We Choose

Weird times going on in the world today!  We have an abundance of uncertainty, and with it comes the potential for fear, anxiety, and worry.  It’s important to realize this, because left unchecked, these feelings can cause us to behave in ways that we might otherwise not.

We choose how we behave.  Circumstances don’t make us act poorly; we choose to act poorly.  Situations don’ cause to treat others badly.  We choose to do that too.

The good news is that in spite of situations or circumstances, we can also choose to treat others well.  We can choose to treat others with compassion and dignity. That choice is completely up to us.

So, let’s pay attention to how we’re choosing to treat one another.  Let’s choose to treat each other well; not just during these crazy times, but from this moment forward.

That sounds pretty good to me!

Thinking About Our Sources

I love living in the Information Age!  Just before writing this blog, I dropped my fountain pen on the floor, leaving 2 black spots of India ink on the carpet.  Not good!  My wife looked online and told me I needed to blot the spots with rubbing alcohol.  Five minutes later, the spots were gone!

How great is that!!  I needed a specific piece of information and within seconds, I not only had the info, but was applying it to solve my problem.  Amazing!

The downside of the Information Age is that there is SO much information out there, from so many different sources, it can become overwhelming to know which sources to trust.  This is especially true when we’re seeking more important information than how to get ink stains out of your carpet.  When searching for information we need to make important life decisions, we should employ some critical thinking to help us vet which sources we will rely on.

For example, we should determine the reason the source is providing this information.  Is it to:

  • Educate
  • Persuade
  • Generate a sale
  • Influence my opinion
  • Move me to action to support a cause, belief, or ideal

Some other things we should think critically about regarding our information sources are:

  • What tactics they are using
    • Fear
    • Scarcity
    • Emotional hooks
  • Is the information based on facts or opinions
  • Is the source considered an expert or authority in the field

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but rather serves as a reminder that we should question our sources to determine whether we can trust the information they provide.

Ultimately, we have a responsibility to ourselves and our loved ones to be discerning of the information sources clamoring for our attention.  Because our thinking shouldn’t cease when Google returns our search results.

Fill Your Own Mind

“The test of a person’s education is that he finds pleasure in the exercise of his mind.” 

~ Jacques Barzun

There are so many voices today, clamoring to fill our minds with their thoughts, ideas, or opinions and repeat them as our own.  Since each one of us is blessed to have total ownership of our mind, we should be aware of what we’re letting into them.

We should actually use our minds and think critically regarding the formation of our ideas and opinions.  Our minds are like a garden that we should tend to with care.  We need to give attention to what we allow to take root, and root out anything that doesn’t help to produce the positive mind we’d like to cultivate.  Our minds are too valuable, too precious, to be treated as empty vessels just waiting to be filled with someone else thoughts.  Filling our minds is OUR job.

There’s a lot going on in the world today and a lot people eager to do our thinking for us, with regard to how you’re to respond, act, and think.  Let’s make sure that the opinions we have and the actions we take are the result of exercising the super computer between our ears, rather than sopping up what someone else pours inside.

Unintentionally Training Others

How do you go about learning a new skill?  Usually, your training will involve many correct repetitions of the skill you’re attempting to master.  Through repetition, you can train yourself to become competent, if not excellent, in any skill you choose.  Repetition is a remarkably powerful training tool.

One thing we may not realize, is that we can also training others (often unintentionally) by what we repeatedly expose them to.  If we’re continuously on our phone, or have our face in front of a screen, whenever we’re with those close to us, what kind of message are we repeatedly sending them?  What are we “training” them to understand?

If we’re always checking our phone or interrupting those who are trying to have a conversation with us, make no mistake, we’re training them that they are not important enough to warrant our full attention.  We are training them to know that we will tap out of our interaction with them the moment something more exciting comes along.  We are training them that they really don’t matter much to us.  Regardless of what we may tell them, or actions are what will train them.

While it’s easy to get sloppy with regard to how we’re training others, it’s also easy to start changing our actions and behaviors to train those around us that they are indeed important and that they matter.  We can decide to train them to know that we care about them.

Consider you’re recent interactions with those close to you.  Through those actions, what have you been training other to understand?  If you don’t like the training you’ve been presenting, then intentionally change your behaviors to align with the training you’d like them to receive.

Two Part Process For Building Skills

I’ve been taking lessons to learn the electric bass for 3 years now.  There have been a number of skills to learn, and I’ve struggled grasping many of them!  When I do find myself struggling with a concept, I have come up with a 2 step process for speeding up my understanding.  The 2 steps are:

  1. Write down my understanding of the concept and present it to my instructor
  2. Be open to, and ready to apply, feedback

Jotting down my understanding of a concept helps me clarify my thoughts and also presents my instructor with a glimpse into my thinking.  From this glimpse, he can easily tell whether I’m grasping the concept or not.  It’s really difficult to fake my understanding when I’ve just handed him a chart, summary, or sketch of how I’m interpreting what I’m learning!

It’s nice when my understanding is correct.  However, most times, I’m usually missing something.  It’s at these moments when my instructor can jump in and clarify a point.  This is where I need to be ok with the fact that my understanding is flawed.  When it is, it’s not a knock on me.  It’s an opportunity to learn and grow as a bass player.  Frankly, isn’t that the point of lessons: to find out in what skills you’re lacking and learn how to get better?

If you’re struggling to learn a concept, consider jotting down how you currently understand it, and give it to someone who knows the topic and will give you an honest assessment.  Then be ready to learn from and apply their feedback.  You’ll have inaccurate understanding to lose and new skills to gain.

A Quick Word On Moving Slow

When we start out on a new endeavor, we usually want quick results.  Whether it’s getting in shape, learning a new skill, investing, or building solid relationships, we like to have positive results come quickly.  Who wouldn’t?  It’s fun and encouraging to see results!

In most cases however, results don’t happen quickly.  They usually arrive slowly.

Therefore, we must put in the effort day after day, month after month, or even year after year before results begin to appear.  The time between starting and results showing up is an easy point to lose heart and give up.  Yet this is also the time when it’s also most crucial to look beyond the present, to that day when the results will have shown up.  When the results are slow, we must be quick to remind ourselves why we want these results and also to remain committed to the process that will ultimately bring us the results we’re working toward.

If you’re currently pursuing something and you’re not seeing the results you want yet, take heart.  Know for certain that results follow actions.   Focus your attention knowing that your results will occur, they must occur, if you simply continue to take the actions required to get you there.

Celebrate All Year

I’m writing this week’s blog post on Friday February 14, Valentine’s day in the United States.  It’s a fun holiday where you acknowledge the love between you and your spouse or significant other.  As I was considering this holiday today, I got to thinking that several of our annual holidays should be observed every day of the year.

Think about it, what if we celebrated Valentine’s day every day.  What if the appreciation we showed for those we love was in the forefront of our mind every day, to the same degree it is on Valentine’s day?  No, I’m not saying you need to go out to dinner every night of the week, or come home with candy, flowers, or other gifts every single day.  I’m talking about acknowledging that appreciation thought our words and actions every day.  That would certainly mean more to those we love than limiting these actions to 1 day out of 365.

Thanksgiving is another one.  What if we thought about the people and things we are grateful for every day of the year?  Do you think that kind of thought might have an impact on your life?

Also, if you’re a Christian, shouldn’t Christmas and Easter be celebrated each day?  Again, not the gifts and Easter eggs every day, but rather the appreciation of what Jesus has done for you.  That’s worth appreciating every day!

Think about your favorite holidays, whether it’s one listed above or different one.  Then consider how you can implement what those holidays stand for into your every-day life, because they’re worth celebrating more than once a year.