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.

Ask For Help

“If you need help, ask.”  Whether at school, at home, or on the job, we’ve all been told this as some point.  If we need help, assistance is just a request away.  Yet why is it that we seem to wait so long for before we actually avail ourselves of the assistance others are willing to offer?

I get it, we like to be self-sufficient and figure things out for ourselves, or perhaps we don’t want to be a burden to others.  I recognize myself in both of those statements.  And while I agree that we need to make an effort at whatever we’re attempting, at some point we need to enlist the help of others to move forward.  When we find ourselves spinning our wheels or overwhelmed, that’s a significant clue that we should be asking for help.

Keep the following thought in mind the next time you need to ask someone for help, especially if you feel like your asking is a bother to others.  While you’ve undoubted have been told, “If you need help, ask”, have you ever told that to someone else?  (I’ll bet you have!)  And when you told them, did you mean it?  (I’ll bet you did!)  It therefore seems reasonable to believe that most people would be glad to help, if you simply asked. 

Just Pick A Day

My sister and I were texting earlier this week about the nice sunny weather we were having.  I suggested we get together for a nice walk one of these upcoming sunny mornings.  She agreed.  Not only that, her following text showed me her level of commitment, “Let’s just pick a day, or it won’t happen!!”

I couldn’t have agreed more.

When there is something we want to do, the best way to ensure that it actually happens is to just pick a day and get it on the calendar.  It’s not difficult.  Once you decided you’re committed to making it happen, open up the calendar and select a date and time that works.  It really is that simple.  A specific date and time equals commitment.  “Someday” does not.

I’m looking forward to our scheduled walk with my sister this Saturday morning!  We just picked a day.

When It’s Time To Act

Earlier this week we bought a new washer and drier.  The repair man told us that the bearings on our old washer had gone out, and we’d be better off getting a new washer versus replacing this one.  Initially, we were thinking we’d hold off getting a replacement until May, which would align well with a home improvement project we have scheduled.  However, after the machine continued to get worse, we decided the best option would be to replace it now, on our own timeline.

My wife and I both agreed that as long as we kept using the rapidly deteriorating machine, we ran an ever-increasing risk of it failing in the middle of a load of wash.  I don’t know what your experience has been, but appliance failures never seem to occur at a convenient time, and they usually generate unneeded stress and inconvenience.  Especially if we knew in advance that a failure was imminent.

We decided that, since we knew we needed to replace the washer, we should do it on a timeframe that is convenient for us versus letting the machine dictate a less convenient timeframe via a massive failure.

I think there are a lot of things in life that we can address on our own timeframe, versus waiting for a failure to determine our timeframe for taking corrective action.  These things can range from appliance replacements to adopting a healthier lifestyle to maintaining relationships and beyond. 

Let’s be aware of the areas in our lives where we can take action to mitigate unnecessary risks and damage, versus waiting for things to blow up before they get our attention.  And when we become aware of these areas, let’s actually take the necessary action when it’s time to act.

I Don’t Even Miss It

Our house has been feeling rather full, in a cluttered since lately, so a couple of weekends ago, my wife and I went through several closets and rooms and got rid of stuff we no longer use.  It was amazing how much stuff we had that fell into that category! What’s even more interesting is that I don’t even miss a single thing I got rid of.

What I do enjoy, much more than the exiled stuff, is the free space I have in rooms, closets, bookshelves, and cabinets.  There’s such a calming feeling when every inch of a bookshelf isn’t stuffed full of books I’ll likely never read again.  Likewise, a closet with much available space is much more fun to interact with than one that’s jammed full of unused clothing that obscures the clothes I actually do wear.

It’s hard to believe that a carload full of stuff taken to Goodwill can have such a positive impact on my surroundings.

Are there any items you know you’ll no longer use that you need to get rid of or give to someone else who can use them?  If so, I encourage you to do it as soon as possible.  Not only will you enjoy interacting with your newly uncluttered space, you will most likely not even miss the times you get rid of.

The More We Love

The more you love in life, the more life has to offer.”  ~ Lee (my bass instructor)

During a bass lesson this week with my instructor Lee, he mentioned how limiting your exposure to only one specific type of music holds you back from new perspectives and ideas that can be applied to your own music style.  His example made a lot of sense.  If I only listen to say, country music (which I happen to like) then I will only experience music through that lens.  My playing will come to only sound like what I hear in country songs, and I won’t have the opportunity to learn and apply ideas from other music genres.  Lee’s comment resonated with me, not only in the musical context, but in the larger context of a life well lived.

Imagine for a minute that the only food you absolutely loved was pizza.  Now imagine that you ate pizza as often as you could because you loved it so much, but when you couldn’t have pizza, you were disappointed in the alternative.  Yes, I know there are a lot of different varieties of pizza toppings to keep interesting for a long time, but how limiting to think that of all the food choices available to you, that you would be disappointed with anything that wasn’t the single food you loved.   

I think we can also be narrow in our love for a number of things beyond food and music, such as

  • Places
  • Geographies
  • Areas of interest
  • Types of books
  • Topics of conversation
  • Cultures
  • People
  • How we use our gifts and talents
  • How we spend our time
  • Seasons of the calendar
  • Seasons of life

Consider your capacity to love broadly in the topics listed above or others you’re thinking of that weren’t on the list.  The more that we love, be it people places or things, the more opportunities we have for our lives to intersect with those things we love.  I for one, am eager to live a life full of intersections with the things I love.

On Your Timeline

Gyms in Oregon have been closed due to COVID-19 restrictions since sometime in November.  This has been disappointing because for years, I’ve been in the habit of going to the gym to exercise first thing every morning.  It’s a nice way to start my mornings and stets a positive tone for the rest of the day. 

Unfortunately, I hadn’t found a substitute for my morning gym routine, other than walking a few times a day.  However, with all the emotionally heavy events that occurred in the US in December and January, I knew that I had to come up with a solution.

Since I don’t have a bunch of weights and exercise equipment at home, I started looking for options that use your body weight as resistance.  Fortunately, there are plenty of possibilities, so I created an exercise plan and, starting this week, have been back in the habit of exercising first thing in the morning!  I’ve enjoyed being back in the habit, and know it will be a good alternative until the gyms finally reopen.

Although it took me long enough, I’m thankful I finally caused something to happen to get me back in an exercise routine, instead of sitting around waiting for someone ese to decide it’s time to reopen the gyms in Oregon.

If there’s something you want or need, don’t sit and wait for someone else to make it happen for you.  Decide what action YOU need to take to bring it about, and then take that action!

Why should we wait on someone else’s timeline when we can decide to create our own?

Truth

The amount of information we’re confronted with every day is amazing.  So many sources, figures, and organizations are vying to influence our thinking and shape our beliefs.  Therefore, it is imperative, in the midst of all this information, that we continually scrutinize what we hear by asking ourselves, “Is this true?”.

Our brain is the greatest super computers ever designed, and each of us is blessed to be in possession of one, free and clear.  With it, we can receive input, think critically about that input, and discern whether or not it’s true.  With this brain we can question, investigate, explore, and again, discern truth.  In my opinion, since we are in possession of such a remarkable and powerful tool as our brains, it is incumbent on us to use them.

Why would we allow someone else to spoon feed us their own thoughts and ideas without engaging our brains in some critical thinking to determine whether or not what they’re saying is actually true?  Why should we be so quick to disengage our own super computer brains in favor allowing someone else to “program”, if not poison them, with untruths?  To me, that seems not only irresponsible, but potentially dangerous.  Taken to it’s extreme, as we’ve seen in the US this week, it can even be criminal.

Let’s make sure that we’re taking full advantage of the brains we’ve been blessed with.  Let’s use them to wisely discern the information we’re bombarded with, to ensure that our actions and beliefs are indeed based on truth.

Learning With Others

I’ve been teaching an adult Sunday school class at our church for about 12 years.  Actually, I’m more of a discussion facilitator than an actual teacher or instructor.  I prefer this role as facilitator, because I’ve noticed that the best learning in class occurs when the participants share their knowledge and we seek answers and explore the Bible together.  As a facilitator, I simply bring interesting information about the topic we’re studying and encourage others to ask question and share any insight they might have.

If I approach a Sunday school class as the teacher, it feels like I need to have all the answers and have a lesson plan figured out that details everything we’ll discuss during the class.  I don’t like that approach because it doesn’t leave room for questions an exploration.  If I’m seen as the teacher, the class feels more like a lecture, where I’m imparting knowledge to the rest of the class while they sit quietly and listen.  This approach would be boring to me!  While I’ve got some knowledge on the topic, I also have lots of questions that I’d like to ask.  If I’m the teacher, there’s a lid on the class that only goes as far as my knowledge and understanding.

I much prefer to leverage the collective intelligence of the class.  The people who attend regularly spend time in the Bible, so they are very familiar with it.  They’re also eager to learn more, which causes them to read it with the purpose of gaining a greater understanding of what it says. 

Having a forum where we can learn together, ask questions and share our knowledge has sparked numerous conversations (as well as opportunities to learn) that would not have occurred if I were the teacher, simply giving a one-way lecture.  Our class works much better when we all have the opportunity to share the role as teacher.

I think it’s exciting to approach life as a facilitator as well.  It’s fun to encourage others to share what they know about a topic and to hear, and learn from, experiences they’ve have had.  Most people are willing to share what they know; they often just need someone to invite them to do so.