Why’s and Wherefore’s


I was talking to my roommate earlier today, and it occurred to me that I’ve never really had to “press through” to achieve a goal, like I am right now.  I’ve always worked hard and focused, but for the most part, success has come fairly readily.  I suspect this may be because I’ve chosen “safe” goals or goals within my “strength zone.”

IMG_7389However, today I’m pursing what Jim Collins calls a BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal – and it is proving MUCH more challenging than anything I’ve ever taken on before.  One thing that keeps me going whenever I quit (and I’ve quit several times) is remembering my “why.”


I have just finished a re-read of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, and I’ve been struck by how relevant it is to people at all stages of their journey.  Some of the reflection questions are best suited for people early in their journey, but the content challenged me in ways I didn’t quite anticipate.

I’ve written before about exploring your SHAPE, a concept described in The Purpose Driven Life, and I think understanding my SHAPE has helped me reach success so far.  It has helped me understand, in a personal sense, what God’s plan and design for me is.

In his new book Intentional Living, John Maxwell includes a chapter titled “Search Until You Find Your Why” – talking about understanding your purpose.  He says,

Every person was created to do his or her part to better mankind.  That includes you!

Every person has talents that will help him or her better mankind.  That includes you!

Every person is given an opportunity to better mankind.  That includes you!

Every person has a purpose for which he or she was created.  That includes you!

Every person must look within to discover his or her purpose.  That includes you!

While I believe this to be absolutely true, in the challenges I’m facing today, I’m finding that simply engaging my SHAPE is not quite enough.  I have to go deeper.


A piece of the puzzle that has become more important to me in recent days is understanding my “why.”
The truth is that I could aim my SHAPE at any number of issues, projects, plans, and causes.  While your “why” does overlap with your “Heart” (the H in SHAPE), I am finding that how I’ve defined Heart doesn’t engage my own personal motivations.

IMG_8396I have always externalized my passions – what needs in the world tug at my heart?  This is definitely a place to start, but as I mentioned, it hasn’t provided the staying power I need when achieving a goal that is proving more difficult, and there really are many, many noble causes that tug at me.

In the same chapter, John Maxwell gives three clues to finding your why:

  • What do you cry about?  “What causes so much discomfort that you are motivated to take action and do something to bring healing to that situation?”
  • What do you sing about?  “What makes you jump for joy or spontaneously break into song?”
  • What do you dream about?  “What if you could do something significant, something that would impact others and outlast you?”

These are the questions I’m engaging with today, questions that take me inside, that challenge me to go deeper than I have before.  These are questions that can be very uncomfortable and cause me to be very discontented with where I am and what I am investing my efforts into.

What is your “why”?  What are you doing today to pursue your purpose?



Would you like to know what makes me cry or sing, or what I dream about?  Find My Answers to John Maxwell’s Three “Why” Questions here.

Join the intentional living movement!  Click here to start your 7-day experiment with John Maxwell!

Discovering Your SHAPE – links and resources for exploring the five elements of your SHAPE

A post I wrote about Finding Your Purpose

Authors quoted:

  • Rick Warren – The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?
  • John Maxwell – Intentional Living: Choosing a Life that Matters
  • Jim Collins – Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

How to Make a Colossal Difference with a Small First Step


11896470_10207431612973654_1858578553449445777_oOne of my key motivations for writing is to make a difference in people’s lives with the aim of making this world a little better one person at a time.  This week, I have a guest post by one of my mentors that expresses precisely what I would like to share with you – no step in the direction of change is too small!  It is the step that matters.


By John C. Maxwell

Many people look at all that’s wrong in the world and mistakenly believe that they cannot make a difference. The challenges loom large, and they feel small. They believe they must do big things to have a life that matters. Or they think they have to reach a certain place in life from which to do something significant.

Does that seed of doubt exist in you? Have you ever found yourself thinking or saying, “I will only be able to make a difference . . .

“When I come up with a really big idea,

“When I get to a certain age,

“When I make enough money,

“When I reach a specific milestone in my career,

“When I’m famous,” or

“When I retire?”

None of these things is necessary before you can start to achieve significance. You may not realize it, but those hesitations are really nothing more than excuses. The only thing you need to achieve significance is to be intentional about starting—no matter where you are, who you are, or what you have. Do you believe that? You can’t make an impact sitting still. Former NFL coach Tony Dungy once told me, “Do the ordinary things better than anyone else and you will achieve excellence.” The same is true for significance. Begin by doing ordinary things.

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” That’s true. In fact, so does every human being’s first journey. As children, we had to learn how to take that first step in order to walk. We don’t think anything of it now, but it was a big deal then.

Every big thing that’s ever been done started with a first step.

When Neil Armstrong took his first walk on the moon, he stated, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” But the first steps of that achievement occurred decades before. We can’t get anywhere in life without taking that first small step. Sometimes the step is hard; other times it’s easy. But no matter what, you have to do it if you want to get anywhere in life.

You never know when something small that you do for others is going to expand into something big. That was true for Chris Kennedy, a golfer from Florida. In 2014, a friend nominated him to do the Ice Bucket Challenge for the charity of his choice. Kennedy passed along the challenge to his wife’s cousin Jeanette Senercia because the two liked to tease and challenge one another. Kennedy chose ALS as his charity because Jeanette’s husband suffered from the disease. Jeanette accepted the challenge, posted the video on her Facebook page, and nominated others.

That was a small start of something big. In today’s digital world we talk about things going viral. The term viral was coined because ideas and initiatives can spread quickly the way germs do. Almost anything that starts out as a single idea, a bold statement, a YouTube video, or a creative or memorable photo can gain vast popularity and quickly spread through word of mouth via the Internet.

The Ice Bucket Challenge soon went viral. If you somehow missed out on it, the idea was to either donate to the ALS Association or record a video of yourself being doused with ice water, and then challenge three other people to donate or get doused.

This turned out to be a brilliant idea to raise money for an important cause—to help fight a disease that many people otherwise might not have known about and would not have donated to see cured. I participated in the challenge. Sure, I was aware of the disease, but it wasn’t a charity I normally gave to. I was nominated by colleagues to take the challenge, and I was happy to participate.

Most people chose to give and get doused. When I accepted the challenge, I made a donation and asked three of my grandchildren to do the honors of soaking me. They used not one, but three, freezing cold buckets of water on me. Though I pleaded for compassion and warm water, the grandkids showed no mercy!

The best part is that over $113.3 million was donated between July and September of 2014 as a result of the ice bucket challenge, compared to $2.7 million dollars donated during the same period of time the previous year. On Facebook alone, over 28 million people uploaded, commented, or liked ice bucket related posts the last time I checked. The purpose of the campaign wasn’t just to raise money. It was about raising awareness. But they accomplished both with great intentionality.

What can you do now? As you think about making a difference, be willing to start small. You never know whether your passion-fueled idea will have an outcome similar to that of ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

~ Adapted from John C. Maxwell’s new book Intentional Living

  Alexandra Sifferlin, “Here’s How the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Actually Started,” Time, August 18, 2014, http://time.com/3136507/als-ice-bucket-challenge-started/, accessed January 29, 15.



Join the intentional living movement!  Click here to get started!

(Mis)Adventures on the National Mall


Even after more than 5 years, I am still amazed by where I live.  In the last couple of weeks, I’ve found myself on the National Mall for a few different reasons.

A Cause for Concern

The Washington Monument, seen from Constitution Avenue; photo by Tasha M. Troy

The Washington Monument, seen from Constitution Avenue; photo by Tasha M. Troy

Purely by chance, I found myself in the midst of the recent Million Man March.  There was a certain electricity in the air, an anger that was almost tangible.  I was alarmed by the slogan of the event, which I saw on t-shirt after t-shirt – “Justice or Else.”

This was not the first time I’ve felt that atmosphere of anger, standing in our nation’s capitol.  It makes me wonder if we are destined to dissolve into civil unrest, not listening to each other, not resolving any issues, simply imposing our own views upon the rest of society, each faction doing what is right in their own eyes without regard for any others.

A Glimmer of Hope

Washington Prayer Rally, October 12, 2015; photo by Tasha M. Troy

Washington Prayer Rally, October 12, 2015; photo by Tasha M. Troy

Two days after the Million Man March, I was witness to and participant in another event, again on the National Mall.  This was the second annual Washington Prayer Rally.  I heard songs and prayers in three different languages from several different ethnicities, and my hope was renewed.

Perhaps the angry voices are simply louder; voices for unity are calm and quiet, often soothing.  However, it is good to know I am not a lone voice.   Ok, really, I know I can’t be the only one calling for dialogue, for connective listening, for reconciliation, but sometimes it’s really refreshing to be in the physical presence of others who are calling for the same things.

Building Trust, Opening Dialogue

Washington Prayer Rally, October 12, 2015; photo by Tasha M. Troy

Washington Prayer Rally, October 12, 2015; photo by Tasha M. Troy

How can we make this world a better place?  What is one thing we can do as individuals to move towards justice and reconciliation?  It all starts with putting another person’s wellbeing before your own.  When we get out of our own perspective and consider the perspectives of others, we have made a start.  This never happens by accident.

With the launch of his newest book, John Maxwell is inviting people to join him in an effort to make intentional choices to do just this – to think of others first.  Are you ready to start making a difference in your home, workplace, and community?  Then I invite you to engage in a (free) 7-day experiment in intentional living.

In 10 minutes a day, you will start transforming your corner of the world.  As you begin to put others first and invest in their lives, they will begin to trust your intentions, and dialogue will then become possible.

Will you join John and me as we attempt to transform our communities, our nation, and our world?


Join the intentional living movement!  Click here to get started!


Transformational Trust


When I was in Haiti a couple of weeks ago, the local people kept their distance from my team at first but warmed up to us as the week passed.  We originally thought it was shyness, especially on the part of the children, but later we were told that not all groups that come to Haiti come with the best benefit of the Haitians in mind.  Many come with a superior attitude, which comes across even when not expressed in words.

In a word, they didn’t trust us when we first arrived.

Trust – a function of character

Stephen M. R. Covey, in his book The Speed of Trust, talks about character and breaks it down into integrity (walking your talk) and intent (having motives of mutual benefit).

It seems to me that Mr. Covey enjoys breaking concepts into small pieces.  He has further divided integrity into courage – when you don’t let fear stop you from taking action, humility – when you put others first, and congruence – when your words and your actions are in alignment.

He also divided intent into motive – our goals, agenda – how we intend to achieve those goals, and behavior – the actions we take to achieve those goals.  I think this is where the mission team excelled; we had one goal – to serve the missionaries and the local churches.

Happily, in watching my team, I saw the members display all of these characteristics:

  • Character.001Courage – for some of our team members, this was their first time leaving the US or being in such a rural, underdeveloped region; it took great courage to step out and join the team.  I was very proud of how the team accepted the rustic conditions.
  • Humility – the team went with the purpose of serving the missionaries and the local pastors, not of imposing our own view of how things should be done.
  • Congruence – we not only purposed but also enacted an attitude of service.
  • Motive – we were there, not to exploit the local Haitians but to do what was asked of us.
  • Agenda – we intentionally did not come with our own agenda but tied our activities to our local contact’s agenda for us.
  • Behavior – we embraced the agenda provided for us and put all our effort into doing an excellent job.

IMG_8119It was only through observing our intentions through how we interacted with them that the Haitians were able to trust us.  By the end of the week, we had formed some wonderful relationships despite the language barrier, in large part due to the team living out a high standard of character.

What about home?

Often, it is easier to put on your best behavior when you know you are on mission for a short period of time.  The real test comes in the mundane, everyday situations we all face.

With every situation, we always have a choice – will we be intentional in choosing the way that benefits all, or will we choose the way that only benefits ourselves?



Nothing changes by accident.  If you would like to make some intentional changes in your relationships at home and work, I would like to invite you to participate in a free 7-day experiment in intentional living, hosted by John Maxwell.  Click here to get started!

The Speed of Trust, by Stephen M. R. Covey with Rebecca R. Merrill


The Journey of Success – Know Yourself


Everyone wants to be successful, but what is that separates the truly successful from the rest?  John Maxwell says that success is a journey, not a destination.  Over the next few months, I want to explore what that journey might entail.


Huntley Meadows; Photo by Tasha M. Troy

I’ve identified four stages in the journey of success:

  1. Know Yourself
  2. Define Success
  3. Develop the Vision
  4. Pursue the Goal with Determination


Today I’ll start by describing the first stage, and in future posts I’ll describe the other stages.

Stage 1: Know Yourself

What does it mean to know yourself?  I mean, you spend 24/7 with yourself; if you don’t know yourself by now, when will you?

Actually, I have found that a lot of people are not particularly reflective and don’t take the time to understand who they are, their strengths and weaknesses, their passions and motivations.  A tool I found in Pastor Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life has been very helpful to me in organizing my view of myself.  He talks about being “Shaped for Service,” SHAPE being an acronym:

  • S – spiritual gifts: the innate gifts God has placed within each of us for the purpose of touching the lives of others
  • H – heart / passions: the key motivations that drive us
  • A – abilities: the skills we have acquired
  • P – personality: the way we interact with the world
  • E – experiences: the things we have gone through, both good and bad

Years ago I started a journal to track my SHAPE, and I revisit it whenever I am facing major life decisions or go through major life events.  It has been very helpful in making intentional choices that line up with how I believe God designed me.  For example, my decision to start writing this blog was in line with my SHAPE:

  • Photo by Tasha M. Troy

    Photo by Tasha M. Troy

    Spiritual gifts:  teaching, giving, encouraging – My goal in writing this blog is to encourage people to communicate more effectively and to teach them the strategies they need.

  • Heart: to be a bridge – The title of this blog reflects my passion to bring individuals and groups together that might not otherwise connect.
  • Abilities:  communicate in writing, build stronger relationships – I have been intentionally building my skills in the area of relationship development and connecting with others, and I am happy to share my learning experiences to help others.
  • Personality:  INFJ according to Myers-Briggs – Part of the description of my personality type is that we express ourselves more easily through writing.
  • Experience:  over 10 years teaching professional communication skills – I have spent more than half of my career developing and teaching the communication skills I write about in this blog, working with hundreds of adults to help them become more effective communicators.

More recently, I have begun discovering new tools for exploring the different elements of my SHAPE.  You will find some of them here:  Discovering Your SHAPE.

In my opinion, a major key to living an intentional life is understanding yourself.  You can not intentionally pursue a life of purpose if you won’t take the time to understand your strengths and weaknesses, your passions and motivations.  I challenge you to take some time today to explore your own SHAPE – I can promise you will find it a helpful exercise.



If you are interested in working though and applying your SHAPE with me, I can offer you a free exploratory coaching session.  I have a few activities that are intended to help you identify different elements of your SHAPE.  Contact me at tasham.troy@gmail.com to schedule a free 30-minute session.

Discovering Your SHAPE

A Life of Purpose – A TED Talk by Pastor Rick Warren


An Intentional Pursuit


I have always been a planner, and I’m usually pretty proactive in pursuing my plan.

By the time I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to live in another country, so I pursued a major I believed would allow me to function in that country – a major in Spanish with a minor in French.  Before long I realized that I would be equipped to communicate but not to earn a living, so I continued my education with a master’s degree in teaching English as a second language; I would now be paid by organizations to live in other countries.


Pursuing a dream

together in subway

On the Seoul Metro; photo provided by Tasha M. Troy

Upon graduation, I eventually obtained a job in my field in my hometown, but I still had my sights on teaching abroad.  I explored a couple of different opportunities before I accepted a position teaching in South Korea.

By the age of 29, I had achieved my goal of living overseas!

But what was next?

A new direction

For a number of years in Korea, I drifted from one job to another, simply following the opportunities that presented themselves without any intention behind it.  I was fortunate that my drifting brought me to a job that introduced me to my teaching niche – helping professionals improve their communication skills in order to increase their effectiveness.

When I eventually left that position, I wondered how I could continue meeting the needs of international professionals.  I started thinking about teaching online, and this gave me a new sense of purpose, a new direction to travel in.


Pursuit of a new dream

I got to work immediately!  I obtained a teaching position that allowed me to continue working with the same demographic – adult professionals who want to improve their effectiveness in communicating in professional settings.

I next completed a certificate in online teaching and later enrolled in a graduate program that allowed me to learn both video production and designing an online learning environment.

I was building the skill-set I needed to accomplish my plan.

IMG_7447As I moved toward my goals, my vision expanded.  I observed that the communication skills I was honing in myself and teaching my classes were needed by a much larger audience.  Then I discovered the joy and power of blogging.

Today I am intentionally pursuing this larger goal, of helping the world communicate better, especially in situations where there is disagreement and conflict.  I continue to hone my own skills while sharing my experiences and my learnings.

C. S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “You are never to old to set a new goal or to dream a new dream.”  What are you dreaming for your life today?  What intentional steps are you taking in the direction of your dreams?






More details about my early pursuit: What does it take to achieve a dream?