The Work of Forgiving

Today I thought we’d talk about a topic that’s important for any kind of relationship, but especially for family and romantic relationships, and also often challenging.  It’s a topic that can cause many people serious heart palpations because they’ve got stuff in their proverbial closets that they’ve hidden away and never want to be discovered of grudges long held or hurts they’ve received over the years.   Which is ironic because forgiveness is really meant to be a freedom and gift.  I’m sure that a deathbed regret many people have is that they held onto grudges for too long and didn’t release them and it hindered their living a full and satisfying life.  I don’t know about you, but that is a regret I don’t want to have on my deathbed. And if you see forgiving someone even if they won’t forgive you as an issue, don’t.  While forgiveness is something that can restore a relationship when both sides participate, forgiveness can also free you personally from things you’ve held onto.

Personally, I know that I have stuff in my life that I need to forgive myself for.  After all, we’re usually our harshest critics.  We usually demand much more from ourselves than others do, and with that high standard comes lots of opportunities to fall.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a really good thing that we hold ourselves to a standard; it means that we still have hope as people.  It also gives us a chance to really do something with our lives and have big opportunities for success.  Yes with those big opportunities for success do come with big opportunities to fail, but failure and success are both important parts of life, not things that should be avoided.

When we fail, often we’re the first person we need to forgive.  We can’t begin the healing process with anyone we’ve hurt without first having taken a look at ourselves and our responsibility and begun to forgive ourselves for our role in what happened.  Living as damaged people increases the likelihood that we’ll hurt others because we sometimes strike out because we feel hurt and lost.

It’s not easy to forgive if we feel someone deserves whatever hurt they experience, ourselves included.  But beating each other and ourselves up, especially if serious harm wasn’t our goal, isn’t the way to live or contribute to life.  With this year’s spring celebrations upon us, take time to let go of some of the baggage holding you up and forgive yourself so you’re free to take on what the spring brings.

“Forgiving is love’s toughest work, and love’s biggest risk.  If you twist it into something it was never meant to be, it can make you a doormat or an insufferable manipulator.  Forgiving seems almost unnatural.  Our sense of fairness tells us people should pay for the wrong they do.  But forgiving is love’s power to break nature’s rule.”  Lewis B. Smedes

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Picking the Right Price

This week I read a comment about how expensive the toll is for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge bridge in New York ($17).  Of course the comment went on to associate that price to things like giving away gold or some type of perfect world on the other end of the bridge.  Of course there’s no gold at the end of the bridge or perfection, but some would tell you that they’re willing to pay the price so they get to places they love very much.

But it got me thinking about how we price things as business owners and the challenge that sometimes comes with trying to cover costs.  I’m sure that someone did the math and determined that in order to pay off work and upkeep that was/is done on the bridge before a new bridge is needed, $17 was the appropriate number per vehicle. In many cases businesses can choose to spread the costs between multiple comparable products, but sometimes there’s no other options to combine costs with, and sometimes you want to have that premium cost.

In this case I feel like they could have combined or spread the costs around a little better. There are lots of other bridges in NY that could have a dollar or two added to the cost which would help bring the cost for crossing this bridge down a bit. But at the same time you may not necessarily want to make an even cost for every bridge in NY because some people don’t ever cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge bridge and don’t want to pay for the cost of someone else crossing it. It’s also not reasonable to have an even cost for products or services you offer if you’ve got something that’s truly custom or unique and deserves the higher price. A $5 toy shouldn’t cost the same as your $45 customized toy just so you can have all $45 items.

Price is something that customers consider when buying products and services, and price should be something you consider so that you’re covered on expenses but don’t over pricing your products or services so much that people choose to shop with someone else on a regular basis. There will always be someone who thinks your price is ridiculous and that’s OK, they’re not your ideal customer. But if you’re going to charge a premium you had better have a really good reason for the price you’ve chosen.

What are your thoughts on pricing products and services?

Facing Frustrations

Today I’m dealing with a little frustration, I’m sure you’ve been in this situation and can identify. I talked with someone about an issue I’m having at my home and they told me that they would follow up in the next 24 hours and deliver the decided solution to the issue. About 2 months ago I had a similar issue and spoke with this person and they told me that they would deliver the decided solution in the next 24 hours as well. I’m sure you can guess where this is going, yep, they didn’t show up.

Could I come up with the decided solution on my own? Yes, and in the first case I did because I got tired of waiting for this individual to show up, and clearly they decided not to show up. In this new situation I could come up with a solution as well, but if I’m paying them to deliver the solution I shouldn’t have to, should I?

This whole situation has really been a reminder to me about the topics of responsibility and maturity. I know that some people are over committed and keep committing, but what they really need to do is take things off their plate. I agree that it’s great to be helpful, but there has to be a point that you either delegate things or you stop saying yes. Maturity isn’t about how old you are, a large part of it has to do with how responsible you are for yourself and the people you’re responsible for. I’ve met 20 year olds who are more mature and responsible for themselves and their lives than 45 year olds, and you probably have too.

This isn’t about being the boss or being a great leader, although if you’re the boss or a leader you should be mature and responsible. Responsibility and maturity are something we’re all accountable for, whether we’re the top dog or the lowest lemming. While parents hold responsibility for teaching their kids about responsibility, ultimately it is a personal decision about whether you’ll choose to be responsible for your life or not. Sometimes life does get in the way or throw you curve balls, but that’s where your maturity comes into play, or you’re left hanging.

Today I encourage you to be just a little more responsible or mature, even if that means saying no, follow through on the commitments you’ve made and show people that they can trust you, and apologize to those that you’ve let down in the past if you will be interacting with them in the future.

Ready for Responsibility?

This week I’ve been thinking about the topic of responsibility. It’s something to think about as important for both kids and adults. As adults we’re supposed to be responsible and we have to teach the next generation about responsibility as well. Some people never learn the responsiblity concept, others learn it after a wake up call like a serious car accident or health scare, and some people seem born with responsibility in there genes.

As adults sometimes I think we are sometimes so involved in doing life that we don’t think about it in terms of being responsible, or about all that we’re doing as part of being responsible. For instance, you pay your bills and go to work because that’s what you do each day/week/month, you don’t do it so you can check the “be responsible” line on your daily to-do list. You make sure your kids are clothed and fed because that’s what you do as a parent, you don’t typically do it to be a “responsible parent.” Sometimes I think we get so focused on getting it all done that we don’t always take time to consider what’s really best or most responsible in that situation.

As a parent or role model for the next generation you’ve got a lot of boxes you’re trying to cross off. You’re trying to get them educated, to be culture smart, to be able to dress themselves, to be able to tie shoes, to have some idea of right and wrong, to develop personal values and morals, to have a can-do attitude, to plan for the future, to have confidence and to be able to navigate the challenges of relationships with others, just to name a few. You teach them lessons about responsibility with putting books and papers back in their backpacks after doing homework rather than leaving them everywhere, putting dirty clothes in laundry baskets instead of on the floor, earning an allowance to learn good saving and spending habits, cleaning up dishes after eating, and even in time outs or other types of punishments for poor behavior and attitudes.

If we really want the next generation to be better leaders and people we need to make sure they understand the importance of responsibility and learn how to be responsible not only for themselves but also for the people in their care and the world we all share. There’s also time for most of the people of the world to choose to be more responsible as well, it’s not just something we leave for the next generation. Does your life need a responsibility check or do you need to work more on teaching responsibility to your kids? If you need a responsibility update, I encourage you to make time to make some of those changes this week.

Customer Service Satisfaction

One of the make-or-break aspects of a business is their customer service.  How do customers feel after contacting you or your business for help?  Typical answers to that question are that some customers feel pleased with the answer they got (they’re happy they got a direct answer to their question), some are satisfied by the contact (it may not have been the easiest conversation but it all worked out OK), some feel that their issue or problem was solved but the customer service wasn’t that great, some don’t get the answer they need, some wait to hear back on an answer, some can’t get through to help, and some feel frustrated by the lack of help.  Essentially there are lots of different experiences that people can have with customer service.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve made enough purchases and contacted enough companies to have experienced all of these at one time or another.  So is there a solution or trick to increasing customer satisfaction with customer service?  I think that customer satisfaction can be greatly increased if the customer is always able to get an answer to their question.   Even if it’s a ‘no’ answer, many people are happy to just get a straight answer to their question.  If  you want to improve on a ‘no’ answer, including other/next steps that could be taken can be helpful to increasing what could be a difficult or disappointing experience into at least a somewhat positive one.

The other thing you can do to greatly improve customer service has to do with languages, and having customer service representatives who are native speakers of the language or languages that the majority of your customers speak.  There’s almost nothing worse than not being able to understand the person on the other end of the phone/chat/email, or having them not understand you.  Investing that little extra in native speakers of the language/languages that your customers speak can make a huge difference in customer satisfaction with customer service.

What kind of customer service are you offering to people who purchase or want to purchase from you?  If your customer service isn’t creating customers and repeat customers, it’s time to make some changes and improvements.

Creative Earth Day Celebrations

Sunday is Earth Day, and while I’m not quite ready to get out there and enjoy spring, with today being an unseasonably cold 42 degree day, I’m still looking forward to doing some earth-friendly things this week and weekend. If you’re looking for some creative ways to honor the earth and still do things you enjoy, here are a few things to add to your list.

Garage sales and estate sales are a great way to buy new things that you want and need while still helping the earth. Many people sell gently used items or even brand new ones that they haven’t used or don’t want but are still in great condition. These types of sales are also a great place to find stuff that just isn’t made anymore, or isn’t made in the same way or with the same quality that it used to be made with.

Farmer’s markets and roadside stands are a great way to support the local farming community. Eating vegetables and fruits is a great way to care for our planet in the first place, making the extra effort to do it locally not only gives you the opportunity to support the local growers, but also to know exactly where your food came from. Also, you typically have the chance to talk with the people who grow the food, which means you can find out exactly how they were grown and what, if any, chemicals were used.

Giving the gift of a potted plant is another great way to think more about the earth while still giving flowers or a plant that will make someone smile. Even if the person you’re gifting to doesn’t have the greenest thumb, most people can still keep a potted plant alive for far longer than cut flowers, and the potted plant often can go outdoors and last for months or years depending on the type of plant. And if you’re gifting to someone who has a home, things they can plant outdoors are almost always a blessing, including small trees and shrubs.

What ways are you planning to celebrate Earth Day this weekend?

5 Principles of a Successful Relationship

Today I thought we’d take a look at 5 principles of a successful relationship, as inspired by a post I saw on principles that are indicative of people who can become millionaires.  As a side note, it’s interesting that these principles can be applied in what seems like very different applications, but it’s really all about success, however or whatever you’re hoping to be successful in.

Say No: I think this is an interesting one to start with because sometimes we’re all about saying yes or ‘ok I’ll do it’ and then we get caught up in something else or just don’t have the time or ability.  You have to make sure that you’re capable of doing what your partner asks of you and letting them know when you just can’t do it all and need help yourself.

Plant Seeds: this is one of my favorite things to do with regards to relationships.  Relationships aren’t usually made or broken on one single event, it’s little things over the whole time that you’re together. It’s those date nights, it’s the moments having a cup of coffee together, it’s those walks around a park or other favorite place together, it’s the stories you share with each other, it’s the people you enjoy life with, it’s how you teach your kids together, and a thousand other little moments that all won’t be remembered, but are valuable parts that come together to strengthen (or hurt) your relationship.

Don’t Rush: I know we’ve all got tons of things to do on our individual lists each day, but at the top of that list each day should be loving on your partner.  Yes, you can do a quick kiss goodbye in the morning or quick ‘I love you’ text in the afternoon, but at some point in time during the day there should be some serious quality time between the two of you.  Maybe it’s only a couple of minutes, but for those few minutes you’re fully present with each other.

Ask Questions: my partner is really good at asking ‘what can I do for you’ and I’ve gotten pretty good at asking clarifying questions so that I fully understand the thinking or the story or the need before trying to follow through on a request (both with my partner and my clients).  Sometimes what comes out of someone’s mouth isn’t really what they want or isn’t really the issue and it’s important that you take the time to figure out what’s really going on or really needed.

Love: this is one of the most important principles of a successful relationship, because if you don’t really love each other how much motivation do you really have to make the relationship a success?  And if you have some other kind of motivation, is it really healthy or will it end up damaging both of you before the relationship ends?  So I say start with love, make love the foundation of everything you do, work on talking with love, and work on living with love.

What principles have helped you grow your relationship with your significant other, or have helped it last?

Excited by Changes

If you’re subscribed to some of my newsletters you know that I’m working on making some changes. Why? Because I realized that I do a lot of writing, and wanted to give my newsletter subscribers something different than what I do on the blogs. Even if the newsletter writings tend to be shorter than the blogs, it’s still paragraph form writing. Don’t get me wrong, I still love writing and that’s not going to stop anytime soon, but I wanted to offer something different.

The interesting thing about this process of deciding what else I could share about, is that I realized I wanted to do something different too. That yes, the change is meant to benefit my subscribers most, but it’s good for my creative muscles to be doing some different things. It turns out I also look forward to doing the newsletters more, which means not only better insights, but also newsletters that take less time to put together in some cases because I’m more motivated and inspired.

So why am I sharing all this? Because sometimes changes can be good! It’s OK to admit you need a change as the business owner, to encourage your customers to choose the ways they want to work with you that work best for them, and to change the things you offer even if they’re not outdated (yet). It’s partly about being innovative, partly about staying ahead of the competition, and partly about keeping your customers engaged.

Sometimes change is necessary (Facebook data anyone?!) but other times change is just part of who we are and the growing process that each and every one of us go through personally and professionally. There’s nothing wrong with it and it can even be the motivation, inspiration and energizing. Is there change you’ve been debating in your business? If so I encourage you to take steps to make those changes before the end of the week.

Navigating Mistakes

Today I’m thinking about a “favorite” topic: mistakes. Sometimes we make true mistakes where we really had no idea we were about to screw up. Sometimes we make those mistakes that we kinda had an idea that it wouldn’t work out right, but we went for it anyway. Some mistakes are easier to come back from than others. But all mistakes can teach us a valuable lesson if we’re willing to learn it. Mistakes are different from failures because mistakes are something you were wrong about, but a failure is a lack of success. Sometimes mistakes do lead to failures, and sometimes failures can drive us to make mistakes and bad decisions.

In some ways mistakes are like luck that you’ve only got so much influence over what happens. There are certainly some things you can do to have better luck or make fewer mistakes, but there’s also a lot you can’t do. For example one of the simplest topics in regards with luck are lottery tickets, if you want to be lucky with lottery tickets it helps to actually buy one. The same is true with mistakes, if you want to make fewer mistakes one thing you can do is think and really consider your options before you act.

Mistakes, like failures, work best if you admit they happened and own what went wrong. Yes, it’s absolutely allowable to say you had no idea it was about to go wrong, but then you’ve got to move on to fixing the mistake or moving on. For example if you got in a car accident and you honestly didn’t see the other car there and you were paying attention, it was a mistake that you truly didn’t see coming, but you did cause the accident and now you have to fix it.

I think it makes it a little easier to move on when we do accept them and deal with them. If we don’t accept and deal with them, there’s an increased likelihood that you’re going to keep going over and over it, and you’re going to let it keep bothering you and holding you back from living a fulfilling life. So what do you need to accept this week that you’ve been holding on to for no good reason?

How to Live

Do you know what one of the most important things is to teach your kids?  It’s how to live. So many people waste their lives on stuff that doesn’t matter or worry endlessly about things they can’t do anything about and forget that the real purpose of living is to live!  Life isn’t meant to be lived as a spectator, we’re supposed to be actively involved in our lives.

What are you teaching your kids with how you live your life? What does your partner believe about you or believe you believe about your life?  Do you show that you not only appreciate the life you have but also are doing your best to make your life and the lives of those you interact with better? Are you respecting the body and gifts you’ve been giving or are you letting them waste away?

It’s important to teach your kids the value of life, and how to work through the challenges you face.  Yes, there will be stresses and problems in your life, and your kids need to learn how to handle them in such a way that they don’t get taken over by them or that the challenges ruin their lives.

Teach your kids the technical skills, manner and attitude they need to know to make it through the challenges they will face.  No, you won’t be able to completely prepare them as things do change, but you’ll give them the foundation they need to know how to work through challenges, and the importance of remembering that it’s all for a reason: living and even thriving for as many years as you’re blessed with.

We are frightfully concerned with our own deaths, sometimes so much so that we forget the real purpose of our lives.”  Brian L. Weiss