Different Backgrounds Different Outlook

Here’s something we all know, but that I often forget… we don’t all have the same background and experiences shaping how we view ourselves and the world.

I can too easily assume that others have similar backgrounds and experiences as me.  That assumption is an easy connection to another equally false assumption; that what I would do or how I would think in a situation is how others should think.  That’s simply not true. 

Our experiences and backgrounds shape how we interpret what we see in the world, so it’s obvious that those with differing experiences would see things different that I would, and vice versa.

I like to frequently remind myself about this so that I don’t look up one day and realize that I’ve turned into a cranky old man, simply because I assume that the problem with everyone is that they don’t see the world the same way I do.

The Compounding of Choices

While it’s true that occasionally in life things happen to us (both good and not so good) that we did not choose, I think most of what happens to us is the result of the choices we make. 

Think about all the things we get to choose on a regular basis, such as:

  • How we spend our time
  • How we spend our money
  • The daily level of activity we engage in
  • The content we consume
  • The type of foods we consume
  • The people we associate with
  • Whether or not we think critically
  • The careers, causes, values, and beliefs we hold and support
  • The way we treat those around us

That’s a small portion of a VERY large list!

Now think about this:  the small choices we’ve made over the days/weeks/months/years/decades of our life have compounded to form us into who and what we are today.

It’s hard to consider that thought without also pondering the following:  Are you happy with the compounding result of your choices?  If you are, then great!  Stay on track.

If you don’t like the compounding result your experiencing, I have good news.  It’s not too late to change course.  And it all starts with the choices you make from this point forward.

Make Time Your Ally

“Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.”  ~James Clear

While I was listening James Clear’s book Atomic Habits last week, I heard him mention the quote above about time magnifying whatever you feed it.  We all know this is true, but this quote really resonated with me with the realization that those habit we continuously do over time, no matter how small, will have an impact. 

Think of things like saving a percentage of every paycheck for retirement, smoking a pack of cigarettes every day, or exercising 30 minutes a day.  While theses habits may seem small and inconsequential in the moment, the compounding effect they have over time can be significant.  And based on what the habit is, those effects can be positive or negative. 

I’ve been thinking about the habits I have lately, and those I’d like to start, and where they can take me.  Some of the habits I have are intentional, and I’m excited about the impact they’ve had on my life.  If I’m being honest, I have other habits that are unintentional, meaning I didn’t set out to put them in place, but rather I’ve just allowed them to develop.  Most of these habits are borne out of mental laziness and don’t really yield the type of results I’d like to get. 

Being aware of our habits (the good as well as the not so good) is a great way to make sure what we do over a large arch of time is actually leading us somewhere we want to go.  Whether we’re aware or not, as James Clear stated, time will multiply whatever we feed it.  Let’s make sure we’re making time our ally.

Grateful It Was Obvious

Last Sunday one of our friends from church passed away as a result of COVID and other underlying conditions.  While it’s sad that she’s gone, everyone is grateful that she is now in heaven and is no longer suffering.

Her final weeks were spent in a hospital, with last week being in the ICU, where her condition began to slowly decline.  Fortunately, she had completed an advanced directive long before she became so ill.  This was a real blessing, because there was no guessing what she wanted to have done at the end of her life.  She had taken the time to consider, and make, these choices well before they needed to be made, and thus not burdening someone else with such weighty decisions. 

Everyone involved was grateful that she had made her wishes obvious.  May we be as thoughtful to others, by making our final wishes obvious as well.

Taking Inventory Our Habits

“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” Warren Buffett

Habits are fascinating, because despite the fact that they are small, they can be extremely powerful.  Their power comes from the compounding effect they have when done over long periods of time.

Some habits taken conscious effort to do, like deciding to get up every morning and go to the gym.  Yet other habits are so easy to fall into, that they almost become an automatic part of our daily life.  Things like drinking several sodas or going out for fast food on a daily basis.  (There are a zillion others, but those are the first 2 that came to mind.) These habits are rewarding in the moment, and thus easy to form.  And while an occasional soda or trip to McDonald’s isn’t terrible, the impact of these habits done continuously over years, if not decades, can have severe negative consequences.

For this reason, I think it’s important to regularly determine whether we’ve developed any habits that have the potential to plant land mines for our future selves.  We should ask ourselves:

  • Are the habits we’re engaged in healthy or destructive? 
  • Are they leading to a good outcome or a potentially dangerous one? 
  • Are there habits we should stop doing?
  • Are there habits we need to cultivate?

We all want good outcomes in our lives, but as we know, they don’t just happen.  They require action from us, as well as reflection, to determine if our habits will take us where we want to go.

With 2021 approaching, now would be a good time to take an inventory of the habits we’ve acquired.  It might be time to say, “Good-bye” to some potentially destructive ones we’ve been heretofore traveling with.  It may also be time to say, “Hello” to some new productive habits and invite them to join us on our journey forward.

It’s Not Always Someone Else

When you see a natural disaster on TV or hear about people dealing with life challenges, it’s easy to think that those kinds of things only happen to other people.  Until they happen to you.

In the past 2 years I’ve had some life events happen that, in the past, I would have seen as things that happen to other people, but not to me.  One was some health news and another is the current wildfires burning in Oregon that is directly impacting friends and family.

Its’ quite different when these things are happening to you versus happening to others.  When it happens to others we think, “That’s too bad” and then go about our business.  It’s different when it’s happening to us, because we can’t just turn it off or change the channel like we do when we’re watching a disaster on the TV.  When it’s happening to us, we’re living it, and there is no off switch.

I’m reminded of the importance of empathy toward others in the struggles they face.  While that doesn’t mean I have to take on, and be responsible for, everyone’s burdens, it does remind me that others don’t have an off switch in the troubles they face either.  With that in mind, I should offer what I can to help others in their struggles, because I know I appreciate it when others do that for me.

Last Time For Everything

This week a good friend from church told me that they’ll be moving to another state to restore an old house they’ll be living in.  This friend has a real knack for restoration, interior design, and overall leaving the world better than they found it, so I’m super excited for this adventure of theirs.

I’ve been thinking of the years we’ve spent together in the same Sunday school class, the fun we’ve had playing in the worship band, and the great conversations we’ve had over the years.  I also remember the often-spoken kind and encouraging words from this friend that have been a source of joy and comfort as we’ve traveled life together for several years.

There’s a song I’ve heard recently by country singer Brad Paisley titled, “Last Time for Everything”.  It’s about how good things transition away, and as they go, you experience them for the last time.  This song, and my friend’s move, again remind me that we’re to enjoy the people, places, things, and even the time of life we’re currently in, while we have it, because things transition.

I’m certain my friend and I will continue to stay in touch and will no doubt see each other again in the future.  And I’m also reminded that while good things transition out of our life, just as often, equally good things transition in.

Those On Your Team

Earlier this week I had a video visit with my primary care provider.  Nothing major, just a follow up from a previous annual visit.  I really like my doctor and as he was talking to me, I was extremely grateful to have him to help me navigate the healthcare world when I need it.  I am grateful to have him on my team.

We all have a team.  Our team are those people we seek out when we need advice or guidance in an area where we are not very skilled or familiar with, or they’re those people we regularly visit to make sure we’re on the right path.  A team can consist of such things as a:

  • Doctor or dentist
  • Financial planner
  • Trusted mechanic
  • Personal trainer
  • Pastor
  • Coach

One thing that is nice about our team is that we get the privilege of picking who is on them.  As such, we should be looking for specific attributes when we’re looking for someone to join our team.  For example, what I especially appreciate about my doctor is that he takes the time to teach me about the concepts he’s talking to me about in a way that I can understand.  He doesn’t dump a bunch of jargon on me that I’m not familiar with, and then get frustrated that I don’t understand what he’s trying to tell me.  He actually teaches me.  I come away from my visits with him knowing more than I did when I arrived.

I also appreciate that he asks me if I have any questions.  He’s not an information dump truck that quickly dumps a pile of information on me and drives off.  He wants to make sure that I leave with my questions answered, versus making sure that I just leave.

The next time you’re seeking to add someone to your team, do your homework.  Make sure they have the attributes you’re looking from someone who will influence your decision making in a certain area of your life.  And if you have someone on your team that doesn’t have the attributes you’re looking for, perhaps it’s time to consider replacing them.  It’s your team.  Fill it accordingly.

The Meaning We Give It

When you hear a discouraging word or someone says something false or unkind about you, remember this:  those words only have the meaning you give them.

Unkind thoughts, words, or opinions of others are not an indictment or sentence someone else gets to place on you.  You are the one who decides what meaning, if any at all you give to those words.  If someone says that you’re, say, selfish, and you’re clearly not, you don’t have to be negatively impacted by theirs words or opinion.  You can decide that those words don’t ring true about you, and therefore have no meaning for you.  You are then free to let those words go and not carry them around with you.

If perhaps, in this scenario, you realize that you are indeed selfish, the meaning you give those words may be along the lines of agreement and that this is an area you’re going to seek to better yourself.  A rebuke of who you are is not the meaning you give them, but rather it’s a picture of something you’d like (you decide) to change about yourself.

We can also give positive meaning to words of encouragement or affirmation.  We can take these words to mean that we’re on track to being the person we’d like to become.

We are the ones who get to decide the meaning we give something.  It is not placed on us by others but determined by us alone.  What a privilege!

“Make every minute two:  one to experience it, one to savor it.”  ~Neal Peart

“Your gonna miss this.  You’re gonna want this back.  You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast.”  ~Trace Atkins – You’re Gonna Miss This

I’ve been thinking about the passing of time lately.  Isn’t it amazing how quickly it goes by?  Consider the following scenarios:

You plan a vacation and eagerly look forward to it.  Before you know it, you’re actually experiencing it.  Then, almost overnight, it seems, the trip is a 5-year-old memory.

You and your new spouse are just starting your lives together.  You’ve got nothing but dreams for the future that you’re excitedly anticipating.  You can hardly wait to move from your current situation to the life you envision.  Before you know it, you’ve realized some of your dreams and you’re looking back at where you started with 2 thoughts:

  • That went fast!
  • Those were some good times!

Time’s march, at a 24-hour cadence, is steady and brisk.  When I was in basic training for the Army National Guard (several decades ago!  Like it was yesterday.)  I was amazed at how slow each single day went, yet how fast the weeks and months seemed to fly by.

This steady cadence reminds me to take time to enjoy the experiences I’m having as I’m having them because they’ll be memories (and soon old memories) before I know it.

Let’s make sure to makes sure to not only experience our moments, but to savor them as well.  They go so fast that it would be worth stretching them out as much as we can.