Proud to be Me

Who are you?

This is a really important question we all need to ask on a regular basis to make sure that we have not gotten swept away by the world but that we know who we are, but more than that, we’re proud of who we are.   How did you answer the question?  Did your reply include the name of a family member or talk about your job?  Did your reply shine a positive light on you or cast you in shadows?  What does your reply tell you about what you believe about yourself?

What I’ve learned over the years is that no one can be responsible for my happiness or success except for me.  Yes, other people and companies will have an impact on my happiness and success, there are lots of great and bad partnerships out there to be had. But choosing to enter in or stay in those relationships is totally up to me.

When we choose to stay in situations that aren’t fulfilling us the way they need to, we’ve got a choice to make: stay, tweak or go.  If we stay it means that we’re choosing to release our desire for something for a time.  Maybe we’re releasing our happiness to make extra money for a season.  It becomes dangerous though when we stick around for longer than the appropriate season.  If we tweak our situation it means that we ask the people in the relationship to change things a bit, such as adopt a few different responsibilities at work or at home.  This is a great way to resolve issues that aren’t truly threatening to you personally, but aren’t living up to the standards of who you are and what you believe. Finally, if you choose to leave it means you realize that nothing good can come of staying in the situation for any longer.  It means you’ve recognized that the best is yet to come and here is not the best.

This week I encourage you to ask yourself the question: “who am I.”  Take time to consider what makes you happy, what frustrates you, what is slowly killing you and what you’re ready to change. It’s been proven over and over again that the only person you can truly be successfully in this world is the person you were created to be.  I can’t be you, you can’t be me.  Without both of us the world won’t go ’round.

“I know now that most people are so closely concerned with themselves that they are not aware of their own individuality, I can see myself, and it has helped me to say what I want to say in paint.” Georgia O’Keeffe

The Little Things

Like much of the world I’ve been following the news about Flight 370 which magically disappeared on March 8.  I’ve always been fascinated by Titanic’s story and followed the story of the Costa Concordia as well which met a bad end in 2012.  While we may never have all the facts about any of these events, they are reminders that the only guarantee of life we have is today.

The longer I live the more I appreciate the little things, like friends, good health, sight, the ability to make money, the ability to walk, the gift of imagination, the smell of the world after a rainstorm.  These little things that seem so insignificant are things that the people who have perished before their time would love to experience again but can’t.

When you look death or really scary life changes in the face and live most people find they have a new perspective on life, a new desire to live each moment.  We appreciate more the little moments that make up each of our lives.   We’ll also have different perspectives on the little things like appearance or possessions.

It’s unfortunate that most of us have to have life or death experiences before we begin to appreciate all we have.  If we were all a little more aware of what went on around us and chose to live life more and stopped hiding we would have less regrets at the end of the day and at the end of our lives.  The good news is that you don’t have to face death to choose to see life, you can make that choice today.

“I reassured my mother that it didn’t matter to me if my face was not symmetrical. Me, who had always cared about my appearance, how my hair looked! But when you see death, things change. “It doesn’t matter if I can’t smile or blink properly,” I told her. “I’m still me, Malala. The important thing is God has given me my life.”” Malala Yousafzai

This Little Light of Mine

Over the years people have struggled with the concept of spirituality being a stop sign, if you will, for bad stuff, and the concept that being a Christian means you’re protected from all of the bad stuff that goes on around us.  But that’s just not the case.  Christians deal with bad stuff, with disappointments, with job losses, with health crisis, with relationship failures, and with tough kids too.  We’re not any less likely to experience the bad stuff than anyone else.

But somehow over the years we’ve gone from a fairly well-respected body of people in Jesus’ time to a group of people that others are suspicious of, make fun of and don’t hold in high regard.  I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that we’ve let the bad stuff get to us.  I read this week in one of many inspiring emails I get that our “grievances hide the light of the world.” In other words, when we’re overcome by the bad stuff in the world the light of God can’t shine through us.

I’m always amazed by the fact that even though there are clouds in the sky the sun is still up there.  I know, sounds kind of dumb right?  I mean, of course the sun doesn’t disappear when there are clouds, it’s still up there even if we can’t see it.  It is similar with our faith and relationship with God.  When it gets covered up by the bad stuff in our lives, by the stuff that we allow to overwhelm us, we’re no longer able to be the amazing overcomers and respected people of Jesus’ time.  We may or may not have less faith, but many of us have allowed the clouds to cover up who we truly are, and the person that God has made us to be.

“…you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”  1 Peter 2:9

A Plan with Purpose

“Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan.”  Margaret Thatcher

An important aspect of life is knowing that you’ve got a direction that you’re heading in.  It’s uncomfortable to go through life without knowing where you’re going or if there’s a purpose to what you’re doing. Many people go to work day in and day out without feeling any sense of purpose or success, just trying to make ends meet and get that all-important paycheck.  When we stop looking towards our purpose and seeing the path we’re traveling we can get lost, frustrated and irritated.  Even worse, we can spread that discontent to other people and distract them on their purposeful journey.

If you’re struggling with your life, feeling unsatisfied with where your path is taking you, the first thing you need to do is figure out what you’re not happy with.  Then you have to figure out where you do want.  From there you make a plan and put it into action. Sounds simple, right?

For most of us the plan won’t be stuff we can change overnight, but will have to be fulfilled step by step, day by day until we get there.  Margaret Thatcher reminds us that:

“Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem, and personal satisfaction.”

The reason we need a plan and need to plan daily steps toward out goal is because without that plan it will be hard to keep your eyes on the goal and keep working to live your purpose.  We have gotten used to the immediate results of the internet and fast food, yet our success and purpose isn’t something that can be achieved as quick as a Google search or Wendy’s burger.  When we discipline ourselves to complete at least one thing each day that will bring us closer to fulfilling our plan and living our purpose we’ve got a much better chance of getting there.

If you’ve been feeling dissatisfied lately and thinking about making changes to your life, there is no better time than today.  Make a plan, take action and start working towards your better life today.

Communicating for Compromise

I’m a huge advocate of communication.  It’s one of the things that, when used well, greatly improves all aspects of your life.  When people stop communicating or use communication as a weapon is when things fall apart.  We witness the failures of communication around us in many divorces, political challenges and business scandals. Let’s note that some divorces are the result of good communication because both parties have communicated and reached the conclusion that they are better apart than they are continuing together.  But many companies and people fall apart because communication is poor or is filled with lies.  What these companies and people may or may not realize is that when their communications fail, it can directly and seriously affect many other people too.  Aung San Suu Kyi wisely said:

“You cannot compromise unless people talk to you.” 

This is another of my favorite “c” words.  Compromise is a powerful aspect of communication that most people don’t get around to using.  Some things may not be worth compromising on, either because they’re too important or too trivial, but in most cases it’s totally worth it to see if you can reach some kind of compromise.  But as Aung San Suu Kyi points out, compromise cannot happen without communication.

Compromise isn’t a dirty word, it’s simply a healthy part of a strong relationships.  When you and your partner have agreed to use communication and compromise as an active and essential part of your relationship, you’ll find that it almost becomes second nature to work through things and isn’t as big of a challenge or issue as you may have expected.  Compromise isn’t about winning or losing, it’s about making sure the relationship and both/all people in it are committed to making the relationship work and meeting the needs of all involved.  If you are truly committed to being a supportive partner, you’ll want to compromise and see if you can’t find solutions that will make both of you fulfilled in the relationship.

But as mentioned earlier, without communication there is no compromise.  If you do one thing this year, learn how to communicate with your partner.  You’ll find you’re less stressed, happier and things will go better then they have in the past.

Spring Starts

“Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen.  You, too, must be patient.” James 5:7b-8a

Spring is one of my favorite seasons!  I love the excitement, the feeling of fresh starts and all of the new life that appears.  Spring in nature is much like seasons of spring in our lives.  With spring we don’t immediately see the results of the showers, the clearing of snow and warming of temperatures.  We have to wait for the cherry blossoms, long sunny days and baby animals.

For farmers and other growers they go through this change of seasons and waiting every year with more anticipation than most of us.  For them if the season doesn’t go well they have a poor harvest that year.  You’ve probably seen the effects of the crazy weather we’ve had at your local grocery store.

The thing about spring that we haven’t learned yet is that its better to be patient and wait for the seasons to develop themselves than to force things to happen.  When we try to rush through things or rush people or plants, we can get in the way of the natural order of things.  I like being able to pick freshly grown vegetables and fruits at the store rather than waiting for mine to grow, but all of the modifications and chemicals we use to make things grow bigger and faster aren’t the best for our bodies.

We’ve tried to rush our lives and learning too.  But what I’m learning is that some things can’t be rushed.  Sometimes we have to try things out and wait for things to develop.  While we’re waiting we’re not supposed to do nothing however.  Like farmers who weed while the plants grow, we’re supposed to keep learning and working and making step-by-step progress.

What is God trying to teach you in this spring season of your life?  Are you open to the lessons He’s trying to show you or pushing as hard as you can to get through?

Together We Have More

“The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.” Jane Addams

Jane Addams brings up a good point, one I’ve seen proof of over and over: together we all have more than we do separately.  We’re designed down in our genes to be together, work together, live together and succeed together. Yet many of us don’t see the point in helping others and are only concerned about our personal future.  Let’s think about it from a very simple perspective: if we didn’t have schools for our kids we would have to homeschool them.  You might be OK with that, but others definitely say there’s no way they would ever want to be without a school that they can send their kids to.  Personally I believe that there’s a lot of improvement needed in our schools, but until more people are willing to call for and make changes happen nothing will change for the better.

Another example would be in the fact that I can only snack on organic celery (as opposed to regular celery).  No matter how good organic celery may be for me, unless there are other people who want organic celery at the same stores I shop in, the stores won’t carry it.

But all this goes back to the age old marketing lesson that if you really like something or something really matters to you you’ll tell all your friends and get them involved in it too.  You can’t go too far online before you run into a charity or non-profit looking for some assistance or just a “share.” No matter how helpful or amazing that charity is, it won’t get anywhere without more than a few of us stepping up to support them.

The reason we have schools, organic celery and charities changing the course of people’s lives for the better is because we’ve accepted them and incorporated them into our lives.  These aren’t things that only benefit one person, but rather benefit whole communities and groups of people.  What have you done lately for others?