Paying Attention

What would you say was the cause of a person falling off a cliff while trying to take a selfie? Bad luck? Bad timing? Lack of a proper barrier? Maybe. However, I think the cause is more likely something we’ve all been guilty of doing… not paying attention.

While our lack of attention may not cause us to fall off a cliff, it can have unintended consequence that that negatively impact our life. Think about something in your life where you’re not doing as well as you ‘d like. Now consider whether or not you’re paying attention in that area.

For example,

If you’re falling short in your… You might not be paying attention to…
Marriage How you’re communicating with your spouse or to the signals they are sending you.
Career Changes or trends in your career field or to what you should be learning to stay current.
Health The types of food you’re eating or amount of physical activity you should be doing.
Finances Where your money is going.

 

If we want to do well in an area of life, it requires our attention. Checking out and going on “mental autopilot” will not lead us anywhere great or significant.

Is there any area of your life where you’d like to make a positive change? If so, the good news is the change can begin as soon as you start paying attention.

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What Do I Have Control Over

Later this month my wife and I are going to take a long week to get away for a couple of day. I’ve been looking forward to this trip because it’s finally been sunny and warm in the Pacific Northwest, so I’ve been spending the last several days thinking how nice it will be to enjoy some sun while we’re gone. However, I just looked at the long range weather report and realize that it is forecast to be cool and rainy at our destination during the time we’ll be there. What a bummer!!

I have to admit that the weather report got me down a little. My expectations of warm sunny weather appear to be in jeopardy of colliding with the reality of several rainy days. I’m currently being reminded that there are things we control and others we don’t, and that I shouldn’t spend too much time concerned about the things I can’t control.

Ultimately I have a couple of choices:

  • I can go on the trip as planed and adjust some of the things we were going to do toward more weather appropriate activities.
  • I can pick a different destination that has more rain-friendly activities.
  • I can decide to go at a different time when there is a greater likelihood of sun.
  • I can go as planned and complain about the lack of sun.

I don’t see any value in that 4th bullet point, so I’ll scratch that option off my list.

The biggest thing I have control of in this situation is my attitude. Therefore, I’m choosing to focus on the positives, of which there are many:

  • I still get to take some time away with my wife, which is fun no matter the weather!
  • I’ve got plenty of options to come up with a good Plan B.
  • Even with the rain, Plan A wouldn’t be all that bad.

In the process of writing this post, I’ve decided I’m not going to get frustrated by the potential weather that I can’t control. Instead, I’m going to focus on the things I can control in this situation; the biggest being my attitude. Over which I have complete control.

Beyond Complaining

One of the easiest things to do is complain. We complain about what we have or don’t have. WE complain about how things aren’t fair, or how we are being taken advantage of, how forces are conspiring against us, or a zillion other things. As easy as complaining is, on its own, it produces little to nothings as far as results.

There’s nothing wrong with having a valid complaint.   In fact, a valid complaint can be the starting point for significant change… if that complaint is follow up with action.

Think of some of the things you have complained about recently. Now ask yourself, “What did I do about it?” Di you just complain or did you cause something to happen (aka, take action) to bring about a better outcome? Did you:

  • Register a formal complaint
  • Make changes to your habits and behavior
  • Offer your time, talent, or treasure toward a change

When we limit ourselves to complaining, we’re rendering ourselves helpless victims of forces happening to us. We have no power and we have no hope. However, when we follow up our complaints with actions toward positive change, we take control. We steer our lives where we want them to go versus just letting things happen to them.

Do you have any complaints that require action? If so, it’s time to decide what action you need to take in order to chart a course for your life that will lead you to a destination you want to go.

Making Choices

Last Thursday my mom called me up to see if my wife and I would be interested in taking her up to see my uncle that Saturday, who lives about 3 hours away. We already had plans on Saturday, so I told my mom that we had something going on. She understood and realized it was short notice. Shortly after I hung up, I got to thinking.

I have been wanting to connect with this uncle via a phone call or in person, but simply haven’t done it. (You know the lame, “I’ve been really busy” excuse, right?) My mom’s invitation/request seemed like a great and unexpected opportunity to connect with family. I thought more about what we had planned for Saturday and realized that on the “Importance Scale”, our current plans didn’t measure up to building relationships with family. So I talked with my wife and we decided to change our plans and take my mom to see this uncle.

When I am faced with similar decisions like this (decisions between 2 good things) I ask myself the following questions:

  • What choice will I remember in 5 years?
  • Which choice will positively impact others?
  • Which choice has the greatest probability of building relationships?
  • Is there one choice I’ll wish I would have made 5 years from now?

When I have a grid like this to run choices through (especially 2 good choices), they often become easy to make. A grid like this helps me determine what’s important and what I want to be spending my time doing. It’s a great tool to help us be mindful about the choices we make.

The next time you have a choice between multiple good options, stop and think about what’s important to you and how you want to live your life. Then make decisions that move you in that direction.

Serving Others So They Can Serve Others

I’m a Data Analyst at a hospital in Oregon (the best hospital in Oregon in, in my opinion!). The part of my job I enjoy most is being able to take data out of our computer systems and turn it into information that helps our medical staff make decisions or gain new insights into the work they do. Not only is it satisfying to provide this useful information, it’s also satisfying to use my skills in a way that enables our medical staff to focus their skills toward serving our patients.

I love discovering a group of medical professionals that is regularly spending their time culling data from different sources in order to get some information that is valuable to them. This is not the work they were trained to do, and often times they don’t even like pulling the data. However, they find the information beneficial. When I find these folks, I know the chances are extremely high that I’ll be able to provide a solution that will automate the work they were doing to collect and present their data.

And here’s the cool part: when I use my gifts and skills to serve our medical professionals in this capacity, they are freed up to use their gifts and skills to serve our patients.

I love how that works! Not just at the hospital but in life. Our skills and talents can be used to serve others so that they can use their gifts and talents to serve others. What a great way to be part of something bigger than yourself!

Be encouraged that the skills and talents you possess are valuable and needed by others. With that in mind, be on the lookout for people you can serve with you skills who will then be able to serve others, because you first served them.

Measuring Value

Have you ever known someone who only contacted you when they wanted something from you?  How does that make you feel?  Not great, I’ll bet.  No one likes having others determine our value based solely by what we can do for them.  That’s certainly not how strong relationships are built.

As a Christian, I wonder how often I’ve treated God this same way.  How often have I contacted Him only to request He do something for me?  While scripture is clear that God wants to do good things for us, it is also clear that He wants a relationship with us as well.  Therefore, I want to make sure I’m building my relationship with God based on more than just my never-ending requests.

It’s true regarding our relationships with others as well.  The relationships we build with people are important, so let’s make sure valuing people based on their character qualities versus what they can do for us.

Blessings Abound

Earlier this week I was reminded of some of the many blessings in my life.  I also realized how easy it is to overlook these blessings.

A few of the blessings I’m referring to are:

  • Friends I can connect and be real with
  • Meaningful work I enjoy
  • Gifts and talents I enjoy using

I was simply struck this week by the number of blessings in my own life.  When we actually stop and consider how much our lives are blessed, the number of ways is actually more than we likely realized.

Let’s start focusing on (and being grateful for) just how many blessings we have.  Sure, there’s always something we feel we lack, or something more we want.  However, we should never forget just how much we have, and how blessed we actually are.