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.”

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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?

Giving Thanks for Time

Today as we discuss being thankful I want to talk about something that I’m struggling with and you may be too: time.  It’s a tricky beast, isn’t it!?  Many of us spend a lot of time talking about it, berating it, bemoaning it and trying to squeeze every last second we can from the hours we’re given.  Some people do waste the time they have or don’t use it very well, but even they tend to talk about how little time they seem to have.

So why be thankful for time? Why talk about it on Monday instead of another day when we could talk about productivity strategies and time stealers (no worries, we will make time for this in the near future)?  Because time is one of the most valuable gifts, tools, opportunities and resources we have. It, along with health, is one of the things that we take most for granted.  When people are told they’re dying in the near future they often write and try to make it through a bucket list.  When people are on their death beds they comment that they wish they had more time to spend with those they’re leaving behind.  When people we know die too soon we say that we wish we had more time with them.

So as much as this discussions is about the value and importance of managing your time well and making time for the things that really matter in life like your health and relationships, it’s also about being grateful for the time that you do have.  We’re so blessed to be living in a day and age when we’re expected to live 80+ years.  I can’t imagine what it used to be like hundreds of years ago when the average lifespan was much less.

So this week make time to appreciate being alive, that you have the time to panic over and stress about, and do your best to use your time and life wisely.

“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.”   Seneca

A Preference for Peace

In this month as we talk about quiet, one of the things that is usually associated with quiet is peace (“I’d like a little peace and quiet” being the well-known phrase). If you have kids quiet may be a distant memory for you, and peace may be as well. But as we’ve already established that they’re connected, it’s through that connection that we’ll be able to have a breakthrough in getting peace and quiet in our families, and our relationships as well.

If you want quiet and peace with your kids you need to establish quiet times. When your kids aren’t napping any more you should still have time set aside each day for reading or coloring time or another quiet activity that’s able to be done independently for the most part. To set a good example you should have a quiet activity to do as well, maybe folding laundry, checking/paying bills or even reading yourself. Setting aside just 30 minutes each day for everyone teaches your kids that there is value in being quiet, and it’s not just BS you’re feeding them to make them stop being crazy.

As for relationships, one of the challenges many of us face is finding peace in them. We’re busy trying to get our way and be right or even be together that peace goes by the wayside all too often even though it’s something that we all claim to really want. If you really want peace you have to create it. Instead of fighting over things by default, choose to make compromises. Instead of forcing your partner to do something they don’t enjoy step up and do it yourself without them asking or begging. Instead of putting things off big discussions, have them before things really turn into issues and do create fights. Instead of always thinking of yourself first, try to put your partner’s needs above your own at least once each day. When you’re both putting forth effort to make peace in your relationship it will be a lot easier to keep the relationship healthy and happy, and the same holds true for your family.

“My wife and I don’t compete. We know each other’s preferences, and we work to provide those for each other. One will take over when the other is faced with something he or she dislikes. That’s what friends do.” Matthew McConaughey

Ready to Relax

I don’t know about you, but my schedule changes over the summer, and I try to move my days off to those that are nice and sunny whenever possible so that I take advantage of all the wonderful fresh air and summer sunshine! I have always made a point of taking time each week to relax and not do work on my computer or meet with clients so that I can have time to regain my perspective and remember that all the work I’m doing is for the goal of being able to enjoy life more. After all, what’s the point of doing all the work if it isn’t to have time to enjoy the fruits of your labor?

I don’t believe that resting and days off are a waste of time. We aren’t machines built to run 365 days a year 24 hours a day (and even machines have down time because of issues, repairs or overheating concerns). We’re humans designed to sleep every night, but sleep is only a small part of the resting and recharging we need, we need showers and food and friendly conversations that have nothing to do with how we make money or how we’re making a difference in the world.

I’ve never felt that taking an afternoon off to enjoy nature or go on a hike, have a picnic, or read a book is a waste of time because I always feel better, more grounded and more productive after I’ve had that quiet time. There’s something special about nature that all too often we don’t take advantage of. So this summer I encourage you to make sure to take time with your family and by yourself to get out there and enjoy what’s all around us. Take a day to go out into the country and see what you don’t usually see when you’re riding the highways to and from work, go to a National Park and see what your taxes are caring for, and get some perspective on how much bigger life is than what you see in your daily journey.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means waste of time.” John Lubbock

Full Joy

We’ve reached the last month of 2014, are you ready to finish this year strong?  Back in January I laid out a planned topic for each month to help keep us focused as we’ve journeyed, struggled and learned through this year.   With this last month the topic I’ve chosen is joy.  Yes, it fits really well with the Christmas, Hanukkah and other holidays this month, but it’s also the way I want to end this year.  In so many years past I know I’ve felt like I’m racing for the finish line, praying to get out of the year as quick as possible.  This year has had lots of challenges, and as I said to a friend I feel like I’ve had less sleep in the past 6 months than in all my college years, but for what seems like the first time in a long time I have hope for the year ahead.  I’m not just looking at it as a way to get out of this one, but as an opportunity to grow on the lessons, blessings and opportunities of this year.

So as I said this month we’re talking about joy, and the first thing that needs to be said about joy is that it’s not a quiet hug, small smile or tiny gesture, joy is big, passionate and full of life.  Its exuberance is one of the first things you notice when someone around you is experiencing joy.  It’s not something you can hide and it’s something that should be shared.  Happiness, a part of joy, is something we’ll talk about this month because most people don’t live life just on a high like joy or low like pain, suffering or grief, they experience life a little less passionately with things like happiness, sadness, hope and hurt.

But today I just want to encourage you to not be afraid to be joyful.  We often live our lives tempering our reactions and responses because we don’t want people to think we’re weird or strange, and living life full-out is tiring.  Don’t be afraid to celebrate the good moments in your life and in other’s lives.  What joys will you celebrate this month?