She was a natural horsewoman, winning numerous jumping contests and relay races. Raised doing ranch work, she and her husband homesteaded in New Mexico. After he died, Bernice managed to keep the ranch and increase its size and success, despite challenges to her citizenship status.

She was a devoted horse woman to the very end. At 93, Bernice asked that her son-in-law drive his stagecoach by her hospital window so she could see the horses before he drove them in a local parade. A book has been written on her life entitled, Prairie Trails of Miz Mac by Rhonda Coy Sedgwick.
Everything can change in a moment.  Ranching you learn firsthand that we have little control over the outer weather patterns as we make our way through the landscape of a life.  We live in a whirlwind of change and change continually lives within us.  Life is always changing and we are continually changing with it.

In the last few months my entire life has been turned upside down like a tornado coming through it flinging different aspects of my life in a variety of different directions.  I have truly experienced a vast amount of change in a short period of time – from calving in blizzard conditions in April; calving, job hunting (because the ranch I was working on in Montana lost their lease), graduating and marrying my son off, falling head over heels in love myself, and moving to a new job on a ranch in northwestern South Dakota in May; branding, being interviewed by French reporters for Marie Claire Magazine and sending my son off to Army boot camp in June; to haying, chopping silage with South Africans and being diagnosed with breast cancer in July.  In three months time everything in my life has completely changed offering much “grist for the mill” in blog posts to yet share.

With each change we are given a choice, go with the flow or fight against the currents.  After all these years of being changed by loss and love and life itself, I still resist the forces of change in my life, attached to the way things are no matter how ridiculous or destructive they have become.  I think it’s instinctual to tighten our grip when everything feels out of control.  Going with the flow can seem frightening, it’s a leap of faith because we don’t know where the currents may take us and yet resisting is even more exhausting as we struggle to try to stay in the same place.  Yet with each new change, time and time, again I am reminded that life is uncertain and that the goal is not to become more certain but to have faith, surrender to God and allow his will to unfold.
Cancer is one of those rare life changing events that Ram Dass would call “fierce grace”, when you bear the unbearable and something within you dies.  That something can either be my own ego and stubborn pride and I can turn this life changing event of misfortune into insight and healing; or I can choose to let fear take over killing the more loving and compassionate part of me and instead become bitter, more reactive, and cynical.  I’m striving for fierce grace!

We can become the masters of our own inner landscape and use what happens on the outside to change the way we function on the inside.  As a new found South African friend has reminded me – being happy is a choice and only you can make and live that decision.  Change and loss may still knock us off the horse, but soon we are back in the saddle, stronger and wiser than ever, with a greater insight, humility, strength of character and a deeper faith in the meaningfulness of life.

I look forward to having more time to write in the near future, catching you up on all the recent changes and sharing this journey with you, as often telling our story helps us feel connected to others as we go through difficult times.  When we can share with fellow wayfarers, sharing our trials and revelations and listening to theirs, our struggles seem less like personal vendettas and more like myths in the making. (Written for Montana Ranch Girl)
To me the American cowgirl is the epitome of freedom and independence.  When these women first put their butt in the saddle and looked at the world from the back of a horse, there was no holding them back.  They were and still are today fiercely independent women with a passion for life and the spirit of adventure, who choose to authentically live life on their own terms instead of fitting into societal and cultural norms.  No one can confine their spirits; these are women who develop their own ideas about life, live by their own rules and have the courage to fulfill their dreams.  Strong women who are capable of handling almost any situation as well as a gun.

The American cowgirl is timeless and I hope she inspires you as she inspires me to live life from your deepest heart’s desire, to be independent and self-sufficient in mind, body and soul.  Each of us have our own unique place in this world.  Take time today to celebrate what makes you, you – who you are and the gifts you bring to the world.  Independence is the freedom to just be you!  Independence doesn’t mean that we never join with others, but when we do so as an authentic individual we contribute much more to the greater whole and to this world than we do when we hide in or follow the crowd. We can only free ourselves by living a life that is true to who we are and by choosing to be independent of those who try to corral and fence our spirit in.  Saddle up and have the courage to declare freedom in all areas of your life – freedom from doubt, worry, fear, powerlessness and dependence on other.  It’s your life and only you can live it fully!  (Written for Montana Ranch Girl)

Photo is of Tad Lucas taken in 1925.

On the ranch I work on in eastern Montana there are pastures so vast that you can see or ride your horse endlessly for miles without encountering another human being or civilization.  The pastures are bountiful in their emptiness, offering the respite of solitude and the space for room to grow; wide open spaces to mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually just be me.  I easily find myself forced inward by the sparseness of what is outward and visible in all this land and sky, and once within find an expansiveness and openness that has allowed me to discover gifts in myself and others that are much harder to recognize or find while sitting in front of a computer or TV, shopping at the mall or lost in a crowd at a large event.

We tend to get so caught up in the daily grid that it is easy to lose sight of the big picture of our lives.  Here you can see for miles with the freedom of no visible boundaries which inspires me to dream of the endless possibilities in my own life.  While it may appear to be empty the land itself shows me that so many possibilities are inherent in the flow of the land from its dramatic draws that can’t be navigated by vehicle or ATV’s, to odd twists and cut banks and proud buttes.  There is also a wide variety of plant and animal life.  You never know if you will come across a rattlesnake, badger, antelope, hawk or sage grouse, reminding me that the possibilities are truly endless when you can see the emptiness of your own life as full of variety.

This is sacred space that returns me to the center of who I am, even when I myself cannot see the outer boundaries, where I find that what seems harsh at times and almost empty is merely open, a door and an reminder to me to return to a simpler holy state within myself where my heart and mind is just as open and vast.  (Written for Montana Ranch Girl)

Thursday my horse and I hit “terra firma” chasing a heifer down the fence line.  Our landing happened to be in the middle of a prickly pear patch. While I know God often teaches the most profound lessons through His creation and nature provides life lessons in a variety of different ways, it is a challenge to keep an open  mind and heart to what God has to say to me as I am pulling cactus spines out of myself and my horse (and will be for months to come).

The understanding that has eventually came to me is that while our path in life is often full of “prickly pear” situations, people and circumstances, we too like the cactus can adapt to the harshest environments successfully and even find beauty in them.  For the last few years my own life has been full of cactus to the point where I have felt like I was being pricked and poked wherever I stepped, but I’m coming to understand that I was put on this path to become strong enough to fulfill God’s purpose for me and at the end of the trail there is beauty in these unfriendly situations and my life like the cactus will once again bloom.  (Written in Montana Ranch Girl)

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