Doing Your Part

This weekend I was reading about the Pope and how dramatically different His world, and all faith worlds, are right now, since no one can gather in their religious spaces with all of the requirements of staying at home to stop the spread of the virus. One article I read raised the question that some people ask, and that’s where’s the church been lately? To be fair, unlike with other world-challenging situations, those of religious backgrounds can’t do a whole lot and aren’t able to minster in their typical ways. But I digress, that’s not really what we’re here to talk about today. Instead I want to talk about a variation on that question, and that’s what do we do in this situation? What is ‘our part’ (from the saying “do your part”)?

Is it staying at home? Is it cheering for medical professionals at a certain time with open windows? Is it moving the economy along? Is it giving people time to heal before the world resumes activities? Is it bringing groceries to neighbors? Is it taking a job where you can? Is it panicking? With the exception of the last idea there, I don’t believe there is one right answer. This is true for many aspects of our lives: there isn’t only one right way to success, there isn’t always a single right relationship to be in for your whole adult life, there isn’t a best nutritional plan to follow for everyone, there isn’t only one good way to raise or educate children, there isn’t one thing that makes everyone happy universally.

But it does speak to one of the most universal truths, and that’s that we’re all human and should be respected and treated as such. It means accepting that everyone won’t love you and what you’re passionate about. It means you won’t always see eye to eye with everyone on every topic. It means we’ll all work through this challenge/trauma differently.  It means we’ve each had different life experiences. But it also means that, especially when situations like these present (but not exclusive to them), it’s always good to interact with each other with compassion, love, a patient heart and mind, and a willingness to listen.

To address the earlier question, there’s one thing all of us can do, and that’s share something encouraging or supportive or even funny with others in our realm of influence. Keep sending out newsletters and blogging in your (business/non-profit) community even if they’re of a little different topic than usual. Stay connected by sharing on social media and through text and phone calls and on online communities. Pass on knowledge you have that can help someone else through this challenge. And if you feel capable of doing something beyond that, then with appropriate investigation and planning, go ahead and do that.

The only way our communities will emerge from this intact is if we make the effort to stay connected and not shy away from the world or erect mental and emotional boundaries where there are currently physical ones.  How are you keeping your community strong?

Living with Bravery and Strength

One of the things that presents the greatest challenge in many people’s lives is to be themselves. It can be easy to fall in with what everyone else is doing, but one of the greatest callings, opportunities and challenges is to be yourself and be the person that only you can be. One of the challenges to that is that we’re not born fully formed, we grow, learn, develop and become throughout our lives. It’s a big process that we have to keep learning from and working on, including learning from our mistakes and the experiences of others. Added to this is that we may change from who we are during one period in our lives, and that’s OK because it’s not likely that we’ll be the exact same person at 18 as we are at 80.

What should keep us sane and positive during the journey of discovering who we are is the confidence we have in ourselves. If you believe in yourself and your ability to successfully work through the changes and challenges in your life you’ll be just fine working through whatever comes your way. It’s not about knowing how to handle everything, but rather believing in your ability to do so, including being able to tap into the people and resources who can support you in whatever ways you need to get it done.

Do you believe in yourself? In your ability to handle what life brings your way? In your ability to navigate and make good decisions that empower you and are wins for everyone involved or affected by them? If you don’t have confidence in who you are, if you don’t like who you are, if you don’t feel strong in your abilities, it’s a great time to step up and do some soul searching. There’s nothing wrong with saying that you’re feeling a little lost or that life has shaken your confidence in yourself recently, working with a life coach or confidence coach can help you conquer those hurdles and get back to living and thriving.

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” A. A. Milne

Stronger Together

This month one of the topics we’ll be talking about is strength. There’s been a lot of talk and news about social media lately, and a lot of it has been negative. I’m a supporter of social media, I feel it does more good than harm, that more families and friends have been brought together through it than hurt has been done. Of course I don’t make a point of interacting with or checking out the negative stuff, but just like the nightly news I know that there are things on there that I would rather not see, and should not be done to others. If anything I think social media has helped raise awareness and forced the assitance timeline on dealing with issues like hate, violence and bullying because it’s harder to hide them and a lot easier to talk with someone about what’s going on.

Social media has allowed us to have those special family moments even though many of us are on opposite sides of the country or somewhere in between. Even though it’s not astronomically expensive or difficult to travel anymore, we still have lots going on in our lives so we don’t make those trips as often as we could. But through social media we’re able to develop close relationships with extended family and share the special moments and adventures of our lives with them.

Social media does allow us to connect without having to go anywhere, but I think it’s important to spend time physically with others too. Summer is a great time to do so, because towns and cities across the US have special events like food truck nights, town wide garage sales, fireworks and concerts. For those of us who live in the center of town or near the locations that frequently host events it can be a bit of an inconvenience, but seeing the joy, excitement, happiness and connection of the people that attend is usually worth the temporary inconvenience.

I believe that by taking the time to interact in positive ways with others, as well as come together in times of tragedy we’re able to build not only stronger relationships but a stronger, healthier, happier country. Make time for your community this summer.

“We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family.” Desmond Tutu

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?

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?