Let’s Talk Time

Time is one of the topics that comes up often with kids. They want to know why things take so long or why things can’t happen right away, don’t understand how time works and sometimes even why things have to be done at a time. And that’s just the kids. As my partner and I were talking about the other day, some adults don’t have any concept of time, or don’t respect the time of others or aren’t considerate of others’ time. It can be really hard to educate kids about the importance of time when time just seems like the enemy so often.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that there’s value in using a clock, scheduling appointments, showing up on time for things, and even setting a timer to limit an activity or direct focus for a time. Time and clocks give us an important uniform structure that we wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s really a more concrete and specific way of communicating how the sun moves through the sky. Using the sun might have worked when many people were farming or in before dark regardless of the time of year, but that’s not how it goes today.

The challenge with time is that sometimes you just run out of time. It’s when you have to decide what’s a priority, what has to be done first and what is just going to have to be late or not done and that be OK. The sad thing about life and time is that you don’t have time for absolutely everything that life has to offer, which is something you just have to accept.

So when you end up moving around the concept of time on your kids, make sure you explain why you’re switching things up or stopping the fun or doing things differently than you typically do. The explanation is important because it helps teach them about priorities and decision making and can also help reduce friction between you and them when things are being affected by time. What are your tips, frustrations and works-in-progress when it comes to time?

Hope and Brilliance

So I’m a bit concerned today and maybe you share my concern. What am I concerned about? The leaves that are changing colors for autumn seem to be missing their brilliance. I see some colors out there, but there’s almost a brown tinge to everything. The yellow leaves are more like weak chicken noodle soup and less like a yellow jacket. The red leaves are like reddish-brown clay rather than a hot red pepper. And the orange leaves just look brown.

I’m not exactly up on the science of how leaves transform and what gives them their brilliant color, but it almost feels like someone took the thrill out of autumn. It’s just not the same to have the warm beverage and be out picking apples and taking a drive in the countryside if the leaves aren’t brilliant colors. It doesn’t seem like the usual last hurrah for the year that nature has before it transitions to the sleep of winter.

Admittedly it is quite early in the season and there are still tons of green trees out there, so anything is possible and I haven’t given up hope. But I’m not in love with autumn to begin with and not having the usual leaf display makes it that much harder to face. As I’ve been feeling a bit depressed by the leaves over the past few days, it’s got me thinking about our lives and our world. We’ve come so far and yet it seems like sometimes we’re not making any progress. Yes, there’s always something that we could be working on, but it’s more than that: it sometimes seems like we’re falling behind or taking steps backwards instead of moving forward. I don’t know about you but not only is that frustrating to me, it’s discouraging too.

I can’t do anything about the leaves, but I can do something about my life and try to do something about the world I live in, in fact we all can. Individually we can commit to a schedule, get organized, hire help, reduce our distractions, reduce our commitments, donate stuff, and make choices that feel good and are good for the world we share. As a community we can share a good word on social media, support local businesses, sign petitions, support charities, vote and be considerate of those we share this planet with. It won’t happen instantly, but if we’re committed to making positive steps forward every day and to having more victories than losses, together we can keep our lives and the world moving forward and not let it slide back. Will you shine a little more brilliantly today?

Your Own Steps to Success

Success is different for everyone. Yes, we can learn from others and copy their best practices, but their path to success may not work for us. It may be the exact wrong thing for us to do to get where we are hoping to get. It’s one reason why I think it’s important to evaluate the strategy or idea you’re considering implementing before just going ahead with it. It’s also a huge reminder how important it is to know yourself, your tendencies and your preferences.

For example one of the most widely shared success tips is to get up at 5 am and meditate or get your top items for the day done early. I am not a morning person. I never have been. I can get up when I have to for a client appointment in the morning, but I really don’t enjoy meeting the sun (I’m also partial to sunsets over sunrises). Another of the related oft-suggested success tips is to conquer the most important things on your to-do list in the first hour of your day, so when you first get to work or after you get the kids off to school. I saw this advice again the other day and it got me thinking about how I work and what works for me and what my brain is doing when I’m trying to do those “most important items” in the first hour.

But the more I tried to conquer those “top items,” the harder it got. Why? Because I was focused on the other things that I hadn’t done yet like the dishes in the sink or the laundry or my email or a dirty bathroom or social media or what I was going to make for dinner or groceries I needed to get or if a book was at the library for me. They may seem like insignificant things, and you may have your own list of things that goes through your head first thing, but each of those little things that aren’t technically priorities floating around my head made it take twice as long to get the true priorities done.

Instead, when I take care of those things first, when I have a clean email slate, when I respond to all the client messages, when I clean up the house first, I’m better able to get the true priorities done in the time that it should take them to get done and give them my full attention. Could I retrain myself to focus on the priorities first? Sure, but everything is getting done by the end of the day, I have a better peace of mind, I’m more focused and less distracted by everything around me.

Are you trying to adopt practices that have helped others be successful but really aren’t working for you? Maybe it’s time to reevaluate those practices and start making your own success practices and habits, and accepting what works for you instead of trying to do what works for someone else.

Ready to Run

One of the questions you hear most frequently from police officers is “why did you run”? Sometimes there’s an understandable reason like they killed someone or stole a ton of money and don’t want to get the really long jail sentence they’re looking at. But more often than not it’s inconsequential, nonexistent, or certainly not worth the extra charges they get for running. When you hear the stories you have to shake your head, especially after you hear again and again that they would have maybe gotten a little ticket had they just pulled over and behaved.

The truth is that running rarely pays. Yet we seem to pick running as a default in many areas of our lives, not just when faced with police. We run from hard situations at work, from relationships that need work, family situations that frustrate us, and homes that need some TLC just to name a few. Yes, sometimes running is the right answer and we should run as fast as we can, for example in abusive relationships, but often we choose to run rather than put in the time and effort to fix things. And there’s nothing wrong with needing a fresh start, but it’s not a good reason for running.

Of course the best advice is to not do anything that will get you into a situation that would inspire you to run like committing a crime or letting any situation in your life get so bad you just want to throw in the towel. Sometimes we just get overwhelmed, and that’s OK. But when we’re starting to feel overwhelmed it’s time to ask for help, to stand up and accept the situation we’ve gotten ourselves into, to stop putting off dealing with the situation, to start taking actions however small to conquer the situation rather than running from it. I encourage you to choose courage today and face your life and the people in it and choose to build a better future.

A Story of Accidents and Futures

It hasn’t been in the news very much of late, but if you remember back on April 15, one week before Easter, Notre Dame cathedral burned. Countless people around the world watched in real time as the spire fell and many more saw the pictures and clips in the days that followed. It was a heartbreaking tragedy that could have been even worse than it was if not for the work of the firefighters and leaders at the cathedral who worked against time to stop the fire and save what they could. As a result of their hard work the cathedral still stands, and people from around the world have donated a lot of money towards reconstruction efforts.

Naturally, from the first sign of smoke there were questions about what happened and how it could happen and if it could have been avoided. The investigation is still ongoing and they don’t have all the answers yet, but several key discoveries in the investigation thus far lead to exactly where it was first assumed it would: people and accidents.

One of the hardest lessons we have to learn in life is the lesson of imperfection. We can design all the tools, plan all of the steps, practice possible scenarios, and put in place all of the check ins, but we have to take into consideration factors that may be beyond our control, be able to read the data, and have the manpower to follow through on things, not to mention taking into account things like empathy, compassion, and emotions before making decisions or taking actions.

In other words, there’s a lot we can do to make sure that things go well and are handled with care and consideration of all involved, but nothing and no one are perfectly predictable or able to outmaneuver all of the factors beyond our control, and some times accidents happen; that’s why they’re called accidents.

When we screw up, when mistakes happen, when mother nature takes over, we have the choice of learning and growing from the experience, or we can let it destroy us. The truth is there are so many things to be celebrating about the fire of Notre Dame, like no one died, much of the culture and treasures in the building was saved, and the whole building didn’t fall down.  The full story of Notre Dame isn’t written yet, just like our stories aren’t fully written yet.  What will your next chapter hold?

A Life of Making a Difference

I’m a big fan of animals, I support various animal organizations, including those that raise puppies to be service dogs. I was reading a post on a site or social media the other day about how 10 dogs were going to different organizations and eventually to different homes to support different veterans or others in need. It was an impressive reminder how big of a difference something as simple as a litter of puppies can make in the world.

Of course each dog ends up with only one individual who is their primary support target, but that individual has a circle of people including and beyond their immediate family who will benefit from that dog as well (not to mention all the social benefits the dog’s owner gets).  And then there are all the people who follow the puppies before they go to their forever home on the organization’s social accounts and email newsletters and even live cameras and interact with the others who love the organization, all of whom also get the positive boost of seeing the cuteness and knowing that any contribution they make to that organization (donations, sharing about them, volunteering time) will be part of a positive ripple effect.

I know sometimes we look around and wonder how we got into the mess we are in or how we could possibly make the difference in the world that we want to or if anything we’re doing is really making an impact.  But if you look at the life of a service dog who doesn’t live nearly as long as a human and doesn’t have all the skills or abilities of a human (even if they are more loving and cute than most humans), it’s amazing how big of an impact they’re able to have on the world.  If a dog can make that big of an impact during their short life, why can’t we do the same through our posts, our words, our gifts, our careers, our relationships and our generosity?

A Summer of Victories

We’ve arrived at the weekend of the unofficial arrival of summer, Memorial Day weekend. As I was thinking about the next few months and what we could do with them and the hopefully great, warm weather we’re going to have, I thought I’d share a few ideas for what you can do with your family and your partner to make the most of these next few months.

One of my favorite things about the summer is all the fresh, local healthy food. Not only is it great to eat more of the fruits and vegetables that are so good for us, it’s also great to be able to support local farmers. It’s also a great opportunity to talk with the men and women who grow the food and get their recommendations on how to eat and prepare foods that you may have struggled with in the past.

It’s also a great opportunity with the better weather to be able to get out and go places. Everyone loves to travel during the summer, so why don’t you introduce the kids to some of the places and things you did when you were their age? You’ll be able to show them some of the places you’ve talked about and do different things than may be what you typically do for vacation.

Or, why don’t you finally conquer that to-do list? Get your finances from the first 5 months of the year in order for tax time next year. Move your investments to the other organization you’ve been wanting to switch to. Get signed up for that class you’ve wanted to take. Start working with that fitness trainer. Clean out and organize your basement, attic and closets. It may not be the most restful summer, but it will leave you satisfied at the end.

Finally, if you’re someone who’s always on the go, summer is an important opportunity to slow things down, take time for you, work on renewing and rejuvenating and rediscovering who you are and what you want to do with your future.  Don’t feel guilty with not being on the go all the time.

What will you do with this summer?

Knowing When to Quit

I saw in the news that the Emperor of Japan has decided to step down.  He’s 85 and has had some health issues in recent years, and has decided that it’s in the best interest of the country to pass on the leadership to his son.  Here in the US we elect someone new every 4-8 years typically so we don’t experience anything like this type of life-long leadership, but Great Britain does, at least as of now, and the Catholic Church has historically had life-long leadership but the current pope has indicated he doesn’t want to be pope for the rest of his days.  All of this has gotten me thinking about quitting.

The word ‘quit’ is an interesting one.  It can be defined as “stop, cease, discontinue, depart, leave, give up, or relinquish.”  I think these definitions are interesting because we always see quitting as a really bad thing.  But these words don’t necessarily indicate any type of failure, like we typically think of when we talk about quitting.  Sometimes quitting is the best decision you can make.

Quitting isn’t necessarily about accepting defeat or failing at something, although sometimes that is the case, other times it’s about getting out while the getting is good, or thinking about win-win-wins for everyone, or knowing that you’ve done the very best job that you could do and now you need to pass it of to someone else or do something different going forward.

Sometimes it’s easy to say that you quit, but often it does take courage and some serious consideration to make sure that you’re really making the best decision for yourself and those that matter most to you.  Those in positions of power have extra responsibility to make sure they’re doing what’s best for everyone, but the fact is we all do as well.  The way you live affects others in various ways from the very obvious and significant to the negligible, but the fact remains that we each do have responsibility for how we live, and therefore knowing when to quit.

Change isn’t the enemy, in fact more often than not it’s not changing that’s the enemy.  This week I encourage you to consider if it’s time for a change, time to quit something so you can move onto something bigger and better.

The Choice of Violence

I opened one of the many Lent devotional subscriptions I have this year to find just a few short words that really got me thinking (no, this isn’t a post about faith/spirituality). The words in the email were:

Violence doesn’t create anything.

As the world reels from the fire at Notre Dame, as the news sites share about murders and accidental deaths, as we work our way out of what was a brutal winter for some and head towards what may be a difficult summer for others, as we think about the people who have died tragically early that we personally know or know through TV and the internet, again I’m strongly considering the question of what makes people think violence and hurt/hate are the answers to anything?

I’m a creative person as you can probably tell, I enjoy writing, reading, painting, cooking, sewing and even occasionally gardening.  The only thing I really enjoy destroying is dirt.  Of course I feel some level of satisfaction when a person who has done great violence or committed great acts of hatred is caught and put in jail, because they caused destruction and hurt for the hearts and lives of many.  But I don’t spend my time thinking about the people who hurt others, intentionally or unintentionally, I prefer to spend my time thinking about ways to make the world a better, freer, fuller, happier place for all of us to share.

Today I would encourage you to think about what you’re creating with the choices you make.  Are you making choices that have zero or negative impact on the world and lives around you?  Or are you making the decision to make a positive impact on the world, even if it requires a little more effort and commitment on your part?  Even if you have little or nothing that you can contribute to help Notre Dame, the communities that lost churches in recent arson fires, the people who have been forced out of their country due to civil wars or genocide, or those who have lost their homes in recent months to natural disasters rebuild, you can still make a difference in the lives of those you meet on a regular basis through a kind word or deed, and especially by not letting violence be the answer.

Taking Time to Prepare

Whether you have a spiritual practice or not you’re probably familiar with the celebration of Easter which happens later this month. For those who celebrate Easter as a spiritual holiday, they’re currently going through a period called Lent, or some 40 days of mental and spiritual preparation before the actual celebration of Easter.

Preparation is something that should be a regular part of all of our lives, spiritual or not. We aren’t born ready for most things in our lives, we have to learn them or get ready for them. Sometimes that takes years of preparation and experiences to get to the point of being prepared to do something or be someone. There’s a reason that we vet the big leaders and people we hire (or we’re supposed to), so that we know we’ve got someone qualified and not just some random individual off the streets.

Part of preparation is planning ahead.  Sometimes that means just anticipating how things may happen in the future and being mentally (and financially) prepared for that, other times it means doing certain things first or doing things in a certain order so that you’re ready.  A great example is baking bread.  Bread isn’t a one-step process, you don’t just mix all the ingredients together in a random order and it’s done, you’re never done until you bake it, and most breads have several steps including a rest period and have to be baked.

I know we sometimes wish we could skip all the preparation and planning steps, but in many cases they make it easier to work through things when they finally happen and make it easier to deal with everything else that’s going on in our lives at the same time.  Don’t ignore the necessity and importance and value of taking the time to prepare. Taking that time can make things go easier and more successfully for you in the future.