A Meaningful Life

The one thing that most people want in life is to know that their life is meaningful.  No one wants to reach the end of their life and feel like they’ve wasted all their opportunities.  I think this lines up really well with our topic of the month, fun, because we tend to enjoy life more when we’re feeling useful, helpful, and needed.  Doing good brings a strong feeling of pride to us and makes us feel (almost) invincible, or at least like our favorite superhero.  Living a meaningful life can also be really humbling because you’re having a possibly significant impact on someone’s life, an impact that can change them and their future in amazing ways, maybe giving them the opportunity to do really big things, things that you personally could never do.

Living a meaningful life can only happen if you’re willing to take action in your life.  It’s very difficult for most of us to live a meaningful life from our couches.  There are a few people who do, but most of us have to get out into the world in some way to make an impact, or at the very least interact with other people.

I think that living a meaningful life has to start with believing in yourself and that you have a gift (or several) you can share with the world.  None of us are perfect, but we’re not required to be perfect, know everything or be good at everything in order to live a life of meaning or make a difference in the world.  You don’t have to be the best baker to design websites.  You don’t have to know anything about phones to paint.  You don’t have to like animals to be a doctor.  The list, and comparisons, are endless.  Someone else is good at each of those things, but they don’t have to be good at others in order to fulfill a purpose, help someone else or feel fulfilled by life.  In fact, if you try to do everything I don’t think you’ll find much happiness or meaning in your life.

You don’t have to wait until the end of your life to appreciate living a life of meaning either, you can enjoy it and feel fulfilled by it today.  Many people also say that they find great pleasure, and fun!, by doing what they’re good at and making a difference in the world.  Rather than trying to fight against the direction your life is pulling you in because you’re scared or feel stuck or don’t feel like you’re ready to make the jump, I would encourage you to work on at the very least dipping your toes into those things that you know make you feel more fulfilled and make your life more meaningful this week.  Try at least one thing out that you’ve been wanting to do or get a little more creative about how you can incorporate those things into your current activities.  What brings meaning to your life?

Advertisements

Reality Reflection: What’s the Rush?

I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately and it’s one of the things that reminds me the most of what a rush so many people are in around the world. We rush while driving, eating, buying, working, relating and planning, not to mention the ways we depend on the internet and travel related technologies to connect us all. I can’t imagine what people from Titanic’s day when SOS was new “technology” would have thought about our big inter-connected world, and the speed at which we do things normally now.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the internet very much, and the ability to travel by car or plane rather than foot or horse, and to not have to grow all my own food. But the need to go 100 mph, turn at the last second on yellow/red, walk anywhere (not just crosswalks), have instant replies to our emails and calls, and expect gourmet food in 10 minutes or less is getting to be a bit much for me. It almost makes me reconsider living in such a busy area.

The irony of this discussion is that the places that remind me most of how busy the world is and what a rush so many of us are in, are places like highways that are on the side of a mountain so miles can be seen beyond, jobs where people just want to finish the day and not change the world, or restaurants where people are so busy trying to stuff their faces with their partners or families, rather than taking time to build their relationships with the people they’re with.

The increasing presence of violence in the news has been a reminder to me, and many others, of how uncertain life really is. You don’t know if you’ll get to see another sunset, hold another worm, have another lazy Sunday afternoon, watch another hummingbird fly from flower to flower, meet someone from a career you’ve always been curious about, try that exotic cuisine, be in a relationship that thrills you or watch your kids do their sports (or other activities) again. Stop saying you’ll do it “tomorrow” and step up today.

Reality Reflection: Brexit or Bust

Friday in the UK something dramatic happened: the people voted to leave the European Union.  I’m not going to talk today about whether this is good or bad or what could happen as a result.   I just want to talk about the facts today.  While it wasn’t a large majority, a majority of voters in the UK clearly stated that they are unhappy with how things are.  I had talked prior to the vote with someone who was passionately campaigning for the “leave” group.  They wanted my insights on things they could do to spread the word about why they believed leaving was the right thing to do.  Whether you agree with how the vote resulted, or not, it’s very clear that people want change.

I know we talk a lot about change here and whether we really want change and how motivated for change we are or aren’t.  Sometimes we’re not really enthusiastic about change and making it happen, so we let things slide for a while.  But there comes a point in time for most of us that we reach a tipping point that we just can’t take it anymore and change isn’t really a choice anymore, it’s a must.  When given the opportunity to say so, the people of the UK stood up and said that it is time for change.

I don’t know where you’re at in your life right now, but most of us could benefit from some changes in our lives.  We’d be better off going to bed sooner, exercising more, eating better, choosing better relationships or saving a little more each month.  The question is are we really desiring of the benefits we’ll gain from the change (or sick enough of what we’ve been going through) to make the change?

Time will tell if the vote to leave the EU was a good choice or not.  But what I hope we all take from the vote is that it’s OK to want change, and it’s important to be brave enough to step up and say that you want that change.  Will you choose to step beyond the reality that is your life this week and into a better reality, or will you let things continue as status quo?

The Win-Win-Win of Teamwork

This month’s topic is teamwork and it’s everywhere I look!  We’re seeing lots of divides and coming together over some really challenging topics and events, from the ruling on marriage to the deaths in Charleston.  Teamwork is many things: it means we’re not alone, it means we don’t have to be everything for everyone, it means that we can win more often and it means that others can win more often too.  Teamwork is one of the best ways to create more win-win-win situations.  You’ve probably heard about win-win situations, in which both parties involved can win, but when you get to win-win-win decisions it means that not only are both parties satisfied with the outcome, they’re also aware of how their wins affect others in the greater world and have done their best to make it a good thing for them too.

Some of my most satisfying teamwork experiences come from the missions/charity work I’ve done in the past.  Seeing the joy on a child’s face because you chose to partner with them or give them something they didn’t have before or the transformation you were able to make for a family who had very little by building or doing something is a huge reward.  It’s not always about what you get out of being part of the team, it’s about the difference you can make for someone else.

And it’s when you’re in it for someone else that the greatest impact can be had on your life without you even trying, which is why some of those missions/charity work made such an impact on my life.  Giving back is one of the quickest ways to remind yourself that you’re not alone but that you’re part of something much bigger than you see on a regular basis.  As connected as we are through the internet these days we’re also really isolated and in our own worlds, but it’s through teamwork that we regain our perspective and discover exactly how much world there is out there beyond us.

“Help others and give something back. I guarantee you will discover that while public service improves the lives and the world around you, its greatest reward is the enrichment and new meaning it will bring your own life.” Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Spirit of Service

As people of faith we’re here with a very important purpose, one that may seem insignificant at times, and others may seem too big: the purpose of being of service. Service is something I’ve made a study of over the past 10 years or so, I’ve spent time observing how different churches and parishioners view service, how individuals serve, and even the different ways we can be of service outside of spiritual boxes. Sometimes we’re of service just by being kind and greeting a neighbor, other times it’s a very spiritual service where we’re praying over someone very ill, and sometimes it doesn’t even look like service in a traditional definition, like when we make a donation to a faith-based organization.

Yet, I do believe we’re called to be of service in whatever way we can be at that time. While it may look different, the goal is always the same: to spread the love of Jesus. This is what Jesus asked us to do in the Great Commission, what He spent His time on earth showing through His actions and what He has always asked those that call themselves God’s Children to do.

It happens through a humble and willing heart, someone willing to be used to care for someone else in some, however small, way.  To do what you can to alleviate the suffering and stress of others around the world, and show them that they haven’t been forgotten. Sometimes you’ll need to pray for strength to do what God has called you to do, other times it will feel like you’re not doing enough. But that you are willing and do what God has asked you to do is what matters.

Who will you serve this week?

“Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our fellow men and women throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger. Give them, through our hands, this day their daily bread, and by our compassionate love, give them peace and joy. Amen.” Rev. Peter Schineller

Make Love Not War

This coming weekend we’re celebrating Memorial Day here in the USA, and I’ll be sharing more about that on Friday, but today I wanted to talk about how we make our contributions to the world. Obviously with Memorial Day coming up we’re thinking about people who go to parts of the world on planes and ships and travel through dangerous regions to fight wars and people who are doing evil in the world. We won’t all agree on whether to go to war or not, whether we started the fight or not, but some of us feel that our differences need to be worked out using weapons and violence rather than discussion and teamwork. There are few situations that I unanimously support a violent approach, typically when dealing with someone truly evil like Hitler or situations of domestic and genocide type violence.  All those people know are how to be violent, they won’t respond to talks.

However, I do believe that countless more situations can and should be worked out through words and negotiations rather than fists and guns. When destruction becomes the initial goal there’s always recovery, rebuilding and reconstruction that will have to be done, much of which wasn’t necessary destruction in the first place.

So what’s the answer? First, get better at our communication skills. “You suck,” “I hate you,” tears, yelling and bullying aren’t good communication methods or skills but most of us use them. Second, learn the art of negotiation. Everyone wants something, and most times there’s a way for everyone to be mostly satisfied if a little effort is put into it. Third, think win-win-win. This means that the goal of any meeting should be to get the most wins for the most people involved possible, for the most people to be helped by what you’re doing and working towards rather than hurt. It’s unrealistic to imagine that no one ever will get hurt or get the short end of the stick, but I believe that more often than not we can do a lot more to create satisfactory solutions than we do.

What area of your life do you need to work on most when it comes to getting your goals accomplished in a way that helps rather than hurts?

“I definitely prefer being a lover than a fighter.”  Billy Joel

What Did You Learn Today?

There’s been a big debate around the US about student loans lately. I’ve got student loans, so do most of the people my age. If you’ve been to college there’s a good chance that you have or had student loans to pay off. Some people have made the argument for free college and are trying to get student loan debt deleted. Whether you fall on the side of free education for all or the side of requiring students to pay to learn the bottom line is the same: education matters. Thanks to the internet we’re able to access education no matter our physical location or abilities, anyone anywhere in the world with access to the internet can get an education.

Educations matter because more education and more knowledge opens the door to more opportunities. If all you know is how to care for dogs you can’t go become an accountant or create websites for a living, first you would have to learn about those things. A simple way of looking at it is what mom used to say at the table: if you don’t try it how will you know if you do/don’t like it? The same applies to life: you’re stuck where you are unless you don’t learn about it or explore it.

If you want a better future, if you want more victories in your future, if you want a better future for your children and nieces and nephews, you’re going to have to leave your little bubble and start exploring and learning. A better future wont’ be created by accident, but only by intentional actions, lessons, failures and conversations.

Challenge yourself to learn something new each day. I’m not just talking about reading a Snapple cap, I’m talking about reading a chapter from a book or listening to a TED talk. Take advantage of learning opportunities when they come your way, and pursue them on your own time too.

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” Malcolm X