Imagining the Future

The past couple weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about what life holds for you and me. I received an email recently about a blogger I enjoy reading who has decided to stop publishing; somehow it didn’t occur to me that at some point in time someone I enjoy reading from would choose to pack it in. It got me thinking about life and how things change. But that’s the way life goes: we travel a path for a season and when it ends we go in a different direction. It’s not bad to end things, but we don’t always think about the end or when it’s coming. When things end all too often we’re at odds with life. We ask ourselves “what do we do now?” and “what’s next?” and we don’t have an answer.

So as I was thinking about this I was reminded how important it is to see life as a journey. Journeys aren’t made up of one part, they’re made up of stretches and seasons, of moving from place to place until the final destination (death) has been reached. The journey doesn’t end because you reach an age or an accomplishment, that’s only the end of that part of the journey, which is why it’s so important to keep the bigger picture in mind at all times and not exclude parts of your life while you’re on that part of the journey.

The other thing I was reminded about was how important it is to dream throughout our lives. We can get so wrapped up in things that we forget what it’s like to have passion and dreams. I’m not (just) talking pipe dreams and dreams of retiring to our own private island, I’m talking about the realistic ones like being in a long-term happy and healthy relationship or raising kids or making a difference in the world in a way that’s personal to you. The past 2 weeks have reminded me how little I’ve been dreaming and as a result I’ve started again. I’ve started reaching for that which makes me feel and that which excites me rather than just plodding through where I am.

What about you? Where is life taking you right now and are you prepared for the changes that are coming, or will they take you unawares?

“Einstein was entirely correct when he said that imagination is more important than knowledge. You are where you are today as a result of where you’ve allowed your imagination to take you. It either spirals you down to greater depths of despair or propels you upward to greater levels of success” Chris Howard

The “I” in Team

Something I’ve shared about throughout this month is that teamwork is about a group of individuals coming together to reach a goal. It’s not a group reaching a group goal, it’s individuals making an individual contribution together with others all working together to reach a goal. In a true team the individual is as important as the fact that it’s a team. A team is not a place for you to lose your independent identity, nor is it only about the sum of the parts. A team is both “I” and “we.”

As we reach the end of the month in just a few days I wanted to take the time to address something not everyone remembers to say: you’re important. Who you are, what you do, what you can do and what you want are all important. I believe that the only way we can make the world a better place is when we’re personally better people and start stepping up to make our personal contribution to the world. It’s time that we stopped being snowed under by big corporations, big celebrities and ignorant partners and start standing up for what we personally need.

The team is only as successful as its members and if you’re not functioning to your full potential the team will soon show evidence of just that. When you’re not working smoothly together it’s obvious; ask any sports fan. It’s not about being self-centered or selfishly putting yourself first, it’s about making sure you’re healthy mentally and physically and supported enough to make your contribution to the team. We’re not expected to carry our weight alone, but we are expected to make the contributions that only we can make. Of course when we’re healthy and running at our best we’re able to make a better contribution than if we’re feeling depressed, demeaned, ignored or insignificant.

If you’re serious about seeing more victories in your life it’s time to take your life and your position on the team seriously. If you can’t it’s beyond time to consider the team you’re on and the choices you’re making in your life so that you can have a happier, more fulfilling life and finally help your team achieve the victories you’ve been working towards for so long.

“The best teamwork comes from men who are working independently toward one goal in unison.” James Cash Penney

Who’s on Your Team?

This month we’ve been talking about teamwork. Teamwork is something God has called us to; He asks us to be part of the team that is the Church as well as part of the team that is making a positive contribution to the world. Part of that is knowing who to trust, who you want on your team and who to look to for leadership and wisdom on Earth. One of the biggest ways you can screw up your life is by choosing the wrong people to be on your team: people who are dangerous, into not good things or don’t have the same motivations  and goals as you. No, everyone you are friends with should not be exactly the same as you, but they should all have similar values or beliefs.

Yes, it can be exciting to connect with those who live on the edge, thrill seekers are energetic individuals, those who live life with more passion and heart. But all too often they’re more focused on where their next thrill comes from than the plans God has for them.  And always looking for the next thrill has its risks not to mention inevitable downfalls.

We also can’t avoid those who are different than us or don’t have the same values, if we do we’ll be going against God’s Great Commission calling that we’re all part of. If we don’t spend time with those who aren’t people of faith we won’t be able to share God’s message with them, will we? That doesn’t mean spending all day every day with them or doing things you don’t agree with, but it does mean you can’t ignore them or exclude them from your life.

I believe everyone is on Earth for a reason; God created all of us for a reason. None of us are purposeless or without value. But if you want a life that fulfills you the most, lets you live your purpose most and gives you the ability to fill the call of God in your life, one of the most important steps you can take is to choose the people in your life wisely.

“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” Proverbs 13:20

Are You Happy Being Miserable?

Let’s face it: sometimes we just give in or give up rather than trying. It’s a lot of effort to get to the gym every morning, so you skip a couple each week. It’s a lot more work to eat healthy so you just grab whatever is quick and easy. It’s a lot harder to find a new job and acclimate so you stick it out at the job you don’t like and don’t make great money at. So we argue with ourselves over the pros and cons and experience more stress and frustration than we should, especially given that we know a solution to our problems and stressors.

So as I contemplated the back-to-school ads I’m already seeing everywhere and the rapidly escaping summer, it gets me thinking about what we enjoy in life and whether or not we’re living our lives to the fullest. Around the world countless individuals are just scraping by when they could be living a happy and thriving life, one that isn’t a constant barrage of issues, concerns and evidences of our failings or shortcomings. And the biggest reason they’re not happy and thriving is because they’re not taking action on what they know the issue to be or the solutions that have presented themselves.

So the question really becomes are we all happy being miserable and living lives that are pale shades of what they could be? Why else would we continue to live in misery and stress? While I haven’t come up with a good answer to this, the most popular one is one we’ve already discussed today: the amount of effort we feel it takes to get from where we are to where we want to be. I believe we’re all a lot more capable than we give ourselves credit for. Are you ready to stop suffering and start enjoying life?

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Nelson Mandela

Are You All In?

Each day I am reminded of yet another reason why I’m so thankful that I’m not alone in this world. I can’t imagine how I would manage to do everything all by myself: there just aren’t enough hours in the day. My partner and I always comment when we pass mansions about the amount of cleaning that’s required to run one of those; it’s way more than I want to do on my own each week, not to mention I can’t imagine how people fill that many rooms with stuff and people, yet there are tons of homes and buildings around the world that are that large. But that’s just one example, think about the food and the home construction and the caring for kids and the job responsibilities, we would never get it all done if we weren’t part of a society.

Team sports are a great example of how teamwork does and doesn’t work. We’ve all witnessed the bad call on who’s catching the baseball or football, the rebound that didn’t go to the right teammate even though they were open, or the failure of a key point person (quarterback, goalie, pitcher) to contribute what’s necessary from them to get the win. We’ve also heard the stories about the team magic, witnessed the teams that were so in tune that anything seemed possible and the teams that had incredible stories of overcoming challenges or doing what no one predicted they could do.

It’s when people are all in, are so committed to being part of the team and doing their best so the team can be successful that the magic happens. When we’re united over a compelling goal we’re able to do things that would be imposable for those who were less organized, less passionate or less committed.

So the question becomes of the teams that you’re part of at home, at work and in society, are you contributing your heart and soul? Are you working together towards something awesome? Or are you just doing what’s necessary to get by, even if you don’t achieve the ultimate victory?

“I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.” Mia Hamm

Who’s Responsible for Team Victories?

Today I want to share some encouragement with you because the world can be a very challenging, and sometimes draining experience. This is one reason we’ve been talking about teamwork this month: because we’re part of a bigger team as people of faith as well as people on earth. There’s no reason for us to do everything on our own, absolutely none. It’s not a pride thing, it’s a common sense thing: why do it all when you don’t have to? Unless you can provide a serious advantage or gain significant benefits from doing it all on your own there’s no shame in saying “no”, in passing things off to others and in taking advantage of the wisdom and experience other people have to offer or contribute.

That’s not to say that you have no responsibility. The thing about a team is that you’re part of it and not only do you have people to support you, you’re there to support them too; it’s not all on them. You’re there to encourage each other and help everyone get to the finish line by putting in your own effort and contribution. If you’re not putting in your own effort you’re risking the work of the rest of the team and potentially compromising the victory you’re working towards.

So what’s my encouragement for you this week? First, don’t give up on life, your dreams or what God has called you to. Work hard to accomplish them and enjoy them when you do. Second, I believe that you are capable of just about anything you would want to work towards. We’re incredibly gifted people and with the help of the internet it seems like almost anything is possible. I believe you’re able to do more than you could ever dream, especially if you’ve got a solid team and the support and power of God behind you as you work through your journey. God hasn’t given up on you, don’t give up on yourself.

“Be strong and brave and finish this work. Don’t be afraid, because the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will help you until all the work is finished. He will not leave you.'”  I Chronicles 28:20

Choosing Potential Not Problems

One of the biggest challenges of life is one of the best things: people.  Yes, they can really mess with you or they can really bless you.  We’re all capable of being stupid as well as really helping others, sometimes it happens intentionally, other times it’s totally accidental and unplanned.  This week I replied to an email inquiry about one of my services, I replied back to them with my answer, and they told me that my answer was rude.  I certainly didn’t mean to be rude, and I honestly didn’t (and don’t) think my answer was rude.  Maybe they were having a bad day, maybe they misread my comments, maybe they just thought that I was insulting them when all I was doing was answering their question.  Regardless, we both could have stayed upset but instead took the time to communicate about and resolve the misunderstanding.

It’s almost impossible to go through life today without experiencing some hurt or heartbreak, whether it’s intentional or not.  When a hurt has occurred it’s up to us to decide if they were being intentionally mean and we need to reconsider our association with them or if it was accidental, or was even caused by our misreading of the situation and has nothing to do with them.  Regardless, in most situations I believe that it’s better to move forward with the relationship intact rather than to move backward and lose the potential of the relationship.

If we’re going to move forward with the relationship it’s important to discuss the hurt, especially if it seemed intentional, or they will forever be a distrust between the two of you rather than the solid, supportive relationship you could have.  Choosing to forgive is one of the most challenging tasks in the world. But when done you can reap some amazing benefits. I choose to forgive because we’re not perfect and everyone makes mistakes.  People who did mean things hurtfully can change too.  I don’t believe that we should give everyone free passes, especially if they’ve hurt us in the past, but if true repentance and change is shown I do believe that forgiveness should be offered, if not for them, for you so you can move on with your life.

Choose to be the bigger person this week, the one who moves forward rather than back, the one who sees potential rather than problems.

“When you get hurt, don’t let it turn you hard hearted. A soft heart heals and is able to trust the right people again.  Soft + Careful = Future.” Dr. Henry Cloud