Being Influenced

The TV blared the news of the previous weekend events as I sat in the doctor’s office waiting room on Monday.  It was a continuous recount of the violence that occurred in Charlottesville.  After a while, I began to feel a weight from this stream of negativity.  So I looked away from the TV, put in my earplugs and read a book.

I like to be informed of current events, but I don’t need to see image after image of intentional acts of hatred.  Too much exposure to this type of negative press eventually begins to influence our thinking and how we view the world around us.  At least it can for me.  That is not how I want to be influenced.

Based on my own experience, I know there are a lot of good people doing good things in the world.  I come in contact with them every week, if not every day.  It’s these types of activities and people that I want to focus my attention on and to be influenced by.

And fortunately, they’re in large supply.  We need only look for them.

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.

Words

Would you ever walk around deliberately throwing pointed darts at people, hitting them with a club, or punching them in the gut? Of course not!  In fact, if we did, we’d likely get arrested!  Yet everyday people are equally, if not more, careless with the words they choose to launch at others.

Words are interesting because they don’t have any preference on how or for what purpose they are used.  They are amoral and only become positive or negative based solely on how we choose to wield them.

Look at the contrast between the attributes of positive and negative words:

Positive Words Negative Words
Encouraging Discouraging
Affirming Tearing down
Loving Hateful
Caring Hurtful
Compassionate Condemning
Healing Crushing
Life saving Hopeless
Enduring Enduring

 

Our words have an impact on people, especially on those closest to us.  And though they can be positive or negative, they are often not soon forgotten.

This underscores the importance of the awareness we should possess regarding the words we use and how we’re treating others with them.  Are we being careless with our words or are we using them to encourage and edify others?  If we could see a visual representation of the words we’re delivering to others would they resemble sticks, darts, clubs, and stones, or would they look more like a smile, a pat on the back, a high-five, and a hug?

We do have a choice regarding the words we use.  They leave our lips wrapped in our intentions.  Let’s intention to deliver positive words that bless others versus cursing them.  When we do, we’ll likely notice that the words we receive from others are kind and positive as well.

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.

Someone Would Gladly Trade With You

Life is good, but occasionally we get frustrated and begin to complain.  This isn’t all bad, because frustration can often be the spark that causes us to take action to improve our life.  However, we get into trouble when we focus solely on what is frustrating us and develop an attitude of complaining.

We may justify our complaining by pointing out how bad things are, but here’s a thought to consider the next time we feel like complaining:  someone in the world would gladly trade places with you.

Consider this:

You think… Someone else thinks…
My job sucks. I’ll trade with you!

I’m currently unemployed and would love to have a job right now.

My marriage stinks. I’ll trade with you!

I’d love to be married and willing to work out our differences with a spouse.

I’m old. I’ll trade with you!

I’m 32 and have been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  I’d love to look forward to growing old.

I’m fat and out of shape. I’ll trade with you!

I live in a country where we rarely have enough to eat, let alone have the ability to choose a healthy lifestyle and a nutritious diet.

My life is boring. I’ll trade with you!

I’d love to have the freedom and resources you have to choose how I live my life.  There’s so much I want to do, experience, and learn.

As you look at your frustrations through the lens of how others view them, your situation starts to look a whole lot better.

The next time you find yourself having adopted an attitude complaining, stop and consider how many people would love to trade places with you.  This thought will likely give you a new perspective on your situation as well as refocus your attitude.

How Not to be Crotchety

I believe that the daily realization and internalization of the following statement will keep you from turning into a crotchety old person, regardless of your age:  Everyone is not like you.

I know that’s obvious, but think about how often you’ve been frustrated or upset because someone:

  • Didn’t respond to something the way you thought they should have.
  • Didn’t say the exact words you wanted to hear
  • Didn’t show the same importance toward something as you thought it warranted.
  • Expressed a thought or idea that didn’t agree with the way you think.

These frustrations occur because we are not all alike.  Our experiences, environments, beliefs, and personalities are all different, which causes each of us to think, speak, act, and prioritize differently.

While we usually applaud our differences, I’ve realized recently that I’ve been allowing these differences to needlessly frustrate me.  With regard to colleagues or my spouse, I’ve allowed these differences to create frustration and impact how I respond to and treat others.  In short, it’s negatively impacted my attitude, and it’s time I change.

I realize that the lens I view situations through is not the same lens that everyone else uses.  In fact, the lenses for viewing the world are as varied as the people who inhabit it.  In light of that reality, how can we any of us expect others to always think and behave just like we do?

When I have the displeasure of meeting crotchety people of any age, there is usually a frustration expressed that the world, or at least their little part of it, is not as they would like it.  There is rigidity to their thinking that is unwilling to consider a different point of view.  They often feel that thinks would be better if everyone else just thought the same way about things as they do.  Not only is their mindset unrealistic, it leads to continued frustration and a negative attitude about the people around them.

I don’t want to be like that.  I’m making the decision to be aware of the differences between my thinking and the thinking of others, and to remove my expectation that others should be thinking the same way I do.  While that doesn’t mean I have to agree with everyone’s way of thinking, it does mean that I don’t have to be frustrated by it or have my attitude adversely impacted.  And that sounds good to me!

Cultivating Good Ideas

I started this blog 153 weeks ago with the goal of consistently posting one entry per week.  So far, I haven’t missed a week yet!  What’s amazed me most about this journey is how every week I find a new idea to write about.

I like to post my entries on Saturday, but on Sunday, 6 days prior to posting, I usually have no idea what I’m going to write about.  It isn’t until I start going through my weekly routines of reading, having conversations with people, and listening to positive content that an idea for a topic pops into my mind.  These ideas burst onto the stage of my mind without any warning.  It’s an amazing process that I’ve really enjoyed over the past 153 weeks.

Ideas don’t just happen.  Whether it’s ideas for writing, planning, or myriad other forms of creation, I think there are certain disciplines we can practice to greatly increase our likelihood of coming up with good ideas.  Those disciplines include the following:

Expect that you can and will come up with good ideas

Henry Ford stated it well when he said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”  Pay attention how you talk to yourself regarding your ability to come up with ideas.  Instead of telling yourself you’re not good at coming up with ideas, change the internal dialog and state how capable you are of coming up with not just one, but several good ideas.

Consume positive content

Positive content, in the form of conversations, reading, podcasts, or any other method, is the fertilizer that helps grow new thoughts and ideas.  Your ideas will come out of whatever you have been putting into your mind, so be mindful of what you’re allowing in.

Set a deadline to come up with good ideas

For me, I imposed an artificial deadline of generating a blog post every week.  This created a sense of urgency that forced me to generate an idea.  So far it’s worked out well.

Practice cultivating good ideas

Every day, write down 10 good ideas on any topic.  It can be anything from ideas for generating extra money to titles for a make-believe TV show.  The objet here is to just get in the practice of generating ideas.  The more we do it, the better we can become at coming up with ideas.  James Altucher says that this is how you stretch your “idea muscle” and become and “idea machine”.

Set yourself up to be a generator of good ideas by following the steps above, or share some of your own ideas for generating ideas in the comments below.

Ideas are the starting point of all new adventures.  If you want to have a more adventurous life, you only need to start having more ideas.

What Are You Allowing In

I’ve been thinking this week about how what we fill our minds with today influences our thoughts in the future.  I’m also surprised at how quickly our mind comes up with thoughts that are influenced by what we’re allowing into our minds.

This can be a great thing if we’re filling our minds with good content that reinforces good thinking.  The other side is that a lack of discernment over what content we allow into our minds can lead to a polluted thought life that will manifest itself in equally polluted speech, attitude and behavior.

Earl Nightingale gave a great illustration of this by comparing our minds to a plot of land for a garden.  If we plant corn seeds in this pot of land, the only crop that we can expect the land to produce is corn.  It will not produce carrots, peas, beets, or potatoes.  We’ve sown seeds of corn.  The only thing the land will produce in return is corn.

Our minds are like that plot of land, and the content we’re allowing into our mind today are the seeds of our future thoughts, beliefs and attitudes.  Like the plot of land, our minds will only return a harvest based on the seeds we sow in it.  If we’re filling our mind with the seeds of positive input, our thoughts will be positive.  Likewise, seeds of negativity will yield and equally negative harvest.

So what are these “seeds” that we plant in our mind?  What do they look like and where do we get them?

These seeds come in many forms, such as:

  • Books we read
  • People we interact with
  • Games we play
  • Movies we watch
  • Music we listen to
  • Media we consume
  • Environments we spend time in
  • Communities we are a part of

Since they have such a significant impact on our thinking, it is so important to be aware of the content we allow into our mind.  We would never intentionally put sand or water into the gas tank of our car, because that would have a damaging impact on the car’s engine.  Our minds should be treated likewise, because the wrong input, which leads to wrong thinking, can have an equally damaging impact.

There are 2 things we can do today to start having better, more positive thoughts:

  1. Be aware of the input we’re allowing into our minds. Pay attention to the content we’re taking in and the conversations we’re having.  If they’re negative, change them.
  1. Be aware of the thoughts you’re having. When you notice they’re negative, replace them with a positive thought.  Left unchecked, we will go where our thoughts take us.  I’d prefer to be taken somewhere positive.

Become aware of the content you’re allowing into your mind and begin sowing the seeds of good thoughts in your mind today.  A harvest of good thinking in the future awaits.

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.

What Can I Bring?

It’s a common question to ask when you’re invited over to someone’s house for dinner, a barbecue, or any other get –together, “What can I bring?”  When we ask this question, we’re stating that we want to contribute something to the event that will hopefully make it better and enhance the experience for everyone in attendance.

Have you ever thought of asking that same question of yourself in the context of:

  • Your work
  • Your marriage or relationship with your significant other
  • Your family
  • Your closest friendships
  • Your community
  • Your life

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about what you can bring in the form of snacks or something to eat.  I’m talking about what you can bring of yourself to your life, and the lives of others, that will cause them to be better because you showed up and brought something.

Take your work, school, or community; can you bring leadership, perspective, or vision?

What about your family, friends, or significant other?  How would your relationships change if you brought love, encouragement, compassion, grace, or maybe forgiveness?

And how would your life change if every day you decided to bring to it a positive attitude, a sense of humor and adventure, and an eagerness to learn,  grow, and apply what you’ve learned to positively impact the lives of those around you?

For me personally, I’m eager to find out!

We all have something good we can bring to our life and the lives of others.  Be aware of what you have to offer the world and constantly ask yourself, “What can I bring?”  Then once you have determined what you can bring…BRING IT!

There are untold lives waiting to be positively impacted by what you bring; most importantly, yours.