The Challenge and Opportunity of ‘Different’

With the Royal Wedding there’s been a lot of talk about changes and that a new era is beginning. I’m all for necessary changes, and I think of all the kingdoms/rulers/presidencies of the world, the Royal Family has managed to navigate the world and lead their country pretty well through the many different ages that they’ve been in charge in England. Parents too have lots of changes to navigate, babies have far different needs than teenagers, so parents are very familiar with the concept of change through the ages. As I was thinking about changes the thing that popped into my head was the phrase that adults say to kids (and other adults) from time to time: “yes, but that was different.”

It’s not an easy lesson for kids to learn (or parents to teach), that different rules apply to different situations, different times and different people, let alone that things could easily have changed between the last situation that was similar and the current one that’s being discussed with the child. It’s an important lesson to learn because it helps children learn to deal with change, to adapt, to plan ahead and to consider all the options and opinions, skills that will serve them well when they’re adults.

It’s really a two-fold lesson though, because it’s a reminder to not judge everyone or every situation the same, and that while you can lean back on past lessons, you have to be open to things being different, even if they look similar. Yes, the Royal Family could easily have said that they wouldn’t go in that direction and Prince Harry had to choose someone more in line with what was expected or tradition. And I can’t say that there isn’t another woman somewhere around the world that would also be a great match for him, but I think that the now Duke and Duchess of Sussex are well suited and can do more to help the world, and the Royal Family move, in a very healthy and prepared direction for the future.

The good news is that even if you’re an adult there’s still time to work on learning life’s lessons and adapting to changes. You don’t make one decision in life that says you’ll never ever learn lessons or never change, you can make a new decision each day on how you’re going to live your life and what you want your future to look like. Don’t let “different” hold you back or scare you, be willing to embrace all that life gifts you.

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Love for 2018

Today I was inspired to share a quote from Maya Angelou:

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at it destination full of hope.”

This is what I want for the rest of 2018. I want a year that’s filled with hope, where we all encourage and love each other, and aren’t driven by fear of the world ending or massive destruction. Of course, as long as we’re all still human the best we can do is strive for that goal, since none of us can be loving all the time. We’ve certainly hit our fair share of walls in 2017, so it’s my hope that 2018 can be the year that we bring down or challenge many of those walls.

So what can we do to make the rest of 2018 great?

First, it starts with an attitude adjustment for many of us. Our attitudes determine the thoughts we think, words we say and can even influence the actions we take. Our attitude is one of the most important things to work on, yet it’s often the hardest because we’ve had these beliefs drilled into us since we were kids, and now they’re part of who we are. But if we truly want to live in a better world, we have to learn to release prejudices, hatred, anger and even apathy.

Second, we have to start showing people we care and they matter. If we all acted a little more responsibly for ourselves, those who rely on us (like kids, partners and parents), and towards the world as a whole, there would be less tragedy and fewer situations which tear at our social fabric. If we were even 10% more responsible with our actions than we are now, not only would our neighborhoods be happy places to live, we’d all enjoy life more.

Finally, we have to choose to live with love and hope. Love doesn’t overlook the bad stuff, it helps find solutions to fix the bad stuff, or figures out the role bad stuff plays in life. Love gives all of us second and third chances, and helps us make good decisions about how we treat others and the world around us. Hope helps us stand again when the bad stuff gets overwhelming and makes us willing to work through the changes, even when they seem to take forever.

I hope that you’ll join me as we discover what it means to live with love and hope, and how many more victories can be achieved in each of our lives when we choose to love that way.

Making an Impact in 2018

As I was visiting the History website the other day, I noticed an article about the holiday of Kwanzaa, which is celebrated each year at the end of December. While it has ended for this year I thought that the lessons and reasons behind Kwanzaa were something we could start the year off talking about. Let’s take a look:

The Facts:
-It was begun in 1966 to bring African-Americans together as a community.
-“Kwanzaa” is taken from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which can be translated as ‘first fruits.’
-During Kwanzaa families gather together for 7 nights of celebrations including singing and dancing.

The 7 Principles of Kwanzaa:
Unity
Self-determination
Collective work and responsibility
Cooperative economics
Purpose
Creativity
Faith

Can you tell why I wanted to talk about Kwanzaa as we start this new year? Because many of the things that make this holiday what it is are things that could have an incredible impact on 2018 if we’re willing to take them on and apply them to our lives and the world we share. Over the past few years we have seen community develop, but we’re still miles away from where we could be. There are also more people than ever working towards a win-win-win world and win-win-win relationships, but there are still tons of people who are self-centered and not open to supporting others or helping them get a leg up in life.

Will this be the year that we really conquer the concept of community? Will this be the year that unity becomes a reality? Will this be the year that we incorporate purpose, creativity, faith and cooperation into all aspects of our lives? What will you make with this new year?

Ready for a Revelation?

As we head into the last month of 2017 and think about 2018, this month the topic we’ll be spending some time on is the topic of revelation. I think this is an important topic for us to consider for all aspects of our lives, past, present and future. Let’s start with what revelation means, and then we’ll talk about why we’re discussing it this month.

The dictionary says ‘revelation’ means: “the act of revealing or disclosing; disclosure. Something revealed or disclosed, especially a striking disclosure, as of something not before realized. Exposure.” Sometimes when there’s a revelation it’s not really a good thing, or the revelation reveals something negative that’s been hidden, while other times when there’s a revelation it’s like the sun has finally come out after weeks of rain.

Over the past few years we’ve seen more examples of honesty and openness between people and in business. We’re doing more fact checking, asking more questions, working through the traumas and challenges of our pasts, building relationships and friendships with people who are supportive and not draining, looking for the truth, and getting really good at knowing when there’s BS around. We’re less patient with lies and partial truths and want more authentic, organic, conscious and future-sensitive choices. There’s a clear movement towards being a more “revealed” world.

What about us though? Do we want revelation? Some of us are very eager for revelation, we want to work through what’s frustrating us or holding us back, and we don’t like being where we are, or we just want to be somewhere better. Some of us aren’t in need of personal or professional revelations, but we are on board with the trend towards revelation in the world at large. And others are fighting the revelations as hard as they can, they prefer to be in the shadow world, out for only themselves and not caring about others. But I believe if we really want to leave the world a better place for the next generation, we have to be open to, and seeking out, revelations, and be open to the changes that might have to happen as a result.

What about you? Are you in need of a revelation today?

Who is Thankful for You?

As I was thinking about Thanksgiving and our topic of the month, success, I came across this bit of wisdom from Amaka Imani Nkosazana:

“Stop seeking attention from people who don’t give you the time of day. Value your time, comfort your spirit, have peace of mind. There are people who love you and care about you. Give your smiles to them.”

Each of us face the challenge of wanting attention from those who won’t give it, like people at our offices or family members. And yet we sometimes are guilty of not giving attention to those we do care about and want our attention, like our kids and our partner. Why do we work so hard to get attention from people who don’t care about us or want to give us that attention? Sometimes I think it’s because we simply are so focused on getting the attention we want, that we don’t see what’s right in front of us. Sometimes maybe we don’t think that the attention from that person or those people who do want to give it to us would be enough for us and we’ll still not feel like we’re wanted enough.

When it comes to the topic of success we need to make sure that our attention is focused on the right people and the right things. One thing to consider when making a decision about where to focus our attention is the long term affects of making a decision to put so much effort and attention into someone or something. Yes, sometimes we let important relationships that matter to us go a little because of the other commitments in our lives, but if we don’t make up that time in the future or if we don’t recommit to them in the future they’ll distance themselves from us. You may never be able to please the one person in the world that you want to please. That doesn’t mean you should give up on pleasing them, but that it shoudln’t be your focus.

As we head into Thanksgiving here in the US in less than one day I encourage you to focus on the people you are thankful for, and those who are thankful for you. Spend time with the people who mean the most to you, and let the rest of the world do their own thing, if for only one day.

Set for Relationship Success

Today we’re talking about relationship success. While there are always factors that can’t be anticipated, and people do change, I believe that there are some things you can do to help your relationship be more successful than most. Here are 6 things you should consider to give your relationship a good chance at success.

Attention: does your partner get your undivided attention at least once every day or are you frequently doing more than one thing at a time while talking or being with them?

Actions: how do you behave towards them? What do the actions you take on their behalf, towards them or because of them say about you and your relationship with them?

Attitude: do you dismiss them and their feelings? Have you grown to resent them or their place in your life? Do you treat them as a burden or distraction?

Care: do you show them how you feel about them and how important they are to you? Do you make a point of doing special things for them? Do you sometimes put their needs ahead of your own?

Communication: how often do you two talk? Do you share the things that go on in your day and listen to them share about their day? Do you take minutes here and there to just text them that you love them?

Consistency: relationships aren’t made or broken in one day or one event, are you consistnetly showing your partner that you are their partner, or consistently showing them you’re not invested in the relationship?

I encourage you to take time to consider your relationship this week and take the necessary steps to evaluate and improve your relationship so that it’s fulfilling for both you and your partner and has the best chance at lasting success.

Are Parents the Problem?

I was talking recently with a nanny who comes from a family of many children and currently manages a family with 4 children. We got to talking about her experiences and her challenges, and she said something you may have heard before: the kids are a product of their parents. You may have heard something along those lines before, but probably not in the way that she means. For her, as a nanny when considering new families she always takes into greater consideration how the parents are than how the kids are, because she knows that the real issues and challenges (or fantastic experience) will come from the parents, not the kids. Yes, of course it’s challenging to work with kids who are unruly and throw tantrums and aren’t polite. But they often are that way because their parents have allowed them to be up to this point. That doesn’t really mean that the parents have failed, just that they really need to step up and take responsibility, or give responsibility to someone else (and not take over or micromanage).

Initially it’s not easy for the parents or kids, but over time kids do learn to interact differently with different people and in different situations. If you think about two classic examples, school and church, kids act much different at school and church than they do at home. At school you’re expected to use your brain, listen to adults and not be a bully and at church you’re expected to be quiet as a mouse and be on your extra best behavior (even at church picnics and fun events). However at home so many of the “rules” go out the window. In some ways it’s necessary to let go of some rules and give kids time to be kids, but the leadership from parents and respect for adults needs to stay in place at all times, and it can be difficult to be a leader and be respected when they’ve seen you down on your knees making train sounds during play with them.

So how do you get from being an unruly household to one that’s got usually well-behaved kids? Start with love, affection and attention. These three are super important because they show your kids that you do indeed care about them and want them to be part of your life. Follow that up by setting a good example, for example: if they see you disrespecting others (including themselves) when they’re talking by being on your phone, they’ll get the idea that it’s OK to ignore others too. Setting boundaries and time limits consistently can also help because you say that you need 5 minutes to do stuff and then they can have you for a game or to do something (or that you can play for x amount of time but at a specific time you need to go do your thing). Finally, don’t be afraid to screw up and make changes. What you teach them as you work through your mistakes can be as valuable as not making them in the first place. Employing a give-it-a-try attitude can make a big difference in how they approach problems and relationships of all kinds.

If you’re struggling as a parent, this week I would encourage you to make one small change in your relationship with your kids and that would be to love more, be more affectionate and give them your full attention. I’m not asking you to implement any real rules or make any big changes, just be more present for them and with them. What difference will a little love make in your life and theirs?

Are You Satisfied?

Today I got to thinking about what it means to be satisfied. We live in a world where good seems to never be good enough, where many people are unsatisfied in their relationships and their jobs, not to mention financial situations. Before we can talk about taking action, we have to talk about what it means to be satisfied.

First, you can’t be satisfied in a bad situation. The word “satisfaction” means that you have to be ok with the situation, you can’t be unhappy or displeased. Satisfied doesn’t mean perfect though. If you have satisfaction in a situation or about a project, it means you know you’ve done your very best and that while more work could be done, it wouldn’t ultimately greatly improve the outcome or performance.

I believe that it’s best to be satisfied with a situation before you move onto a new one, or at the very least come to terms with it. What do I mean by this? Well, if you’re in a bad relationship or hate your job or your business is failing, don’t just give up and switch gears. This will only cause problems for you and others years from now.

Satisfaction requires an understanding of what has happened and why. I don’t suggest that you pick apart every failure or bad moment to find the turning points and things you should have done differently, I think that we all need to spend a little time in reflection of the past and present before we move onto the future.

But, just because I’m satisfied with the outcome of something, that doesn’t mean I’m going to sit back and not make any new goals or dream bigger for the future and next part of my life journey. Yes I’m satisfied with who I am and where I am, but I still want more! This is healthy and nothing to be ashamed of.

This week I encourage you to take a look at your life. How are you feeling right now? Are you OK with where you are and what you’re doing? Now take a moment and make plans for the rest of this week, the rest of this month and the rest of this year. What are you going to do now, what do you need to be doing in the next few weeks and months to really be satisfied with your life in 2017 when January rolls around in a few months?

A Strong Foundation?

Something that I’m a big believer in is the concept of foundation. In so many situations there has to be a firm foundation before other steps can be taken. Yes, sometimes there are ways around it, but often to get the full and best experience, that only happens when there’s a firm foundation in place and consistently cared for. I believe that we have different foundations in many areas of our lives, including our family, our children, our partner, our work/career/business, our community and even in how we are with ourselves.

Let’s start with what might be the most important foundation: that of your personal foundation. This foundation has to do with how you see yourself, if you believe in yourself, how you treat yourself and if you respect yourself. You may be cringing as you think about your personal foundation, because too often it’s the one that we let slide because we’ve got so much going on in our lives that it seems like we’re the last thing that should be taken care of. But, as is true for so many situations, if you’re not taking care of yourself and making sure that your foundation is strong, it will end up affecting the foundations in the other areas of your life, and the other people who depend on you.

It’s important to take care of the foundations you have, because the foundations are what you build and grow from and what gives you the strength and guidance to navigate and survive challenges. The business foundation you have helps you decide if/when a person isn’t a good fit anymore or an idea shouldn’t be implemented because it’s not in line with your mission/vision/purpose. The relationship foundation you have with your partner means that you’ve established the common ground that you both connect through and identify with, and that you rarely have serious fights. The foundation you have with your kids should be one of mutual love, of your support of them, and of their respect for you as their parent.

The foundation is what everything else is built on, it establishes a starting point and a point to which you can return, it is a reference point when the going gets tough and it should give you a sense of peace even when what you’re building isn’t so stable. How is your foundation today?

“The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.” Zig Ziglar

Be Yourself Because You Matter

In the wake of large storms like those that have hit the southern US or natural disasters like the fires and drought on the west coast of the US it’s easy to think big picture. Sure millions are without power, millions are dealing with smoke or water issues, animals are struggling to deal with their homes being devastated, and companies have lost millions if not billions as a result. Those are some big numbers and indicate that a lot of people were affected by those events, or are still being affected. There’s nothing wrong with looking at those big numbers and sending mass aid to those locations. Those big numbers prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there’s an issue, and not just for one person but for millions.

But when it comes right down to it, it’s not millions of people having the exact same experience, every person’s experience is different. Every struggle is different, every challenge is different, and we’ll all make different choices when it comes to resolving them. Each of the people in Florida and the surrounding islands are united by their common hurricane experience, but each of them experienced something slightly different, and each will resolve their problems at a different speed or with a different solution.  And as part of that common experience, each and every one has the opportunity to rise from this situation stronger than they were before.

The same is true for us. We’re each living life together, but at the same time each of us have very different lives. As part of those lives we’ve got different opportunities and different challenges. You’re here reading my blog, and there are thousands of other blogs you could be reading, including thousands that also post on business, life, family, relationships and/or success topics, including some that I read on a regular basis.  Why do those thousands of people keep writing even though they’re one of many? Because if the writing we do helps just one person, makes a difference in the life of one person, encourages just one person that they’re not alone in their experience, it’s worth it.

Regardless of what you do in your life, the biggest responsibility you’ve been given is to be yourself and make a difference as yourself. Maybe you’re able and willing to put yourself in a plane in the path of a hurricane to get data that will be invaluable to saving lives and understanding climate change. Maybe you’re willing take a risk on an experimental drug for your illness so that tests can be done and learned from to better help others in the future. Maybe you’re happiest when you’re around kids and as a teacher you can help the next generation gain confidence in who they are and teach them the skills they’ll need to survive. Maybe you’re willing to listen to those who are struggling and help them find the path back to themselves and learn to live again. Whatever your gifts are, don’t be discouraged because you’re one of many, choose to be strong and brave in that path and be yourself.

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.”  Jane Goodall