Stop and Notice

The weather in the Pacific Northwest has been clear, sunny and cool for the last few days and, according to the long-range forecast, shows no signs of changing, at least within the next 7 days.  And that’s fine with me!

What I love about this type of weather in the late fall and early winter are the beautiful scenes it makes possible, like:

  • The brilliant orange, yellow, and blue colors of a sunrise
  • The clear view of mountains in the Cascade Range
  • The late afternoon sunlight shining off the bodies of low-flying Canadian geese

What’s interesting to me is that as beautiful as these scenes are, they can easily be missed, unless we stop and notice them.  There are so many things that occupy our minds and compete for our attention that, unless we make an effort to be aware of the beautiful things going on around us, we can easily miss them; and that would be a shame.

Let’s commit to actively looking for the beautiful things occurring around us.  Whether it’s a beautiful natural scene or an act of kindness, let’s be sure not to miss them.

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How Important Is It

Good health, education, family, relationships, a growing faith, personal development, financial security, social connections.  Most of us would agree that these are important thing, but how can we tell if we truly believe these things are important?  We can tell by whether or not we’re willing to commit our resources to them.

If we say good health is important, yet we don’t set aside time to regularly exercise, then how important is good health to us… really?  Suppose we say saving for the future is important, but we don’t put any of our money in a retirement vehicle.  Our actions would seem to contradict what our mouth is saying.  We may also believe that our marriage, or other significant relationship, is extremely important, while at the same time failing to give this relationship our time and best effort.  Is it then, really that important to us?

Where there is a lack of committed resources, there is a lack of importance.

Just because we don’t commit our resources doesn’t mean these things are no longer important.
They still are.  Our lack of committed resources only underscores that they are not important to us.

What’s important to you?  Are you committing your resources to it?  In reality, that will be a significant indicator of how important you think it is.

How We See Others

If you’re looking for a feel-good movie this holiday season, I recommend you check out Wonder.  It’s a story about the challenges of a 5th grade boy who was born with some birth defects that resulted in a scarred and unusual looking face.  Beyond his struggles in school, Wonder is a great story about the capacity we all have to choose what we see in those around us.

What made this movie so touching was how a few of the kids at his school began to look past this boy’s disfigured face and see the positive attributes he possessed.  Once they focused beyond his appearance, they soon realized that he looked less like a freak and more like a friend.

While we may not be 5th graders any longer, we still have the choice in how we see those around us.   Let’s be aware of the opportunities we have to see beyond the appearances of those around us, and to focus on the things that matter, like character and kindness.  Because wouldn’t we like to be seen the same way by others?

Turning Off The Auto-pilot

I like being in control.  Not in a “control-freakish” kind of way, but being in control of how I respond to events and scenarios I’m presented with every day, instead of automatically reacting.

Just because I like being in control of how I respond doesn’t mean that I always do it as well as would prefer.  Unless I’m consciously aware of how I want to respond to life every day, I find it easy to drift along on “mental auto-pilot” and automatically respond to the day’s events without much thought.

I listened to an excellent podcast from Brendon Bruchard this week that discussed how high performers have the habit of deciding in advance how they want to feel during a specific events or scenarios.  By defining in advance how we want to feel, we can avoid the feelings (usually negative ones) that automatically will arise.

For example, if we know we’re going to be giving a speech making a presentation to a large group, we may be confronted with fear, but that don’t mean we have to feel afraid.  We can decide ahead of time that when we’re confronted with this fear, we will instead choose to feel confident, prepared and capable.  We’re not required to feel afraid.  We can choose a different feeling.

I think this is a potential life-changing concept that can improve our relationships, careers, and attitudes, which can improve the quality of our lives.  All we have to do is be willing to turn of the mental auto-pilot and chose how we’re going to feel.

A Patient Reminder

This week my wife and I introduced a new cat to our house.  She’s a beautiful Siamese cat that is a little uncertain of her new surroundings.  As she’s getting familiar with us, I’ve been reminded that it’s a slow process that is best done patiently.

What I want to do is pick her up and squeeze and pet her.  However, right now she’s still not sure about us, so that would likely be off-putting, if not frightening for her.  While picking her up and petting her would be fun, we’re letting her slowly come to us as she feels comfortable doing so.  This approach certainly required patience, as it is usually much slower that we would like.

I think it’s like that’s with most positive changes we’d like to bring about in our lives.  My experience has been that most worthwhile pursuits take longer than I’d like them to, thus requiring me to be patient during the process.  For example, as I continue to learn the bass guitar, I wish I was further along in the process.  During this process I’m focusing on being patient and remembering that I need to focus less on being in a hurry to become proficient and more on what I need to do today to improve.  The result will happen if I am patient with the process.

Is there anything you’re currently working to improve that could benefit from a little patience; perhaps an improved relationship, an educational pursuit, or anything else that requires time to achieve?  If so, focus on what you need to do this day, and be patient that the results will follow.

Offering What We Have

On a recent fly fishing trip my buddy was telling me about how his young daughter was feeling down one night and his wife asked if he could try to talk to her and cheer her up.  As my friend recounted, he wasn’t sure what to do but he thought about what he could offer his daughter at this moment.  “So”, he told me, “I started talking to her while belching.  And it worked!”  My friend’s daughter was soon smiling and laughing along with her eructing father.

I roared with laughter!  Never before have I heard a parent say, “I didn’t know what to do, so I started belching.”

I really love my friend’s approach to this situation.  First I love how, even though he wasn’t sure what to do, he answered the call to assist his daughter, who was having a rough moment.  It would have been easy for him to say something like, “that’s really not my area of expertise” or “she’ll be able to work through it herself”, but instead he decided to engage.  He decided to be a dad.

Second, he thought about what he had to offer.  Despite not knowing what to do at the moment, he quickly thought of what he could offer his daughter to lighten the mood.  It didn’t have to be a perfect, parentally-correct method; it just had to be something he could offer.

Lastly, he offered what he had.  He didn’t hold back, he didn’t say, “belching will never work”.  He simply offered what he had, and cheered up his daughter.  (He likely created a silly memory she will never forget.  I would have loved to hear my dad offer me belches of encouragement when I was a young boy!)

Whether it’s encouraging words, thoughtful actions, listening ears, or myriad other things, we all have something to offer those around us.  All we have to do is offer what we have.

The Ability of Music

As I’m sitting down to write this week’s blog I’m listening to the “Les Miserables Live! The 2010 Cast Album”.  The music in this soundtrack has a wide gamut of emotional connections, from big powerful numbers that get your heart rate up to those that are soft and tender that will bring tears to your eyes.

Such is the power of music.

What a blessing to live in a world with music!  Music has the uncanny ability to:

  • Encourage
  • Soothe and calm us
  • Get us fired up
  • Focus our thinking (or make us think)
  • Distract us
  • Make us laugh
  • Make us cry
  • Create connections
  • Tell stories
  • Heal us
  • Set a mood
  • Trigger memories
  • Create memories…

… and that’s just the beginning of a very long list!

If you’re not already doing so, look for way to integrate music into your daily routine.  In addition, explore new types of music you may not normally listen to.  You may discover a whole new genre that you really resonate with.

And what a blessing that would be.