Beautifully Unpredictable

I was just about to go out and run some errands the other day when it started to rain, which was unexpected and made me postpone my plans. If I know I’m going out to work with a client or if I’ve got traveling for a family event, or something else important going on, I do check the weather ahead of time, but otherwise unless my partner asks me what the weather is coming up, I generally look out the window or open the door and see what it’s like that day or before I’m going to do something. Why? Because I don’t find the weather predictions to be very reliable. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand why it’s unpredictable, Mother Nature does what she does and doesn’t have to give us notice or follow an absolutely precise schedule.

This unexpected rain and thinking about the topic of unpredictability got me thinking about another topic that is typically associated with unpredictability and some of the feelings that goes along with it, and that’s the upcoming holiday season. I absolutely love the holiday season and I’m always excited when it rolls around, as an adult it’s more about the songs and decorations than the gifts, but there’s definitely still something very exciting about gifting and receiving gifts. But with all that there is to love about holidays, as an adult there’s a layer of stress and craziness that wasn’t there as a kid.

If you’re used to living a very scheduled and predictable life, or even just a very full life, the unpredictability of last minute gift finding, last minute parties and extra gatherings can be very stressful, but it’s also an opportunity to learn how to open yourself up to some of the opportunities that can come with increased freedom and flexibility. Just like there are benefits to having a schedule, being able to go with the flow, make changes as necessary and respond more often than react, also have benefits. The most successful people are able to find a balance between having a schedule and consistency in their life, and having the freedom and flexibility to accept last minute opportunities, not panic over changes and not feel pressured by the limits they’ve placed on their time.

This holiday season I would encourage you to use it as practice for finding out what the benefits can be of letting go a little and making room in your life for flexibility and freedom. No, I’m not suggesting you invite the craziness that the holidays can bring into the other ten and a half months of the year, but instead freeing up maybe even an hour a day or a couple of hours a week to not feel so rushed or finally get things off the to-do list, or maybe even be able to do something fun with the kids, or have time for yourself to read a book, get crafty, take a walk, start a business, invest in your relationship, or whatever you’ve not been free to do in quite some time. What benefits would you find if you had a little more unpredictability, freedom and flexibility in your life?

Finding Freedom as a Family

For many of us this month started off with talks of freedom because of July 4th, Independence Day. Freedom is an important topic to talk about with regard to raising kids and being in a relationship. It’s important to teach your kids about freedom, from both the perspectives of costs and benefits of pursuing it. Relationships automatically mean that you give up some of your freedoms, which is OK in a healthy relationship because what you gain from the relationship is worth more than what you may lose.

Teaching your kids about freedoms is something you can do in both reward situations and when you’re dealing with issues. One great parenting technique is to present your kids with 3-5 options in a given situation and let them choose what they want of the options you’ve preselected for them. This works well with food, with homework, with chores and fun activities. It’s one way to break through a blossoming tantrum or help both of you regain control. It also teaches the kids how to make decisions and choose what they want in their lives which is important for when they’re adults.

Freedom in a relationship often exists simply because you’re in a relationship with someone who has similar interests, passions and pursuits as you. Those shared pursuits creates the freedom to be who you each are. But since you are individuals and not identical in every way, there are some different desires you each have. When it comes to them there’s always the option to give and take or finding a middle ground. It all comes down to good communication, trust and knowing your partner to make sure that you’ve got freedom, your partner has freedom and you’re both happy and healthy together.

As much as freedom is an individual choice, it’s really a group effort because what you choose as freedom impacts others. It’s why it’s important to teach the next generation well about freedoms and be comfortable in who we are while still being willing to learn, explore and grow.  What freedoms are you working on today?

Forgiveness for the Holidays

We’re a little under two weeks away from the celebration of Christmas and we’re a few days from Hanukkah.  This month is so full of celebrations and gifting, something I’m so thankful for because it’s a good reminder that we’re not alone in this world and how important it is show our appreciation and love to those in our lives.  If you’ve been thinking about whether or not to fight the crowds and get one last gift for someone or to skip it, I’d encourage you to go for it.  Don’t let Scrooge win this year.

Let’s talk about one of the best gifts you can give yourself or anyone this year, or at any time: the gift of forgiveness.  Forgiveness isn’t something trivial that we throw around like we do the word love, in fact we’re pretty stingy with it, mostly because we’ve been hurt so many times, often by the same person, and it feels like it might be a waste of time to forgive them or anyone.  So don’t feel bad if you’ve struggled to forgive before.

But what I’ve learned over the years is that it never pays to hold a grudge.  Often it just becomes a distraction or sticking point that you can’t get over.  You think about it over and over again, stopping you from moving forward and onward with your life.  They may be moving forward in their life, whether you’ve forgiven them or not (and may not care if you have or haven’t forgiven them), while you’re still in the past withholding forgiveness.

Which means that usually the first person that needs forgiving is you.  We’re harder on ourselves than on anyone else and we’re our biggest critic too.  If you really want to be free to be all you can be this coming year, it starts with learning to forgive yourself, because without the forgiveness moving on to bigger and better things won’t be easy, if it’s even possible.

So go ahead and work on forgiving yourself or someone else this holiday season; it won’t be an easy gift but it will be the best one you’ve ever given.

The Blessing of Surprises

This weekend I was thinking about the topic of surprise as I was working on my newsletters. Some of us are good with surprises but others of us hate them. I’m kind of in the middle, I like having and knowing plans and things, but at the same time it can be fun to get a surprise free gift with an order or be surprised by what a restaurant has for specials that day. If we really think about it just about every day has at least one surprise in it, there’s almost no way we can fully predict our day from start to finish. Sometimes those surprises are good, and other times they’re challenges to us or become obstacles in our days.

One of my favorite surprises to have in my life are kids and animals. Both can bring some pretty crazy antics to the table, and while they do have some predictability, you never really know what they’re going to say or how they’re going to play or the things they’ll get into. I think having these types of simple but active and life-affirming surprises in our lives are an important aspect of keeping us young, adventurous, curious and healthy.

Getting old is a fact of life, but just because our age says we’re older, it doesn’t mean that we have to feel and look older. There are some very active senior citizens in the world who experience more joy and freedom in their lives than adults do because they’ve got things going on in their lives that keep them active physically, but just as important, and maybe more importantly, keep them active mentally.

When was the last time you let a little surprise into your life? I know it can be challenging, especially for the control freaks out there to let go and let a surprise into their life, but there comes a time in all our lives that things are out of our control, no matter how hard we try or what we do. So I encourage you to open yourself up to a little down time each day to let things happen as they will. You may find that they’re the best and most rewarding moments of your day.

Words of Freedom

Today I’m sharing a few quotes on our topic of the month, freedom.  Quite a few people have some great insight into this topic and I think it’s worth taking a look at their perspectives. 

“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” Kevyn Aucoin

“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.” Jim Morrison

“I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom – how great is that?” Soledad O’Brien

“Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.” Stephen Covey

“Instead of trying to make your life perfect, give yourself the freedom to make it an adventure, and go ever upward.” Drew Houston

“Friends can help each other. A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself – and especially to feel. Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is.”  Jim Morrison

“We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.” Barack Obama

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” Albert Camus

“True independence and freedom can only exist in doing what’s right.” Brigham Young

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” Soren Kierkegaard

“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.” Nelson Mandela

“We gain freedom when we have paid the full price.” Rabindranath Tagore

“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would be also free.” Rosa Parks

What wisdom have you heard about freedom?

Freeing Your Business From Indecision

Today as we think more about freedom I want to talk about one of the things that challenges that freedom, indecision. As a business owner you’ve got a lot coming at you that you have to make decisions about on a daily basis, and as a result some business owners go into overwhelm and the business may fall apart. You’ve seen some of these businesses on TV shows like Tabitha’s Salon Takeover and Bar Rescue, they’re suffering and not successful, and often that’s a result of overwhelm or indecision and lack of direction from the owner(s) and/or manager(s). Of course, we can’t forget or ignore the indecision that customers struggle with either. So let’s take a look at 3 key players in our businesses and their relationship with indecision.

Owners: I get the importance of doing your research and taking the time to evaluate your options. As a side note I talk with too many people who don’t take the 5-10 minutes to do the research before they make a decision, with all the information on the internet and contactability through social media there’s no excuse. However, as the person in charge you have to make a decision at some point in time and put action behind it. Your indecision not only affects you, but it also impacts your employees and your customers. There are people out there waiting for the solutions you could be offering but because you’re waiting to decide on a web layout or waiting for the discount to do an ad or putting off the renovations to your store, those potential customers are not getting the best from you.

Employees: As a business owner you need to 1) empower your employees to be able to make decisions for your customers, 2) encourage your employees to make decisions, and 3) motivate your employees to make decisions that are best for both your business and your customers. Employees who are happy in their jobs and believe in what the business is selling and in the brand the business is growing, will typically make good decisions for your business, but they can’t if you haven’t educated them on the principles of working with customers as you want done in your business and you haven’t told them they’re allowed to make decisions that will bring customers back in the future even if they have an issue currently.

Customers: You won’t sell to every person that interacts with your business, that’s just the way it is. You should not want to sell to every person either, because not every person is a good fit for what you offer. However, I’ve never met a business that wasn’t missing out on converting some of the potential customers. Customers have indecision for several reasons including: they don’t know what you’re selling, they don’t know what people think of what you’re selling, they don’t know what the price is of what you’re selling, they have questions about what you’re selling, and they’re concerned about liking what you’re selling after buying. If these issues are present for them when they consider your offer, you’re giving your potential customers the excuse they were looking for to run instead of buying. Do your part in giving them fewer excuses to try someone else.

If you’ve been struggling with indecision on something, I encourage you to accept this reminder today and take action. Don’t make your business, your employees or your customers wait any longer, and do what you can to remove the dreaded gray area. What decisions will you make today?

What About Your Freedoms?

This month as we talk about freedom you’re probably aware that a big part of the conversation around freedom is about helping others have the freedoms we’re blessed with, or about being part of a movement to get freedoms. Part of the blessing of technology today is that even if you can’t physically go or monetarily contribute or do the research to find a cure, you can always sign a petition or share a link on social media. But there’s a part of freedom that’s important to consider as well, one that we often skip over because there are so many people in the world, and our own individual worlds, that need our help. It’s something that can be criticized and to be the most effective does need to be balanced in your life. What is it? It’s taking care of yourself and your freedoms first.

Why is it important to take care of yourself first? Because, as the old story goes, you can’t save anyone if you don’t put on your own oxygen mask first. Taking care of yourself is important whether we’re talking about your physical or mental health, your career, your future or your freedom. If you’re not rested, fulfilled, inspired, cared for or loved, you won’t be as capable of giving to others. Can you still care for others or help them in getting to their goals? Of course, but there comes a time when you’re so drained that you don’t have any more to give. It’s better to take a step back and rejuvenate on a regular basis than give your all all of the time and never take time for yourself. Taking care of yourself and putting yourself first isn’t about being selfish or not caring for anyone else, it’s about making sure that you’re taking the time to care for yourself, not just everyone else.

So as you enjoy your freedoms with your family this summer and do take some time to do some pampering or take some time off, I encourage you to make it a regular part of your life all year long.

Freedom to be Different

This month one of the topics we’ll be taking a look at is the topic of freedom. Part of that freedom that everyone wants to embrace is the freedom to be who they are, to be themselves, and to not be ridiculed or rejected because they’re different. It’s not always easy to give others that freedom because we don’t understand them or their differences, or think that their differences make them wrong/bad. Part of that struggle is a conversation issue, but it might not be the one you’re thinking it is, because there are lots of people around the world having great conversations and lots of opportunities throughout social media and tons of other forums, which is good news.  But most of those conversations are happening between people that who share the same differences (for example between survivors of a particular trauma or people who have a medical condition or people with a passion for bratwurst).

I think a big part of the conversation issue is that some people aren’t willing to listen to others share about their differences, and part of that unwillingness has to do with fears. Fears about the other person’s story actually making a lot of sense, being able to identify with them, or even finding out that maybe the differences aren’t so different after all. If any of those things happen we have to readjust what we know and especially how we interact with them, and that can be really scary or intimidating. It also leads into the possibility that we were wrong about the type of person they are, or wrong about how wrong/bad/weird their difference is, and that’s not easy to swallow either.

I’m not suggesting that we should sit down with terrorists and try to understand or accept our differences, that’s a completely different conversation for another day. What I’m talking about here is two people (or a group of people) talking long before things would ever escalate to war/genocide/massacre level, or even to protest level. I’m talking about regular citizens having conversations with cops, people of different cultures talking, or the older generations talking with the younger ones.

I don’t believe that we’ll all love each other and everything will be perfect if we have these conversations, but I think that we’ll all be able to breathe a little easier if we were a little more open to each of us being different and that difference being OK. Yes, it will mean that we’ll have to suspend our judgment, be open to seeing the world in a new way and maybe even be wrong about what we knew before, not to mention become better communicators. But if we really want a better world for the next generation, I think it’s important that we take the conversations out of our individual groups and start talking among ourselves.  Will you join me in being open to being different, and maybe even someday to celebrating our differences?

First Families of the US

Today I’m thinking about the 4th of July, Independence Day here in the USA. Of course I’m thinking about the topic of freedom and all things red, white and blue, but what I want to talk about today is the men, women and children who were part of the creation and building of the country so many people call home. The people who first came over to the US were met with an almost blank slate, which was kind of the point of moving from Britain to the US. They wanted the chance to do things their way, to make the future for their children different than it was going to be if they stayed in Britain. I think in many ways the same is true for us today, I don’t want the children of our world today growing up and having children in a world that has so much violence and discrimination. I want them to live in a world that they can really prosper in and feel safe going out of their homes. But just like those early settlers, this will take some work.

One of the things that made a huge difference for those early families were the Native Americans that already inhabited the US. They knew the terrain, the plants, the animals and what worked best here, in a place that was different than the settlers were used to in Britain. Both parties had to learn to work together, and as you probably know from your history classes there were mixed results, with the settlers ending up with the better end of the deal for the most part. But the point is that as much as the settlers came to the US to do their own thing, they had to be willing to ask for help from those who already knew all about what they were starting.

One of the things that always amazes me about these early families is their courage. They didn’t know really what they were getting into, and I’m sure that each and every one of them experienced doubts at some point in time, but they persisted and didn’t give up. History also shares with us the failures of those early families, but they continued to endure and as a result we’re here today. One of the reasons they may have stuck around as well as succeeded is because they weren’t aiming for immediate perfection and achievement of their goals, they knew it would take some time to get close to what they wanted (colonies started in the 1500’s but the Declaration wasn’t signed until 1776).

What about your family? Have the challenges and experiences you’ve had as a family brought you together or pushed you apart? Yes, sometimes the separation is the best thing, but often we’re pushed apart because we’re too proud to admit we’re wrong, lazy to do the work to make the relationship healthy again or we’ve let our differences get in the way of our similarities.  I encourage you to take a good look at your family this week and decide if it’s time to mend the fences or take a more permanent step away.

Worth the Effort

Last month we spent a lot of time talking about relationships and this month we’re going to be talking in part about freedom, so I wanted to start the month off by talking about a topic that’s often an important aspect of both of them: effort. Yes, there are some relationships that seem effortless or don’t require a lot of effort for you to keep them going, and sometimes freedom is freely given without any real requirements or involvement on your part. But for most of us if we want our relationships to last and be fulfilling we have to put in some effort, and the amount of effort we put in often speaks to how successful those relationships will be. Also with freedom, more often than not if we’re looking to be free of something or be free to do something we have to actively pursue that goal.

I know some people get worried or overwhelmed when they hear that work is involved in something, but if you’re really serious about making that relationship work or finding that freedom there should be a fire or drive or passion in you about it. If there isn’t you’re not likely to give decent effort towards that goal, and it should be a big red flag for you about getting more involved in that relationship or freedom goal. Yes, sometimes if you give something some effort you’ll discover or rediscover the passion or interest you’ve lost or didn’t have, but usually there has to be some interest there to begin with, it isn’t created in the process.

The thing is, I think you, your life and your relationships are worth the effort. I believe each of us can and should have a life we’re proud of, one that includes relationships with people who support and love us, and freedoms to be who we are and do what we’re passionate about. You may not have accepted that you’re worth the effort and there are people around the world who believe that as well, but it’s the truth. Sure, some people will try to drag you down, but that’s often more about them and not about you.

This upcoming week I encourage you, even though it’s summer and you may be slowing things down in your life, to put a little effort into the things that matter most to you, or the things you want more of in your life. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but choosing to put a little more effort in can make a big difference, and give you a glimpse into what it would be like if you chose to put a lot more effort into it.  You may choose to communicate more often and more completely with your partner, you may choose to do more research before making a decision than you usually do, you may choose to finally ask for the help that you’ve been too ashamed to ask for, or you may choose to dedicate time every day to making your life healthier and happier.  What will a little effort do for you?