With 2017 looming, many people are beginning to express their intentions for the New Year in the form of goals and resolutions. I love this time of year, because it causes us to pause and think about how we’d like to change our lives to be better in the next 12 months.
While we have no problem expressing our intentions, we often lack the commitment to take action that will move these intentions toward becoming reality. Dr. Steve Maraboli states:
“Intent reveals desire; action reveals commitment.”
I would agree. It’s easy to talk about our desires, because it doesn’t require anything from us. The more challenging step is to parlay that talk into action, which often requires a potentially uncomfortable or unfamiliar step out of our norm. Our willingness to take that step is a strong indicator of our commitment to what we say we desire.
Consider this, as you look ahead to 2017; what if the only thing standing in your way of achieving what you desire for the New Year is your willingness to take action?
Are you committed?
A couple of weeks ago my wife and I attended a Moth Mainstage event in Portland Oregon. The Moth features everyday people who tell stories about their life without using any notes. It’s just the speaker, a microphone, and the audience.
That night we heard from 5 different storytellers:
- A junior speech writer for President Obama
- An Australian lady helping her Hungarian boyfriend gain US citizenship
- A dad remembering a Halloween after the death of a beloved family pet
- The son of a man who died on Mt. Everest
- A Sudanese refugee’s journey across Africa, after fleeing from her war-torn country, that eventually led to the United States
Their stories were riveting.
As my wife and I were driving home, discussing what we’d just heard, we were both struck by how hearing someone’s story gave us an understanding as to how they thought about, felt about, and perceived their unique experience. Even though neither of us has fled a war in our own country, we gained a slight understanding of how someone who has had that experience might feel, simply by hearing this Sudanese woman’s story.
Here’s the best part: if we ever meet someone who is or was a refugee, we will have a better chance of understanding what concerns or fears they may be dealing with, simply because we were willing to listen to someone else’s similar experience.
I think it’s important to be curious about other people and willing to listen to them in order to gain a better perspective as to how their experiences have shaped their worldview, especially when they are different from us in culture or beliefs.
Be curious as you meet people that are different from you, and be willing to listen to them to understand how their experiences have shaped them. It’s a great way to build connection with people you meet in the future that may have had a similar experience.
Many years ago, I spent a fall and winter at Ft. Leonard Wood Missouri while attending Army basic training. Those were some frigid months that gave me a new found appreciation for how frozen vegetables must feel. During those below-freezing temperatures however, I was blessed to have also seen some of nature’s most beautiful work.
One night after dinner we were lined up in formation to march back to the barracks. (The Army loves to march!) As we were standing in the dry frigid air of night, waiting for the drill sergeant to bark out commands to being marching, it began to snow. I noticed a couple of flakes fall on the soldier’s coat in front of me, and as they did, I couldn’t believe what I saw. Each individual flake was so perfectly and uniquely shaped, just like you see in Christmas cartoons or beautiful Christmas ornaments. Never before had I seen an individual snow flake. Sure, I knew that snow is made of up individual flakes, but this was the first time I had actually seen how detailed, elegant, fragile, and beautiful a snowflake really is. It was a scene I have never forgotten.
It’s hard to believe that something like a ski slope, a snow covered meadow, a snowy mountaintop, or even an avalanche is made up of millions of unique, individual, beautiful snowflakes. I think it’s a lot like that with people as well. It’s easy to just see people as communities, nations, families, organizations, or other large collections. But what’s interesting to me is that every one of the aforementioned groups is made up of unique, individual, beautiful people.
As you’re moving around in the different groups of people in the weeks ahead, take notice of the individuals that make up those groups. Look at how unique each one of them is and how their uniqueness adds to the group they’re in.
And don’t forget to look at yourself as well. You are also unique and valuable to the larger groups you are a part of, and those groups are fortunate to have you.
Last week I started reading “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow. I’ve been amazed at what Hamilton was able to accomplish, regardless of his humble beginnings. He was a significant figure in the formation of America, and it surprised me that we weren’t taught more about him in school.
As I read about Hamilton, and many of the other founding fathers of America, I’m struck by the fact that even though they accomplished so many great things, they were all flawed individuals.
It’s easy to look at people who have accomplished great things and think that they have it all together or that they don’t have any challenges, insecurities, or flaws. It is also easy to look at ourselves and think that we aren’t capable of great things because of our challenges, insecurities, and flaws. However, Hamilton’s story reminds me that we are all flawed, and that it is flawed and imperfect people that do great things in the world.
Being flawed is not a barrier to doing great things; it feels more like a requirement.
Have you ever strained a muscle in your lower back? Not only is it painful, it also underscores how much those muscles are used throughout the day for routine tasks like walking, standing, balancing, sneezing, and a host of other activities. It isn’t until these muscles are strained or out of commission that we realize how important they are to the larger community of our physical body.
I think it can be like that with people in our lives as well. We don’t realize how important others are or how much they contribute until they are no longer around. And I’m not just referring to those closest to us. Think about the people that make your community function like the grocers, merchants, manufacturers, civil servants, garbage collectors, doctors, public utilities… the list is endless.
When these people are present, we hardly notice them. Now imagine if any one of these groups of people were no longer around in your community. It wouldn’t take long to notice, as our community would be significantly impacted by their absence.
I mention this not only as a reminder to be grateful for all those in our communities that we don’t notice, but rely on daily, but to remind us that others in our communities are counting on us as well.
That’s how communities work.