What Do You See?

This morning I was doing a little more cleaning than I usually do on a weekly basis. As I tried to clean up some of the nooks and crannies that create lots of character and detail on older buildings like the one I live in, I was reminded how easy it is for some things to become “out of sight and out of mind” as the saying goes. It’s easy to pretend that the dirt couldn’t get under the stove or beneath the drawers in the refrigerator or that the tops of doorways collect dust because while you may see all of those things each day, you’re not seeing them from the perspective of where the dirt may be hiding. I’ve also said before how even a tiny bit of tidying or cleaning can make a huge difference, like just wiping down the cabinets with a wet cloth makes them look brighter, not to mention cleaner.

It got me thinking about what else is “out of sight and out of mind” or out of our line of sight or not how we see things. For example right now we’re seeing the leaves on many trees change color and drop off. We can easily forget what the trees look like without leaves of any color, and how little there really is to trees when they don’t have leaves on them.

Another example has to do with people. It’s really easy to see someone as a mother or father or accountant or teacher or baseball player or painter, and forget that they’re made up of many more layers, not to mention dreams, desires, passions and interests beside the thing they’re best known for or as. They’re also not the sum total of their failures, imperfections or inabilities. Just because your kid can’t do math doesn’t mean they won’t grow up to have great discoveries about an ancient civilization or lead a town. Just because you’re not the greatest cleaner doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother, triathlete or gardener.

Don’t let yourself be so blinded that you can’t see the truth or the need or what’s really going on in your life, in the lives of those you love and the world around you.

Reality Check Question

Every so often I come across a question that not only makes me think, it’s one that I think you would benefit from considering in your life. Today I’ve got a question that you can apply to many different aspects of your life, from business to personal to relationship to health to success to finance to parenting. Like many good questions it’s open-ended and challenges you to not only consider what is but what could be. Ready?

Is this my reality forever?

I know that I talk about changes, goals and victories all the time, and that’s because they’re a reality for everyone and usually on a very regular basis. But sometimes I think we forget to think beyond the moment, beyond the panic, beyond the frustration, beyond the change. I also think we sometimes get wrapped up in the issues and the downhill roll we may seem to be going through.

Doing a quick check on yourself, your direction and your attitude with this question can help you get perspective and find the motivation and hope to move through your current situation and into a reality you prefer if you’re not happy with your reality. It can also remind you to slow down and enjoy your reality as it is, if it’s something you will likely have only once or twice in your life.

So the next time you start getting wound up or frustrated by life or feel like it’s running past you, I encourage you to stop for a moment and ask “Is this my reality forever?”

Rediscovering the Spice of Life

Recently a client I’ve worked with for a long time has rehired an ex employee. While that’s not really a common place activity, it does happen from time to time, and I certainly understand why the client would rehire that individual based on the current employees they have and what that employee used to do for them. As I was chatting briefly with this employee this past week, they brought up some of the things that we had talked about in the past, things that most of the current employees don’t know about. It took me a minute to adjust to talking about those things with them and I didn’t feel totally comfortable with the conversation. Maybe this is something that you can identify with from experiences you’ve had when you’ve reconnected with someone you haven’t seen in several years.

As I was doing some work today my mind meandered through that conversation and those feelings again. I got to thinking about the conversation and thinking back to those conversations years ago and thinking back to the person I was then and the person I am now. They were right, I have grown and changed in the passing years, but it really hadn’t hit me how much until we were having that conversation.

As I sit here writing I’m realizing of how many of the things I do have now that I was hoping for then, even if they don’t look quite like I was thinking they would. This is one of the big reasons why it’s important to stop and reflect sometimes. If this conversation hadn’t happened I wouldn’t be taking this trip down memory lane. I’ve talked about the importance of perspective before, and here I’m reminded of it again. Taking time for looking at life with a different perspective, to review what’s gone on in the past, to really take a hard look at the present, all of these are things that not only can help us get clarity on what the future may hold or where we want our lives to go, it can also give us a big sense of accomplishment and even relief that we’re actually making progress with our lives.

As we start this new month I encourage you to sit down and take a trip back in time and do a little reflecting. Consider how far you’ve actually come. Unbury the dreams that you used to have. Discover how far you’ve come. Make adjustments to head in the direction you want to go. Celebrate your life, your path and the people you’ve got traveling this journey with you. Stop for a moment and let the fog clear from around you so that you can see past, present and future clearly. And then make a decision about how you’re going to move into the next stage of this journey called life.

The Power of Perspective

I’ve often said that life is about perspective. Your perspective can help you see what you’re doing, where you’re going and why you make the choices in your life, but only if you choose to examine your perspective. It’s also important to understand that we each have our own perspectives, and that the way I see things is probably different from how you see them. Yes, there will be times that we agree on a perspective, but other times we’ll see things differently. Seeing them differently and sharing those differences with each other means that we’re given a chance to expand our perspective and consider other perspectives. It doesn’t mean that our perspective is right or wrong, but that there’s more we could be seeing in the world.

Recently I read this quote: “Don’t listen to those who say, you are taking too big a chance. Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor, and it would surely be rubbed out by today. Most important, don’t listen when the little voice of fear inside you rears its ugly head …” Neil Simon

Neil Simon brings up a good point. Michelangelo could have chosen to paint the floor, or even the walls. Countless other structures have been painted on the floors and walls, from Egypt to Pompeii to caves where ancient civilizations lived. Likewise, you can choose to be intimidated by someone who has far more experience than you or gets paid a ton more than you and and feel like what you’ve got to offer isn’t really that great or that much. But when you bring your personal perspective to the table, the balance shifts.

Each of us has something incredible to bring to the table. There were many other great painters and artisans during Michelangelo’s life who could have probably painted something similar to what he did. But how many of them would have thought to put it on the ceiling? He did, and that’s one of the reasons why he’s been remembered through the years. Don’t worry if you can’t be the biggest and best, just choose to do your best and share your perspective with the world.

A Patchwork Quilt of Moments

As I sit here thinking about what I want to write about today I’m glancing out the window to see if it’s started to rain again yet. The next few days are supposed to bring thunderstorms and rain not only to where I live but other parts of the country as well. There’s something awe-inspiring about summer thunderstorms, with the wind, the big crashes, the incredible lightning and the smell that only is around during these summer storms.

It reminds me that everyone sees things differently, everyone picks out different things, everyone is spoken to by nature in different ways, everyone sees beauty in different ways. Yes, often there is a group of people who are amazed by a certain thing, but it’s rarely a universal thing. For example countless people are awestruck by the Grand Canyon, yet it’s one of my least favorite National Parks and I don’t find it to be very interesting (that’s not to say I don’t find myself awed by other canyons). However there’s usually an exception to the rule, and I’m no different because I was speechless over the photos of the cloud inversion in the Grand Canyon that’s happened just a few times.

It may not storm again today and I may not get to watch the clouds race over the sky, the lightning fork to the ground and watch the trees whip around any more than they are today already, and that’s OK. We don’t have only one awe-some experience in our lives. There may be something that always catches our attention, like rainbows or the first spring flowers or the first snowflakes of the season, but more often than not our lives are a patchwork quilt of special experiences, experiences that we have to be open to and looking for.

What special moments have you been amazed by recently?

A Little Time for Quiet

When was the last time you were really quiet? Maybe you had the opportunity this winter if the power went out where you are and everything stopped for a few hours or days. We’re so used to the world that we live in with the quiet hum of refrigerators and other appliances working in the background that even when we think it’s quiet, for instance when the kids leave the house and we turn off the TV, it’s really not. But when everything shuts off, or you venture deep into the woods on a snowy day, it’s truly quiet.

As the season of Lent finishes up and we head into the days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter, whether you’re religious or not, it’s a good reminder and opportunity to make time for quiet reflection. What’s the power of quiet reflection and why would we want to do it? Well, quiet reflection is a time for not only processing what’s been going on in your life and considering your goals and accomplishments, but also about finding peace, healing and connecting with yourself.

I know that the quiet scares some of us, it can be a little overwhelming to feel so isolated, especially in this world that we live in where we’re almost constantly around others and talking with other whether in person or virtually. So it may take a little time and effort to get to the point that you’re comfortable with the world around you being quiet and it just being you and your thoughts all alone. But I think it’s important because we don’t spend enough time on reflection, let alone quiet reflection by ourselves. I don’t think most of us take the time to really connect with ourselves and check in on things before just charging forward. There’s nothing wrong with being decisive or taking action (both are important), but I think we miss out on an opportunity to build our confidence in ourselves and to learn deep and amazing things about ourselves when we only do the action side of things and not the quiet reflection.

So this week I would encourage you to make time for quiet time, just you, maybe a note pad and pen, and your thoughts. If you work on making it a regular habit I think you’ll find that you’re more relaxed, more prepared and more at peace with life. What will you learn in the quiet?

Christmas Questions

You know what I realized the other day? In this festive season we spend a lot of time asking questions! I know, it surprised me too. After all, we’ve typically got a love-hate relationship with questions, they challenge us but also can open up incredible opportunities and insights to us. So what are some of those Christmas questions?

Do you hear what I hear?
Is he/she here yet? Are they here yet?
What did you get me?
Do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?
Are we there yet?
Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?
What did you bring me?
Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?
Can we build this now?
Where are you Christmas?
How much longer until we can open gifts?
What Child is this?
Do they know it’s Christmas?
How long is the line?
What do you want for Christmas?
Have you been good this year?

Are you asking questions this holiday season? Maybe your questions are more along the lines of ‘how will we ever afford this Christmas?’ or ‘how long until a new year is here?’ I know for many people it’s been a challenging year. In some ways that’s a good thing because now we’re asking more questions and taking a more serious look at what we can do to avoid or limit this year’s experiences from happening in the future. It’s hard to make changes in life without asking questions and taking action based on the answers to those questions.

But as we see from some of the questions above, not all questions are scary! Some are so filled with joy, anticipation and excitement that you can practically picture a kid jumping up and down asking them. Others are more reflective questions, encouraging us to think more about the meaning behind the season.  Some questions may also remind you of the ways you challenged your parents as a kid, and your kids today may challenge you.

As we head towards the end of another year I would encourage you to open your mind to asking some questions. Some will be tough questions, but others should be questions of possibility and hope. You can’t find the answer if you don’t ask the question, go on the adventure or try things out. What questions are you asking today?

Seeing Things Differently

Recently I read an interesting article about Dr. Sanjay Gupta meditating with the Dalai Lama. It was interesting for many reasons, but one of them, and the one I want to talk about today, was the fact that sometimes His Holiness struggles with meditation too. Just so we’re clear, meditating is something that His Holiness (and other Buddhists as well as countless others of various faiths and practices) does on a regular basis. The interesting part wasn’t just that he struggles, but how he often overcomes that struggle. Rather than using meditation as a time to be without thought, he uses it to focus on something specific and work through it or work on understanding it from a myriad of perspectives. So yes, you’re being quiet still during meditation, but it doesn’t have to be about being blank or empty.

I wanted to share about this with you today because so often in our families and relationships we approach something in one way (meditation is for being blank and empty) when there’s countless other ways that it could be approached. The challenge is not only being open to those other approaches and being able to see them, but also working on not just reacting in the way you always have or just going with your default actions/opinions/beliefs.

Part of the challenge in applying other perspectives to your life, or to your kids, is that there’s a lot of the world that isn’t open to other perspectives, for example in traditional learning environments, aka schools. Yes, you can send your kids to schools that offer other things or teach differently, but often they cost a lot of money, money that not all families have. So in this case you could do supplemental education on the weekends or afterschool, and during the summer. You may also have to work on getting your partner to see the validity of your point or why you want to do things differently. This isn’t always a bad thing because it does mean you have to think things out and really have good reasons for doing things differently.

My challenge to you this week is to start looking for other perspectives, approaches or opportunities with the things that challenge you most or you struggle with most. Take the time to see if there are alternatives or options, like His Holiness presented to Dr. Gupta about meditation, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or get someone else’s perspective.

A Heart for Greatness

One of the things we’re talking about this month is having heart.  I believe that having heart is something that applies to all our lives, whether we’re the CEO or homeless on the streets, whether we have lots of people we call “family” or we’re on our own, or whether we’ve got a degree from Harvard or from Life.  Heart isn’t something you can really put in a box or write on a card, it’s something you weave into your life and becomes part of you, the choices you make, the friends/associates you keep, the people you’re in relationship with and how you interact with the world.

Sometimes we do need to make decisions that are based primarily or even solely on fact.  Maybe we make those decisions because of how personally invested or emotionally attached we are or because we have no gut feeling.  It’s not wrong to make decisions based on fact, but I don’t think most decisions can really be made just with the facts, I believe that we have to take into account the human element.  People can’t always be put into neat and simple boxes, we’re complicated and complex, and that’s describing those of us that are considered “normal,” not those that would fit into a pathological diagnosis.  And then when you add in things like drugs and alcohol the complications increase.

If you really want to become the best person you can be do take time to learn the facts, explore the world, see other perspectives and try new things.  But never forget that a little compassion, a little caring, a little kindness, a little heart may go farther than the facts could.  If you really want to be the best leader, boss, employee, mother, father, parent, sister, brother, partner, neighbor, or friend you could be, take a step back and let your heart out of its box for a moment and let it guide you.

“A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness.” James E. Faust

A Family United or Divided?

You’ve probably heard the saying “a house divided against itself will fall.”  I believe this statement is very true and is one of the reasons that individuals, those in partnerships (aka relationships) and families struggle.  We personally go through our lives experiencing different things, thinking about public impressions, things we “should” do and our own dreams and desires.  All of these things pull and tug us in different directions.  In relationships you’re dealing with 2 people who have their own preferences, desires, loves, dreams, hopes, challenges and fears. Yes, you would hope in a loving partnership that some of those things would line up because the two people have similar desires, loves, dreams etc. But everyone is different, so it won’t always be the case.  As families we have tons of different people involved in the shuffle, with different opinions, schedules, needs and plans.  It’s not easy to find a happy medium that allows the parents to be parents, the kids to be kids, the family to come together and everyone get along fantastic.

I believe that some things and some people are meant to come together for a period of time and then go their separate ways or be done. I believe there are things and people that should never have come together. I believe that some things and some people are meant to last forever.  I believe that some people and things stick around only through sheer grit and a can-do spirit.  Life isn’t always going to be cupcakes and chicken soup.  Sometimes you’ve got to get down and dirty and really work to make things continue.  And sometimes we keep working on things long after they’re broken beyond repair (the nasty and graphic phrase “beat a dead horse” applies here).

I fully believe that we should each be our own person.  We should have our own interests, personalities, dreams, talents and perspectives.  I don’t see a need for carbon copy people.  But with that individuality comes the responsibility of respecting the individuality of others, which is something I think we sometimes forget.  But the simple wisdom applies that if you want to be treated well, you should do the same to others.  If you treat others like crap do you really expect they’ll treat you like your the Next Big Thing?  Some of us need to work more on being our own person, but quite a few of us need to work on working together better.  Working together doesn’t mean that you ignore who you are or turn yourself off, it’s about learning how to bring what you can contribute to the table and working it in with what everyone else can contribute.  What will you contribute this week?