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.

Thoroughbreds

I’m blown away of the power of our brains and all the good use we can put them to.  What’s even more impressive (aside from the fact that each one of us owns one of these wonderful things free and clear!) is how our brains are constantly running.  I liken our brains to a race horse that wants to run.  Similarly, our brains need to be trained to run where we want them to run, versus just letting them run wild in any they’d like.

Can you imagine the owner of a highly valued thoroughbred race horse allowing the magnificent creature to run through any rocky pasture, hillside, or street it wanted?  That would be a horrific use of such a valuable investment.  Instead, such a horse’s diet, training, facilities, and environment are all conducive top performance, because that is how you treat a thoroughbred.

I think our brains should also be treated as the thoroughbreds that they are, or that they can become.  We should give them the proper care and training that they are worthy of, in order for them to perform for us at the high level they are capable of. 

So, how do we train our minds so they perform like thoroughbreds?  The following items are good places to start: 

  • Monitor the content we’re allowing into our minds to ensure its productive and positive. 
  • Take our negative thoughts (toward ourselves or others) and quickly redirect them toward a more productive line of thinking.
  • Expose our brains to new ideas through books, classes, podcasts, computer-based training, or conversations with others.
  • Continue to apply our brains toward learning new skills we’d like to acquire.
  • Use them to solve problems and come up with solutions and idea.
  • Engage your brain daily.

What a blessing to be in possession of such a creation!  May we treat them (and train them) like the valuable thoroughbreds that they are.

Struggling To Start A Habit

I love journaling.  When I journal, I feel more observant, reflective, grateful, and focused.  Yet with all the positive benefits, I’ve had a hard time getting into the consistent regular habit of journaling.

There will be seasons where I journal a lot, but then I’ll stop and go for long stretches without an entry.  What makes this even more frustrating is that I have done a good job of forming other positive habits that I do daily.  However, regular journaling remains elusive.

That said, I still work to create the habit.  I haven’t totally thrown in the towel, because I think it is a habit worthy of pursuing.  Just because that habit isn’t forming right away, doesn’t mean I should give up on it.  It it’s important to me, which it is, I should continue to strive to form that habit.

Striving is progress, and that progress ceases the moment we stop striving.

How Do You Do It

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”  ~Unknown

This saying causes me to pause and think about how I do things.  Specifically, how do I handle the small day to day things in my life.  Do I give my best effort or am I half-hearted in my efforts?

Now I’m not saying that we have to give 100% focused, top of our game effort on every little thing we do.  That would be not only exhausting, but also unnecessary!  The bigger question here, is what is our dominant mindset when we do things?  Do we regularly mail it in, or are we in the regular habit of giving our best effort?  Do we offer the minimum effort to get by, or do we regularly give a little beyond what’s needed?

It’s a good question to ask, and one we can pretty easily answer when we look at the results we’re getting in life.

Maintaining What’s Important

We just finished a 6 week house renovation project this week that included some painting, carpeting, and hardwood floors.  Our house is 23 years old, so it was time to spruce everything up and give it a fresh new look.  I think it’s important to keep my house in a good working order and condition, not only because it’s such a big investment, but because it’s more enjoyable for me to live in when it’s in this state.

I also think it’s important to maintain the other big things in our lives that are important to us like our:

  • Finances
  • Closest Relationships
  • Health
  • Spiritual well being
  • Intellect and thinking
  • Attitude

Maintenance, whether it be for a friendship, a home, or our health, involves a commitment of our time and resources, because things that are neglected usually aren’t maintained well.

Spend some time thinking about the things that are important to you and determine whether they could use a little maintenance from you.  If so, take action to get them the attention they need.  You’ll enjoy what you have even more when it’s properly maintained.

Humility

Humility opens the door to transformation” ~ Pastor Shawn

I really like this comment that our pastor made in church a few weeks ago.  It reminds me that if we want to change for the better, we need to be open to the reality that we don’t know everything.

Change comes when we’re able to put pride aside and become teachable and open to the fact that we don’t have all the answers, and there’s more we can learn.  If we are unable to do this, how can we change?  If we can’t humble ourselves enough to be receptive to the teaching of others, then by definition we are closed to learning and improving.  How then can we be transformed?  How then can we become better if we lack the humility to be taught by others?

If we seek to improve ourselves, we must learn humility.  Humility is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign that we are secure in ourselves and eager to invite others to help us get better. 

What Does Action Look Like

In a recent team meeting at work, we were discussing an initiative our organization is undertaking to create an even stronger culture of inclusion, diversity, equity, and learning.  During the discussion someone asked the question, “What does action look like?”

I thought this was a good question because without specific actions to take to get where we want to go, as an organization or as individuals, all we really have are ideals or lofty aspirations.  It’s the intentional actions we take that will move us toward our aspirations becoming our reality.  Without action our aspirations remain just that… aspirations.

I was pleased to learn that our organization is currently in the process of defining what those specific actions look like.  With regard to our own personal goals and aspirations, we should all be asking ourselves what action looks like.

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.

Listening

On Thursday I had in interesting conversation with someone I know pretty well.  As we were talking, they shared with me how they were struggling mentally during a stressful time in their life.  I was grateful they felt comfortable enough to share their experience with me.

I’m always amazed how freely people share what’s going on in their lives when given a safe place to do so.  My encounter on Thursday also reminded me how important it is to actually listen.  We’ve all got so much going on that it can be easy to rush through our interactions without really listening to what others are telling us.  While this may be true, it’s no excuse for half-hearted listening when people are opening up and sharing their story with us.

Let’s make an effort to increase the legitimacy of our listening in the conversations we have with people.  Wouldn’t we appreciate it if others did the same for us? 

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.