Coming in Second Place

I don’t mind coming in second place, as long as I know that I’ve done my best.  However, there is nothing more frustrating than coming in second place to a smartphone.

Has it ever happened to you?  You’re interacting with another person when all at once, they stop interacting with you in order to respond to incessant smartphone notifications.   Worse yet, without even being prompted by a notification, they decide that interacting with you would be a good time to check social media updates, look at email, or see if any new texts have arrived.

Maybe you’ve even been with someone who is close to you who would rather pull out their smartphone and totally zone out, all but forgetting that you are present and eager to interact with them.

What’s up with that?

What kind of messages are we sending to people when we use our smartphones take priority over our interactions with them?  Those coming in second place to a smartphone are likely thinking:

  • Do they think I’m boring?
  • Would they rather be doing something else than being here with me?
  • Why did they agree to get together when they’d rather be on their phone than interact with me?
  • Are they looking to see what others are doing that is more exciting than what they’re doing right now?
  • What’s so exciting on your phone that you can’t put it down long enough to have a real person-to-person interaction?
  • This is the last time I’ll agree to get together with them in person. I’d get a better response if I just sent them a text.

I don’t know if people are intentionally trying to kill human interaction when they do these things.  My guess is that they are not even aware that they are putting their smartphone in first place.  Perhaps they’re just choosing the path of least resistance, because for some, human interaction is work.

Here are a couple of suggestions to ensure that we’re putting the people we’re with in first place:

  • Put your smartphone in airplane mode before you meet the other person
  • Keep your smartphone out of site during your interaction. Sometimes just the site of your smartphone can cause the other person to think you’re expecting a call, text, or social media update.
  • Don’t be so quick to want to find the answer to every question raised. They don’t all need to be answered on the spot.  Sometimes it ok if they’re not answered at all.  Sometimes it’s ok just to wonder.
  • If you truly would rather not spend time with the person, then don’t agree to. That would be a much kinder solution than putting them in second place.

Let’s put those we’re with in first place by giving them the gift of our undistracted attention.  Not only will they appreciate it, they will be likely do the same for you.


What’s Guiding You?

Trains are a powerful, efficient way to move large amounts of goods and people from one place to another.  The economies of many countries rely heavily on them to do just that, and those economies would be severely impacted if trains were all of a sudden not available.

As important as trains are, what enables them to be so effective are the tracks they run on.


Think about that.  A big, powerful train requires the guidance a track provides, in order to travel swiftly and safely from Point A to Point B.  Without the guidance of a track, a train is rendered useless.

Although we don’t require the guidance of a physical track as a train does, I would suggest that we could all use a “track” of sorts, to help guide us as we travel through life.  However, the guidance I’m suggesting is less tangible than a physical track, and would take the form of something like:

  • Sound principles
  • Sacred writings
  • Wise teaching
  • Examples from people who have lived well

For me, I choose to be guided by the teachings and principles in Bible.  Its wisdom and instruction, much like a track for a train, provide me with the direction I need for any situation I may face.

What are you using to guide you as you travel through life?  We are all guided by something, even if we haven’t chosen what that “something” is.  In the absence of a specific choice, we’re likely to be guided by things like:

  • Convenience
  • Peer pressure
  • Popular opinion
  • Expectations of others

Decide today what will guide your life.  Once you do, you’ll be on track to better navigate the ups, downs, and day-to-day occurrences of your life’s journey.

How Will You Live Them?

According to the World Health Organization, the overall life expectancy in the United States is 79 years.  That’s a long time!  What’s encouraging to me is no matter what our life expectancy, we get to choose how we live our years.

Think about that for a moment.  We get to choose:

  • How we will spend our time
  • What areas of interest we will pursue
  • What we will study and learn
  • The skills we will develop
  • The attitude and world view we will adopt
  • How we will treat others
  • Our level of intellectual development and learning
  • Who we will spend time with
  • What contribution we will make in the world
  • The experiences we’ll have
  • Whether or not we will stretch out of our comfort zone

What a significant and exciting responsibility!  We get to choose what we do with our years and how they will shape us, now and in the future.

Last Sunday, my pastor was preaching on a similar topic regarding life expectancy and what we do with the years we’re given.  During his sermon, he made the following statement:

Don’t live one year 79 times.”

That got my attention.

The statement reminds me that as we get older, we are not required to grow, develop, discover, learn, and get better with each passing year.  That’s optional.  It is something we get to decide to do, or not.  I am also reminded that growth is not automatic.  Getting better as we age doesn’t just happen; rather it takes intentional action from us.

What is automatic is being exactly the same at the end of a year as you were at the beginning.  Unless we decide, and take action on how we will spend our years, we can be assured we will be exactly the same this year as we were last year.  And so on, for as long as we choose not to be intentional with how we spend them.  Without intentional effort, the current year will look just like the previous one.

What are you looking forward to in 2016?  Is there anything you’d like to attain, learn, experience, or become this year that you didn’t in 2015?  If so, start planning specific actions you can take throughout the year to become better this year than you were last year.

Seventy nine years is a long time, but it sure feels like they go quick; and even more so the older we get!  Let’s decide today to learn, grow, and become better as we get older.   Aging and getting better doesn’t always go hand in hand.  If we’re not intentional about getting better, then age comes alone.

Daily Behavioral Goals

I’ve been thinking about my goal setting for 2016 and have decided to try something a little different this year.  While I will still have goals in the 7 areas of Zig Ziglar’s Wheel of Life, I think I’m going to also adopt some daily behavioral goals that I can focus on every day.  Here’s what I’m talking about.

Usually my goals consist of targets that I’m trying to achieve in a month, quarter, or year.  That’s good, but I also want to have goals that will help me daily to become more like the person I want to be.  For these areas of my life I am putting together behavioral goals that I plan on demonstrating every day.

For example, a behavioral goal I have for the year is to be a more engaging husband.  The behaviors for achieving this goal look like one or more of the following:

  • I will make sure I’m giving my wife at least 15 uninterrupted minutes every day where I am communicating and giving her my full attention.
  • My attitude toward her will be positive and liberally sprinkled with words and actions that show love and acceptance versus judgement and frustration.
  • My thoughts toward her will also be positive and I will not expect that her thinking or actions should be the same as mine. See last week’s blog.

When I lay my pillow down at the end of each day, I will easily be able to tell whether or not I achieved my goal of being a more engaged husband.  All I have to do is ask whether or not I did one or more of these behaviors today.  If the answer is, “Yes”, nice work!  I achieved my behavioral goal that day.  If the answer is, “No”, then I have an opportunity to do better at it the next day.  What’s cool is that even if my answer is, “Yes”, I still have an opportunity to do better the next day!

Daily behavioral goals give you immediate feedback.  They can also pave the way for stringing several days of success together, which will ultimately lead to the formation of a good habit.  With each good habit we work toward and form, we become more like the person we want to be.  We become an even better version of our self.

Are there any behavioral goals you’d like to start working on that will help you form some good habits?  I’d suggest starting with just one and focusing on it for several weeks until you start having several days of success, then focus on another behavioral goal.  Repeat this process until December 31, 2016, and then on January 1, 2017, begin the process anew.

Use the power of daily behavioral goals to get immediate feedback as you journey toward being the best version of yourself.  There’s no need to wait for 1 year to see if you’ll hit your goal.  You’ll be able to tell as soon as you go to bed this evening.



How Not to be Crotchety

I believe that the daily realization and internalization of the following statement will keep you from turning into a crotchety old person, regardless of your age:  Everyone is not like you.

I know that’s obvious, but think about how often you’ve been frustrated or upset because someone:

  • Didn’t respond to something the way you thought they should have.
  • Didn’t say the exact words you wanted to hear
  • Didn’t show the same importance toward something as you thought it warranted.
  • Expressed a thought or idea that didn’t agree with the way you think.

These frustrations occur because we are not all alike.  Our experiences, environments, beliefs, and personalities are all different, which causes each of us to think, speak, act, and prioritize differently.

While we usually applaud our differences, I’ve realized recently that I’ve been allowing these differences to needlessly frustrate me.  With regard to colleagues or my spouse, I’ve allowed these differences to create frustration and impact how I respond to and treat others.  In short, it’s negatively impacted my attitude, and it’s time I change.

I realize that the lens I view situations through is not the same lens that everyone else uses.  In fact, the lenses for viewing the world are as varied as the people who inhabit it.  In light of that reality, how can we any of us expect others to always think and behave just like we do?

When I have the displeasure of meeting crotchety people of any age, there is usually a frustration expressed that the world, or at least their little part of it, is not as they would like it.  There is rigidity to their thinking that is unwilling to consider a different point of view.  They often feel that thinks would be better if everyone else just thought the same way about things as they do.  Not only is their mindset unrealistic, it leads to continued frustration and a negative attitude about the people around them.

I don’t want to be like that.  I’m making the decision to be aware of the differences between my thinking and the thinking of others, and to remove my expectation that others should be thinking the same way I do.  While that doesn’t mean I have to agree with everyone’s way of thinking, it does mean that I don’t have to be frustrated by it or have my attitude adversely impacted.  And that sounds good to me!