Personal Remembering

Monday in the USA we celebrated Memorial Day. It’s one of the days each year that we take time to stop and reflect on the men and women who have fought for our country, who still fight for our country and who have lost their lives fighting for our country. It was a pretty cloudy weekend where I live so there was a bit less revelry than I remember from past years, however, I didn’t do any of whatever there might have been because I spent the weekend feeling not so great and doing lots of resting.

But as I was reflecting on Memorial Day and how I spent my weekend, I was reminded that as much as Memorial Day is about being together and honoring the men and women who fought, those memories can also be very personal. Sometimes you don’t want to be with others, even those you love, you need to be alone to take the time to personally reflect and remember. Maybe it’s because your loved ones don’t feel the same way you do about that person or they’re not the sentimental type or they don’t have the need at this point in their life to reflect that you do. It’s not wrong to not take a lot of time to reflect deeply about someone you’ve lost every year, but if you don’t take any time for personal reflection on those you’ve lost and those who have touched your life ever, I think you’re missing out.

I don’t believe we should try to live our lives alone, but I also don’t think every second of our lives needs to be spent with others. There are things that we should do on our own without feedback or intrusion or direction from others. Some things are done both personally and publicly (like mourning), but some of us are willing to write off the need to do the personal side of things because we’ve done the public. Often we make that decision because we don’t want to feel those deep, sometimes painful, emotions that would be brought up if we spent time on our own. But if you want to experience the most life has to offer you need to take the time to get up close and personal with those sometimes uncomfortable feelings and activities.

This week I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on the people who matter and have mattered in your life as well as what you want from your life in the future. We’re almost half way through another year, what will you make of the next 7 months?

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When It Takes Too Long

I know the past month for me has been challenging, there have been cancellations, changed plans, friends appearing and disappearing, and lots of other strange happenings, not to mention all the stuff going on in the world.  And it’s all exhausting!  Each day just feels like trying to walk through mud.

So what do you do when life just takes too long to get to where you’re heading?

My first choice is to relax.  We’re a busy society and don’t take enough time to smell the roses, literally and figuratively.  When was the last time you were outside?  When was the last time you took a walk, albeit bundled up given that we haven’t quite shaken winter yet?  When was the last time you sat on the couch with your partner or a friend and just talked?  When was the last time you had a cup of tea or coffee without the paper or some work?

Second, do what you feel like you can do.  If your body is telling you to take a nap, maybe you’re not getting enough sleep to function in high-challenge times like these.  If your body is complaining about something, maybe it’s a good time to try that diet your friends have been telling you about. Make short to-do lists and don’t plan to conquer the world right now.

Third, make time for family.  You don’t have to have your a-game to have a great time with your family.  Your kids will love if you sit and read stories with them, your parents will love if you call them, your siblings will wonder if you’re going crazy but it will be a chance to spend time with the people you probably don’t spend enough time with.

If your life, goals and victories have been a little elusive of late, fear not, keep pressing forward, especially now that we’ve entered a new month.  We’ll all get there.  Listen to what your body and heart are telling you and do the best you can.  No one will fault you for trying and doing the best you can.

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

We Are All

In case you missed it there was a really big football game this past weekend.  It was a huge upset and a huge shock to many people.  However, there are people who experienced some serious stress during the game but remained fully confident in their team, and were able to experience a huge victory.  Who are these people? Patriot fans.

While I can’t say that the Patriots are “my team”, I have to respect their team, their coaches and their quarterback(s) who have come together time and again to create some incredible results.  I know from talking with Patriot fans how dedicated their team is, how hard they work and how much passion and energy they put into this organization that they are committed to.  They’ve fought against some serious challenges the past few years and bad press from those who don’t like their success or because they may have tried to bend the rules.  I’m not here to place or suggest guilt or innocence.  That’s a whole different conversation that we’re not having today.

Today what we’re talking about is a slogan that I saw after the game: “We Are All Patriots.”  I don’t know of any true Patriot’s fan who doubted them or gave them up as a result of the challenges of the past few years.  They’ve remained loyal to them, and this year their loyalty was rewarded in a big way.

But this really speaks to a bigger conversation, how we all identify with each other.  Do you see that we’re all one people?  We can all break our bones, work a job, love someone, or enjoy a laugh.  Whether we’re black or white, police or civilian, PhD or high school graduate, dog lover or cat lover, parent or not, or TV buff or not, we are all human.  You can’t change that unless you change your body and DNA and that’s not a direction science has been working in that I know of.  We all have differences, yes.  But when it comes down to it there’s a very high probability that you want the same thing I do: to get through tomorrow alive, to be loved, to enjoy life more and to have more time with the people we love.

So congratulations to the Patriots, and I encourage you to think about the community, the state, the country that you belong to and how you’re helping make it a better place to live in for everyone.

Sharing Freedom through Hope

Every day we do a thousand things that could either hurt or help ourselves and others.  We make tons of decisions about our lives and the lives of the other people we interact with.  Sometimes they’re really good decisions, sometimes they’re lucky decisions, sometimes they’re selfish decisions, sometimes they’re selfless decisions, sometimes they’re lazy decisions, sometimes they’re rushed decisions and sometimes they’re thoughtless decisions.  It’s always my goal to make one more thoughtful and selfless decision each day, but I’m not perfect and don’t expect that I’ll make all perfect decisions anytime in the near future (and sidenote: sometimes the best decision you can make is a selfish one).

So what if, instead of trying for the impossibility of perfect, we focused more on doing one more thing that could positively change the world?  What if instead of letting that insensitive thought fly out of our mouths, instead we looked for the words that would heal or free someone?  What if instead of playing the victim card you turned it around and became the victor?  What if instead of trying to get revenge on someone for the way they hurt you, instead you went on to encourage someone else?  What if instead of looking for ways that you can be king or queen, you looked for ways to make a difference instead?  What if instead of trying to always be center stage, you let someone else shine?  What if you took the spotlight off your life and you looked for ways that you could make one person’s day a little brighter?

Today I encourage you to choose the gifts of encouragement, hope, reassurance and shared strength.  Let people know that the whole world has not gone to pot and that there are still caring people here.  Let the world know that each person matters, as an individual and a human being.  Let people know that they are not forgotten.   Finally, let someone know that their life is not over and they can still find purpose and fulfillment and live their life however they choose.  Who will you encourage today?

“Is there somebody in your life whom by a word or an action you can help to unbind, help to set free? Give them hope. For that is God’s gift to each one of us. Give that gift to another today.”  Br. Geoffrey Tristram

4 Tips for Increased Productivity

Recently we’ve been talking about the topic of being productive during the summer months in your business. I hope you’ve been able to follow through on at least some of those thoughts. Today I wanted to talk about in-the-minute productivity and what you can do to stay motivated through the days that you would rather be out playing with the kids, and how to do your best work for your customers all the time, not just during the summer.

Food and Drink: this is not only a popular break activity, but one that’s necessary for keeping you productive. I can testify that if I forget to eat (or don’t have time to), or don’t drink enough during the day (water, tea, coffee etc. not sodas and alcohol), it can be hard to stay focused as the day drags on and as it draws to a close. Make sure to eat healthy foods though, not just vending machine snacks. There are tons of things you can prepare in 10 minutes or less that are much healthier for you and still enjoyable.

Exercise: many businesses are taking to including workout locations at their place of business or sponsoring memberships for their employees to join local gyms. This is great and it helps employees stay healthier and look and feel better. But what I’m talking about is as simple as a 10 minute walk around, in or near your business. Maybe it means walking through the different departments checking in with people. Maybe it’s an outdoor walk during which you take the time to call your partner and/or kids and check in. Maybe it’s just a walk to and around the kitchen to get a snack and make a cup of something to drink to take a break from the no-so-healthy snacks or water you keep at your desk.

Emails and Social Media: I know, this is something that trips many people up when it comes to productivity. So, rather than seeing it as a challenge, see it as an opportunity. When that afternoon slump hits you, rather than trying to get through the challenging stuff and important projects, take time to read your email, peruse related business publications and sites and check in on the business related social media stuff. It all has to get done, so set aside time that you’re not able to be as productive and conquer it then.

Sleep: This one can get tricky, because sometimes a 10 minute nap turns into a lot more.  But sometimes what you really need isn’t food, exercise or a distraction, you need to catch up on your sleep.  Sleep is super important and if you’re getting too little or too much for your body you won’t function at optimal productivity.  So take a quick nap, or pack it in early so you can get a full night’s sleep.

What do you do to stay productive?

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?

Supporting Our Troops

On Wednesday I shared about the value of hiring veterans in your business. As we continue to think about Memorial Day coming up on Monday I wanted to talk a bit about what the rest of us can do if we don’t have businesses, and how we can support veterans in general. A big part of supporting veterans is recognizing their value to each and every one of us. Whether you agree with the decision to send out troops or the current political whatevers, or not, I believe that it’s important show unwavering support for the troops and veterans. They’re willing to go out into possible or certain danger and lend a helping hand or fight against threats, hatred and corruption or in time of need.

The world isn’t ready to fully embrace peace yet. We’re still a long way from all being able to respect all human life and learn to appreciate and accept the differences we all have (as long as those differences aren’t harmful or racially/culturally dishonoring). Just because the world isn’t fully ready for peace, it doesn’t mean that we should give up on it or that it’s wrong to try to put peace and teamwork first.

If we want a strong America we need to learn how to work together and one of the best places to start is with our troops. For quite some time we’ve been hearing about issues at the VA and veteran’s hospitals. Part of the reason that it’s gotten so bad is because we don’t support our troops as much as we should. We’ve let it be an “out of sight, out of mind” thing maybe because we’re not happy to be sending them out or because we don’t like how politics are at the moment or because we don’t think we have a personally vested interest or because our parents didn’t teach us the importance of the troops, or because we just don’t know how to help.

I think we could make a big, positive, change in the direction that America is going if we started supporting each other more, including our veterans. This Memorial Day make time with your family to do something for the troops. Maybe you’ll donate to a care package, maybe you’ll share your change at the food store with the veterans standing outside, maybe you’ll write your government officials asking them to do more for veterans, maybe you’ll take a meal to a military family in your community, or maybe you’ll just talk with your kids about how awesome and courageous the men and women are who go around the world for each of us. Together we can make America even greater.

Thankful for Heroes

Today in the USA is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s the day each year we take time to celebrate this brave man who led a charge for better civil rights for everyone and awareness of how poorly people were treated on basis on things like race. Why do we set aside time each year to honor some people but other people don’t get as much recognition? Is it because they didn’t make as big of a contribution or weren’t as revolutionary?  I don’t think that’s the case, and I think we should keep trying to make an impact regardless of whether we get a holiday in our honor or not.

First, everyone has value and can contribute to the world. That’s not to say that we all do. Some of us don’t tap into our courage or aren’t willing to do the work necessary to make the kind of contribution to the world like Dr. King did. You too can transform the world, and you can start today.

Second, just because you’re not a celebrity or included in the history books doesn’t mean you didn’t make an impact. Sometimes you’re only known for your contributions within your immediate community, whether it’s the community where you physically live or your online community. And just because you’re not a celebrity it’s not to say you’re not making a big impact.  Big is a matter of perspective. If you help one person step back from a ledge or get over a mountain you’ve done something amazing. Don’t try to make a difference for the purpose of being recognized.

Finally, I do want to take time to recognize the work of Dr. King. He stood for what he believed in, led with courage, inspired others and started a movement that transformed a nation. He should be recognized not only for what he stood for but for his ability to finally rally people around the injustice of judging on basis of color.

I’m thankful for people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who are willing to stand up for what they believe. What are you standing up for?

The Support of Family

Most people start off the year with high hopes for what they can do with the gift of a new year, you’re probably no different, I know I have hopes and dreams for this year.  So what can we do to make this year different than other ones?  This year as we talk about the topic of being thankful one of the big things that often comes to mind are the people in our lives.  If we really want to accomplish our dreams and goals for this year I believe that one of the keys will be our willingness to ask for and be open to getting support.

Our lives aren’t easy, we face challenges on a daily basis that we struggle with or feel frustrated by.  One of the best ways to not only feel better about the challenges but to resolve them is to talk them over and work through them with someone else, or even several other people.  Having a team of people, whether coworkers, friends or family, in your life that you know will support you through all challenges is an essential tool to making your life all it can be, and happy too.

There is no replacement for being willing to work hard and pull your own weight in life.  But there is no rule book that says it has to be just you and you have to do it all alone.  If you really want the to have the best, happiest, healthiest and strongest year you’ve ever had and for your family too, the only way to get that is to work together to make it happen.  When we each do our chores, or at the very least bring something to the table like an encouraging spirit, it’s then that we’re able to not dread coming home at night or worry about the future of our family.

Will this be the year you’ll ask for the help you need and be open to being the help and hope that those in your life need? Or will it be a repeat of previous years when your only focus is being #1?