Grateful for the Experience

Early last Sunday morning I was driving home from a weekend fly fishing trip in Central Oregon.  The temperature was a pleasant 70 degrees (Fahrenheit) under a cloudless, sunny blue sky.  It is mornings like this that make me feel especially blessed to be alive.

Since my wife was out of town, I decided to take my time getting home and enjoy being out in such a beautiful part of the state on a morning like this.  It was great!  I stopped at to look at a scenic landmark, walked through the town of Sisters Oregon, and read the Bible along the banks of the awe-inspiring Metolius River.  I felt recharged, inspired, and invigorated.

MetoliusAs I realized it was time to start making my way home, I was a little saddened that my wonderful morning was about over.  I didn’t want it to end.

Have you ever felt like that?  You’re having such a great time that the thought of it coming to an end is rather sad.  That’s how I felt this particular morning.

However, my wonderful morning reminded me of the following quote:  “Don’t be sad it’s over; be grateful you had the experience.”

Sure, it can be sad when something you enjoy comes to an end, like:

  • A fun time away from the regular routine.
  • A visit from a friend or relative.
  • The end of a rewarding job or career.
  • The loss of a beloved pet.
  • A child leaving home.
  • An enjoyable vacation/holiday.

But consider how blessed you were to have had the opportunity to create the memories those things produced.

The next time you’re feeling sad at the end of an enjoyable experience, make the mental shift from sadness to gratitude.  Be grateful for memories you just made, while eagerly looking forward to the new ones yet to come.

Perspective

A few weeks ago my wife and I were delayed while driving home over the Oregon Cascades on Highway 22.  There was an accident a few miles ahead of us that shut down traffic in both directions for 3 hours.   We certainly hadn’t anticipated that.

I can remember a time in my past when a delay like this, or even one much shorter, would have caused me great frustration and irritation.  Fortunately, I don’t get irritated over things like this anymore.  What has helped me most in this area is making sure I take a moment and actually put things in the proper perspective.

Yes, we were delayed for 3 hours, but we were also very fortunate that we weren’t involved in the accident ahead of us.  I’m sure the people who were involved would much rather have only been delayed versus having their car damaged, being injured, or experiencing loss of life.  With that perspective in mind, it made it really hard for me to get upset and start complaining, especially when I’m sitting in the beautiful Oregon Cascades with my wife, knowing we’ll be on our way soon.  In light of that, I really had nothing to complain about.

I think that when we lack the proper perspective, we often let little things frustrate us unnecessarily.

The next time you find yourself getting frustrated, pause for a moment and make sure you have the proper perspective on the situation.  If you don’t, then change your perspective.  It’s a great way to not only alleviate unnecessary stress and frustration.  It’s also a great reminder of what we have to be grateful for.

Part of the Community

Have you ever strained a muscle in your lower back?  Not only is it painful, it also underscores how much those muscles are used throughout the day for routine tasks like walking, standing, balancing, sneezing, and a host of other activities.  It isn’t until these muscles are strained or out of commission that we realize how important they are to the larger community of our physical body.

I think it can be like that with people in our lives as well.  We don’t realize how important others are or how much they contribute until they are no longer around.  And I’m not just referring to those closest to us.  Think about the people that make your community function like the grocers, merchants, manufacturers, civil servants, garbage collectors, doctors, public utilities… the list is endless.

When these people are present, we hardly notice them.  Now imagine if any one of these groups of people were no longer around in your community.  It wouldn’t take long to notice, as our community would be significantly impacted by their absence.

I mention this not only as a reminder to be grateful for all those in our communities that we don’t notice, but rely on daily, but to remind us that others in our communities are counting on us as well.

That’s how communities work.

My Own Senseless Expectations

A couple of days ago I held a door at work open for someone who was pushing a cart full of computer equipment.  As I held the door, he gave a broad smile, walked through, and didn’t say, “Thank you”.   That kind of bothered me.

In my mind, I immediately had thoughts of:

  • Giving a sarcastic “You’re welcome”
  • How I should have let him get the door himself
  • How he must obviously be a self-centered jerk

Pretty petty, huh?

It was amazing how fast these thoughts flooded my mind.  Perhaps that says more about me and areas I need to work on than it does about him.

About 10 minutes later I saw the same guy pushing the cart heading my way.  As we got close enough to make eye contact, he gave me a big, kind smile, as if to say, “I remember you and what you did for me a few minutes ago!”  I smiled and nodded.  I now felt like it was me who was the jerk.

As I thought back on our earlier encounter at the door, I realized that my negative thoughts toward him arose because he hadn’t responded the way I thought he should have in that specific situation.  I felt a verbal, “Thank you” was in order, so that’s what I expected.  However, his, “Thank you”, came in the form of a broad smile.  My negative reaction and thoughts were totally unwarranted and robbed me of several minutes of joy I could have otherwise been experiencing.

It was a clear reminder that the world does not operate according to my interpretation of how things should be done.  Also, it made me check my motives.  Was I holding the door open to receive praise and thanks, as I saw fit, or was I don’t it because it was the kind, honoring thing to do for a fellow human being, regardless of whether I received a positive response?

When we get frustrated because people don’t respond to something exactly as we would like them to, we are setting ourselves up to potentially damage relationships.  Instead of realizing the uniqueness of others and allowing them to express their uniqueness, we box them into our own expectations.

I know I wouldn’t appreciate others boxing me in like that, so what gives me the right to do that to others?  The answer… is “nothing”.

Let’s work at dropping our senseless expectations that everyone should and respond the way we think they should.  Let’s instead start appreciating the uniqueness of others and allowing them to express it.  Because, wouldn’t we all like the seam kindness shown to us

How to Receive More Kind Words

We all like hearing kind words from people we know.  It doesn’t matter if the words are spoken or written, there’s something about the genuine kindness of another person’s words to us that leave us feeling joyful and happy.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to increase the frequency of kind words you receive from others?  In fact, there is!  All you have to do is begin the habit of doing the following:  generously communicate kind words to others.

It’s so simple, yet so true!

Consider this:

If you want:  Then:
More phone calls from friends and family… Make more phone calls to friends and family
To receive more encouraging emails… Send out more kind and encouraging emails
More friendly conversations with people… Speak to people with kind and friendly words
More smiles from people… Smile more

If you would like more kindness in your life, start adding kindness into the lives of others.  It doesn’t matter what medium you use.  People are pleased to receive kind words whether they come in:

  • Phone calls
  • Emails
  • Text messages
  • Social media posts
  • Hand written notes
  • Voice mails
  • Spoken words

It really is that simple.  If you want to receive kind words from others, you simply have to begin the habit of regularly speaking kind words to others.

Why not start today?

Letting People Know

During our Thanksgiving dinner this year my mom asked a question of everyone at the table.  She wanted hear from each person about someone who has had an impact on our life over the past year and what that impact was.  What a great question and conversation starter.

As everyone shared, it was evident that we had all been blessed by the kindness of other people that had been willing to make meaningful contributions to our lives.  However, the conversation didn’t end there.  After everyone had shared, my mom took it one step further.  She encouraged each of us to contact the person we talked about, be it with a phone call, letter, or email, and let them know the impact they had had on us.

What a great suggestion!  Most people I know want to make an impact in the lives of others, but I wonder how many of them have actually been told that they indeed made an impact.  My guess is that the number is rather small.  Sadly, it’s likely the impact people have made in the lives of others is often not talked about until someone’s funeral or memorial service.

I don’t want to wait until someone’s funeral to talk about their impact on my life.  I’d rather tell them while they’re still around.  Therefore, I’m going to do what I’m mom suggested and write some letters, not only to the person I mentioned, but to others who have impacted me as well.

So who has impacted your life?  Who has made a difference to you or has made your life better just by their presence and willingness to invest their time into you?  As my mom did for us, I encourage you to let them know?  Make a phone call, send an email, fire off a text, or send a hand written note.  It doesn’t have to be something lengthy or formal.  It can be as simple as a couple of sentences stating what they have done for you, how it has impacted you, and your gratitude.

Imagine the impact your words of recognition and gratitude could have one someone who has impacted you.

 

 

Slow Down

The day after Thanksgiving my wife and I went for a hike to Cascade Head on the Oregon Coast.  The weather was sunny and in the low 50s with a very light breeze.  We hiked up to a favorite spot where we had unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean and the town of Lincoln City.  For an hour we sat there observing the view, watching some whales spouting nearby, and just taking in the peaceful scene before us.  It was one of those experiences that left me feeling refreshed and recharged.  Neither one of us wanted to leave.   We could have sat there all day.

CascadeHeadNov2015

That experience reminded me of the importance of slowing down and enjoying moments like that when they present themselves.  Unfortunately with busy schedules, constantly beeping electronic devices, and any number of life’s other distractions, these moments are easy to miss, unless we slow down, and actively look for them.

Begin looking for opportunities during your day to slow down and do something that may not be considered productive, but leaves you feeling recharged, refreshed, connected, thankful, or just content.  The opportunities are numerous and can range from enjoying a beautiful scene outside to spending time with a good friend.

These opportunities are out there.  We need only slow down and look for them.

What Have You Got?

There’s something satisfying about finding an area of my life that I want to improve, identifying and taking steps to make it better, and seeing positive results.  It’s a life-long process that ensures I don’t just get older, but that I get better as well.

Legendary motivational speaker Zig Ziglar had a great teaching tool called the Wheel of Life that he used to illustrate areas of our life where we divide our attention and resources.  The areas in the Wheel include:

  • Career
  • Financial
  • Spiritual
  • Physical
  • Intellectual
  • Family
  • Social

I’ve noticed that, if I’m not mindful, I can focus on what’s not working well for me in a single area of life and not even acknowledge or appreciate other areas where things are going very well.  For example, I can get frustrated about Career not being where I’d like it to be and totally miss the progress I’m making in say Physical, Spiritual, or Social.

Left unchecked, I can very easily begin to view my whole life through the frustration or challenges I’m facing with Career.  This singular focus clouds my outlook and attitude toward life as a whole, when in fact I have other areas of my life that are going quite well.  Therefore, it is imperative that we are aware of the whole Wheel of our life and not allow frustration in one area to push out the good things happening in other areas.

I know this isn’t new or cutting edge thinking.  However, I do think that it is important to be reminded of on a regular basis.  This ensures we’re not overlooking the areas of our life where things are going well, while we’re also making efforts to improve in other areas.

As you take a look at the Wheel of your own life, find out where you are struggling and take steps to improve in those areas.  But equally important, identify the areas where you’re doing well and celebrate them and be grateful.  Your improved attitude and outlook will position you for a greater likelihood of success in areas you’re seeking to improve.

Compounding a Compliment

If you want to make someone’s day, share with them how much you genuinely appreciate something they’ve done for you.  If you want to make their week, share it with someone they work for, or someone close to them.

This week I received a nice email from a department leader that my team and I support.  In the email the department leader shared about a recent meeting one of our business units had with a vendor I support.  Even though I was not present, at the end of the meeting, this vendor made a point to mention to everyone how much he appreciates the support I’ve been providing him.

When I read the email, I felt great!  Not only did I appreciate hearing the comments the vendor made, I thought it was extremely cool that the vendor let others know what a great job he thought I was doing.  It really did make my week.

We also have the same capacity to makes someone else’s week by sharing their accomplishments and our appreciation for them with people they know.  For example, you can:

  • Tell a parent about something their child did that was unique, helpful, or showing of good character.
  • Let the owner or manager of a restaurant know what a great job your waiter or waitress did for you.
  • Tell the spouse of someone you know how much you appreciate something their spouse has done or a character trait of theirs that you admire.

What’s cool about doing this is that not only will the person you’re speaking positively about feel good, so will the person you told.  People like to deliver good news, so you’re also giving the person you told the opportunity to pass along a kind word.  It’s a 3-way-win:

  1. You’ll feel good for passing along a kind word.
  2. The person you told will feel good about passing it along to the person you were speaking well of.
  3. The recipient will feel good hearing your compliment AND knowing that you spoke well about them to other people.

Who has done something good for you recently, or over an extended period of time?  Who has some positive character traits that you admire?  Once you determine who that is, tell someone close to them about it.  The opportunities are endless.  Don’t wait, start today.

Take in the Experience

I love to hike, and since I live in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, I’m fortunate to get a large dose of natural scenic beauty on a regular basis.  My favorite hiking destinations are the ones that reward hikers for their effort with a commanding view and breathtaking scenery.  Starting early in the morning on a challenging hike to a much anticipated viewpoint is one of my favorite ways to spend a day.  The anticipation of the view and then finally seeing it with my own eyes is exhilarating.  For me, it’s one of those events that make me thankful to be alive.

Three Sisters Wilderness

Three Sisters Wilderness

One thing I’ve noticed about myself in recent years is that when I reach one of these viewpoints, I immediately begin taking pictures of the scene.  Depending on the view, I can easily take over 100 pictures in my attempt to capture the beautiful scene before me.  I don’t want to miss a single detail!

Inevitably, after several minutes at my feverish picture-taking pace, I begin to hear a voice inside of me saying, “Hey, enough pictures.  Just stop, and take in the experience.”

At that point I put the camera away and just take in the experience with all of my senses.  I literally feast my eyes on the scene before me, noticing shapes, colors, contrasts and myriad other details that I had missed while seeing it through the screen of a digital camera.  I listen to the whooshing sound of the wind as it blows through the tops of pine trees or across the face of a rock-exposed mountain.  I hear the unique sound that a river makes as water curls over a rock and collapses back on itself.  There are also the tactile feelings and fresh smells of the surrounding environment that make for a complete experience.  All of these things I would have missed, had I continued taking pictures.

Those hiking experiences always cause me to wonder what else I may be missing out on in my non-hiking life when I don’t stop and take in the experience.  Where am I busily rushing around, forgetting to stop and enjoy the surrounding environment, event, or people I’m with?  Hiking is good for me in that respect.  It provides me with a mental reset, a reminder to be mindful about taking in the experience, no matter what I’m doing.

What about you?  Are there areas of your life where your too busy “taking pictures” that you’re forgetting to stop and take in the experience?  Start becoming mindful about what you’re doing and who you’re with.  Decide now that although you’ll take some pictures along the way, you’ll also be sure to put the camera down and take in the experience as well.