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?

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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?

Reflection Time

I’m still doing some reflecting and considering as we work into this new year.   2016 felt like being in a cement mixer at times for some of us, it certainly didn’t seem like a smooth ride personally or in the world.  As I’ve been reading a number of posts at the end of the year and the beginning of this one, I identified with what a number of people were saying about the year that just ended and how they felt about it, what they ended up doing in that year and of course where they’re headed in this new year.

For many 2016 ended up being a year of personal growth, not so much professional, although plenty of people and companies did have a very successful year.  For some 2016 was so bumpy that it was hard to even identify or understand that until new year reflections happened.  So if your year was anything like mine, I’m going to encourage you to work through these questions over this week before you give up on your resolutions and/or before you make final decisions about where you want this coming year to go:

What was your best memory?
What was your worst memory?
What was your biggest accomplishment?
What was your most satisfying victory?

What goals do you have for 2017?
What relationships are you going to create or work on in 2017?
What do you want to stop doing in 2017?
What needs to most change in 2017?

Just how good can life get?
Will this be a courageous year for me?
What will make you happy?
What will you love?

As I do my own reflecting and consider where I’m taking things this year, I’d love to hear from you what you would like from me in this blog and/or in what I offer in my business? How can I best help you make more victories in your life and what are you struggling with?

Getting Support

This week I’ve been thinking about the topic of community.  We’re all in different communities, we’ve got our friend communities, family community, work communities, online communities, and the communities we live in.  One of the most important communities we can be part of is one of support.  Sometimes that means professional counselors/pastors/coaches/leaders, other times it’s just family, friends and coworkers.  As someone who offers coaching services you might think it obvious that I believe in getting professional help, and that I have to say stuff like that.  But my business has very little to do with why I believe that sometimes the best thing you can do is talk with a professional.

Let’s back up though to the topic of support.  I believe we all need support in our lives.  First and foremost there’s no reason to go through life alone, but beyond that, other people have so many experiences and so much knowledge that we don’t individually have that it makes sense to share what we know with each other.  The internet has greatly helped with the concept of support with all the blogs and social networks we can share through and find support in.  But it’s not just about being alone, it’s about getting help if (when) you need help.  For many years (centuries maybe even) it was seen as shameful or wrong if you couldn’t manage your own stuff on your own.  Yes, we should take an active roll in our lives, but that doesn’t mean we can’t ask for help when we need it.

There is nothing wrong with saying you don’t know things, asking for help from a qualified professional, letting someone else do what they excel in so you can do what you excel in, getting advice from someone who has been through what you’re going through or knows about what you’re trying to create, or getting support in navigating through changes in your life.  Sometimes it’s OK to talk with family or friends, but talking with a professional can be the right choice if you want an unbiased opinion, want to talk with someone who you won’t have to interact with in the future on a regular basis, don’t feel comfortable being so open and honest with those who know you best, don’t want to be judged by friends or family or don’t know anyone who can help you with what you’re going through.   Whether you’re struggling through things or in need of some wisdom on next steps in your life, don’t put off your future any longer because you’re stuck or uncertain.  Be proactive about your life and choices and get the help you need.

“Consider counseling. It’s not a weakness to find someone who can help you process.”  Tim Stevens

Productive Inspiration

Last Wednesday I shared some thoughts on how you can have a more productive summer in your business.  Sometimes in order to be productive we need some inspiration to get us going.  Here are some quotes that might inspire you to success this summer.

“I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.” Frank Lloyd Wright

“A professional is one who does his best work when he feels the least like working. Frank Lloyd Wright

“I don’t work at being ordinary.” Paul McCartney

“Think globally, act locally.” Paul McCartney

“If you want success, figure out the price, then pay it. It sounds trivial and obvious, but if you unpack the idea it has extraordinary power.”  Scott Adams

“The ability to work hard and make sacrifices comes naturally to those who know exactly what they want.” Scott Adams

“When things go bad, it’s easy to point fingers. People who attempt to switch the blame are afraid to fail. We’ve all been afraid to fail before a game, but it shouldn’t stop us from continuing, and from doing what we have to do to get the job done.”  John Elway

What words of wisdom have you heard lately that inspired you?

Are Your First Impressions Right?

This month we’ve been talking about the choice of quiet. I’m a fan of taking time for quiet because it gives me an escape from being overwhelmed all the time by the thoughts I think and the (noisy) things going on around me. I’m not made to be surrounded by sound and thoughts all the time, I need a break every so often, we all do.

One of the reasons being quiet is beneficial is because it gives us a chance to think beyond our initial reaction or impression. Everywhere you go and in everything you do you’re making snap judgments based on previously established knowledge, observation or experience within the first few seconds of interacting with that thing, person, or place. Many times you’re right about at least a good portion of the judgment. However usually there is a lot more to the story than you can get in the first few seconds. For example, if you were to walk into the dining room during Thanksgiving dinner you would think that the house is noisy, but walk just a little farther onto another floor or even into another room and your perception of the house being noisy is revealed as not totally accurate; it’s really just the dining room that is noisy.

Snap judgments are important because they can keep us safe and protected from dangers we might run into or bad choices we might make. But they don’t ever tell the whole story. The only way to get the whole story is to take the time to be quiet and think things through, ask questions and take time to learn more before making a final judgment. I’m not suggesting to ignore your first impressions, just to not assume that it’s the only and full truth, because that will almost never be the case. There’s always more to the story than you think.

“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

The Pressure of Perfection

Ah perfection! Yes, there is something very awesome about being completely satisfied with a job you’ve done, the home you’re in, the relationship you’re enjoying, or your life as it is, but the reality is that perfection isn’t the norm for most people.  In reality, working towards perfection is really a waste of time for many people because they’ll never get there.  Often perfection turns into an assembly line of monotony that, while it achieves nice results, it’s really sucking a little more of our soul out every day.  Because with perfection often creativity and innovation falls to the wayside because you’re afraid of failing or not having it exactly right, and it not being perfect.  But where’s the fun in that?  Without creativity and innovation we’d all be little robots going through our days doing things a certain way because it achieves perfection.

This is one reason I love kids so much!  They’re able to see life beyond the rigid constructs we’ve given it, beyond the need for perfection, and able to just see things as fun opportunities to learn, create, imagine and be.  Perfection isn’t a word in their language, they aren’t concerned about failing or not measuring up, it’s us adults that put that kind of pressure on them with our overly high adult expectations.

So this weekend, let your kids be kids!  And even better, get down there and create with them.  Don’t worry about not being an adult or not doing adult things, relax and let your brain rebuild the creative connections it used to have.  You’ll learn more about yourself in one afternoon of free play than you would trying to perfect what you’ve been working on all week, and you’ll have fun too!

“If everything was perfect, you would never learn and you would never grow.” Beyonce Knowles