The Importance of Awareness

How aware are you? Do you notice when things change on your street or in your home or building? Do you notice when people get hair cuts or wear something new and different? Do you notice the birds singing in the mornings and the animals scampering around outside? Are you able to pick up on the underlying issues or tensions with customers? Do you notice when coworkers have a lot on their plate or when things are happening with the bosses? Do you notice when your partner or kids are struggling? Sure, some of us are able to hide our challenges to a degree but there’s a lot that goes on in our lives and in the world as a whole that can’t be hidden, and it’s this stuff that we’re talking about. Why? Because the amount of awareness that you have can impact how successful you can be.

If you’re an aware person naturally you consider the costs to others over the benefits to yourself when you make a decision, you consider the impact of your choices on others, you take time to think before responding in emotionally charged situations, you own up when something is your fault, you address and work on things that go wrong even when it’s challenging, you think about the words you use before you say them, and you consider long term and short term benefits and costs when making big decisions, just to name a few.

What can being aware do for you and the world we all share? We can be more conscious about our decisions, for example choosing to do all our errands at once rather than spread out over several days to reduce emissions, or choosing the most green method of delivery for our online purchases. While we don’t know exactly what the future holds, being aware we can try to make decisions that we think will be better for us both in the present and the future. Being aware means being considerate of others and looking out for your elderly neighbors, or staying home if you feel sick rather than infect your extended family or coworkers. Being aware also gives you the opportunity to see and experience some pretty cool things that others miss out on because they’re not looking.

Being aware, much like practicing common sense, love and compassion, isn’t really difficult, and with a little practice you can turn it into a habit that will empower you to notice things that others don’t and take smarter actions and make wiser decisions for both your future and the future of the world we all share. Do you consider yourself an aware person?

The Order of Success

Sometimes the order in which you do things really matters. Order is something you have to be conscious of when getting dressed each day (underwear goes on first), taxes can’t be filed until the year is up, you can’t get married before you’ve got a partner, you can’t admire a flower while it’s still a seed, you can’t get payment from a client before discussing or even doing the work. In these cases if you try to do things backwards you’ll often end up without success or with a big mess.

Sometimes you’ve got some flexibility in the order, for example when you’re working on cutting the vegetables for a pasta salad, but ultimately you do have to cook the pasta before you can add it to the salad, or it won’t be a truly edible salad. Sometimes you can get lucky and do things out of order (for example when you don’t read the full instructions) and it still works out. Sometimes you can do things out of order or not read the directions and be able to fix it in the end or redo it without too much issue or extra time spent (of course this is both very frustrating and very relieving at the same time).

Sometimes it’s good to push the boundaries of order though. Sometimes it’s good to test things out a different way from how you’ve always done it. Sometimes we do things in a certain order because “that’s how we’ve always done it” so that’s how we do it, but that may not be the most efficient way or the most practical way or the best way based on how things have changed or developed. Order doesn’t usually take into account personal preference either. For example, sure you can still send a letter through the post office, it’s a fun and practical way to send things, but you can also email or call someone and get a much faster response. Another example is how we still can travel by horse and cart, but it’s also much faster and probably also safer to travel by car or plane or train. Another example is regarding seasoning in recipes, you may prefer more seasoning and should double the seasoning in the recipe, or be allergic to or dislike one of the suggested seasonings and should not include it.

The good news is there are plenty of smart people out there (in addition to yourself) that you can ask why something is done the way it’s done and contemplate if there’s a better way of doing something if you’re struggling or just curious. What order will you contemplate this week?

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.

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?