Cause It To Happen

Here in the Pacific Northwest spring has been doing its best to send winter to an early retirement. Daffodils have started blooming and I even mowed my lawn last week!  This false start to spring is getting me excited for the upcoming spring (for real), summer, and fall months. It reminds me that if I have any activities or things I’d like to accomplish this year, I need to take actions to cause them to happen.

I love traveling, hiking, and just getting out and doing things, but I realize that if I don’t put these types of activities on the calendar and cause them to happen, they often won’t. I think it’s like that for most of us.  We have intentions to do X, Y, and Z, but get busy with day-to-day stuff and put off planning those activities that are important to us.  If left unchecked for days, weeks, months, or even years, we realize that we haven’t done any of those activities and all we have to show are unfulfilled intentions.

Last year was a year where I actually committed to getting my intentions on the calendar and making them happen. It was a wonderful year of learning, travel, new experiences, and great memories.  I’m eager to make 2018, and the years ahead, more like 2017.  Years not only filled with great intentions, but years where my intentions are validated with commitments to making them happen.

What intentions do you have for 2018 and the years ahead? Now the really important question:  What are you going to do to cause them to happen?

Stop and Notice

The weather in the Pacific Northwest has been clear, sunny and cool for the last few days and, according to the long-range forecast, shows no signs of changing, at least within the next 7 days.  And that’s fine with me!

What I love about this type of weather in the late fall and early winter are the beautiful scenes it makes possible, like:

  • The brilliant orange, yellow, and blue colors of a sunrise
  • The clear view of mountains in the Cascade Range
  • The late afternoon sunlight shining off the bodies of low-flying Canadian geese

What’s interesting to me is that as beautiful as these scenes are, they can easily be missed, unless we stop and notice them.  There are so many things that occupy our minds and compete for our attention that, unless we make an effort to be aware of the beautiful things going on around us, we can easily miss them; and that would be a shame.

Let’s commit to actively looking for the beautiful things occurring around us.  Whether it’s a beautiful natural scene or an act of kindness, let’s be sure not to miss them.

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.

Dealing With Uncertainty

No matter where in the world you live, you’ve likely heard the results of the US presidential election.  It’s been a circus and I, for one, am so thankful it’s over.

The emotions people are feeling range from anger to jubilation, disbelief to indifference, and everything in between.  There is a lot of uncertainty and people are wondering just what their country, their home, and the world will look like in the months ahead.  It would be easy to get caught up in all the uncertainty and start worrying about the future, but I think there’s a better way to respond.

Instead of worrying about things that are out of our control, let’s look at ourselves, where we do have control, and choose to:

  • Exercise creativity in our work and our personal lives
  • Love those closest to us
  • Treat those around us with kindness and understanding
  • Learn, explore, and be curious about the world and people in it

These are just a few of the ways among many that we can redirect our energies away from worry of uncertainty and focus them on more meaningful pursuits.  Pursuits that can make your life and the lives of those around you better.

For me, I also take comfort in an uncertain future by knowing that God is never surprised by events and that He is always in control.

As the world looks a little uncertain, let’s remember that we can still have a positive impact in our circles of influence by choosing to offer the best of who we are to those around us.  Although we may not impact the world, we will impact our portions of it.

Of that, I’m certain.

26 Tiny Building Blocks

I’m blown away by the English alphabet!  From these 26 tiny characters, these building blocks, come great works like the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, or the “I Have a Dream” speech.  Here’s what’s most extraordinary to me:  we all have access to these building blocks and we get to choose what we create with them, simply by how we arrange them.

A colleague of mine once told me, “Paper will just lay there and let you write anything on it you want.”  Letters of the alphabet are the same way.  They don’t care how you arrange them or what you create with them.  They’re not good or bad.  They’re just available to us to say or express anything we want.

They can be arranged to form something great or to express love and gratitude toward someone we care about.  They can also be arranged to spread hate and fear.  The choice on how we arrange these building blocks is totally up to us.

The next time you have the opportunity to use these building blocks, whether it’s writing a letter, sending an email, or making an update on social media, think about what you’re creating.  Is your arrangement of the 26 building blocks something that will add value to others and lift them up?  Are you creating something that you would be proud to have your name on next week, month, or year?  Does your arrangement make the world, or does it darken it just a little more?

With access to a tool as powerful as the alphabet comes great responsibility in how we handle it.  Let’s be aware of what we’re building and choose to arrange these building blocks for purposes of good, rather than to harm.

Five Questions to Help Maintain a Positive Attitude

Let’s face it, sometimes unpleasant unexpected things just happen through no fault of our own.  This could be anything from a job loss, to a bad diagnosis from a doctor, to the unexpected death of a loved one.  As challenging as these things may be, we still have the luxury to choose our attitude as we navigate scenarios like these.  Here are 5 questions we can ask to help maintain a positive attitude through a difficult situation:

  1. What were the positive aspects of this scenario before I received the bad news?

It is so easy to let your mind think of all the negative aspects when we receive bad news.  In fact, our minds seem to go there automatically, unless we decide to focus them elsewhere.  With this in mind, choose to look back with an eye on the positive.  Think about experiences gained or relationships formed.  The positives are there, we just have to look for them.

  1. What can I learn from this?

This may sound cliché, but there is something to be learned from every situation.  Think about what you have learned or what you can learn from this situation.  At first, it may seem like there isn’t anything, but if we’re paying attention, we can learn some valuable lessons we might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn.

  1. What does this make possible?

This is my favorite question!  There is something about an unexpected situation that alters what has been normal for us, be it temporary or permanent.  In that alteration, that “new normal”, there are opportunities for us that didn’t exist before.  Identify what they are and how you can take advantage of them to improve your future and your definition of “normal” moving forward.

  1. What am I thankful for?

Even in light of a bad situation, we have much to be thankful for.  Don’t lose focus on what those things are.

  1. How can I use this experience to help others?

Life is more fun when we share the journey with others.  No matter what you’re going through, someone else has gone through it before, or will be going through it after you.  That’s cool on 2 different levels!  First you can find others who have gone through a similar circumstance and seek guidance from them.  Second, after you’ve gone through it, you will be poised to help someone else in the future who is going through a situation you’ve already been through.  What a blessing to be a source of encouragement to someone during what is a dark hour for them.

 

Yes, unexpected and unpleasant situations really stink.  We could go as far to say they really suck.  But how we come through them, and how our future is impacted by them, is largely due to the attitude we have while were in them.

 

Let’s be mindful of this powerful choice we have and decide today, and every day, to keep an attitude that is positive instead of letting a negative attitude take root.  The choice is ours.  Let’s choose wisely.