Thanksgiving Reflections

As we head into this week of giving thanks, I wanted to talk about an important topic, and that’s taking time for reflection. It’s something we’re prompted to do at this time of year as we think of what we’re thankful for, reflect on all our blessings at Christmas, and think about what has gone on this year as we move into a new year. But it’s also something that we should be doing on a regular basis to make sure that we’re in touch with ourselves, our feelings and what’s going on in our lives. Why? Because taking time for reflection means that we’re able to recognize and celebrate more of the good that goes on in our lives and we’re able to catch the stuff that in the past has ended up being serious and huge mistakes or issues before they get that way.

It’s not always easy to find the motivation to do reflection, perhaps because it echoes our days of education and grades and we didn’t have great experiences then, or perhaps because we don’t want to add another thing to all we do. But reflection is one of the healthiest and safest ways to grow and make sure that you’re on the path that’s most fulfilling, interesting, supportive and healthy for you. But if you make a point of always reflecting on both the positive as well as the need-to-be-worked-on, and not just the issues, it does become easier.

Reflection time doesn’t have to be complicated, drawn out or a really big deal, it can just be 5 minutes you take at the beginning and/or end of your day each day. Yes, sometimes it is a little more complicated like when you go over the bank statements or spending with your partner. But on a daily basis? It can be simply reviewing your to-do list. It can be a journal entry. It can be just you sitting with a beverage and just thinking, with a note pad or your favorite device close at hand in case you come up with something that is important to remember or is a breakthrough.

Try it out this week as we head into Thanksgiving and make regular time for reflection, and see how it works for you and what it can positively add to your life. You may be surprised at how much you can think of that you’re thankful for.

Success and Peace

With yesterday being Veteran’s Day, after all of the celebration and honoring of the brave men and women who fight for our country, I got to thinking about the topic of peace. Peace is ultimately what veterans are working towards, right? Yes, sometimes they are out there protecting or trying to stop a force, or even helping after natural disasters, but even all of those are really about helping to restore or create peace. So today I thought we’d talk a little about the topic of peace and how we get there and the role it plays when it comes to success.

One of the biggest lessons we can learn from our men and women in the military is that peace does take work. Maybe that’s as simple and easy as brewing your favorite hot morning beverage and sipping it while watching the sun rise. But typically, it’s a whole lot more complicated and take years of effort and investment as well. One of the big questions that has to be considered is if you’re really invested enough in peace to do the work to get there.

We also learn that peace isn’t something that will remain without consistent attention. There are many countries around the world that struggle with peace because they haven’t maintained the peace they had at one point in time or another. Peace can absolutely be a limited time thing, for example during the Olympics and other similar events, countries typically ‘play nice’ and put to the side issues that would ordinarily cause great conflict between them. But most of us don’t want singular moments of peace, we want sustained peace, which means that it’s something we have to be willing to work on consistently.

Finally, I think peace is a goal so many work towards because of the feelings of euphoria, satisfaction, fulfillment and victory that you can experience. These same emotions we can experience when we achieve a success-oriented goal we’re working on. After the victory lap for an achievement there’s also almost a feeling of peace because you did what you set out to do. I don’t know about you, but I think those are moments worth working towards.

If you want more peace in your life, you can start small and pick one thing that can give you a moment of peace each day, even if it’s as simple as that beverage in the mornings. Or you can go big and make a plan to set up more consistent experiences of peace in your life by getting a better handle on your finances, building stronger relationships with those closest to you, choosing your friends more carefully, or investing more in that which means something to you rather than jumping at random opportunities, just to name a few. What will bring you or help you create more peace in your life?

Assumptions and Honesty

I watch a lot of cop shows. I enjoy some nature and educational programming as well, but my go-to are things like CSI and Cops. More often than not they’re background noise, and I’m not actually watching them, but even with just listening to them as I go in and out of a room or read emails or do paperwork, you learn a lot about the people that we share this world with. I certainly have a greater understanding for the work those who protect and investigate do, and today I thought I’d share a few lessons I’ve learned that we can all apply to our lives and our success.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone run from the cops or commit a crime or lie because they made a false assumption. Sometimes it’s that they think they have a warrant or don’t think they’re that drunk or think someone took a couple of dollars from them, but regardless of what they’re assuming, often they’re wrong. And if they’re not wrong, it’s often something so insignificant their actions end up turning an ant hill into a mountain.

It’s dangerous to let assumptions play too large of a role in your life. They can be helpful in giving you a baseline to work with, but if you choose to operate by assumptions you’ll often end up in trouble or consistently apologizing for being wrong or blowing things out of proportion.

One of the other things that you see occasionally on the shows and you hear about in the news are cops being aggressive. Especially in more recent programing you hear them explain to people why they were so aggressive, and it’s because they want to go home at night. Now, I’m not suggesting at all that violence is the answer or that some in law enforcement aren’t too aggressive, simply that they have a little more leeway than others do when it comes to how they respond towards others.

All of these shows are about people who have lives, want to have lives or want to live. It turns out that that’s what we’re all about too. I assume that I’ll be able to see tomorrow, enjoy food tomorrow, see my partner tomorrow and make a difference in the world tomorrow. It’s an assumption that I’m fairly confident in being able to make, but I just don’t know for 100%. Life truly is a gift, one that can change or be taken from us at any time. If we were to respect each other a little more, listen a little better, be a little more honest, we’d all live a little longer, happier and better.

Moments of Peace

One of the topics we’ve talked about this month is the topic of peace.  It’s a word that we typically think about when we see the snow sweetly falling, watch the crackling logs in the fire, and hear the story of Jesus in the manger.  It’s not typically a word we apply to Christmas morning with the kids or midnight as New Years Eve turns into New Years Day.   But if you really think about it, there is something fulfilling that brings an intense feeling of satisfaction as you sit and watch the kids around you with their newly-opened gifts, it’s almost a sense of peace if you think about it.

Peace isn’t always about that present-perfect feeling, about having a perfect moment that has nothing else intruding and nothing else involved except that peaceful feeling.  Sometimes it’s simply feeling the sensation that comes along with a job well done or feeling fulfilled or satisfied.  It doesn’t mean your kids won’t frustrate you, your partner won’t forget things and you won’t have bad hair days.  It doesn’t mean that every single aspect of your life is perfect or at peace, just that in that moment you’re at peace.

As we enter the new year in a few hours I would encourage you to make this a year of moments.  Welcome and cherish the moments of peace that you encounter.  Dig deep to find the courage you need to navigate the challenges and take action to conquer them.  Choose to invest in the relationships that will fulfill you the most and you can invest in with a clear conscience.  Choose to be at peace with what this new year will bring, knowing that you’re going to face it head on as best you can giving it your best effort.

Thank You Kofi Annan

Last week the world lost another great leader, someone who worked with some of the most difficult situations around the world during his 80 years on earth: Kofi Annan. He wasn’t a perfect man, he didn’t solve all the issues he was presented with, but he led through them and left a legacy of peace and leadership for us to learn from and thank him for.

I don’t think it’s possible for most of us to live a perfect life. Everyone struggles with something at some point, some of us do it on a very public stage, and some of us do it more quietly. So I don’t think the goal should be to achieve a perfect life, but to live a life that helps others and that we’re more proud of how we lived, than regretful or shameful. I’d be pretty happy if people remembered me as a leader and someone who stood for peace for many. You also don’t need to know how to do everything, or try to be everything to everyone, just be yourself and open to learning new things.

You get out of life what you put into it, and Kofi Annan is a great example of really putting a lot of effort into life with many good things to show for it. The world needs more people like him who are willing to step up and be aware of what’s going on around them and work towards peace for all people.

“To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.”

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”

“I have always believed that on important issues, the leaders must lead. Where the leaders fail to lead, and people are really concerned about it, the people will take the lead and make the leaders follow.”

“In the 21st century, I believe the mission of the United Nations will be defined by a new, more profound awareness of the sanctity and dignity of every human life, regardless of race or religion.”

Making Life Safer and More Peaceful for the Next Generation

The words “back to school” are echoing around the country. For some school is a welcome time, for others there’s a lot of apprehension. Both parents and kids can struggle with back to school time, and one of the challenges that has been increasingly becoming a greater point of concern is the safety issue. Whether from outside sources or inside sources violence and bullying has been increasingly on people’s radars. But it’s not exclusive to schools, as you may know, violence and threats can happen anywhere and at any time, whether an orchestrated attack or driving incident that happen between two parties that have zero connection, or a natural disaster that is more serious than anticipated.

Safe is a term that we throw around but aren’t always able to follow through on. Why? Because there are too many variables to be able to fully anticipate all potential dangers. The best way to be safe though is with planning and honesty. The first thing I think as adults we need to do is be willing to admit that there are dangers around, and not to be oblivious to them. This is a first step that not everyone takes, because who really wants to think about this stuff?

The next step is to be honest about some of the potential things that could go wrong and outline some kind of plan for them. While you don’t have to have precise steps that should be taken in the event of certain things happening, it’s a good idea to at least have things outlined as to financials and last wishes and even online account information so that in the event of something bad happening your wishes and information are made known. You should also have an emergency fund (and specify what that fund can be used for) that can cover expenses for 6 months or more. You should also have at least one discussion with the family about these things so that everyone is at least aware of where the information is, what plans are if something happens and who the contact people are outside of the family should something happen.

Of course the third step is to be smart about how you live. That doesn’t mean that you don’t take some risks or don’t have any fun, but it means that you don’t drive recklessly, you don’t do drugs, you get help from a therapist or counselor if you’re struggling with anger or hurt or depression or something else, and generally think before acting in life.  Your better habits will teach your kids to have better habits as well.

No family ever likes to think about the dark side of life, but it’s a reality. If you want your family to be safer, do what you can to make it more likely that you’re all protected. But even though safe isn’t a guarantee, a greater sense of peace can be a reality if you take the time and effort to do a little planning. What are you doing to make the world a little more peaceful, and hopefully safer, for the next generation?

A Moment of Silence

Yesterday in the US was Memorial Day, the day that we stop and remember the men and women who have died for our country. In cemeteries around the country, in churches, and in countless other locations a moment of silence was shared as people stopped to remember those who are no longer with us. It’s not easy to be silent for many of us, for some of us it’s as hard to be silent as it is to think about the person or people we’ve lost. Part of that I think is because we’ve forgotten how amazing silence can be, and also because we may be scared to tap into what’s possible in the silence.

If you’ve ever spent time with a newborn baby you’ll know the magic of silence. There’s absolutely nothing like watching a new baby sleep. There’s a level of peace present that the majority of us can’t attain even when we sleep as adults. If you’re someone who regularly meditates, you too know the power of silence, there’s a level of consciousness, of being that you can only tap into when you’re able to be still and silent.

And yet we resist. We resist letting that moment of silence stretch out in our lives. We resume conversation as soon as possible. We turn on the TV or radio for background noise. We go to cafes to work. We keep scanning through posts on social media even when we’ve got other important things to do. The noise isn’t ruining our lives, but I believe our lives could be richer if we’d just take some time for quiet.

So today I encourage you to work on a quiet practice. Take just a few minutes each day to be quiet, whether it’s in the car, with your morning beverage, while you watch the sunset, during your daily walk, while you do yoga or start a more traditional meditation practice. Starting with just a little quiet time each day will give you the ability to have longer quiet times when you need them, as well as give you the time and space for your brain and heart to work through things, for you to get to know yourself on a deeper level, and to just experience peace in your life.

A Strong Foundation?

Something that I’m a big believer in is the concept of foundation. In so many situations there has to be a firm foundation before other steps can be taken. Yes, sometimes there are ways around it, but often to get the full and best experience, that only happens when there’s a firm foundation in place and consistently cared for. I believe that we have different foundations in many areas of our lives, including our family, our children, our partner, our work/career/business, our community and even in how we are with ourselves.

Let’s start with what might be the most important foundation: that of your personal foundation. This foundation has to do with how you see yourself, if you believe in yourself, how you treat yourself and if you respect yourself. You may be cringing as you think about your personal foundation, because too often it’s the one that we let slide because we’ve got so much going on in our lives that it seems like we’re the last thing that should be taken care of. But, as is true for so many situations, if you’re not taking care of yourself and making sure that your foundation is strong, it will end up affecting the foundations in the other areas of your life, and the other people who depend on you.

It’s important to take care of the foundations you have, because the foundations are what you build and grow from and what gives you the strength and guidance to navigate and survive challenges. The business foundation you have helps you decide if/when a person isn’t a good fit anymore or an idea shouldn’t be implemented because it’s not in line with your mission/vision/purpose. The relationship foundation you have with your partner means that you’ve established the common ground that you both connect through and identify with, and that you rarely have serious fights. The foundation you have with your kids should be one of mutual love, of your support of them, and of their respect for you as their parent.

The foundation is what everything else is built on, it establishes a starting point and a point to which you can return, it is a reference point when the going gets tough and it should give you a sense of peace even when what you’re building isn’t so stable. How is your foundation today?

“The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.” Zig Ziglar

Talking about Tragedy

I hate that another week started out with bad news, that another individual has taken it upon themselves to hurt and kill others, that once again we’re a nation in pain and dealing with the loss of life. Most people woke to the news of a shooting in Las Vegas on Monday morning, but when I went to bed it had just happened and very little was known (I’m a serious night owl in this season of my life). I thought it would just be a few people who were hurt and killed, but was greatly saddened to find out how many people were impacted in this tragedy. I know that you’ve probably been reading about it on countless blogs, newsletters and news sites since it happened, so you may not want to read another perspective on it, so if not I encourage you to keep the families in your thoughts and prayers, and if you’re in the Las Vegas area to donate blood. But if you’re still processing and want to reflect with me, let’s talk about tragedy.

What I knew when I turned off my computer on Monday morning was that another person chose violence towards others. Without even trying hard I could list a dozen or two issues (or more) in the world that need fixing or attention. There are so many pressing problems that the world deals with and then there are the issues that we deal with in our own lives that may seem small by comparison, but still take up space in our minds and stress us out. So it boggles my mind that someone would choose to pick up a gun (or whatever their preferred method of violence is) and use killing as their message delivery system, and what they choose to do with the rest of their life. It’s a reminder to all of us that there are people in the world who need help, and may hide behind a mask of normalcy for years before you ever see a crack.

But it’s also a reminder to us all that we are still alive. We can’t go back to Sunday morning and make everyone alive again, we can’t go back to when the man first had the idea to do something like this, we can only move forward. Already on Monday and in the days that are ahead you’ll hear more about gun control and security and related topics, and it’s not a bad idea to make sure that we’re really aware of the privilege it is to have guns and the responsibility that comes along with them. You can certainly tune in and see what develops in that area as well as the investigation, but my encouragement to you would be that you really think about the life you have. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t take the people in your life for granted. Celebrate each and every day with them. Live a life that fills you and fulfills you. Choose to make a positive difference for the next generation so they won’t experience tragedies like we’ve been seeing for the past several years in increasing numbers. Don’t let this tragedy only be a loss of life, let it motivate you to live your life to the fullest.

A Response to Violence

I’ve been receiving lots of emails about the violent deaths of black men and women around the US over the past few months and especially these past few days, and you probably have too.  I’ve shared some thoughts on violence before, but to sum up I believe it’s sometimes necessary, but only for reasons of showing your strength or defending those who are weaker and in trouble.  I don’t believe violence should be the answer to fear, differences, disagreements or the way to gain power.  We each have our differences and our similarities.  Just because we’re different in one way or another, it doesn’t make it right to treat anyone as less than a human with rights.  We all have our biases and beliefs, but if we really believe we’re meant to live in a global, connected world, we have to start working together at some point in time.

So today I wanted to share with you a few of the comments I have heard that stood out to me, I may reflect in depth on some of them on the Life and Spirituality blog over the coming days and weeks as well.

“We[‘ve] talked about the terror some of us feel in our own homes. Scared of feeling rejected, ignored, dismissed, or unheard by the people who matter most, we reactively retreat to passivity and self-protection.  This is not the path to peace in our own homes, nor in our own hearts…Ultimately, learn to represent your fullest self to the fullest. That way you give yourself, and the ones who matter most, the best chance at the relationships we all crave.”  Hal Runkel

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“… the attack is a reminder that no life will be safe and truly valued until we also confront the broader American culture of violence.”  Kai Wright

“There is a deep wound in this nation and we must re-double our commitment to be a part of healing it — and it must be done nonviolently.  The only way we can truly generate healing is to take the skills and values of peacebuilding deep into our communities.”  Matthew Albracht

“Everybody’s got to reach deep down and find some empathy.  If you cried for the brother who bled out next to his fiancee, but you didn’t cry this morning for those police officers, it’s time to do a heart check.  If you cried for those police officers, but you have a hard time taking seriously all these videos that are coming out about African Americans dying, it’s time to do a heart check.  Because we are either going to come together or come apart.  There’s enough pain on both sides that there should be some empathy starting to kick in.’  Van Jones

“You need the courage to push yourself beyond your own fears.  You need to embrace your fears in order to make your life everything it was meant to be.”  Chris Howard

The world you grew up in is much different than it was for your parents, and the world your kids and their kids grow up in will be much different than the world you grew up in.  I want a world that will be a place to grow, thrive and blossom, and that’s not possible if the threat of violence remains so high.  What world do you want to create for your future generations?