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.

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.

On The Other Side

“What’s it like on the other side of me?”  ~ Pastor Amy

During the sermon at church last week, one of our pastors referenced this question that she often asks herself in relation to what it’s like for others to interact with her.  I though it was a great question I should start asking myself!

We all know what it’s like to be us.  We’re aware of our opinions, our values, and what we think.  However, are we aware of how those opinions come across when we’re talking to others?  Are we aware of possible no verbal signals, attitudes, tones of voice, judgement, or perceptions we may not mean to send, that others experience when communicating with us?

Pastor Amy’s question causes me to think about how I treat others (intentionally or unintentionally) when communicating with them.  It reminds me that communication is so much more than just words.

There Should Be A Website For That

Wal-Mart shoppers often get a bad rap.  There are websites out there that show pictures and behaviors of what some people think are stereotypical Wal-Mart shoppes.  However, I had a couple experiences last Saturday that shatters the typical stereotypes you’d see on such sites.

First, I was on the isle looking at plastic storage bins.  (So many choices!)  As I was comparing a couple options, I could see a shopper out of my peripheral vision push their shopping cart down the main isle.  I didn’t think anything of it until I heard a voice saying, “You don’t want to buy that one, because the plastic handles break off.”  I turned and noticed that lady was pointing to one of the bins I was looking at on the shelf.

“Really?”  I said, in a tone that invited her to tell me more. She told me that she had bought that particular bin recently and after using it for a short timeframe the handles had both broken off.  I told her I which plastic bin I was considering, as I pointed to its location on the shelf.  She said that one would be a much better choice.   

After grabbing the bin, I headed to the pet section where I was looking for some litter box solutions for our cats.  I had a couple of products in my hand when I heard another voice to my right.  “I just bought that one, and it’s really good.”  I turned to see another lady pointing to one of the products in my hand.  “Oh, really?  So, you like this one?”  I said, as I held up the product she was pointing to.  She asked if I minded a recommendation, to which I responded, “For sure!  What have you got?”. 

She told me about her recent purchase and how it has been working well for her cats.  We talked for a few minutes about some other options, and she bid me “good luck”. 

I think it was so great, in light of all the division and discord between people these days, that each of these ladies decided to offer their assistance to me for no other reason than to see that I made a good purchase. 

There should be a website to showcases people like that!

The Lens You Look Through

I was talking with a friend at the gym this week about working from home.  While there are a number of positives, the biggest negative for me is not having the face-to-face contact with people.  Sure, there are a lot of alternatives, like instant messaging and video calls, but they don’t quite measure up to the experience of an in-person interaction.

My friend agreed, but also mentioned how for her grand kids, video conversations are what they’re use to, and are more common for them than face-to-face conversations.  She also mentioned her grandkids are growing up with Face Time and other video chat tools, and see these types of interactions as normal as we would see an in-person visit from our grand parents back in the day.

That was an interesting reminder to me about how differently we all look at the world through the lens of our own experience.  What may seem mainstream to me, could be unusual to others, and vice versa.  And that’s ok!  We all have different life experiences that shape our lenses.

I think it’s important to be mindful f this in our interactions with others.  It’s easy to assume everybody sees the world through the same lens as I do, but that’s simply not true.  When I take time to listen to others, I gain a better understanding of the lens they view the world through.  If I listen close enough, I can even understand how their lens was formed.

I’m thankful we aren’t all the same.  While that might make some things easier, it would certainly be less interesting to live in a world where everyone looked through the same lens as me.

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.

The Kindness of Strangers

“Be sure you check the expiration date on that.” 

As my wife and I were picking up some groceries in a town we were visiting last week, this was the warning, from an unfamiliar voice, I was greeted with as I reached for the container of yogurt.  I turned toward the voice and noticed it was one of the ladies who, presumably, lived in the town we were in.  I wasn’t sure why she was warning us, and I was a little skeptical as to why she would approach us in the first place.  It turns out her motives were pure.

She continued, “I bought some yogurt here a couple weeks ago, and when I got home, I noticed it was way past the expiration date!  This place is good for produce, and a couple other items, but other than that, it’s horrible… and their prices are too #@$%& high!!” 

“Really?!  That sucks!!” was my emphatic reply.

She mentioned that we didn’t look like we were from there and asked if we were visiting.  I told her that indeed, we were visiting the area, and were just out picking up a few things.  Upon hearing this, she told us which grocery store we should visit.  One that had much better prices.  She even gave us detailed directions to the aforementioned store.  We chatted for a few moments, paid for our produce, and followed her directions to the other store.

I’m glad we did!  The prices were indeed lower.  In fact, we saved $2 on the yogurt alone!  In total, she saved us about $20 on our grocery bill.

I was grateful for the kindness of a strange, who reached out to offer assistance for no other reason than to help someone out… that, and perhaps to sock it to a store she so obviously disdained.

To me, she is a memorable example of what it looks like when one member of society is looking out for the well-being of another.  The world needs more of that kind of caring.

May we all do and do likewise.

A Trip Back In Time

I felt like I went back in time for a moment this week… and I loved it!

My wife and I were walking on a popular beach in Oregon, when a couple we were passing held out their cell phone and pleasantly asked, “Would you mind taking our picture?”  I use to hear (and even ask) that question all the time on vacations, hikes or at any other outing with a view I’d like to capture with me in it.  Now, with cell phones and selfie sticks, it seems no one ever asks that question any more.  At least not until last week.

My answer to the couple… “ABSOLUTELY!!”

I miss being asked that question.  It’s always been fun to share a moment like that with someone, as you help them preserve a memory.  With all the options available that remove the need to interact, it was nice to be invited to share the moment with them.

I hope they enjoy the photo as much as I enjoyed taking it. 

Going Old-School

I like sending hand written notes to people, because no one does that anymore.  I also enjoy when recipients tell me how much they enjoyed receiving the note and the kind words.  It’s a small way to make a positive impact on someone’s day.

I use to despise writing notes because I never thought I had enough to say to fill up a whole card.  What I’ve discovered is you don’t have to write a lot to have an impact.  Two or three heart-felt sentences is enough to brighten someone’s day.  And if that doesn’t seem like it will fill the card, then write a little bigger than normal!  J

In a time when flashy new high tech is ubiquitous, an old-school hand written note is the perfect way to uniquely let someone know you’re thinking about them, and that you care.

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.