Leave Room for Someone Interesting

My wife and I were recently flying from Portland Oregon to Phoenix Arizona on Southwest Airlines.  On Southwest, prior to boarding, you line up at the gate according to your assigned boarding number and select your own seats once you get on the plane.  As we boarded the aircraft, I moved into a window seat and my wife sat on the aisle seat, leaving a vacant seat in between us.  When I asked what she was doing she said the flight wasn’t full and wanted to keep the row of seats to ourselves.

I noticed other people had been doing this also, in an effort to avoid having to sit by a stranger.  After she told me what she was doing, I suggested that she scoot in the middle seat to leave the aisle seat open, because someone interesting might sit there.  She didn’t seem too thrilled with my idea.

As the plane became fuller, her plan began to crumble and she eventually had to move to the middle seat next to me to make room for other passengers.  We were fortunate to have a kind and interesting lady sit next to us that who shared some of her life experience, as well as provided some vacation suggestions for our destination.  We had a great conversation and were able to connect with another human being who we had not even known prior to our flight.  It was a nice way to pass the time.

As we got off the plane, said our good byes, and parted ways, I was thinking about how enjoyable the conversation was and how easily we would have never met that nice lady, had we not left room for her.

It’s easy to keep our guard up and stay detached from people we don’t’ know.  We’re taught as youngsters not to talk to strangers.  This is good when you’re young, but I think as we get older and more discerning, leaving room for opportunities to connect with people we don’t know is crucial to expanding our thinking and connect with other people.  How boring and small our lives would be if we limit our interactions to only those people we already know.  Think about this:  all the people you already know were at one point strangers.

Cause something to happen in your life that leaves room for you to connect with interesting people.  Leave a seat open next to you, greet the person sitting next to you at an event or in line, and smile more.  You’ll create opportunity to connect with and learn from others in ways you wouldn’t have experienced before.  And who knows, you may even meet someone interesting.

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What Are You Thinking?

“We become what we think about.”

~ Earl Nightingale

“We move in the direction of our dominant thoughts.”

~ Hundreds of philosophers, scholars, and leaders

Our thoughts chart the course that our actions follow.  As you’re pursuing your goals and dreams, remember to regularly take inventory of your thoughts and ask yourself:

  • Are my thoughts helping me or hurting me in the pursuit of my goals?
  • What do I need to start thinking about?
  • What do I need to stop thinking about?

One of the biggest barriers holding us back from what we want in life is often our own thinking.  Begin assessing the quality of your thinking and determine what your thoughts are causing to happen in your life.  Then make any necessary changes to align your thinking with the goals and dreams you have for your life.

All change first begins as a thought, and your thinking is the greatest force you have for achieving the goals, relationships, and life you desire.

Make sure your thinking is taking you where you want to go.

The Soil of Today’s Activities

Do you have a vision of how you’d like our life to look in 1, 5, or 10 years?  I do. One obvious thing I’m discovering is that my life won’t look like my vision of it all by itself.  It requires me to cause something to happen today, and every day, to ensure that my future will turn out the way I envision it.

I was reminded of this obvious truth from a quote on Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative podcast that simply stated:

“The seeds of tomorrow’s brilliance are planted in the soil of today’s activity.”

This quote caused me to think about whether my activities the past several weeks have moved me closer to the vision I have for my life.  Upon reflection, I realized that I could stand to cultivate my own soil of today’s activities.  Here’s what I mean by this.

Two of my biggest obstacles to making the best use of my time today to ensure my desired future are:

  1. Spending too much time on daily tasks or chores.
  2. Allowing myself to get distracted by non-value added activities.

It is so easy for me to have a list of daily tasks I want to get done that they often get prioritized over more important activities that would progress me toward achieving my goals.  I also find it easy to get distracted by trivial things like checking my smartphone for new messages, looking up some non-urgent, non-important information, or beginning one task before closing the one I’m currently working on.

This way of functioning substitutes high value life-shaping activity for task-based activities that merely serve to perpetuate the status quo.  If all we do today is perform routine daily tasks and allow distraction to rule the day, then we shouldn’t be surprised when we look back on our lives and find we’ve made no progress toward the goals we’ve set for ourselves.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to combat inactivity and distraction.  Some suggestions include:

  1. Know where you want to go in life and what your goals are.  Knowing this is helpful because you can easily assess whether you’re off target or actually making progress toward our goals.
  2. Be aware of your tendencies and know what behaviors you habitually perform that waste time.  Regularly ask yourself, “Does this activity take me where I want to go or where I want to be in life?”

The tomorrow we will all live will be built on our activities of today.  Let’s be intentional about shaping the future we desire and mindful of how we’re spending our time today.  Your tomorrow depends on it.

We’re Not That Different

The disappearance of Malaysian Air Flight 370 has dominated the news for several weeks.  This story is especially heart breaking when you begin to think about the family members of the passengers who will never see their loved ones again.  I can’t imagine the pain and grief they must be experiencing.

One recent news broadcast showed some of these family members after they were given news about the search results (or lack of results).  The family members shown on the broadcast were all from China, and experiencing very real and very raw emotional responses to the fact that no one knew where their loved ones were.  Although I couldn’t understand what they were saying, I could tell from their wailing and facial expressions that they were hurting and struggling with the fact that life without their loved ones was becoming a reality.

Seeing these suffering people of another culture half a world away caused me to realize just how similar people of different cultures usually are.  Although the family members on the news spoke a different language and have different customs and norms than I do, they have family and people in their lives that they love.  Just like me.  And when those people are suddenly taken away, they are severely impacted and feel the loss in a painful way, just like I would.

It’s easy to look at people from another culture, or part of the world, and think them strange or weird because they are different from us.  But on a human level, we’re all wired for community and to love and be loved.  In this regard, there is great cross cultural similarity. This commonality is a great place to start building connections and understanding with people of different cultures.

I’m fortunate to have worked with a lot of people from India during my career.  I’ve enjoyed learning about their lives in India, their families, and their culture.  It has really opened my eyes to the world beyond the borders of North America.  Do you work with, or live next to, or regularly cross paths with people from a different culture that you don’t know that well?  If so, here are a few suggestions to help you make a connection and show that you are interested in learning more about them and their culture:

  •          Ask them about their families and how they interact with each other:  siblings, parents, spouses, children, grandparents.
  •          Read a book about their culture and ask them specific questions about something you read that you found interesting or didn’t understand.
  •          Ask them how to pronounce their name and practice pronouncing it correctly.

o   Ask if they have any nick names they prefer being called.

Cause something to happen that broadens your understanding of the world by interacting with people who differ culturally from you.  Remember that they’re people who have loved ones they care about just like you.  It’s a great way to connect with others and to increase your understanding of people on a more global scale.