Consider Your Approach

A piano will just sit there and let you bang away at the keys and make a lot of noise, or allow you to use it to product beautiful music.  In fact, it’s like that with every musical instrument.  The instrument doesn’t care what you do to it.  The difference is the musician who approaches the instrument.

The quality of music an instrument will yield is based solely on how the musician approaches the instrument, with regard to experience, skill, desire, passion, and attitude.  The more of these qualities the musician approaches the instrument with, the better the quality of music the instrument will return and, in the long run, the better the musician will become.

I think it’s a lot like that with life.  A significant portion of what we receive from life is largely dependent on how we are approaching life.  Imagine how different a person’s life would be if they chose to approach their life with:

  • Wonder
  • Curiosity
  • Eagerness to learn
  • Gratitude
  • A positive attitude
  • An expectation of good things to come
  • A bent toward action
  • A mindset of joy, abundance, and love.

Versus an approaching life with:

  • Disinterest
  • Bitterness
  • Apathy
  • Laziness
  • An expectation of bad things to come
  • A mindset of pessimism, and fear

So what are you receiving from life on a regular basis?  Are you receiving beautiful music or harsh disorderly noise?

If you don’t like what you’re receiving from life, consider changing your approach.

It’s Happening Now

This week I saw the following statement on someone’s T-shirt:  “Enjoy it because it’s happening now”.

I love this timely reminder!

With the beginning of a new year, it’s common to focus on goals and what we plan on doing in the upcoming weeks and months of 2017.  While looking ahead and planning are indeed both important endeavors, it’s equally important that they not occur at the expense of enjoying the good things we’re experiencing in the present moment.

It seems to me that we create our history, our memories, our relationships, and even cement our legacies by how we choose handle what’s happening to us in each moment.

What kind of memories are we creating when we’re overly focused on the future?  What kind of relationships are we creating when we’re too distracted slow down and connect with the people we love and care about?  How will we be remembered by the people with whom we have the pleasure of crossing paths with?  Will they feel like we were looking over their shoulders to see what was next, or will they feel like we actually cared about and were interested in them?

Once gone, a present moment cannot be recaptured.  We can’t go back and extract enjoyment we left on the table from a moment that has already passed.  We must be mindful to enjoy what’s happening right now.

 

Are You Committed

With 2017 looming, many people are beginning to express their intentions for the New Year in the form of goals and resolutions.  I love this time of year, because it causes us to pause and think about how we’d like to change our lives to be better in the next 12 months.

While we have no problem expressing our intentions, we often lack the commitment to take action that will move these intentions toward becoming reality.  Dr. Steve Maraboli states:

Intent reveals desire; action reveals commitment.”

 I would agree.  It’s easy to talk about our desires, because it doesn’t require anything from us.  The more challenging step is to parlay that talk into action, which often requires a potentially uncomfortable or unfamiliar step out of our norm.  Our willingness to take that step is a strong indicator of our commitment to what we say we desire.

Consider this, as you look ahead to 2017; what if the only thing standing in your way of achieving what you desire for the New Year is your willingness to take action?

Are you committed?

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.

Get on the Path

Ever since visiting the Grand Canyon in 2012, I’ve had this goal of doing the Rim to Rim hike.  It’s a hike from the North Rim of the canyon to the South Rim and is a very unique hiking experience with some beautiful scenery.  Many describe it as a bucket list item.  However, aside from wanting to do this hike, I haven’t taken much action to make it happen… until this week.

After talking about it with my wife we sat down, picked some dates and made reservations with a hiking outfitter to do the trip in 2017.  After I made my reservations, and paid my deposit (I had to commit money, so I’m all in!)  I felt great, because I had taken action that will cause this event to happen in 2017.  The part that was so interesting to me was how easy it was to just take action.

I often find myself researching or continuing to think about doing an activity, when instead, what I really need to do is take the step before me.  Put even more simply, I just need to take the action I know I need to take.

After I hit Submit on the on-line registration form, I wondered to myself why it had taken me so long to do this.  If it was that easy to get on the path to achieving this goal, imagine all the other goals I could achieve over a lifetime, if I just take action and get on the path.

How awful would it be to get to the end of life and wonder how different our things could have been if we had only had the courage to take initiative and get started on the path toward doing some things we really wanted to do?

Is there anything you’ve wanted to do, that you keep thinking about, but have yet to take action on?  If so, take action today.  Stick your neck out there and do something that commits you to getting on the path and seeing it through.

Know What It Costs

I’ve been doing some research on mutual fund fees lately (I know, really exciting!) to determine what some investments actually cost. It’s pretty easy to go along for several years without even knowing what an investment is costing you, unless you dig in and find out.  Knowing the cost of an investment is important, because without this piece of information, you may not be able to tell if the investment is worth making.

The same is true for how we’re investing our time.  Have you ever thought about the cost of a habit done over an extended period of time?  Take the habit of eating fast food for lunch every day.  There’s obviously the monetary cost, but consider the health cost you’ll pay as a result of prolonged poor nutrition and the impact that will have on your lifestyle.  A very real cost, indeed!

On the other hand, there is also a cost to exercising and engaging in physical activity every day.  There’s the cost of getting out of bed early, giving up your lunch hour, or getting home later after work, so you can have time to go to the gym or do some exercise at home.  However, this cost over time yields a very significant and positive return!  The cost of this habit seems worth it when compared to the return.

Are there any activities you’re currently doing where the cost is bringing about the positive results you desire, or at least getting you closer to a goal you’ve set, or the life you desire to live?  If so, I encourage you to stick with it.  However, if there are activities you’re currently doing that have a significant cost, but yield poor or negative results, perhaps it’s time to revisit your objectives and maybe even change course.

The important thing for us is to know the cost of the activities we devote our resources toward, and determine if that cost is worth it.

Trust the Process

Wednesday night was really frustrating.  I was scheduled to take a professional certification exam the following morning, and from my recent experience on a couple of practice exams, all indications looked like I would go down in flames.  My frustration came from the fact that I had been consistently studying every day for several weeks and it felt like it would have been for nothing if I failed the exam.

Thursday morning I woke up, completed my normal morning routine, reviewed the material I had been studying and took the exam at the scheduled time.  I was thrilled when I learned I had passed the exam with an 83%!

After the exam, I was reflecting on how I had wasted the previous evening with feelings of frustration, disappointment, and worry when I should have trusted the process I had been following.  The process is the same one I follow for any event where I need to deliver.  The 3 step process is simply:

  1. Do my best to adequately prepare
  2. Give my best effort when it’s time to deliver
  3. Take any next steps, if necessary

Although I had done Step 1 well, my poor results on the practice test caused me to momentarily doubt the process and start looking ahead to what to do when I failed the exam.  This kind of thinking rarely enables us to give our best effort.  Fortunately, I was able to get back on track and focus on completing Step 1 so I would be able to perform well at Step 2.

During the test, I gave my best effort in the form of focus, thinking, and trusting what I had done in Step 1.  The result was a solid passing score and no need to retake the exam.  However, even if I had failed, all I’d have to do is simply adjust my studying, (Step 1) and repeat the process.  Not a big deal.

It’s easy to lose trust in a process, and start doubting when things get challenging.  When those moments of doubt and frustration come up, I’m trying to get better at reminding myself how often the process has served me well, to quickly get back on course, and to continue to trust the process.

Evidence of Commitment

Is there something you’re currently trying to achieve or change in your life?  Maybe it’s an educational or financial goal, or perhaps you want to improve a key relationship or even your health.  No matter what change you’re looking to make, it will require commitment on our part.

The way a goal achieved or a change is made is by our commitment to consistently act in ways that lead in the direction of our goal.  More simply stated, our commitment to a goal is evidenced by the choices we make.

For example, are you trying to live a healthier lifestyle?  Great!  Your commitment to this goal will be evidenced by the choices you make regarding eating and physical activity.  What kind of choices are you consistently making regarding snacks?  Do you choose fresh fruits or other healthy choices, or do you find yourself regularly opting for Twinkies, Snickers bars, ice cream and soda?  The former shows a level of commitment to the goal.  The latter, however, presents evidence that suggests a wavering or even non-existent level of commitment.

A great question to ask, when we’re about to make a decision is, “Will this choice I’m about to make move me closer toward my goal or further away from it?”  If the answer is “closer”, congratulations!  You are presenting evidence of commitment to your goal.

It’s easy to simply talk about a goal, or to have unfulfilled intentions that don’t lead anywhere significant.  Let’s choose to be different and present mounds of evidence, through the choices we make, that reflect a strong commitment to our goals.  For it is the consistent evidence of commitment that will pave the path to achieving whatever worthy goal we’ve set for ourselves.

Evidence to the Contrary

MiddleSister

There seems to be a mindset that aging is a bad thing and that the older we get the more we must take on an increasingly sedate and less active lifestyle.  For example, have you ever heard anyone say or imply some derivative of the following…

 “You know, when you turn <insert an age> you start to <insert bullet list of looming ailments and physical limitations that supposedly accompany aforementioned age>.”

“Well, that’s what happens when you turn <insert an age>.  That’s just the way life is.  What can you do about it?”

I reject this line of thinking for the single reason that I’ve seen too much evidence to the contrary in the lives of multiple people I’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with.

One of my favorite encounters occurred during a backpacking trip around the Three Sisters mountains in Central Oregon back in 2010.  My buddies and I met with 3 people on the trail riding horses:  An older gentleman, a lady and a guy in his late 20s to early 30s.  The gentleman leaned forward in his saddle with a relaxed yet confident posture as we all exchanged pleasantries.  “So, what are you all up to today?” I asked.  “Well,” the gentleman responded, “today is my 85th birthday.  This is my daughter” he said as he gestured to his right, “and this is my grandson.  We’re camping across the meadow down by…”

I was so blown away by what he said, and what I saw, that I don’t remember a thing he said after that.  This guy was celebrating his 85th birthday on horseback in the back country of the Three Sisters Wilderness, while other people several decades younger have a hard time getting off the sofa without getting gassed!

The one thing I remember most about this man, besides his comment, were his eyes.  It’s hard to describe, but it was as if they sparkled with the flame of life that was obviously burning bright behind them.

I never got his name, but I will never forget him, or the lesson he unintentionally taught me about aging that day.  We’re not required to adopt the mindset that tells us we should slow down or throttle back on what we enjoy doing, simply because we reach a certain age.  We have a choice not only in how we age, but in our attitude toward aging as well.

This 85 year-old-young guy was just one of many people I’ve meet who, through their continued active lives, are calling “BS” on the lie that as we age we need to slow down, do less, and become less.  I agree with them, and call “BS” as well; because through their examples, I’ve seen too much evidence to the contrary.

Superman Wasn’t the Only One Affected by Kryptonite

For Superman, Kryptonite was that one thing that rendered him ineffective and sapped all his strength and power.  For me, it’s shots, blood draws, and other minor medical procedures.

I don’t know what it is, but these things cause me to freak out.  And by “freak out”… I mean pass out!  No joke!  I’ve passed out after a tetanus shot, from having blood drawn for lab tests, and the worst of all, having my finger pricked for a health screening at work.  That just happened this Tuesday.  Fortunately for me the medical professionals I’ve been around during these occurrences have been very kind and understanding.  I hope they get a good laugh out of the experience as well!

My latest “adventure” Tuesday got me thinking:  I’ll bet everyone has their own form of Kryptonite they deal with.  It may not be shots or medical procedures.  Perhaps its public speaking, snakes, or even clowns (I’m surprised how many times people have told me they are really freaked out by clowns!).  Whatever it is, we’re not at our best when our Kryptonite is present.

I’m trying to respond better when my Kryptonite is present (translation:  trying not to pass out when I go to the doctor), but it’s proving challenging, as evidenced by last Tuesday.  For me, I’ve found that the best thing I can do when I’m around Kryptonite is to tell the safe people around me about it.  I have found that when folks know, they are compassionate and helpful.

I’ve also learned to be understanding of others when they experience their own form of Kryptonite.  No matter how silly or unreasonable their Kryptonite may seem to me; it’s very real to them.

I’ll admit, passing out over shots and having your finger pricked is kind of silly.  After the fact though, it makes for a funny story to share with others and always generates some laughs.  Sharing our Kryptonite experiences with someone else is also a great way to be vulnerable and build connection with others, especially when they’re sharing their Kryptonite stories with us.